Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Mahakala (Buddhist Protector)

མ་ཧཱ་ཀཱ་ལ། ནག་པོ་ཆེན་པོ། 玛哈嘎拉
(item no. 99638)
Origin Location Central Tibet
Date Range 1400 - 1499
Lineages Sakya
Size 55.90x44.50cm (22.01x17.52in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Cotton
Collection Publication: Tibetan Paintings
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Interpretation / Description

Great Black One, Lord of the Pavilion (Tibetan: gur gyi gon po. Sanskrit: Panjarnata Mahakala).

"The Great Vajra Mahakala, blazing, with one face, two hands, in the right a curved knife and left a skullcup filled with blood, held above and below the heart. Held across the middle of the two arms is the 'Gandhi of Emanation;' with three eyes, bared fangs, yellow hair flowing upward, a crown of five dry human skulls and a necklace of fifty fresh, blood-dripping. [He is] adorned with six bone ornaments and snakes, with a lower garment of tiger skin, flowing with pennants and streamers of various silks; dwarfish and thick, in a posture standing above a corpse." (Konchog Lhundrub, 1497-1557).

At the upper right is the seated figure of Ekajati. On the lower right side is Shri Devi riding a brown donkey. At the upper left side is Bhutadamara Vajrapani. Below that is Kartaridhara Mahakala. The five figures along the bottom are the 'Putra Mising Nga' - the inner retinue of Panjarnata - Kala Rakshasa, Kala Rakshasi, Putra, Bhatra and Singmo.

The animal figures surrounding Panjarnata are symbolic of the messengers of the deity. The four small figures of a black man, black woman, warrior, and a mantradharin are regarded as the outer retinue of Panjarnata Mahakala and each of the four represents a thousand-fold number of figures. The four are located interspersed with the 'Putra Mising Nga' along the bottom register.

Panjaranata Mahakala is the protector for the Hevajra cycle of Tantras. The iconography and rituals are found in the 18th chapter of the Vajra Panjara Tantra (canopy, or pavilion), an exclusive 'explanatory tantra' to the Hevajra Tantra itself. Panjarnata can also be found in the Twenty-five and Fifty Chapter Mahakala Tantras.

Panjarnata Eight Deity Lineage: Vajradhara, Dakini Vajrapanjara, Acharya Brahmin Vararuchi, Norbu Lingka Dewa'i Dorje, Shraddhakara Varman, Lochen Rinchen Zangpo, Drag Tengpa Yontan Tsultrim, Mal Lotsawa Lodro Dragpa, Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092-1158), Lobpon Sonam Tsemo, Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen, etc.

Jeff Watt 1-2013

Tibetan Paintings by Pratapaditya Pal (list of image plates)

Secondary Images
Related Items
Publication: Tibetan Paintings

Thematic Sets
Mahakala: Panjarnata Masterworks (Painting & Textile)
Subject: Masterworks (Male Deity Protectors, 男性护法神, སྲུང་མའི་ཚོགས། [ཕོ་])
Subject: Protector Deities (Traditions)
Subject: Messenger (Deity)
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Confusions
Mahakala: Panjarnata, Lord of the Pavilion (Main Page)
Buddhist Protector: Mahakala Art History
Mahakala: Panjarnata Religious Context