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Paintings > Thangka > Six-Armed Mahakala
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Six-Armed Mahakala

Six-Armed Mahakala

Six-Armed Mahakala

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Black-ground Tibetan Buddhist Thangka Painting With 24 Karat Gold

1.5 ft X 2.1 ft
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ZE65
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Mahakala is the wrathful manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion. He is one of the main deities of Tibetan Buddhism, and is considered both a meditational deity, or yidam, and a protector deity. Following his practise would result in reaching two goals: the excellent goal, meaning that the practitioner becomes a Buddha; and the common goal, meaning that Mahakala would remove obstacles, grant knowledge and fulfil wishes.

There are seventy-five forms of Mahakala, each with a different origin and a different name. Included among them are thirteen Six-Armed Mahakalas, each with a slightly different sadhana. The Six-Armed Mahakala is especially powerful in his ability to destroy or conquer enemies.

The Six-Armed Mahakala has one head with three bulging eyes. His face is fierce, with an open mouth and bared fangs, and he wears a five-skull crown. There is a small snake in his golden, upswept hair, his eyebrows are like small flames, and his beard is made of hooklike shapes. In his upper right hand he holds a rosary of human skulls and his lower right hand holds a drum. His two main hands hold a chopper and a blood-filled skull cup. His upper left hand holds a vajra goad, and the lower left hand holds a vajra lasso. He wears many ornaments on his body, and a necklace of fifty freshly severed human heads, each with a different face. A tiger skin is around his waist.

To indicate that he overcomes obstacles, Mahakala stands upon Ganesha, the king of obstacles, who has a human body, and an elephant head with an open mouth.

The painting is a beautiful black thangka with fine gold lines. The black color here reflects the ultimate reality, voidness, the Truth Body of enlightened beings. Such paintings are utilized especially for depicting wrathful deities and exude great mystery. The images themselves, though very expressive and powerful, are extremely delicate and well drawn.

Mahakala is surrounded by his five main attendants. In the upper right corner can be seen Tra Kshad, wearing a long silk robe, riding a horse and holding a spear and a skull cup. In the upper left corner is Jinamitra, holding a noose.

In the lower left corner is Takkiraja, holding a drum, in the bottom centre is Kshetrapala, sitting on a black bear and holding a vajra chopper and a skull cup. In the lower right corner can be seen Palden Lhamo, riding her characteristic mule.

A Thangka is a painted banner, which is hung in a monastery or a family altar and carried by lamas in ceremonial processions. In Tibetan the word 'than' means flat and the suffix 'ka' stands for painting. The Thangka is thus a kind of painting done on flat surface but which can be rolled up when not required for display.

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This description by Nitin Kumar, Executive Editor, Exotic India.

References:

Beer, Robert. The Encyclopedia of Tibetan Symbols and Motifs. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1999.

Chakraverty, Anjan. Sacred Buddhist Painting. New Delhi: Roli Books, 1998

Fisher, Robert E. Art of Tibet. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997.

Getty, Alice. The Gods of Northern Buddhism. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1978.

Lipton, Barbara, and Ragnubs, Nima Dorjee. Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collection of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Pal, Pratapaditya. Art of Tibet. Los Angeles: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1990.

Rhie, Marylin M. & Thurman, Robert A.F. Wisdom and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet. London: Thames and Hudson, 1996.

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