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Paintings > Thangka > Buddha > Palden Lhamo (Tibetan Buddhist Goddess Who Rides on a Sea of Blood)
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Palden Lhamo (Tibetan Buddhist Goddess Who Rides on a Sea of Blood)

Palden Lhamo (Tibetan Buddhist Goddess Who Rides on a Sea of Blood)

Palden Lhamo (Tibetan Buddhist Goddess Who Rides on a Sea of Blood)

Palden Lhamo is a Dharmapala or wrathful deity who also has the role of the Protector of Wisdom. She is traditionally depicted riding her horse over a sea of blood. She usually rides with her son (seen in this thangka with head dangling upside down). In looking at the iconography and symbolism, it is said that three levels of understanding are usually in place. The outer level understands her as a warrior who fought Lanks, a demon king. The inner level, on the other hand, delves into the symbolic meaning of the path to enlightenment. While the secret level is only thought to the order and involves the mystical practice of Tantric yoga. In this thangka, Palden Lhamo is depicted with one face and two arms. A quick zoom on her mouth will show that she has the demon of mental negativities which represents crushing the demon with fangs of mindfulness and diligence.

Her windswept hair symbolizes blazing fire (wisdom) and its power to burn worldly knowledge (vikpala). The crown features five skulls that represent the five afflictions (anger, greed, pride, ignorance, and jealousy). A third eye is also present that signifies the power to see in the past, present, and future. Zoom in on her navel and a symbol of the sun is present while atop her head is the peacock parasol that marks ultimate enlightenment. Her hands hold a skull cup filled with the blood and brain ruined by confusion and superstition. His right hand has a trident with a skull which symbolizes the tool to conquer death. A closer look at his ensemble shows him sporting tiger and snakeskin that marks his victory over fear. The hide of her mule also shows a single eye that represents the power to see the unseen. The imagery on top of the mule is rich with elements such as severed heads, body parts, weapons, and more which all stand for Palden Lhamo’s ability to transform obstacles to pursue enlightenment. The ocean of blood is also symbolic of the cycle of samsara (blood being vital in death and rebirth) and this shows Palden Lhamo being able to cross such a red ocean—a signal that those who follow her have the chance to stop the cycle of samsara and find nirvana.

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Tibetan Thangka Painting

Size of Painted Surface 14.5 inch X 19.5 inch
Size with Brocade 27.5 inch X 43 inch
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