Mahakala is the wrathful manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of compassion, and is one of the most misunderstood deities. He is not inherently evil but just took on a wrathful form to represent the power to conquer emotional negativities and obstacles. Such hindrances are represented by the numerous jackals and corpses in the thangka. On the sides are six retinues of his likeness. He holds a vajra chopper which symbolizes wisdom. The vajra chopper is also usually held by wrathful deities. The kupala or skull cup on his other hand serves as a tool that can crush negativities represented by the blood in the cup such as the five poisons (attachment, ignorance, anger, pride, and jealousy). These five negativities are also symbolized by the skulls on his crown. He also holds a trident close which symbolizes the Three Jewels of Buddhism: Buddha, Dharma (teaching), and Sangha (order). The serpent on his waist signifies victory over hate. Meanwhile, the necklace made of skulls recognizes his power to realize without any obstacles for mankind. Two legs rest on humans to also demonstrate his power for the good of all. The figures at the lower register are meditational deities.
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