Black gouache Thangka of Mahakala on cotton

18th Century, Tibet

Height with Mounting: 112.0cm, 44.1 inches; Width with Mounting: 77.0 cm, 30.3 inches.

Height of Painting: 72.5 cm, 28.5 inches; Width of Painting: 49.5 cm, 19.5 inches.

The two-armed Mahakala Panjaranatha, or Lord of the Pavilion, is a protector often associated with the Sakya Order. The thangka is painted on a black ground; the imagery delineated using shades of red, white, gold, a mat black and a dark grey green. The deity stands with a stout body on short, thick, strong limbs, the feet bearing long menacing claws, upon the body of a prostrate corpse, symbolizing the death of negativities, and the complete uprooting of negative patterns. His flaming hair is decorated with a crown of skulls which rises from his forehead; his face possesses a typical wrathful expression, the mouth contorted into an angry grimace from the corners of which protrude four long fangs. The bulging, bloodshot eyes are fierce and angry with a third eye prominently visible in the middle of the forehead. A mandala of stylized flames dances around Mahakala, who holds before him a huge Vajra chopper and a large white skull bowl full of the blood and guts of demons turned into elixir. He wears around his neck a bejewelled necklace, a snake, and a further necklace of severed skulls. Across the crooks of his elbows is an ornamented wooden gandi gong, used in Buddhist monasteries to call the monks to assemblies.

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