Six-armed form of Mahakala with his entourage
  See it in the Museum
Orientation 2
Wall object 4

ABP 017

 Code: ABP 017

  Country: Tibet (west)


  Date: 1400 - 1500

  Dimensions in cm WxHxD: 81.4 x 91.5

  Materials: Glue distemper on cotton

Sadbhuja Mahakala
The six-armed (sadbhuja )form of Mahakala (Tib. mGon po phyag drug pa), three-eyed with a fierce expression, is trampling with spread legs on a pair of Ganesas placed upon a single lotus pedestal. Mahakala holds in the upper right hand the skull garland (mundamala) and in the upper left the trident (trisula). With the two principal hands he holds the chopper (karttrka) and the skull-cup (kapala). Mahakala holds in the lower right hand the double drum (damaru) and in the lower left the noose (pasa).
skull garland (mundamala)                  trident (trisula)                
chopper (karttrka)/ skull-cup (kapala)
double drum (damaru)                          noose (pasa)  
Collected by walter Norman Koelz in 1933 during his travels as a zoologist in the Western Himalayas. Christie's. 1990. Indian, Himalayan and Southeast Asian Art, New York, October 3, 1990, lot 109: Sadbujamahakala. Western Tibetan; late 16th century.
(Formerly von Schroeder Coll.)
The Sadhanamala (SMcontains eight sadhanas with four variations of Mahakala under various names: one face and two arms as Dvibhuja Mahakala (SM 300, 301, 302, 306); one face and four arms as Caturbhuja Mahakala (Tib.: mGon po phyag bzhi pa) (SM 303, 305); one face and six arms  as Sadbhuja Mahakala  (Tib. mGon po phyag drug pa) (SM 304); eight faces, four legs and sixteen arms as Sodasabhuja Mahakala (SM 312). The six-armed form of Mahakala is known in Tibet as mGon po phyag drug pa and also as mGon po nag po. However when compared with Indian works prior to the 12th century  and Tibetan works prior to about the 15th century it becomes evident that the attributes of the upper and lower hands of later images have been interchanged. In Tibet, another two-armed form known as Panjara Mahakala, or Mahakala Panjaranatha (Tib. Gur gyi mgon po or Gur mgon) represents an important tutelary deity of the Sa skya tradition. [check if attribute identified here as trisula is not actually a khatvanga crowned by a trisula]
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
Mahakala is a Dharmapala ("protector of dharma") in Vajrayana Buddhism (Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese Shingon Buddhism).
In Japanese Buddhism, Mahakala (Jpn: Daikoku), belongs to the fourth hierarchy of deities (tenbu).
Mahakala is a Sanskrit bahuvrihi of maha ("great") and kala ("black"). The Tibetan name is Gonpo Phyag (Wylie: mGon po phyag ).
Mahakala is relied upon in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. However, he is depicted in a number of variations, each with distinctly different qualities and aspects. He is also regarded as the emanation of different beings in different cases, namely Avalokiteshvara (Tib: Chenrezig) or Chakrasamvara (Tib: Korlo Demchog, Wylie: ’khor-lo bde-mchog).
Mahakala is typically black in color. Just as all colors are absorbed and dissolved into black, all names and forms are said to melt into those of Mahakala, symbolizing his all-embracing, comprehensive nature. Black can also represent the total absence of color, and again in this case it signifies the nature of Mahakala as ultimate or absolute reality. This principle is known in Sanskrit as "nirguna", beyond all quality and form, and it is typified by both interpretations.
Mahakala is almost always depicted with a crown of five skulls, which representing the transmutation of the five kleshas(negative afflictions) into the five wisdoms.
The most notable variation in Mahakala's manifestations and depictions is in the number of arms, but other details can vary as well. For instance, in some cases there are Mahakalas in white, with multiple heads, without genitals, standing on varying numbers of various things, holding various implements, with alternative adornments, and so on.
Six-Armed Mahakala
The Six-Armed Mahakala (Skt: Shad-bhuja Mahakala, Wylie: mGon po phyag drug pa) is favored by the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism, and in this manifestation is considered to be a fierce and powerful emanation of Avalokitesvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
He is adorned with the following symbolic attributes:
   1. The Six Arms signify the successful completion of the six perfections (shad-paramita), which are practiced and brought to perfection by bodhisattvas during the course of their training.
   2. various implements in each hand.
There is also a White Six-Armed Mahakala (Skt: Shad-bhuja Sita Mahakala; Tib. Wylie: mGon po yid bzhin nor bu) popular among Mongolian Gelugpas. In this case, he is a "wealth deity", specifically supporting the comfort and economic well-being of tantric practitioners. As such, his iconography differs in form and symbolism, with his skull bowl containing various jewels rather than the typical mortal remains of his victims, and a crown of jewels instead of skulls. The following description is found in his sadhana: "His body is white. His face is wrathful and he has three eyes. He has six arms. His main right hand holds a wish-fulfilling jewel (cintamani) mounted on a jewel-tipped handle, in front of his chest."

Four-Armed Mahakalas
Various Four-armed Mahakalas (Skt. Chatur-bhuja Mahakala, Tib. Wylie: mGon po phyag bzhi pa) are the primary protectors of the Karma Kagyu and Drikung Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism. A four-armed Mahakala is also found in the Nyingma school, although the primary protector of the Great Perfection (Skt: Mahasandhi, Tib. Dzogchen) teachings which are the pinacle of the Nyingma system is Ekajati.
The four arms of this manifestation of Mahakala perform one of the following four positive karmas or actions, which are said to be his specific boon to his worshippers:
    * Pacify sickness, hindrances, and troubles.
    * Increase life, good qualities and wisdom.
    * Attract whatever Dharma practitioners need and bring people to the Dharma.
    * Destroy confusion, doubt, and ignorance.
Two-Armed Mahakalas
The two-armed Mahakala called Bernakchen is a protector of the Karma Kagyu school. It is often thought to be the primary protector, but it is actually the main protector of the Karmapas specifically.
Panjaranatha Mahakala, 'Lord of Charms" or "Lord of the Pavilion", an emanation of Manjushri is a protector of the Sakya order.

Chandra, Lokesh, 1986. Buddhist Iconography of Tibet (CBIT). Rinsen Book Co.. P. 761: The Three Hundred Icons (sKu brnyan sum brgya) [2206–2503], No. 2433 (230) - References to the iconography of Sadbhuja Mahakala

de Mallmann, Marie-Thérèse, 1975. Introduction à l'iconographie du tântrisme bouddhique. Paris: Adrien Mainsonneuve (Jean Maisonneuve successeur (1970). Pp. 238-239 - References to the iconography of Sadbhuja Mahakala

Lavizzari-Raeuber, A, 1984. Thangkas: Rollbilder aus dem Himalaya, Kunst und mystische Bedeutung. Köln: DuMont. P. 175: Kalanath (mGon po nag po) - References to the iconography of Sadbhuja Mahakala

Wang, Yao, 1994. “A Cult of Mahakala in Beijing”, Proceedings of the 6th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Fagernes 1992. Edited by P. Kvaerne. Oslo: The Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture. IATS 06, Vol. 2, pp. 957–64 - References to the cult of Mahakala in China