Mahakala ritual mask
  See it in the Museum
Orientation 3
Wall object 2

ABR 085

 Code: ABR 085

  Country: Tibet


  Date: 1700 - 1800

  Dimensions in cm WxHxD: 23.5 x 44 x 15.5

  Materials: Wood

Mask of Mahakala, the mighty protector of Buddhas teachings
Masks play an important role in shamanic practice. Shamanic practices of the pre-Buddhist Bön religion have been integrated into Mahayana Buddhism.
In the Tibetan, Nepalese, Indian and Buthanese cultures of the Himalayas, masked ritual dances became part of the religious practice in buddhism at certain festival times. These ritual dramas (called cham) often last during several days. Usually, these dances are performed by monks. According to tradition, the cham-dances are traced back to Padmasambhava. He is considered to be the "author" of the Tibetan Book of the Dead. Accordingly, peaceful and wrathful deities that the soul of the deceased encounters during its 49-day stay in the afterworld (bardo), are personified. Thus, the living are familiarised with what is to be encountered after death.

Certain masks, like this one of Mahakala, may traditionally only be shown on a certain day of the year, and otherwise remain veiled to preserve their power. But animals and clown-like figures for the amusement of the crowd, also play an important role in the cham-dances.