Thursday, 28 August 2014

Dramatic Tibetan Thangka Painting of Mahakala

Large Tibetan thangka painting of Mahakala Shadbhuja

A wrathful manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, bodhisattva of compassion and principal protector of the Gelugpa and Shengpa Kagyu lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, Mahakala Shadbhuja is the ‘Swift-Acting Lord of Pristine Awareness with Six Hands’ in Tibetan mGon-po phyag drug-pa, མགོན་པོ།.

The finely detailed thangka is painted in the ‘nag thang’ style using gold pigment on a black background. This technique is principally used to portray the fierce deities in the Tibetan Buddhist canon. Its effect is to convey the dynamic energy of the illusory appearance of form over an inner core of emptiness; the fearless state of lack of ego and complete unselfishness to which one aspires in the Buddhist practice and experience of complete unconditioned awareness.

On the back of the thangka is the dedicatory mantra oṃ āḥ hūṃ and there is a good explanation of it HERE. In short, oṃ (or aum) represents the body and essence of form, āḥ speech and the essence of sound, and hūṃ represents thoughts and emotions and the essence of mind. The repeated recitation of the mantra is a meditation practice for purifying these physical, energetic and psychological realms.

The thangka was painted in the 20th century and is 124cm x 88cm including a 5cm black border.

For those who are interested, I have begun explaining the different objects held by Mahakala and describing the different figures appearing in the thangka; Vajradhara, bodhisattvas, yogis/ madsiddhas, bardo beings and devi. 

For detailed photos and descriptions see or

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