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Ritual Offerings in Tibetan Art

Mahakala Panjarnata (Lord of the Pavilion) Central Tibet, Ngor Monastery, c. 1700
Mineral pigments and gold on cotton cloth
26 1/4 x 21 3/4 in. (66.7 x 55.2 cm)

From the Nasli and Alice Heeramaneck Collection, Museum Associates Purchase
LACMA (M.77.19.11)

© Museum Associates/Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Mahakala (Great Black One) is the preeminent Buddhist protective deity. His gruesome attributes, demonic wrath, and triumphal stance over the body of a slain enemy amid swirling flames symbolize his power to destroy all obstacles to enlightenment. Mahakala is revered as the protector of the renowned Nalanda monastic university in eastern India, and by extension, all Buddhist monasteries. This particular iconographic form of Mahakala is called Panjarnata, lord of the impenetrable Vajra Pavilion envisioned in Buddhist mandalas (diagrams of the cosmos and meditation aids).