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Ritual Offerings in Tibetan Art

Ceremonial Offerings to the Dharmapala Eastern Tibet, Kham region, c. 1785
Mineral pigments on cotton cloth
89 × 45 1/8 × 2 3/16 in. (226.06 × 114.62 × 5.56 cm)

Gift of Mr. George C. Zachary
LACMA (M.81.211a)

© Museum Associates/Los Angeles County Museum of Art

This distinctive genre of Tibetan Buddhist painting, known as “sets of ornaments” or “material for the banquet,” represents the types of ceremonial offerings made to Mahakala and other Buddhist protective deities (dharmapala). In addition to ritual objects, auspicious symbols, musical instruments, and animals that serve as divine messengers, there are also both peaceful and horrific offerings: trays heaped with delicacies, or skullcups filled with blood and disembodied organs to symbolize the impermanence of life.