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Mahakala, 19th century

Tibet, 1800-1899
Opaque watercolor on cotton
comp: 29-3/4 x 19-1/4 in. (75.6 x 48.9 cm); mount: 31 x 20-1/2 in. (78.7 x 52.1 cm)
Norton Simon Museum, Gift of Beata and Michael McCormick
© Norton Simon Museum

Not on view

The awesome god of death, Mahakala, surrounded by a halo of red-tipped, dancing flames, tramples an elephant-headed figure that represents obstacles. Above him, five figures float in their heavenly abode: the bodhisattva Shadakshari Lokeshvara at the top, flanked by a peaceful Manjusri and a wrathful Achala, and on the ends, two Tibetan lamas with their distinctive yellow hats. Immediately beneath Mahakala is his spouse, Penden Lhamo. She brandishes a staff and skull cup and rides a mule against a backdrop of darkened flames. Keeping her company in the charnel grounds, indicated by the river of blood along the bottom of the painting, are four enflamed female attendants, who also raise skull cups overflowing with blood.

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