Nepal, Late Malla Mahakala

16th century, Nepal, Mahakala, copper alloy, at the Pacific Asia Museum (USA).

16th century, Nepal, Mahakala, copper alloy, at the Pacific Asia Museum (USA).

Mahakala, with one head, three eyes, six hands (shadbhuja) stands on elephant-headed Ganapati, clad in a tiger skin dhoti and wearing snake ornaments, earrings, a garland of severed heads, a skull crown, his flaming hair rising in a mitre-like shape above his head. He holds a skull cup and a flaying knife with his main hands, his other two right hands hold a rosary with large beads and a lasso, the remaining left hands hold a (broken) trident or staff and a missing object, probably a drum.

16th-17th century, Nepal, Mahakala or Bhairava, ivory, private collection, photo by Mossgreen.

16th-17th century, Nepal, labelled Mahakala or Bhairava, ivory, private collection, photo by Mossgreen.

The choice of ivory is not casual as this is the white form of Mahakala with one head (with three eyes) and six arms, his main right hand holding a wish-granting jewel and the left one a skull cup with jewels in it. His other left hands hold a trident and a hook, the remaining right hands hold a flaying knife and a drum. There is an elephant hide across his back, a garland of severed heads around his neck, a five-skull crown on his head. He is adorned with snakes and a celestial scarf draped in the Chinese fashion. He treads on two elephant-headed victims instead of one.

16th-17th century, Nepal, Mahakala, gilt copper repoussé, published on pindoles.com

16th-17th century, Nepal, Mahakala, gilt copper repoussé, published on pindoles.com.

This variant of Mahakala with one head and four arms (chaturbhuja) depicts him with a skull cup and flaying knife in his main hands, a drum and a sword in the others, standing on a corpse. He is adorned with a tiger skin dhoti, snakes and princely jewellery, a garland of severed heads and a crown.

18th century, Nepal, Mahakala (shadbhuja), gilt metal and pigments, at the Museum der Kulturen in Basel (Switzerland).

18th century, Nepal, Mahakala (shadbhuja), gilt metal and pigments, at the Museum der Kulturen in Basel (Switzerland).

This sculpture has him holding a flaying knife and a scull cup in his main hands, a rosary and a drum in his remaining right hands, a ritual staff (khatvanga) and a lasso in the remaining left ones, standing on Ganapati, adorned with beaded jewellery, a Chinese-style beaded cross belt with pendants and a skull crown, all inlaid with gems, a garland of severed heads and large earrings.

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