Tibet, Mahakala – various forms (6)

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze, private collection, photo on Sotheby’s   

A rare sculpture of Mahakala with four heads (chaturmukha), his main hands holding a flaying knife and a skull cup before his heart, the missing upper arms would have held a sword and a rosary of bones, or a lance. As in most other forms, he wears a tiger skin loin cloth, a skull crown, bone ornaments and a garland of severed heads.

15th-16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 1052.

Mahakala with one head and four arms (chaturbhuja), seated on a victim, holding a flaying knife and a skull cup at heart level. The implements missing from his upper hands are a sword and a staff with a vajra placed horizontally across it, or a trident.

Circa 16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Millon 

He may also hold a lotus bud or a coconut shaped like a human heart in his main right hand, in which case his upper hands hold a sword and a ritual staff (khatvanga). The above has an effigy of Akshobhya on his flaming his hair.

15th century, Tibet (or later Chinese copy?), Mahakala, brass, at the Imperial Palace Museum in Beijing, caption on gg-art.com, photo on Himalayan Art Resources

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, stone, private collection, photo on Hardt

Mahakala in his panjarnata form, with one head and two hands, squatting on a victim and holding a flaying knife, a skull cup before his chest and a danda staff across his arms.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze, private collection, photo on Sotheby’s as above.

In his kartaridhara form (Nagpo Chempo in Tibet), with one head and two arms, brandishing a flaying knife in his right hand and holding a skull cup filled with blood, standing with a leg bent, his feet trampling a human corpse (missing here).

16th-17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper repoussé, private collection, photo by Boisgirard-Antonini.

With one head, two legs and six arms (shadbhuja), treading on Ganapati with both feet and holding a flaying knife and a skull cup in his main hands, a drum and a lasso in the lower ones, a rosary and a trident or a staff (missing here) in the remaining ones. The above also holds the hide of an elephant in his upper hands.

16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, polychrome clay, private collection, photo by Nagel, sale 736 China 4.

An example with a trident in his upper left hand, the three flat prongs are visible above his left ear, an ornamental streamer flowing just below.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala – Shadbhuja, painted wood, at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London (UK), photo on HAR

With the trident in the lower left hand, the lasso missing from the upper one.

Post Ming dynasty (circa 18th century), Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze, photo on Theodore Bruce

Danda Mahakala, standing like a warrior, wears a large cloak tied with a belt, felt boots, a skull crown and princely jewellery. He holds a danda stick (missing here) topped with a jewel in his right hand and a bowl of disease in the other; alternatively he holds a lance in both hands.

15th-16th century (or later?), Tibet, Mahakala, bronze, private collection, photo on James D. Julia

Quite different from the examples we have seen so far, this one treads on two victims, wears his garment loosely and has a snake around his neck and another to tie his flaming hair.

Tibet, Mahakala – Shadbhuja (10)

12th-14th century, Tibet, Mahakala, black chlorite, private collection, photo on Aguttes , Arts d’Asie 11th December 2017.

A rare stone stele of Mahakala with six arms, standing with his legs apart, treading on Ganapati and holding a flaying knife and a skull cup in his main hands. There is a rosary of skulls in his top right hand and a lasso in his lower left hand, the upper right hand would have held a trident or a ritual staff, the lower right hand held a drum. This form of shadbhuja Mahakala has a blue body on paintings.

16th-17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, clay, private collection, photo on Aguttes as before.

An unusual clay example with Ganapati seated in an awkward position, facing the viewer and holding his right hand palm out. Mahakala stands in a fighting posture and has a ritual staff in his upper left hand.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper alloy, private collection, photo on  Navin Kumar .

A Chinese-style image of him standing straight, adorned with a celestial scarf with serpentine ends, dressed in a long lower garment made of two layers of fine cloth with a lacy edge, topped with a tiger skin knotted at the front.

Circa 18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze with pigments, Science Museum Group Collection (UK), photo here .

We get a clearer picture of four of the attributes here and we can see that the upper hands also hold an elephant hide stretched across his back and that he is adorned with a garland of severed heads, a five-skull crown and some jewellery. Ganapati holds a skull cup in his right hand.

18th century, Tibet, Shadbhuja Mahakala, gilt bronze with polychromy, private collection, photo on Tajan , Art d’Asie, 11th June 2018.

On this late Chinese-style work his tiger skin loin cloth is worn with the tail of the animal reaching the base (see the “tiger-skin loin cloth” subsection of the page on Wrathful Deities in the left-hand side of this blog).

Tibet, Mahakala – Chaturmukha (2)

Circa 17th century, Tibet, Chaturbhuja Mahakala, gilt copper repoussé, private collection, photo on Nagel 

Apart from having four arms (chaturbhuja) this Mahakala has four faces (chaturmukha), three in a row plus one on top. This form of the deity normally holds a flaying knife and a skull cup at heart level, a flaming sword and a spear in the upper ones. The above stands on a prone victim with a human appearance and is adorned with snakes and a garland of skulls.

Tibet, Mahakala – various forms (5)

14th century, Tibet, Mahakala, copper alloy, private collection, photo by Bonhams, auction 25150.

Mahakala in his popular panjarnata form, with one head and two hands holding a skull cup and a flaying knife, his danda staff placed against his left arm, squatting on a victim with a human appearance. He is adorned with large earrings, snakes, a five-skull crown, a garland of severed heads…

… and an effigy of Akshobhya in his headdress.

He wears a richly incised tiger skin loin cloth with two decorative strips of pleated fabric on each side.

Circa 17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper alloy and pigment, private collection, photo by Bonhams, auction 25150.

A Chinese-style version with flaming hair and a celestial scarf, a festooned necklace and a cross-belt.

14th century?, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy), Densatil style, private collection, photo by Bonhams on Antiques Reporter.

Very similar to a 14th century figure seen in a previous post (sold by Sotheby’s and featured on HAR), this sculpture depicts him in his legden form, wearing a heavy cloak and felt boots, a skull crown and princely accessories inlaid with lapis lazuli, a garland of severed heads, his hair dyed with orange pigment. He holds a bowl of disease and a (missing) stick tipped with a jewel.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, polychrome black stone, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

The white aspect of six-arm (shadbhuja) Mahakala holds a triple gem close to his heart with his main right hand. His other hands hold a flaying knife, a trident, a skull cup, a drum, a vajra-tipped elephant goad (sometimes a noose). On this example there is a nimbus attached to his shoulders, a flaming mandorla around him and two elephant-headed victims under his feet.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt metal, at the Sichuan Minorities University Museum, photo on Himalayan Art Resources

The same form, in a shrine with makaras and a stupa on its roof.

 

Tibet, Mahakala – various forms (4)

13th century, Tibet, Mahakala, stone, private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 16245 (see below).

Mahakala in one of his four-hand form (chaturbhuja), seated at royal ease on a human victim and holding a skull cup and a flaying knife in his main hands, a sword and a staff in the others.

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze with copper, silver and turquoise inlay, private collection, photo by Christie’s, sale 16245, Christie’s

On this masterpiece, possibly from a Tsang province workshop, he has silver and copper-inlaid eyes and mouth and turquoise-inlaid jewellery.

We saw a very similar 15th century Tibetan example of this rare form with a heart-shaped lotus bud in his main right hand and a trident in the top left hand.

13th century, Tibet, Chaturbhuja Mahakala, stone, private collection, photo by Christie’s Christie’s

In his panjaranata form, squatting on a victim and holding a flaying knife, a skull cup and a stick (missing here) across his arms or against his left shoulder. He wears a tiger skin loin cloth and a garland of severed heads.

16th century, Tibet, Tsang province, Mahakala, metal (copper alloy with silver inlay), private collection, photo on HAR.

Undated, Tibet, Mahakala, stone, at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York (USA), item 65109 on Himalayan Art Resources.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, metal (copper alloy), private collection, item 202893 on HAR.

Undated, Tibet, Mahakala, metal with cold gold and pigments, at the American Museum of Natural History, photo on Himalayan Art Resources HAR

With four heads (chaturmukha), each with three eyes and a skull crown, four arms, holding a flaying knife and a skull cup in his main hands, a sword and trident (usually a lance on paintings).

18th century, Tibeto-Chinese, Brahmarupa Mahakala, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by  Christie’s

Depicted like a brahman with a third eye, he has a thigh bone trumpet in one hand and a skull cup in the other. He may be seated or standing on a victim.

Undated (labelled ‘Ming Dynasty period’), Tibet or China?, Mahakala, gilt bronze with gemstones, private collection, photo on Invaluable

Legden Mahakala always stands like a warrior, dressed in heavy robes, a cloak fastened with a belt, felt boots, adorned with princely accessories. He holds a bowl of disease in his left hand and a stick topped with a jewel in the other (missing here). We saw a similar work dated 14th century, see HAR

Early 16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo on HAR.

Mahakala with one head and six arms, in his popular Shangpa Kagyu form, standing on elephant-headed Ganapati and holding a flaying knife and a skull cup in his main hands, a drum and a rosary of skulls in the remaining right hands, a trident or a staff and a lasso in the remaining left hands (both attributes missing here). He often has the hide of an elephant stretched across his back.

17th century or earlier, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Auktionsverket.

17th century, Tibet (or China?), Mahakala, gilt bronze, at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston (USA).

Late Chinese-style or Mongolian-style sculptures usually show him almost crouching, with a mass of flaming hair standing on his head and a celestial scarf around his neck.

17th c., Tibet, Mahakala Shadbhuja, gilt bronze, 19 cm, auction 195 lot 444, Cambiaste

17th century, Tibet (or Sino-Tibetan?), Mahakala, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Casa Cambi d’Aste, auction 195 lot 444.

 

Tibet, Mahakala – various forms (3)

Unlabelled, (circa 15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt copper or copper alloy with turquoise and coral inlay), private collection, possibly from the Sonam Gyaltsen atelier, photo on HAR

Kartaridhara Mahakala, with third eye, moustache and goatee, brandishing a flaying knife and holding a skull cup against his heart, adorned with princely jewellery lavishly inlaid with stones in the Nepalese fashion, a garland of severed heads, a long snake knotted across his chest like a sacred cord. His floral crown includes five small skulls.

His tiger skin loin cloth is tightly fitted (no legs dangling at the front) as on earlier Himalayan works.

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Michael Backman Ltd on Asian Art

A Chinese-style Mahakala with red hair, eyebrows, moustache and goatee, a long billowing scarf and a cloth belt, the attributes missing.

Circa 15th century, Tibet, Kartataridhara Mahakala (labelled ‘Vajrapani’), gilt copper, private collection, photo by Nagel https://www.auction.de.

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Christie’s.

Chaturbhuja (four-hand) Mahakala, seated at royal ease on a victim, holding a lotus bud shaped like a human heart and a skull cup filled with blood in his main hands, a sword and a (broken) staff or trident in his upper ones, his eyes, facial hair and other details painted with red mineral pigment.

18th century, Tibet, Chaturbhuja Mahakala, bronze with a gilt bronze lotus base, private collection, photo by Nagel.

The same but standing.

15th century, Tibet, Panjaranata Mahakala, bone, private collection, photo on Bonhams

Circa 18th century, Tibet, Panjaranata Mahakala, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Marie-Catherine Daffos for aaoarts

In his panjarnata/panjaranata form, squatting on a victim and holding a flaying knife in his right hand, a skull cup in the other, and a danda stick over his arms (missing on the second example), adorned with bone jewellery, a garland of severed heads and a scarf.

18th century, Tibet, Chaturmukha Mahakala, copper alloy with cold gold and pigments, photo on Bonhams

According to textual sources, this form of Mahakala has four faces (chaturmukha): demon, lion, buffalo and elephant. On the (very few) sculptures we have seen so far he has four yaksha faces and always wields a sword in his upper right hand while holding a spear on the other side. The main hands hold a flaying knife and a skull cup at heart level.

18th century, Tibet, Shadbhuja Mahakala, gilt bronze, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

18th century, Tibet, Shadbhuja Mahakala, zitan wood (red sandalwood) with pigments, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

With one head and six arms (shadbhuja), standing on Ganapati, a rosary of skulls and a trident in his upper hands, a drum and a lasso in the middle ones, a flaying knife and a skull cup in the main ones, which corresponds to his blue form.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze with pigment, private collection, photo by Bonhams.

The above holds a flaying knife and a (missing) trident in his upper hands, a wish-granting gem before his heart and a skull cup with his main hands, a drum and a (missing) skull cup with the lower hands, which corresponds to his white form. Moreover, he holds the hide of an elephant in his upper hands.

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala in yab-yum, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, same as before on Cambiaste

The lively khyang covered with a human hide identifies the riders as Shri Devi and her brother and consort, Mahakala – a form rarely seen in sculpture.

Tibet, Mahakala – various forms (2)

15th-16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze (brass) with silver-inlaid eyes, private collection, photo by Lempertz.

Mahakala in his panjarnata form, with one head and two hands, in which he holds a skull cup and flaying knife while supporting a danda stick across his arms, squatting on Ganapati, adorned with a garland of severed heads, a snake worn as a sacred thread, snake and bone ornaments, and wearing a tiger skin loin cloth. 

15th-16th c., Tibet, Mahakala chaturbhuja, bronze, 15,4 cm, sword+khatvanga, skull cup+kartrika, wheel earrings, HK Sotheby's

15th-16th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

In his four-arm (chaturbhuja) form, seated at ease on a lotus base, the main hands holding a skull cup and flaying knife before his heart, the others a flaming sword and another (missing) implement.

14th-15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Polyauction.

When the main hands are at heart level, the upper left hand usually holds a staff with a horizontal vajra sceptre across it, or a trident as above.

18th c., Tibet, Mahakala, shadbhuja, gilt bronze+pig., 17,8 cm, Sotheby's

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, gilt bronze (copper alloy) with pigments, private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

18th c., Tibet, Mahakala, shadbhuja, gilt bronze+pig., 17,8 cm, elephant hide, Sotheby's

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala, rear view.

Tibetan sculptures of his six-arm (shadbhuja) form are often late Chinese-style ones, with billowing scarf and spiky flaming hair standing on his head, sharp finger tips, bushy eyebrows and beard. In most cases the main hands hold a skull cup and a flaying knife, his upper hands also hold a rosary of skulls and a trident or a staff, the remaining hands hold a drum and noose. He wears a tiger skin loin cloth and sometimes an elephant hide over his back and stands on Ganapati.

15th century, Tibet, Mahakala, white shadbhuja form, gilt copper alloy with stone inlay, private collection, photo from the Huntington Archive.

In his white form (with a white body on paintings) he stands with his legs straight on two elephant-headed victims, pressing a wish-granting jewel against his heart with his main right hand, the left one sustaining a skull cup with a vase filled with jewels. The remaining right hands hold a flaying knife and a drum, the left hands hold a trident and a hook (elephant goad).

18th century, Tibet, Cintamani Mahakala, parcel-gilt bronze with pigments and turquoise, private collection, photo by Christie’s.

The same form (sita cintamani Mahakala = ‘White Mahakala holder of jewels’), with a skull cup full of gems.

17th century, Tibet, Mahakala, bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Drouot.

The way he sits suggests that this may be the vyaghra vahana (‘riding a tiger’) form, who holds a skull cup in his left hand and a stick tipped with a jewel (the latter missing here) in the other.

18th c., Tibet, Mahakala, lab. Yama, gilt bronze, 20 cm, 3 heads, 6 arms, 6 legs, Paris Sothebys

18th century, Tibet, Mahakala (labelled Yama), gilt bronze (copper alloy), private collection, photo by Sotheby’s.

In his three-head, six-hand, six-leg form all his arms are stretched out. The missing attributes are probably a bow, an arrow, a vajra sceptre, the remaining hands do symbolic gestures.