Mahakala, Protector of the Tent

Artist/maker unknown, Central TibetanEarly 15th century

Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art
Philadelphia, United States

This particular form of the deity Mahakala is the enlightened protector of the Hevajra tantras, a cycle of teachings personified by the tiny blue deity Hevajra in the central roundel of his crown. Mahakala’s fierce appearance and grisly attire represent the means to overcoming negativities on the spiritual path. For example, the five skulls in his crown represent the transformation of the five poisons of ignorance, attachment, aversion, pride, and jealousy into five wisdoms. The deity also tramples a contorted male figure, demonstrating the submission of the ego. Vibrant primary colors, little sense of depth, and two-toned scrollwork distinguish this style, brought to Tibet by Nepalese artists, from other Tibetan works partaking of a more Chinese visual lineage.


  • Title: Mahakala, Protector of the Tent
  • Creator Nationality: Central Tibetan
  • Creator Gender: Unknown
  • Date: Early 15th century
  • Location: Tibet
  • Physical Dimensions: w26.25 x h38.25 in (Image)
  • Provenance: Stella Kramrisch Collection, 1994
  • Type: Paintings
  • Rights: © 2014 Philadelphia Museum of Art. All rights reserved.
  • External Link: Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Medium: Colors on cloth; cloth mounting
  • Artist/Maker: Artist/maker unknown, Central Tibetan

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