Six-Armed Mahakala

18th century

Rubin Museum of Art

Rubin Museum of Art
New York, United States

This six-armed form of Mahakala in this dynamic pose is one of the principal protectors of the Geluk School of Tibetan Buddhism, to which most Mongolians have adhered since the late sixteenth century. Mahakala has been a special object of veneration in Mongolia since the thirteenth century, when he served as the state protector of the Mongolian Empire. One of Mahakala's primary roles is to overcome obstacles to enlightenment. This is visually manifest in this sculpture by his trampling an elephant-headed god, who represents such obstacles.

This sculpture was masterfully executed, and several details underscore the artist's ingenuity. Among them are the use of a silver patina in the reclining elephant-headed figure's skin as contrasted with his gold ornaments and clothing, as well as such details as the individual articulation of the facial expressions on the severed heads strung together around Mahakala's waist.


  • Title: Six-Armed Mahakala
  • Date: 18th century
  • Date Created: 18th century
  • Physical Dimensions: H 18 3/4 x W 14 1/2 x D 7 1/2 in.
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: Rubin Museum of Art, C2006.70.1a-f
  • Medium: Gilt copper alloy with semiprecious stones
  • Place of Creation: Mongolia
  • Exhibition History: Rubin Museum of Art, "Masterworks: Jewels of the Collection" (02/12/14 - 01/05/15), Rubin Museum of Art, "Embodying the Holy: Icons in Eastern Orthodox Christianity and Tibetan Buddhism" (10/05/10 - 03/07/11), Rubin Museum of Art, "Bardo: Tibetan Art of the Afterlife" (02/12/10 - 09/06/10), Rubin Museum of Art, "Red, Black and Gold" (05/02/08 - 11/10/08), Rubin Museum of Art, "Beyond Chinggis Kahn: Mongolia Past and Present" (11/03/06 - 04/16/07)

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