- Place Made:
- 15th century
- Bronze with pigment
- 6 x 5-1/4 x 2 in. (15.2 x 13.3 x 5.1 cm)
- Credit Line:
- Norton Simon Art Foundation
- Accession Number:
- © Norton Simon Art Foundation
Mahakala, whose name means “great time” or “death,” was adopted by Buddhists in the tenth century as a manifestation of the compassionate bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Mahakala is a dharmapala, or protector of the Buddhist faith; his fierce visage and belligerent attitude frighten away any threat. His eyes bulge out of their sockets, his snarling mouth parts slightly to reveal his teeth and his head bears a crown of skulls. Whether standing or seated, Mahakala tramples a prone figure that represents a vanquished obstacle. The Mahakala on the left holds a skull cup and a piece of fruit, while the one on the right wields a ring of skulls, a drum and a knot of writhing serpents in his outer hands, and a curved knife known as a chopper and skull cup to his chest.
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