It is believed that Mahakala in the form of a Brahman ascetic was adopted by the Sakya lineage to prevent showing his wrathful form to the uninitiated. As for Panjara Mahakala, he became a popular guardian of monastic institutions, symbolized by the semantron-like gandi held in his arms. He is also a powerful agent against external and internal hindrances, but most importantly a fierce protector of the Hevajra cycle of teachings.
Firmly rooted in the Sakya tradition, the transmission lineage of the Panjaranatha Mahakala is thus depicted in the upper register. This particular lineage derives from the Indian master Brahmana Vararuci (seated to the left of Vajradhara in the upper register) who is said to have instructed Mahakala to go to Tibet, and includes seminal figures from among the Ngor and Tsar sub-schools.
Based on the depiction of three eighteenth century masters in the upper register, including Morchen Kunga Lhundrup (1654–1726), Nesar Dorje Chang (circa 18th Century) and Ngawang Kunga Lodro (1729–1783), all identifiable by inscription, this masterpiece can be dated to the late 18th or early 19th centuries.
Two identical explanatory lines are inscribed on the verso, directly behind each of the two central figures. The Tibetan translation on the reverse reads:
[Against] all demonic forces, enemies and hindrances, disharmonious factors. sattvam bha ya nan (sic)
Essay and translation by Yannick Laurent, Wolfson College, University of Oxford.
Figure 1: Vajradhara
Figure 2: Brahmana Vararuci
Figure 3: Nagarjuna
Figure 4: Sachen [Künga Nyingp] (1092–1158)
Figure 5: [Ngorchen] Künga Zangpo (1382–1429)
Figure 6: Dakchen [Lodrö Gyaltsen] (1444–1495)
Figure 7: Doringpa Chenpo Kunzang Chökyi Nyima (1449–1524)
Figure 8: Tsarchen [Losel Gyatso] (1502–1566 / 7)
Figure 9: Morchen Künga Lhundrup (1654–1726)
Figure 10: Nesar Dorje Chang (18th Century)
Figure 11: Ngawang Künga Lodrö (1729–1783)
Figure 12: [Yarlungpa] Namka Legpa Lhundrup (unidentified)
Figure 13: Sangye Gyatso (unidentified)
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