The very finely painted scroll painting shows the patron god Mahakala with wings and the head of a raven as the central figure in gold contour painting on a black background. This gives the appearance of Mahakala, literally "the Great Black One", its name "Raven-headed Mahakala". Mahakala is most active in this form. He is often worshipped as the lord of the mountain gods. Every monastery in Tibetan Buddhism is guarded by a molded or painted image of Mahakala.
The three-eyed Mahakala holds a cult knife crowned with a vajra, the symbol of Vajrana Buddhism, in his right hand and a skull bowl filled with blood in his left. Both cult objects symbolize the destruction of false ego-consciousness and passion.
A lama of the Drukpa Kagyüpa school, a special school of Tibetan Buddhism, appears above the central figure. It is probably the founder of the state of Bhutan, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, himself. Another lama from this school is depicted in the top left-hand corner, while Guru Rinpoche appears on the right-hand side.

Object data

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Object Name



18th century

Accession Date





Mineral colour on canvas

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