An image of Offering to Mahakala


(Tibet  – )

Offering to Mahakala

Other titles:
Banquet for the Dharmapalas
Not on display
Further information

This unusual and esoteric painting depicts a symbolic set of ornaments ('rgyan tshogs) used as an offering, usually to one of the protector deities known as Dharmapala (protectors of the faith). The iconography of this picture, described as a 'banquet for the Dharmapalas' (bskang rdsas) is complex and centres on a celestial palace signifying Mount Meru, the spiritual centre of the Buddhist cosmos. To the far right is Vaishravana wearing Chinese-style armour and riding a white snow lion. The deities to the left are harder to identify - perhaps they are the great protector deity Mahakala to the far left and the Mongolian warrior god Begtse carrying a sword and trident. In the foreground are a horde of animals - buffalo, goats, horses, dogs, lions, tigers - and in the middle-ground, to the left of Mount Meru, are the eight auspicious Buddhist symbols. At the far right, beneath Vaishravana, are the seven treasures of the universal ruler ('chakravartin') and scattered throughout the picture are various kinds of offerings: 'tormas' (cakes of flour and butter), bowls of food, an array of musical instruments. Images of this type were usually painted on the walls of shrines dedicated to the protector deities. Only very few were painted on cloth (the best known and most spectacular example is in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art).

The Asian Collections, AGNSW, 2003, pg.67.

Place of origin
18th century
distemper on cotton
48.5 x 100.0 cm sight; 76.0 x 127.2 x 2.2 cm frame
Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.

D G Wilson Bequest Fund 1999
Accession number