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Asian Art

Buddhist Protector Mahakala as Four-Faced (Chaturbhuja)

19th century

Ground mineral pigments on cotton

Further research needed
Gift of Alice and Nasli Heeramaneck in memory of Viola and William B. Arvine
Mahakala is an emanation of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Spiritual Wisdom. He is often shown with four faces in different colors, four arms, and two legs, and he wears a belt of human heads and a tiger skin. The four women dancing in the foreground represent dakinis, heavenly women who may act as muses for spiritual attainment. Here, their ungainly appearances and gruesome actions are meant to spur a state of greater consciousness, in which it is understood that all is not what it seems.
Tibet, China
19th century

Alice N. Heeramaneck (née Arvine, 1910–1993) and Nasli Heeramaneck (1902–1971), New York; given to the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn., 1988

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.