Buddhist Protector Mahakala as Four-Faced (Chaturbhuja) Artist: Unknown

19th century

Asian Art

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.


Ground mineral pigments on cotton


Further research needed

Credit Line

Gift of Alice and Nasli Heeramaneck in memory of Viola and William B. Arvine

Accession Number



19th century


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 records is ongoing.



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
Object copyright
Additional information

Object/Work type

human figures (visual works)



Technical metadata and APIs


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