The history of Bhutan | Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel | The life of the Shabdrung | Fleeing to Bhutan | The wrathful Mahakala

The wrathful Mahakala

The guardian deity Mahakala assisted the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel all his life, and in all conflicts he was involved in, whether it was battling the pre-Buddhist local deities, or against various hostile local rulers.

The wrathful apparition is an emanation of Buddha Akshobhya. Mahakala is one of the most important guardian deities of both the Drukpa Kagyupa school of Buddhism and the Bhutanese state. In his raven-headed form, as Legön Jaro Dongchen, he was the personal guardian deity of the Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel and nowadays of the royal Wangchuck dynasty. The raven-head adorns the crown of the Bhutanese monarchy.

In Bhutan Mahakala is seen as a protective deity without the territorial limitations of the local mountain gods. Frequently he is described as the overlord of all the mountain gods. The relation of Mahakala to the other mountain gods is comparable to that of the central power towards the local leadership structures before the unification of the country.

The history of Bhutan
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.  Shabdrung Ngawang ..
.  .  The life of the ..
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.  .  .  Fleeing to Bhutan
.  .  .  .  The wrathful ..
.  .  .  Entering Bhutan
.  .  .  At the end of the ..
.  .  .  Ngawang Namgyel, the ..
.  .  The unification of ..
.  .  The cultural heritage
.  .  A dark era
.  The monarchy
Bhutans religion
Gods and Sacred ..


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Thangka; 19th century; size 125 x 77 cm.; loan from Josette Schulmann
Mahakala, literarily »Great Black One«, is interpreted as »large wrathful guardian«. Surrounded by his power in the form of a wreath of fire, he wears a five-skulled crown as token for the five wisdoms of Buddha, a chain of human skulls as a symbol for the principal of emptiness, and a garland of looted skulls as a symbol for the principal of form. As »divine personification of knowledge«, he has a third eye on his forehead.