Grinning wildly and fiery eyed, the Great Mahakala stands heavily on the body of a corpse. Mahakala holds before him a huge Vajra chopper and a white skull bowl full of the blood and guts of demons turned into elixir. Mahakala carries across the crook of his elbows an ornamented wooden Gandi gong, used in Buddhist monasteries to call the Buddhist monks to assemblies, symbolizing his vow to protect Nalanda monastic university and by extension all Buddhist monasteries.
The ornaments worn so elegantly on his chubby body and gigantic head include a jewel – encrusted crown, necklaces, earrings, and anklets. A garland of severed heads and snakes and the chalk white five – skull crown complement the ornaments and his glowing eyeballs and gleaming teeth. Each of these specifically symbolizes the conquest of a particular type of obstruction of enlightenment. Mahakala takes a terrific form and conquers the most horrible realms of existence. As a fierce manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of Compassion, Mahakala helps beings overcome all negative elements, especially spiritual ones, personified and symbolized by the panoply of fearsome creatures over which he becomes lord. Mahakala wears his grisly ornaments to show his indefatigable determination to redeem even the horrible.
This particular form of Mahakala, easily recognized by the wooden gong he carries across his arms, is a favorite protector of the Sakya Order.
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