Mahakala is the most popular of all wrathful deities in Tibet. Mahakala is considered a terrific manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the Bodhisattva of compassion. Mahakala is a fierce protector and a guardian of the Dharma and its adherents. There are seventy – five forms of Mahakala, each with a different origin and a different name. The Six – Armed Mahakala is especially powerful in his ability to destroy or conquer enemies.
Mahakala’s wings symbolize his adamantine nature. The principal hands hold a Vajra and Skull Cup and also embrace his consort. Mahakala’s upper right arm brandishes a blazing sword and the lower one, a vase filled with many jewels. His upper left hand also carries a Skull – Cup, while the lower one, bow and arrow. Mahakala’s hair is ablaze with a tuft tied with serpents and a crown of skulls. Six – Armed Winged Mahakala wears a garland of freshly severed human heads, a tiger – skin skirt and steps on human figures representing obstacles on a lotus base. Moreover, Six – Armed Winged wears necklaces, earrings, bracelets, anklets, and ornaments of human bone; human and elephant skins.
His Consort has one face and two arms. Her right hand is behind the neck of Mahakala, while the left holds a skull – cup filled with demonic blood. Her right leg is extended along his, while the left leg is wrapped around his waist. Her hair falls loose. She also wears a skull crown, and is decorated with many ornaments. Her hips are covered with a tiger – skin. There is protective fire aureole behind the figures. On the top, Amitabha Buddha is seated, above the head of Mahakala.
According to a legend pertaining to Six – Armed Mahakala, the reason for his special power and effectiveness goes back to Avalokiteshvara’s vow to Amitabha Buddha to remain in this world and not reach Buddhahood until all sentient beings are enlightened. After helping hundreds of thousands of people for countless years to reach enlightenment, Avalokiteshvara saw no decrease in suffering, but rather an increase in defilements. He then became discouraged. As soon as he had thought thus, his head immediately split into a thousand pieces. Amitabha put the pieces back together and made ten heads and put his own head on the top, telling Avalokiteshvara to make the same promise again but to keep it better. It is said that Avalokiteshvara fell unconscious for seven days from sadness, after which time he thought the world’s suffering souls needed results in a hurry without excessive effort. He then wished to turn himself into a wrathful deity in order to defeat more rapidly and effectively the obstacles to happiness of others. With this thought the letter Hum in dark blue color came out of his heart. That Hum became the Six – Armed Mahakala. Immediately, there were six earthquakes. With one voice Amitabha and countless Buddha said that Mahakala would have the power to grant all wishes if the wishes were honest and good!
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