Mahakala - 11th-12th Century Pala Period Black Stone Sculpture

Note: Mahakala is a wrathful manifestation of Shiva Bhairava, taken up in an Esoteric Buddhist context as a fierce manifestation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara as guardian of the dharma (Buddhist law) and the sangha (community of monks and nuns). He is shown here enthroned on a lotus cushion—another supports his pendant foot—wielding a sword and trident and displaying a skull cup (kapala); his missing fourth hand likely held the flaying knife. He wears a skull diadem with radiating flames. A skull garland is slung around his waist, and snakes form his sacred cord and armbands. A kneeling couple, presumably the donors who commissioned the icon, make an offering below. A Sanskrit inscription in proto-Bengali script identifies them: it states, in part, “this is the pious gift of Dahapati.”