Temple hanging

ca. 1780-1850 (made)


Height: 250 cm, Width: 190 cm

IS.9-1976 SSEA

Temple hanging, silk embroidery on silk ground, probably Inner Mongolia, ca. 1780-1850

Temple hanging, silk embroidery on a silk ground with traces of painting. This striking image depicts a form of Palden Lhamo (dPal-ldan Lha-mo), one of the Eight Great Protectors of Religion (Dharmapalas). Penden Lhamo, as her name is pronounced in Tibet, is the Tibetan equivalent of Shri Devi the fierce black Indian goddess and the only female member of the Eight Dharmapalas. Surrounded by an aureole of flames the dark blue goddess sits side saddle on her mule. She has staring eyes, a third eye blazing between her brows and wears a crown of five skulls. In her left hand she holds the skull of a child born of an incestuous union which is full of blood. As earrings she wears in her right ear a lion and in her left a snake. Copious blue and red scarves billow around her neck and shoulders while above her head there floats an umbrella of peacock feathers. She is clad in ornaments of human bone and wears a loincloth of tiger skins held up by a band of snakes through which is thrust a vajra-tipped club. The head of her flayed son together with his two arms are seen hanging over the mule beneath her. According to legend she was originally the wife of the demon king of Sri Lanka who vowed to either convert her husband and his people to Buddhism or kill her own son. Having failed she flayed her son alive and, taking this horrific form, used his skin to cover her mule. Mythology recounts how Lhamo received her accoutrements and weapons for the protection of the Dharma from the Gods. The crescent moon in her hair and sun disk at her navel were given by Vishnu while Hevajra gave her two dice, used to decide the good or bad fate of human beings, which hang over the front flank of her mount. Above them is a bag full of diseases that the goddess releases to destroy the enemies of religion. Her white mule is harnessed with poisonous snakes and a severed human head hangs from the snake rein. Hanging on the mules rump is a ball of coloured thread made from magically transformed weapons wound together. This form of the goddess lacks the garland of freshly severed heads that normally adorn Palden Lhamos body. Here she also rides over a yellow platform supported by lotuses flowers and a rock pedestal rather than the sea of foaming blood which is usually found.

Purchased. Registered File number 1976/2030.

Location: In Storage

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