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Lord of the Faith-Guarding Deities (Mahakala), Tibet, 1700s. Brass, height: 14 in, 35.56 cm; width: 4.875 in, 12.38 cm; depth: 12.25 in, 31.11 cm. Walter C. Mead Collection, 1933.14 © Denver Art Museum

Mahakala, the Great Black One, is the most popular of the protectors of Tibetan Buddhism, and is often found at the inner entrance of a temple or at his own special shrine.  Here he appears in his six-armed manifestation, clothed in an elephant hide and a tiger pelt, trampling the prone elephant-headed figure of Ganesha.  His fierce countenance is reinforced by his flame-like hair, a crown and a garland of skulls, and the vajra chopper and skull cup that he holds in his middle hands.  Traces remain of a red pigment that once highlighted these features.