Dharmapala Thangka CentreSchool of Thangka Painting


Tibetan Iconography

Palden Lhamo

Palden Lhamo Sanskrit: sri-devi Palden Lha-Mo [sri-devi] is one of the group of eight Dharmapala or defender of the law. She is the only goddess Dharmapala. Other seven are all male deities. As these eight appears is very ferocious from, they are also known as 'Eight Terrible ones'. They have equivalent position in Esoteric Buddhism as Boddhisattvas and Dhyani Buddha.

Palden Lha-Mo being the only feminine divinity, defender of the Mahayana Buddhist Teachings received different arms from different gods. Tantric god He-vajra gave her two dice to determine the life of men, Brahma gave her a fan of peacock's feathers and from Vishnu she received two luminous objects, of which she wears one in her headdress, while the other hangs over her navel. Kuvera, the god of wealth and one in the deity of the group of eight Dharmapala, gave her a lion, which she wears in her right ear: and Nanda, serpaent god, gave her a serpent, which hangs from her left ear. Similarly, boddhisattva Vrahapani gave her a hammer. Other gods gave her mule, whose covering is the skin of a Yaksha or demon, and the reins are of venomous serpents.

Lha-mo sits from sideways on her mule, wearing all Dharmapala ornaments or the ornaments or the ornaments designed for the ferocious divinities, specifically in her case, she wears the skull crown in which there is a serpent and half vajra, rises in the flame shape, surmounted by moon. The third wisdom eye, could be seen in between her eyebrows. She is in ferocious expression, and on ether side of her head raise the stiff folds of a scarf like that worn by several of the Dharmapala. She wears a long garland of heads, and over her navel hangs a wheel-shaped ornament. Her covering is tiger skin. In her right upraised hand, she brandishes the beng, or scepter, sometimes surmounted by a skull, while the left holds the skull cup at the breast. The mule's back covered by the skin of a demon, with the head hanging downwards is gold painted with a disk between its ears; where appears a Tibetan inscription byo or jyo.

Above the forelegs of the mule hangs the dice given by He-vajra, and on its haunch is an eye, the legend of which is the following: In one of her incarnations, Lha-mo is believed to have been the wife of the king of Yakshas in Ceylon. The goddess had made a vow to convert her husband to Buddhism, or failing, to extirpate the royal race; and finding it mot in her power to influence her husband to Buddhism, or failing, to extirpate the royal race; and finding it not in her power to influence her husband, she left the kingdom. Knowing about her departure, king became incensed that he seized his bow and shot off an arrow after his fleeing wife piercing the haunch of her mule. She pulled the arrow out, pronouncing the following sentence: 'May the wound of my mule become an eye large enough to overlook the twenty-four regions, and may I myself extirpate the race of these malignant kings of Ceylon!'

Lha-mo is accompanied by two acolytes: the dakini Makaravaktra, who is either elephant or dolphin-headed and hods the bridle of the mule; and the dakini Simhavaktra, with a lion's head, who follows her, holding a chopper and a skull cup. The group walks on a lake of blood.