Mahakala: History, Mantra & Practice

mahakala black golden thangka

Mahakala is a significant deity in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. Mahakal is an integral part of all forms of Buddhism. According to Vajrayana Buddhism, Mahakala is a protector deity known as “Dharmapala” and a form of Avalokiteshvara”. The deity is generally considered a manifestation of Lord Shiva and the consort of Goddess Mahakali in Hinduism. 

Mahakala is generally depicted as black in color. Since, all the colors get dissolved into black color, all the names and forms melt into the deity as well. This symbolizes the embracing and encompassing nature of the deity. The color black also represents the absolute or ultimate reality and the nature of Mahakala.

In Sanskrit, this principle is also known as “nirguna”, which means beyond all quality and form. It gets depicted in various forms with five skull crowns. This symbolizes the transmutation of five negative afflictions into the five wisdoms. The depiction of the number of arms in the deity varies in various cultures among other details. 

Moreover, some cultures have Mahakalas in white color and without genitals. They have multiple heads, hold various implements, and stand on various things. There are many depictions of the deity in various art forms like paintings, thankas, masks, sculptures and statues. Read further for the detailed description of the Mahakala, its history, mantra, and practice.



According to mythologies, the compassionate Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara took a vow to delay his enlightenment until all sufferings of the people vanquished. Avalokiteshvara took the form with eleven heads and a thousand arms. However, he was still not able to help all beings of the world.

Hence, he determined that it was necessary to assume a wrathful form to save the degenerate beings from the Age of Darkness. Moreover, the poor in the Dark Age were only suffering and a wrathful form could provide an antidote to that suffering by protecting them and providing them with their needs. 

Therefore, a dark blue “Hung” syllable emerged from the heart of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara who became Mahakala, the Protector of Wisdom.


“Om Shri Mahakala hum hum Phat Svaha”

Mahakala is an integral part of Tibetan Buddhism and gets depicted in aspects, qualities, variations. One of the most common mantras associated with the Mahakal is as follows:

Black Mahakala Mantra

Mahakala is generally black in color and has Six-Armed figures. All forms and names get absolved in the Black Mahakala. This symbolizes the all-embracing nature of the deity. 

Moreover, the Black also signifies the Sanskrit principle “nirguna” and portrays the deity as an ultimate or absolute reality. The mantra associated with the black Mahakala is as follows:

“Om Benza Mahakala Kin Kinta Binay BinayYaka Hum Hum Phat Svaha”

White Mahakala Mantra

White Mahakala is generally considered a wrathful variation of Avalokitesvara or Chenrezig. It takes away material and spiritual poverty in beings and brings abundance through compassion. The mantra associated with the white Mahakala is as follows:

“Om Benza Mahakala Hari Ni Sa Siddhi Dza”


Mahakala is a significant part of all forms of Buddhism. According to Vajrayana Buddhism, Mahakala is a protector deity known as “Dharmapala”. The deity is of significant importance in most Tibetan traditions, in Shingon (Japanese Esoteric Buddhism), and in Tangmi (Chinese Esoteric Buddhism). The deity is popularly known as “Daikokuten” in Japanese and “Daheitian” in Chinese. 

Mahakala is generally associated as a form of Lord Shiva in Hinduism. Lord Shiva is the God of Kaal (Time) and all three of the formats of “Kaal” including past, present, and future get merged in Lord Shiva. Kaal also means death in Sanskrit and Lord Shiva is also the god of destruction, or god of end or death. Hence, the deity is also considered as a form of Lord Shiva. 

Moreover, here are many temples in India and Nepal dedicated to Mahakala Bhairava. You can find devotees flocking the temples of Mahakala Bhairava and Kaal Bhairava in and around Kathmandu. Mahakala is also the name of Nandi, Shiva’s principal attendants, and mount (vahana). Hence, you can find them in the doorway of Shiva temples. 

Furthermore, Mahakaal gets associated with “Hukam” (The Supreme Command) in Sikhism. You can find the mention of the deity in Dasam Granth, by Guru Gobind Singh. Sikhs also consider Mahakala as “Kaal”, the governor of Maya. The deity also appears in the Kalikula sect of Shaktism. Overall, Mahakala is a deity of great importance across multiple religions and cultures.


If you are interested in purchasing Mahakala Thangka then contact us. Our thangka paintings are genuine as well as painted by local masters in Nepal.

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