Mahakala, “Lord of the Tent”, is one of the most revered Tibetan protector deities. He is worshipped as a protector of the entire realm as well as a personal tutelary deity. Well represented and revered in all orders of Tantric Tibetan Buddhism, Mahakala is especially popular with the Sakya order. In his most common form he is believed to be the fierce manifestation of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara who plays a prominent role in Tibetan Buddhism, and was the tutelary deity of the Mongolian ruler Kublai Khan.
Mahakala is a Dharmapala, a protector of religious law. He is always depicted as an extremely fierce and terrifying deity. His purpose is to help in overcoming negative obstacles on the path to enlightenment. A compassionate wrathful deity, he appears evil, like a demon, but functions more like guard dog, or guardian angel. (Sergeant) His aggression is necessary,for it allows him to demolish obstacles and negativities one faces on the path to enlightenment. Mahakala is depicted in a variety of different ways, sometimes with six arms, other times with two. He is often brown skinned and associated in tankas with Penden Lhamo.
Mahakala’s role as “Lord of the Tent” explains his popularity in Tibetan religion. Tibetans are historically a nomadic people and tents have always been an important form of protection and shelter,providing the basis for their way of life. Tents being essential for survival resulted in Mahakala, the “Lord of the Tent”, becoming one of the most important protector deities