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Buddhist deity: Palden Lhamo

By Devik Balami at
buddhist deity palden lhamo

The Buddhist deity, Palden Lhamo is also written and known as Panden Lhamo, Magzor Gyalmo or Remati. The deity is very protective towards Dharmapala of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. She is considered as the deity of Tibet and Mongolia as she is wrathful and principal protectress of Tibet. The Buddhist deity, Palden Lhamo has been described as the tutelary deity of Tibet and its government. It is believed that Palden Lhamo is one of the Obstacle-Removing Mahakala. It is also believed that Palden Lhamo is the Gelugpa version of wrathful emanation of Saraswati.

Myths behind Buddhist deity, Palden Lhamo

There are many myths associated with Buddhist deity Palden Lhamo, some of them are as follows

When Palden Lhamo was married to king Shinje of Lanka, she was better known as Remati. During that period king Shinje ruled over the dudpos and was against Buddhism. Therefore, they had killed many Buddhist monks and destroyed many Buddhist arts like Buddha statues, murals, etc. Thus Remati vowed that if she failed to convert the king to Buddhism, she would end his dynasty. With the objective to convert the king to Buddhism and avoid the killing of dharma practitioners, she tried a lot but she failed. She was not able to change her son also. Therefore she slaughtered her son while the king was out hunting. She not only killed her son, she ate her son's flesh, drank his blood with his skull as a kapala or cup, and flayed his skin to become a saddle. Then she set off toward the north. As the king returned, he found out about his son's murder. With the anger, he shot the mule that Remati was riding. Remati healed the wound and then transformed it into an eye. She stated that May the wound of her mount become an eye large enough to watch over the twenty-four regions, and may I myself be the one to extirpate the lineage of the malignant kings of Lanka. She then traveled onwards through India to Tibet to China to Mongolia. It was said that she finally settled down on the mountain, Oikhan in eastern Siberia.

Another myth associated with Panden Lhamo states about the escape from hell when she was born in hell. It is said that when Pandel Lhamo died, she was reborn in hell and fought her way out of the hell along with a bag of diseases and a sword. When she reached the charnel ground, she found no peace and prayed to the Buddha for a reason to live. Buddha Vajradhara listened her praying and appeared before her and requested her to protect the dharma. In reply, she agreed and thus arose as the Dharmapala. Her group consists of the Lion-headed Dakini Simhamukha and Makara headed Dakini Makaravaktra along with four goddesses of the Seasons, the five sisters of Long life, and the twelve Tenma goddesses. Simhamukha walks behind Palden Lhamo while Dakini Makaravaktra walks in front of Palden Lhamo holding the reins of the mule.

Legends of Palden Lhamo

It is believed that during the reign of Songtsan Gampo, Palden Lhamo presented an iron cup and requested to erect an image of her. With this, she shall protect the royal shrine from any future damage by humans and mamo demons. It is also believed that Palden Lhamo suggested Lhalung Pelgyi Dorje kill the anti-Buddhist king Langdarma in the mid 9th century. Therefore she is regarded as the Dharma-protectress of Lhasa.

Iconography of Palden Lhamo

In Buddhist arts, Palden Lhamo is usually depicted in deep blue composition with red hair and is portrayed as crossing a sea of blood riding side-saddle on a white mule. She is usually depicted with three eyes and is often shown drinking blood from a human skull. The color of her hair symbolizes her wrathful nature.