illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)
Mahākāla also exists in the Hindu pantheon. He is then connected to Shiva, as the god himself or as an attendant but in any case also a compassionate destroyer of demons.
As a wrathful Buddhist 'deity', splendid yet frightening, Mahākāla stands in flames that no enemy can bear the view of. A sharp chopper in one hand symbolises the cutting through of negative patterns, aggression, hatred, ignorance. Mahākāla is seen standing on two human corpses, symbolising the death of negativities and the complete uprooting of unwholesome karma to such a point that, like a dead body, they will not come to life. Obviously, Mahākāla is a manifestation of fearlessness too.
Funnily enough, Mahākāla might be invoked —as a protector— by people pretending to 'know' better than Dharma than you; however, Mahākāla has never been known to harm one being, even in the slightest manner: as the enlightened mind, he is benefiting beings! The way Mahākāla protects the Dharma is by helping the ignorant awaken! The apparently-violent symbols described above are just symbols, which may be misinterpreted by the conventional mind but are ultimately harmless, empty, and a clever, manipulative way to motivate people who cannot see the ultimate yet!
Just like the yab-yum ( gplus.wallez.name/3QEvdfDyRpM ), the symbolism of Mahākāla should not be taken at face value.
image: 18th century Tibetan depiction of Mahākāla, photographed by
© Conrad Shultz at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.