Inscribed with the Buddhist creed ('ye dharma hetu...')
Private Collection, Los Angeles, acquired in 1968
Mahapratisara is the principal goddess in the Pañcaraksā group, and her worship is widely prevalent amongst the Tantric Buddhists. She is represented either singly or in a mandala in the company of four other Pañcaraksā deities. She is generally yellow when worshipped independently and white when worshipped in the mandala of the five goddesses. This remarkable sculpture portrays Mahapratisara, the principal Raksha goddess, with her distinctive eight arms adorned with various symbolic attributes. In her central pair of hands, she holds the sutra of perfected wisdom (known as the Prajnaparamita sutra) in her left hand, while her right hand is open in a gesture of granting wishes (varada mudra). Her additional hands carry an axe, trident, lasso, sword, discus, and a three-pronged vajra, emphasizing her role as one of Buddhism's most adept and well-equipped guardians.
Devotees hold the five Raksha goddesses in high regard as worldly protectors, each with specific functions to alleviate fear and protect against harm from sources such as dangerous animals, diseases, and natural disasters. These goddesses are also associated with mantras, special verbal utterances from sutras. Among these mantras, Mahapratisara's, known as the Mahapratisara-Mahavidyarajni, is the most comprehensive, making her widely popular across Asia. Any follower, whether a monk or a lay devotee, can invoke her protection, often in the form of an amulet or an amulet containing her written incantation. Consequently, stone depictions of her divine persona are exceedingly rare.
This representation of the eight-armed protector goddess exhibits distinct stylistic characteristics reminiscent of 9th/10th-century sculptures from the early Pala period. A related example can be found at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (1991.108).