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Peldan Lhamo

Tib., lpal-dan lha-mo
Skt., Ekamatri Sridevi: One Mother Fortune Goddess

Guardian of the Tibetan capital Lhasa, as well as of the Dalai Lama, Lha-Mo (Tib., goddess) takes a foremost position in the Tibetan pantheon.
Another indication of her importance is the fact that she is the only female among the eight major Dharmapala, guardians of the Buddhist teachings.

Her shamanic and pre-Buddhist origin clearly shows in most images. In the more detailed and elaborate depictions, Lha-Mo usually has two Dakinis accompaniyng her. Leading Lha-mo's steed, a white, wild donkey, is Makaravaktra (Skt., sea-monster faced), while Simhavaktra (Skt., lion-faced) follows at - and guards - the rear.

Sometimes, Lha-mo is also shown as a figure with four arms, or as a three-headed figure with six arms. In all these forms, the goddess wears and carries many attributes typical for most fierce and protective deities; among which danda (in the right hand, topped with a human skull and a dorje) and kapala (in the left hand) are her main symbols when shown two-armed. In addition, however, she is sometimes accompanied by a mongoose (Skt., nakula) and is often depicted with a parasol of peacock feathers above her head. This latter symbol indicates that she's immune against all poisons.

Surrounded by a cloud of flames and adorned with the crown of five skulls, her lips are drawn back as to expose her vampire-like teeth below blazing eyes. Using a corpse as her saddle and living snakes as reigns, Lha-Mo is said to be riding across a lake (or sea) of blood. The interesting detail here is that this is not necessarily the blood of slain humans or animals, but is frequently said to consist of menstrual blood. The Tibetan names for this lake/sea are rakta'i rgya-mtsho and khram-mtsho. Considering that khram means corpse, it seems that the first name refers to the menstrual lake; yet most sources are unfortunately vague in these matters.

Is is sometimes claimed that Lha-Mo is little more than a Buddhist adaptation of dark goddesses such as Durga and Kali. This view, however, seems all too simple - the fact that these deities are connected with blood and skulls and the destruction of demons is not enough to equate them. In pre-Buddhist Bön, in which this goddess is rooted, she seems to have been a goddess associated with fate, fortune and destiny. From here, she also derives her retinue of the 28 Fierce & Powerful Flesh-Eating Goddesses. Like herself, these yoginis and/or dakinis have turned into guardians of the Buddhist teachings.

In her less often occuring mild form, the Dharmapala garments and ornaments are replaced by those of a Bodhisattva.