Victoria and Albert Museum

The world’s greatest museum of art and design

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Mahakala

Mahakala

These pieces are a narrative depiction of an ancient Cambodian martial art called Labok Katao, ‘to wield a wooden stick to fight lions’, and the moment between life and death.
Within the pieces symbolic imagery of Mahakala (Great Time or Great Dark One) are intertwined. Mahakala is a deity associated with time, whose tandava dance sustains and destroys, the universe of appearances. The use of Mahakala is to show the unpredictability of the match, about taking a chance because life is short.

“I have realized that the past and future are real illusions, that they exist in the present, which is what there is and all there is.” ~Alan Watts