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Why the Wild Things Are: Personal Demons & Himalayan Protectors
November 23, 2005 - May 28, 2006
Mahakala, Protector of the Tent
Mahakala, Protector of the Tent, Early 15th century
Colors on cloth; cloth mounting
Image: 38 1/4 x 26 1/4 inches (97.2 x 66.7 cm) Mount: 54 1/2 x 30 inches (138.4 x 76.2 cm) Framed: 64 x 39 1/2 x 2 1/2 inches (162.6 x 100.3 x 6.4 cm)
Stella Kramrisch Collection, 1994
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Why the Wild Things Are: Personal Demons & Himalayan Protectors
November 23, 2005 - May 28, 2006

Snakes, skulls, severed human heads, and the bloody skins of wild animals adorn the wrathful deities of the Himalayas. Often surprising to those unfamiliar with Himalayan art, depictions of this class of deities, called the krodha (the "Angry Ones"), are meant to shock because they represent different facets of one of the most basic human dilemmas: when each person possesses bad as well as good traits, how can the bad be conquered and the good be promoted?

Exhibition Minutes

Gory, fearsome, and bursting with energy...
Listen to or download curator Katherine Anne Paul's Podcast.
Available in Exhibition Minutes Podcast - iTunes

In Himalayan religious thought, many of these fierce deities embody the deepest, most universal of human vices, including willful ignorance, pride, jealousy, greed, and lust. Devotees believe that envisioning particular krodha deities assists them in identifying their own weaknesses and harnessing enough force to overcome them. Other types of wrathful deities represent local protector spirits who are held responsible for both causing and curing calamities. Worshippers may bribe these spirits with offerings to avoid bad luck, accidents, or illness.

Why the Wild Things Are brings together seldom-exhibited paintings and sculptures from the Museum’s superb collection of Tibetan and Nepalese art. Gory, fearsome, and bursting with energy, images of the "Angry Ones" reveal a distinctive Himalayan vision of the awesome power hiding within each of us, our own "personal demons."


Katherine Anne Paul • Assistant Curator of Indian and Himalayan Art


Himalayan Gallery 232, second floor

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