He is shown here with one head, and three bulging eyes. His face is fierce, with an open mouth and bared fangs, and he wears a five-skull crown. His crown of five skulls represents the five main afflictions of anger, greed, pride, envy, and ignorance and their corresponding transformation into positive virtues. His hair stands upright behind the crown, flame-shaped. He is surrounded by a flame like aureole. This billowing mass of flames that surrounds wrathful deities is described as a 'blaze of awareness fire'. The energy of the wisdom of these wrathful forms blazes like the sun's inexhaustible fire. The sun, as a symbol of pure wisdom, is consumed with fire, yet is not itself consumed. Its eternal fire is inexhaustible. The wrath of these deities is not ordinary anger, but wisdom-anger manifesting in its most indestructible or vajra nature, carrying the capacity of terrifying all evil spirits.
The twisting and blazing fiery aureole surrounding Mahakala is also described as kalagni, meaning the 'fire of time'. Literally it is the 'fire at the end of time', according to Buddhist ideals, the ultimate conflagration of the universe at the end of this aeon.
His eyebrows too are like small golden flames, and his beard is made of golden hook like shapes.
He wears many ornaments on his body, and a necklace of fifty freshly severed human heads. A tiger skin is around his loins and he tramples upon human figures, denoting obstacles.