Penden Lhamo is the protectress of Buddhist governments everywhere, including the Dalai Lamas and their government in Lhasa. A thangka of this goddess travels with the Dalai Lama wherever he goes. In India, Penden Lhamo is also known as Shri Devi. She is considered a wrathful manifestation of Saraswati, the goddess of learning, eloquent speech, and music. Another of her manifestation is Chamundi, the consort of Yama.
Lhamo has an extensive retinue of fierce supporters whose portrayal has resulted in some of the most complex, densely composed paintings in the whole of Tibetan art as the one here. These grotesque depictions of Lhamo are visions of a kind of compassionate activity, as her story makes clear: She is said to have been married to a bloodthirsty warring king who refused all her entreaties to stop his wanton killing. She finally issued an ultimatum: if he wouldn't stop the killing, she would personally slay their child so the king would experience for himself the pain that his warring caused to others. He did not stop, she carried out her threat, and his loss finally did bring him to a halt. She is thus depicted carrying her dead son's body with her on her mule showing that she will stop at nothing to achieve peace.
Here the blue-bodied ferocious Penden Lhamo has three eyes. Her red flaming hair stands on end and above her head is a fan of peacock feathers. The mule she is riding upon has serpents for reins and gallops furiously over a sea of blood. She is largely naked and adorned with several necklaces including one made up of freshly severed heads. From her saddle hangs a pouch with dice. Indeed her initiation is held to be a gateway to divinatory powers, and she can be invoked by practitioners of the Tibetan system of divination known as mo, which involves the use of dice. There is also a lake called Lhamo Latso, to the south-east of Lhasa, whose reflections are said to reveal the future.
Lhamo's two companions are on her two sides. The leviathan-headed ogress in front of the mule and the lion-headed one behind. In addition, various fierce goddesses ride different animals around her. Elongated skeletons uphold the doorways, while stylized curving ones form arches over them. A huge canopy, dark clouds surrounding it and composed of similar human remains reaches up to the heavens.
Of Related Interest:
Palden Lhamo (The Goddess Who Rides on a Sea of Blood)
Wrathful Guardians of Buddhism - Aesthetics and Mythology