KATHMANDU, Nepal — My deity-recognition skills have improved when it comes to Nepalese deities, but some are easier to identify than others.
I could recognize several masks and marionettes at a few vendor displays around town. At my most recent shop, I spotted a blue-skinned Krishna marionette and a elephantine Ganesh mask, and on another wall, I could pick out the lion-faced Narasimha.
But two teeth-baring black faces puzzled me. Could they be depictions of Mahākāla?
All schools of Tibetan Buddhism rely on Mahākāla. … Mahākāla is typically black in color. Just as all colors are absorbed and dissolved into black, all names and forms are said to melt into those of Mahakala, symbolizing his all-embracing, comprehensive nature. Black can also represent the total absence of color, and again in this case it signifies the nature of Mahakala as ultimate or absolute reality.
Something suggested to me that this was who was staring down at me.