Palden Lhamo

Heavenly beings and deities

The wrathful deity Palden Lhamo (Skt. Shri Devi) is one of a group of eight powerful guardians of the Buddhist teaching (Skt. dharmapala). In Tibet, she is worshipped as the tutelary deity of the Dalai Lamas and the capital city, Lhasa.

Legend has it that in a previous life on the island of Sri Lanka, Palden Lhamo was the queen of the man-eating demons. She tried to get her husband and people to give up their cruel ways, and vowed to kill her own son if she failed. When her husband did not heed her, she made good on her vow, then fled the island.

In art, Palden Lhamo is depicted as a fearsome deity riding her mule across a sea of blood. Her own son’s skin serves as her saddlecloth. In her hands she holds a sword and a skull brimming with blood and human entrails.