Palden Lhamo

Palden Lhamo

Great Lady; Queen of Armies; The Triumphant Mother


Penden Lhamo; Shri Devi (India); Okkin Tungri (Mongolia)



Palden Lhamo is the only female amongst the Eight Dharma Protectors. She is deliberately terrifying so that she can fight evil forces and overcome Buddhism’s enemies. Palden Lhamo was originally a Bon goddess now sworn to uphold the Dharma. Her associations with divination and Lake Lhamo La-Tso predate Buddhism.

Once upon a time, she was married to a violent, bloodthirsty tyrant king. She begged him to mend his ways but to no avail. Finally she announced that if he wouldn’t cease killing, she would personally destroy their child so the king would experience the pain of loss. He called her bluff. It was a mistake. Palden Lhamo killed her son and now carries his body with her as proof that nothing will stop her from seeking peace.

In another version, Palden Lhamo married the violent king of Sri Lanka, vowing to either convert him to Buddhism or terminate his dynasty. He had no inclinations toward Buddhism and so she killed their son. She flayed the boy, ate his flesh, and drank his blood from a skull cup, then stole the king’s finest stallion and, using her son’s skin as a saddle blanket, headed home to the Himalayas. The enraged king shot the horse with a poison arrow but Palden Lhamo magically neutralized the poison. She transformed the horse’s wound into an eye which constantly watches protectively over Buddhists.

Palden Lhamo protects divination and diviners. She presides over a form of Mo, a Tibetan divination system utilizing dice. There are different Mo methods: Palden Lhamo’s system utilizes three dice engraved with numbers one through six. Palden Lhamo casts dice to determine people’s destinies.

Palden Lhamo swallowed all Earth’s diseases to prevent them from causing harm, stuffing the leftovers into a black bag. She selectively releases illnesses in order to overcome enemies of the Dharma.

Palden Lhamo protects Buddhist governments everywhere. She is the personal protector of Tibet and the Dalai and Panchen Lamas. She protected China beginning with the thirteenth century Yuan Dynasty until the end of the Ching Dynasty in the twentieth century.

In India, Palden Lhamo is identified with Yama’s wife Chamundi or as a wrathful path of Sarasvati.


Palden Lhamo can take any form in her quest to bring people closer to enlightenment. She has twenty-one different paths.


Palden Lhamo rides sidesaddle while crossing a sea of blood on her white mule. Her reins are poisonous snakes. Sometimes she rides through flames. She is depicted with red hair to indicate her wrathful nature, she is ornamented by a peacock-feather parasol, and she wears a garland of skulls.


Dice, bag containing dice, black bag containing disease, ball of magic thread, peacock-feather fan, scepter topped with a skull, hammer

Sacred allies: Palden Lhamo may be accompanied by a spirit entourage, including Dakinis and the Five Sisters of Long Life.

Creatures: Mule, lion, snake


Dark blue


Crescent moon


Palden Lhamo rides sidesaddle on a wild white mule covered with a blanket made of flayed human skin.

Sacred site:

She presides over Lhamo La-Tso, “Life Spirit Lake of the Goddess,” the holiest lake in Tibet. It is an oracle: visions are received by gazing at the water.


Bon Spirits; Buddha; Dakini; Eight Dharma Protectors; Padmasambhava; Sarasvati; Tenma; Yama; and the Glossary entries for Oracle and Path


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by :Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.