The central deity, Chaturmukha Mahakala ("Four-faced Mahakala"), is the second of the principle protector deities in the Sakya tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. There are five forms of Chaturmukha Mahakala, and this painting depicts all of them. With the white and red faces on either side of the central blue face, the central deity can be identified as the Accomplishment form of Chaturmukha Mahakala. The diminutive Approximation form with green faces is located to the right of the central figure's head, while the Demon Faces form with the elephant and lion faces is located to the right of the trident. The other two forms, Performing Activities and Four Families, are at bottom center and bottom left, respectively.
Because most of the lineage teachers can be identified, it is possible to roughly date the age of the painting. As Khedrubje Geleg Palzang (1385-1438), student of Tsongkhapa, is located towards the end of the lineage without subsequent teachers after him, it can be assumed that this painting dates from not long after his death. According to Jeff Watt, this is the earliest known painting of this subject.