This thanka represents a rare depiction of Mahakala as Gonpo Bernagien. Familiar to the Nyingmapa tradition, the use of this form in a Gelugpa thanka can be explained by the Fifth Dalai Lama being born from a Nyingma family and maintaining an inclination to esoteric Nyingma rituals; compare another example in the collection of the Ronge-family, illustrated in the Taipei edition of Rhie and Thurman, Wisdom and Compassion, 1998, cat. no. 75. The inscription on the reverse includes a praise of the Mahakala and a prayer regarding peace and prosperity in the land of snow.