The main image on this backrest cover is the kirtimukha ("Face of Glory") a ubiquitous figure within Hinduism and Buddhism that symbolizes protection from harm. In the Himalayan region, it often appears at the apex of thronebacks, halos, or doorways. This woven example was probably intended for the throne of an important Buddhist hierarch. The propitiatory face resembles a composite of a lion and dragon, with piercing eyes, a curly mane, and horns. He holds a large wish-granting gem in his mouth, and his cuffed hands hold a scepter (in other examples, often a snake). Skulls and severed heads adorn the border.
According to tradition, the kirtimukha possesses only an upper jaw, having lost the lower jaw and indeed the remainder of his body at the behest of the powerful Hindu god, Shiva. As recounted in the Skanda Purana, the kirtimukha is the product of Shiva's unmitigated rage, unleashed from Shiva's own brow in the form of an emaciated lion. This lion was commanded by Shiva to devour itself, thereby sparing those present from its destructive powers. The lion devoured its own body in its entirety, except for the face, upon which Shiva declared "You will be known henceforth as 'Face of Glory' (kirtimukha), and…you shall abide forever at my door."