Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Yama Dharmaraja (Buddhist Protector) - Outer

གཤིན་རྗེ་ཆོས་རྒྱལ། 阎罗法王
(item no. 404)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1800 - 1899
Lineages Sakya, Gelug and Uncertain
Size 84.46x60.33cm (33.25x23.75in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment, Fine Gold Line on Cotton
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# F1997.31.7
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Animal-Feature

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Yama Dharmaraja (Tibetan: shin je cho gyal. English: the Lord of Death, King of the Law): protector of the Vajrabhairava (Yamantaka) cycle of tantras.

Tibetan: Shin je cho gyal

With one face and two hands, dark blue in colour, the head is that of a buffalo, three round eyes, sharp horns entwined with flame, fierce and angry. Held upraised in the right hand is a bone stick composed of a fused spine and skull. In the left hand is a coiled lasso. Adorned with a crown of skulls and bone ornaments, he wears a necklace of fifty freshly severed heads. Appearing extremely animate he stands with his right leg bent and the left extended on the back of a buffalo above a human body, sun disc and lotus seat. To the right is the consort Chamundi, blue, with one face and two hands. A trident is held aloft in the right hand and a skullcup in the left. Both are adorned with wrathful attire, bone ornaments and various skins, completely surrounded by the swirling orange flames of pristine awareness.

At the top center is the dakini Simhamukha (Lion Faced One), blue in colour, with one face and two hands holding upraised in the right a curved knife and in the left a skullcup and katvanga in the bend of the elbow. To the left is Vyaghramukha (Tiger Faced One) in the same appearance, save for the lower garment of tiger skin and katvanga staff. On the right is Rikshamukha (Bear Faced One) again without the tiger skin and katvanga.

At the left edge of the middle of the painting a small figure of Avalokiteshvara is depicted seated in a cave. At the bottom right a tiger devours a corpse. At the bottom center, spread upon mats of tiger and human skin, are three offerings arranged in three skullcups, nectar, the five senses and blood. An arrow with silk streamers is placed adorning the offering of the senses.

Yama Dharmaraja (also known as Kalarupa) is a wisdom deity protector of the father class of Anuttarayoga Tantra specifically employed by those engaged in the practices of the Vajrabhairava (Yamantaka) tantras and is found in all the Sarma Schools. The Gelugpa tradition holds Yama Dharmaraja in a special regard as one of the three main Dharma protectors of the School along with the Shadbhuja Mahakala (one face, six hands) and Vaishravana. These three were the special protectors of Lama Tsongkapa. Although similar in appearance and name Yama Dharmaraja is not the same individual as Yama the 'Lord of Death' depicted as the central figure in Buddhist depictions of the hell realms.

Indian Lineage: Vajradhara, Shri Vajrabhairava, Jnana Dakini, Lalitavajra, Vajrasana, Amoghavajra, Jnana Sambhava Bepa, Padmavajra, Dipamkara Shrijnana, (the Nepali) Bharo Chag Dum, (the Tibetan) Ra Lotsawa Dorje Drag, etc.

Jeff Watt 6-98

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