Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Yama Dharmaraja (Buddhist Protector) - Outer

གཤིན་རྗེ་ཆོས་རྒྱལ། 阎罗法王
(item no. 406)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug
Size 59.69x40.64cm (23.50x16in)
Material Ground Mineral Pigment on Silk
Collection Rubin Museum of Art
Catalogue # acc.# P1995.35.1
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

Fearsome and wrathful Dharma Protector with the head of a buffalo, three round eyes, hair flowing upward, a body blue in colour with two upraised hands. The right hand holds a bone stick composed of a fused spine and skull wrapped with an elephant and human skin. The left holds a long black lasso tipped with a gold ring and half vajra. Wearing a necklace of fifty freshly severed heads tied together with human intestines, he appears extremely animate standing with the right leg bent and the left extended on the back of a buffalo above a human body, sun disc and multi-coloured lotus blossom seat. To the right is the consort Chamundi, with one face and two hands, clambering towards Dharmaraja. She holds a trident in the right hand and a skullcup in the left. Both are adorned with wrathful attire, skull tiaras, bone ornaments and various skins; completely surrounded by the orange and red flames of pristine awareness. At the bottom center is a skullcup with the offerings of the five senses, an arrow placed in the middle and silks adorning the top.

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 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 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 Drak, etc.

Jeff Watt 6-98

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Buddhist Protectors: Enlightened
Collection of Rubin Museum of Art: Painting Gallery VII
Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja Main Page
Tradition: Gelug, Enlightened Protectors
Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja, Outer