Himalayan Art Resources

Item: Yama Dharmaraja (Buddhist Protector) - Outer

གཤིན་རྗེ་ཆོས་རྒྱལ། 阎罗法王
(item no. 90558)
Origin Location Tibet
Date Range 1700 - 1799
Lineages Gelug and Buddhist
Material Fine Gold Line, Black Background on Cotton
Collection Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art
Notes about the Central Figure

Classification: Deity

Appearance: Animal-Feature

Gender: Male

Interpretation / Description

Yama Dharmaraja (Tibetan: shin je cho gyal. English: Yama - King of the Law [of Cause and Effect]): the special protector deity associated exclusively with the practices of Vajrabhaiarava. Both Yama Dharmaraja and Vajrabhairava are wrathful emanations of the deity Manjushri. (See the Yama Glossary, Yama Dharmaraja Main Page, Outline Page and Forms of Manjushri Context Page).

Tibetan: Shin je cho gyal

Dharmaraja, dark blue in colour, has one face and two hands. With the head of a buffalo and two sharp horns he glares fiercely with two bulbous eyes and a gaping mouth. His body is thick and fleshy with long nails and an engorged phallus. In the right hand he holds aloft a spine stick tipped with a gold vajra. In the left hand outstretched he holds a lasso. Embraced on the left side by the consort Chamundi, red in colour, to the Lord she offers up a skullcup with the left hand. Standing with the right leg bent and left extended mounted atop a buffalo, red corpse and multi-coloured lotus seat he is completely surrounded by the flames of pristine awareness.

Yama Dharmaraja is a wisdom deity protector of the father class of Anuttarayoga Tantra specific to the practices of the Vajrabhairava (Yamantaka) tantras. Bhairava is common to all the Sarma Schools. The Gelugpa tradition holds Yama Dharmaraja (also known as Kalarupa, 'Black Form') in a special regard as one of their three main Dharma protectors which also include Shadbhuja Mahakala and the worldly direction guardian Vaishravana. These were the three special protectors of Lord Tsongkapa the founder of the Gelugpa School. 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.

The method of painting is called 'black scroll' (Tib.: nag thang) - gold outline on a black background with various colours used for fill. This style is reserved for wrathful deities.

Jeff Watt 7-98

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Collection of Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art
Painting Type: Black Ground Main Page
Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja Main Page
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Buddhist Protector: Yama Dharmaraja, Outer
Collection of Southern Alleghenies: Protectors