52. Yamantaka
Style: All-Color (tson-thang)

Yamantaka is the wrathful emanation of Mañjuśri. It is believed that Mañjuśri takes this furious appearance to suppress the Lord of Death. Yamantaka symbolizes the victory of knowledge over death, evil and suffering. The literal translation of Yamantaka is ‘the terminator of death’.

Termination of death is important to Buddhist practitioners because only termination of death can bring about one’s release from the cycle of life and death, and resultant enlightenment. Yamantaka has several variations; however, in all variations he is depicted with a central buffalo head of a wrathful nature. In his comprehensive appearance as Vajrabhairava, he is portrayed with sixteen legs, nine heads, and thirty-four arms, along with his female companion, Vajravetali. Often he is also represented standing on, or riding, a white or black bull, with feet trampling on animals and demons. He is always depicted surrounded by flames and in a dark color, usually blue or black. In the nine- headed form, Mañjuśrī’s head is yellow and is in the top most position above the central buffalo head. The faces on the right side are painted in yellow, blue and red, while the faces on the left side in black, white, and gray. All of the faces are portrayed with three eyes and wrathful expressions. In his hands, Yamantaka holds various weapons and tantric ritual items.

His body is decorated in bone ornamentation. His consort, Vajravetali, appears in blue and holds a skull cup (ritual item) in her left hand. Yamataka’s fierce appearance, combined with ritual items and weapons, are representative of his protector function of the Dharma. Yamantaka is also a special protector figure of the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism.