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Yamantaka presides over the eastern direction and is one of the popular deities of the Nepalese Buddhist Pantheon. It is said that he is the emanation of Bodhisattva Manjushree. With great awesome and virtuous strength, he is capable of subduing poisonous serpents and eliminating countless obstacles.

Bodhisattva Manjushree took this wrathful form in order to subdue the Lord of death. So Yamantaka symbolizes the victory of wisdom over death, evil and suffering. How Yamantaka subdued Yama, Lord of death is described in a le;end. It is said that a Bonpo ascetic was just attaining the final stage of his meditative experience after a long years of samadhi. In the mean time a gang of robbers entered his cave in order to slaughter a bull they had stolen. Having cut off the bull’s head they happened to see him and immediately began to attack him. is ascetic begged for mercy but they did not hear his request. They severed his head. All of sudden this severed head took the form of Yama and fitted the bull’s head on to the place of his own lost head and then massacred the robbers and drank their blood from cups made of their skulls. Out of the great rage he even threatened to destroy the whole of Tibet. Then the Tibetans prayed to their protector Manjushree, who then transformed himself into a wrathful appearance of Yamantaka in order to conquer Yama. In the ferocious battle that followed, Yama was subdued. He later determined to become a protector of dharma (thus the name Dharmaraja for Yama).

Among the many forms of Yamantaka, Yamantaka Vajra-bhairava is the most popular. He is described in the meditational texts as follows:

Yamantaka Vajrabhairava has eight heads. The principle head of yamantaka is that of a bull or a buffalo. Yamantaka has 34 arms and 16 feet to subdue Yama from escaping. On the top of the eight heads lies the gentle face of golden coloured image of Manjushree. His two principal hands hold a skull bowl and a vajra chopper (skt. kartri). The legs are clustered together. His erect phallus has bright red tip. He wears a garland of severed heads, a crown of five skulls symbolizing he has the wisdom of five Buddhas. Beneath the feet lie the subjugated deities and animals. He is usually depicted with his Prajna.

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