About the Artwork

This gold-on-black composition depicts the wrathful form of Yamantaka or Vajrabhairava and his consort, with the outer, inner and secret forms of the protector Yama Dharmaraja appearing below. Yamantaka, the 'Destroyer (antaka) of the Lord of Death (Yama)', is a wrathful aspect of the wisdom deity Manjushri, who is also commonly known as Vajrabhairava (Tib. rdo rje 'jigs byed), meaning the 'Indestructible Terror'.

Vajrabhairava is extremely wrathful and blue-black in color, with nine faces, thirty-four arms, and sixteen legs. He is youthful, naked and powerful, with a large stomach and strong limbs, and he stands upon the golden sun disc of his multicolored lotus, leaning towards the right in pratyalidha posture as he crushes underfoot eight mammals, eight birds, and eight great Brahmanic Indian gods.

His main face is that of a ferocious blue-black buffalo, with a pair of sky-blue horns that extend upward towards the realm of Brahma, with blazing tongues of vajra-fire curling around their tips. The snout of his buffalo face is wrinkled in anger and red like molten copper, and the force of his breath is like the terrifying wind at the end of time. His three round red eyes are bulging and bloodshot, and his tawny-red facial hair and eyebrows blaze upward like tongues of fire. He bares his four sharp white canine teeth, his tongue twists like lightning, and his voice resounds with the eight-fold vajra-laugh of a fierce Heruka deity. His alert ears point upward, and the bulges of his forehead, cheeks, and chin are smeared with funeral ashes, fresh blood, and human fat.

With his first pair of right and left hands Vajrabhairava embraces his consort as he holds a vajra-handled curved knife or chopper above a blood-filled skull-cup in front of his heart. His consort, Vajra-vetali or Dorje Rolangma (rdo rje ro langs ma), meaning the 'Indestructible Zombie', or 'Resuscitated Corpse', is extremely fierce and blue in color, with one face, two legs, and two arms – her right hand holding a vajra-handled curved knife behind his neck, and her left hand offering a skull-cup full of blood to one of his mouths. In the bliss of their sexual union she presses every part of her body against his, with her left leg wrapped around his waist and her right leg extended.

Vajrabhairava's other thirty-two hands are arranged into groups of eight frontal and eight rear hands on either side, such that two levels of radiating arms and hands extended around his body. With his upper or second pair of right and left hands he stretches the freshly flayed and bloody skin of an elephant behind his back, with it two left legs appearing on either side of his sixteen feet.

Across the bottom of this thangka appear the outer, inner and secret aspects of Yama Dharmaraja, the 'Lord of the Dead', with the 'outer' form of Yama appearing at the center. He is naked and blue-black in color, with an erect penis and the fierce black head of a buffalo - with three round and angry red eyes, a gaping mouth, sharp fangs, and upward streaming tawny hair. Chamunda, his blue-black and naked consort, stands astride of Yama's extended left leg. Together they stand upon the leopard-skin that serves as a saddle-blanket for Yama's fierce blue buffalo vehicle, which crushes underfoot the corpse of a demonic female enemy that lies upon the golden sun-disc of his lotus seat.

To their left stands the dark blue 'inner' aspect of Yama, who has the wrathful face of a demon, with three round red eyes, a gaping mouth, sharp fangs, and blazing facial hair. He stands leaning toward the left in alidha posture, with his two feet trampling upon a demonic enemy that lies upon the golden sun-disc of his lotus seat. To their right right stands the dark red 'secret' aspect of Yama, who is similar in appearance to the outer blue form of Yama but appears without a consort. He stands in pratyalidha posture upon his red buffalo vehicle, which tramples upon the corpse of a demonic enemy.

© text by Robert Beer

Popular Images

About Our Prints


PEM Custom Prints offers exclusive custom reproductions of artworks in the collections of the Peabody Essex Museum. Hand-made in the USA using gallery-quality materials, we create prints as true to the original work as possible, using strict color management protocols and state-of-the-art printing technology.


Many of the works offered through this store are exclusive and not available anywhere else. We are continually adding new artworks to our offering, so be sure to check back regularly as you build your own gallery. A variety of molding styles means our custom framed prints can match any type of decor.

Member Discounts

PEM Members receive their 10% discount for all PEM Custom Prints purchases. Simply enter your valid member number into the form at checkout and the discount will be applied to the items in your cart. Member discounts cannot be combined with other offers.