Yamantaka the Conqueror of Death (Yama) is a ferocious emanation of Manjushri, the essence of the wisdom of all Buddhas. Under this form Manjushri conquered the demon king of Death, Yama, who was depopulating Tibet in his insatiable thirst for victims. The Yamantaka symbolizes the victory of Wisdom over Death, death being associated with ignorance by Buddhists. The teachings of Yamantaka include both philosophy and meditation. Meditation on Yamantaka can have powerful and immediate effects to help the practitioner gain wisdom, vanquish obstacles, attain a long life, and even overcome one's own death.
There are many forms of Yamantaka. The present painting is of Yamantaka Ekavira meaning 'solitary hero', the only form which does not embrace a consort. The deity is also called Vajrabhairava Ekavira. The complexion of his body is blue. He has nine faces, three on each side of the main head and one above it, each with three eyes. The main head is that of a fierce buffalo with horns. The topmost head is of Manjushri wearing a crown of jewels. The eight other heads are wearing skull crowns, and their hair rises upward, signifying the deity's enlightenment. He has thirty-four arms. The two main arms hold a cranium and vajra marked chopper. His remaining hands hold tantric symbols. He has sixteen legs, eight on each side. Lying face down under his bent right legs are one human male and six animals that are, in turn, stepping on four devas. Under his outstretched left legs, eight birds are also stepping on four devas. Yamantaka wears an elephant skin cloak, garland of freshly cut human heads, and bone ornaments. The figure is unclothed except for his adornment. There is a flame aureole behind him.