Ritual mask – Yama Dharmaraja
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Chapel
Orientation 3
Wall object 3

ABR 084

 Code: ABR 084

  Country: Tibet

  Style:

  Date: 1700 - 1800

  Dimensions in cm WxHxD: 39 x 64 x 22

  Materials: Papier mâché, painted

Ritual mask Yama Dharmaraja
 
This red buffalo mask belongs to the Tibetan tantric Buddhist ritual dances “cham.” With a ferocious appearance, three bulging eyes, gapping mouth uncovering sharp fangs, a small human skull on top of his head, and blazing eyebrows, he possesses all the characteristic of a wrathful deity. This mask represents Yama Dharmaraja, a wrathful protector, whose buffalo head refers to the traditional mount of Yama, Lord of death. Animal-headed wrathful deities are frequent in these ritual dances, often impersonating the assistant of the Lord of death in the judgment of a deceased person.

Ritual dances are not artistic performances for popular entertainment. Although, as part of public festivals, they can convey moral values to the audience, essentially they are the physical expression of meditation and visualisation with specific purposes (delimitation and purification of a ritual area, elimination of hindrance and obstacles towards spiritual realisation, etc.). As such, cham dances are always performed by religious dancers, whether monastic or lay practitioners.