Yamantaka is known as the Conqueror of Death. He is the wrathful expression of Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom. He took the form of a wrathful Heruka in order to defeat Yama, the lord of death, who was arrogantly interfering with karma by claiming victims before their time. Yamantaka subjugated Yama by assuming a form that was even more frightening than that of Yama himself. It also mirrored the horrible appearance of Yama. Yama then repented his actions and became a guardian of the Dharma.
By doing this, Manjushri exposed the illusory nature of the fear of death as well as the unreality of death itself. Yamantaka represents the practitioners’ goal of stopping the cycle of rebirth in Samsara and achieving enlightenment.
Yamantaka manifests in different forms. Like Yama, he too may ride a water buffalo or be depicted with a buffalo head.