Enma (閻魔)

According to Buddhism and Hinduism, Enma is the master of Hell. He is also considered to be a deity. It is believed that Enma, being the king of a permanent dreamland, has the authority to judge the crimes committed by the dead while in life.


Enma is a transliteration of Yama in Sanskrit and Pali.

He is also called Yama-rāja (rāja means "king"). The transliteration is Enmaraja, and the free translation is Enma Daio (great king Enma). His name is abbreviated as Enra, Enra-o, En-o or En.

Yama (Emma) is translated into Japanese as baku (縛), sosei (雙世), soo (雙王), seisoku (静息), shasei (遮正) or byodo(平等), etc. Such Japanese translations are derived from the respective meaning of Chinese character, namely "Baku (縛)," which means capturing criminals, "sosei (雙世)," which means always suffering the consequences of pain and joy; "soo (雙王)," which means a king consisting of a paired brother and sister, and "byodo (平等)," which means the fair judgment of criminals.

Faith in various regions
He was a deity that originated in the era when India and Persia were unified; he has the common origin with saintly king Yima of Avesta.

According to the "Rig-Veda," Yama is considered to be the human ancestor because the human race was born of Yama and his sister Yami; he became the king of the world of the dead because he was the first human being to die. He is believed to live in the deepest recesses of emptiness. In ancient India, those who performed benefactions in life were believed to go to Yama's country out in heaven. Sometimes he was identified with "death," but generally he was perceived as the king of the paradise of the dead or the deity that dominates ancestors residing in the universe after death. Later, it was believed that he wore yellow vesture and a wreath on his head, held a rope for arrest, bound the soul of the dead with this rope and brought them to the place where he resided. Further, he became being perceived as a dreadful deity who dominated the lower world, judged the dead and threw them into Hell; eventually, he became a being depicted simply as Death.

He is accompanied by 'Turdak,' the devil of deadly disease, who has the form of a skeleton. In contemporary India he is depicted as the one who has blue skin and is riding on a buffalo (although his skin is black-colored in nature, he is depicted as blue-colored due to the artistic style).

It is generally believed that he was incorporated into Buddhism later and was deemed to be the king of Hell.

However, one theory holds that the same deity, Yama of Rig-Veda, diverged into two genealogies.
These two genealogies are as follows;

One went to a black world in a lower realm and became the king of Hell. This section describes Enma.

The other went to a bright world in an upper realm and became Yamaten, the third heaven of the six heavens in the realm of desire in Buddhist cosmology, or Enmaten.

However, some people believe these two were basically unrelated but might have been confused because 閻魔 (Enma) is Yama while 夜摩・焔摩 (Yama/Enma) is Yaama or Yaamaa.

After he was introduced in China, he became amalgamated with Taizanfukun (Taishanfuzhun), who were associated with the Taoist philosophy of a permanent dreamland.

Eventually, he was linked to the faith of Juo (Ten Kings) by the bogus sutra called "Enra-o-juki Shishu Gyakushu Shoshichiojo Jodo-kyo Sutra" (abbreviated as "Yoshu Juo Shoshichi-kyo Sutra, Yuxiu Shiwang Shengdijing Sutra"), which was compiled in the era of the late Tang dynasty and became the object of faith as one of the judges of Hell, whose role was to judge persons after death. His well-known figure, clothed in the familiar vestments of a Tang official, was established at that time.

Regarding Japanese Buddhism, Jizo Bosatsu, which was later deemed to be the honji (substance) of Enma, had been introduced in the Nara period through "Jizojurin-kyo Sutra." However, it did not become widespread under the social situation in which worldly interest was prioritized.

In the early Heian period when Mappo-shiso (the "end of the world" belief) prevailed, it was expounded by the monk Genshin and others to the nobility in the early Heian period and then widely to ordinary people in the late Heian period, and early in the early Kamakura period, "Jizo Bosatsu Hosshin Innen Juo-kyo Sutra" ("Jizojuo-kyo" for short), which was also a bogus sutra, was created based on Yoshu Juo Shoshichi-kyo Sutra (Yuxiu Shiwang Shengqijing).

Thanks to the above, the theory that Jizo Bosatsu was the honji of Enma (although it is conceivable that the theory claiming that 'Jizo is Enma Daimao (Great Satan)') was derived from this fact, although the details aren't known; however, not only did faith in Jizo spread but faith in Juo did as well.

Enma is believed to be able to travel back and forth between Hell and the Pure Land.

As previously mentioned, Enmaten, one of the Juniten (twelve deities), is said to have the same origins as Enma. While Enmaten was amalgamated with Enma-daio in China, the two were separately introduced into Japan, which might be the reason that the same was split into two.

When scolding a child who has told a lie, there is a folk tradition in Japan to say, 'I will ask Enma to yank out your tongue.'

Saiho-ji Temple Enma-do (official name is 'Gappo-ga-tsuji Enma-do Saiho-ji Temple') located in Naniwa Ward, Osaka City enshrines Enma. It is said that the temple was built by Prince Shotoku and is the scene of 'Sesshu Gappo-ga-tsuji' (in Joruri (Japanese-type puppet play)).

[Original Japanese]