Encyclopedia for Epics of Ancient India

A - B - C - D - E - G - H - I - J - K - L - M - N - P - R - S - T - U - V - Y


Read about Yama at Wikipedia, Encyclopedia Mythica, Urday website (note also: Urday: Yudhishthira and Yama), or at Kamat's Potpourri.

YAMA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] 'Restrainer.' Pluto, Minos. In the Vedas Yama is god of the dead, with whom the spirits of the departed dwell. He was the son of Vivaswat (the Sun), and had a twin-sister named Yami or Yamuna. These are by some looked upon as the first human pair, the originators of the race; and there is a remarkable hymn, in the form of a dialogue, in which the female urges their cohabitation for the purpose of perpetuating the species.

Another hymn says that Yama "was the first of men that died, and the first that departed to the (celestial) world." He it was who found out the way to the home which cannot be taken away: "Those who are now born (follow) by their own paths to the place whither our ancient fathers have departed." "But," says Dr. Muir, "Yama is nowhere represented in the Rigveda as having anything to do with the punishment of the wicked." So far as is yet known, "the hymns of that Veda contain no prominent mention of any such penal retribution. Yama is still to some extent an object of terror. He is represented as having two insatiable dogs with four eyes and wide nostrils, which guard the road to his abode, and which the departed are advised to hurry past at all possible speed. These dogs are said to wander about among men as his messengers, no doubt for the purpose of summoning them to their master, who is in another place identified with death, and is described as sending a bird as the herald of doom."

In the epic poems Yama is the son of the Sun by Sanjna (conscience), and brother of Vaivaswata (Manu). Mythologically he was the father of Yudishthira.

He is the god of departed spirits and judge of the dead. A soul when it quits its mortal form repairs to his abode in the lower regions; there the recorder, Chitragupta, reads out his account from the great register called Agrasandhani, and a just sentence follows, when the soul either ascends to the abodes of the Pitris (Manes), or is sent to one of the twenty-one hells according to its guilt, or it is born again on earth in another form.

Yama is regent of the south quarter, and as such is called Dakshinasapati. He is represented as of a green colour and clothed with red. He rides upon a buffalo, and is armed with a ponderous mace and a noose to secure his victims.

In the Puranas a legend is told of Yama having lifted his foot to kick Chhaya, the handmaid of his father. She cursed him to have his leg affected with sores and worms, but his father gave him a cock which picked off the worms and cured the discharge. Through this incident he is called Sirnapada, 'shrivelled foot.'

Yama had several wives, as Hemamala, Susila, and Vijaya. He dwells in the lower world, in his city Yamapura. There, in his palace called Kalichi, he sits upon his throne of judgement, Vicharabhu. He is assisted by his recorder and councilor, Chitragupta, and waited upon by his two chief attendants and custodians, Chanda or Mahachanda, and Kalapursusha. His messengers, Yamadutas, bring in the souls of the dead, and the door of his judgement-hall is kept by his porter, Vaidhyata.

Yama has many names descriptive of his office. He is Mrityu, Kala, and Antaka, 'death;' Kritanta, 'the finisher;' Samana, 'the settler;' Dandi or Dandadhara, 'the rod-bearer;' Bhimasasana, 'of terrible decrees;' Pasi, 'the noose-carrier;' Pitripati, 'lord of the manes;' Pretaraja, 'king of the ghosts;' Sraddhadeva, 'god of the exequial offerings;' and especially Dharmaraja, 'king of justice.' He is Audumbara, from Udumbara, 'the fig tree,' and from his parentage he is Vaivaswata. There is a Dharmasastra which bears the name of Yama.

ANTAKA. [Source: Dowson's Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythology] `The ender.' A name of Yama, judge of the dead.


Modern Languages MLLL-4993. Indian Epics. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. The textual material made available at this website is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one. No claims are made regarding the status of images used at this website; if you own the copyright privileges to any of these images and believe your copyright privileges have been violated, please contact the webmaster. Page last updated: October 16, 2007 12:22 PM