Yama is the god of death. Whenever someone is destined to die, Yama sends his Yamaduttas to take that persons’ soul to Yamapuri. Yamapuri is the abode of Yama. Then, at Yamapuri it is decided where to send this soul. Holy souls go to places like Swarga, Vaikuntha, and other lokas, while sinful souls go to Naraka. Yama is also the guardian of the south direction and the lord of Pitrs (spirits of the departed ancestors). Yama is also called Dharmaraja, Mrityu, Antaka, Kala, and Sarvapranahara. Vidura was a partial incarnation of Yama.
- Father: Surya
- Mother: Sanjana (Saranyu)
- Brothers: Vaivasvata Manu, Revanta, Ashvins
- Sisters: Yami
- Half-Brothers: Savarni Manu, Shani
- Half-Sisters: Tapti, Vishti
- He is also the godly father of Yudhistira
Sanjana was the wife of Surya. They had a son named Satyavrata, who is Vaivasvata Manu. She could not bear the heat that Surya emitted. Her complexion became dark and she no longer liked her husband. She decided to create a clone called Chhaya and secretly leave to go to Vishwakarma, her father’s house. She instructed Chhaya to dutifully act as Surya’s wife. Sanjana then left for her father’s house. Surya didn’t notice the difference. Soon Chhaya gave birth to a son named Shani. When Vishwakarma heard of Shani’s birth, he asked for the truth from Sanjana, who tells him about the clone. Vishwakarma ordered her to return to Suryaloka.
At Suryaloka, Sanjana got mad at Chhaya and destroyed her. Surya again did not notice the exchange of his wives. Sanjana then gave birth to two children- Yama and Yami. As they grew older Surya gave them jobs. Yama is the god of death and dharma and Yami becomes the goddess of the river Yamuna.
For the full story, read Surya
Incineration and Resuscitation by Shiva
Sage Mrikandu didn’t have any sons, so he prayed to Lord Shiva. Shiva said that he could either have a wise and virtuous son that lives for 16 years or a dull-witted and evil-natured son that lives for many years. Sage Mrikandu chose the first option. A son named Markandeya was born.
Soon, 16 years had passed and Markandeya’s death day started coming closer. On the day of his death, Markandeya sat in deep meditation in front of a Shivalinga. Yama sent his Yamaduttas to bring Markandeya to Yamaloka. But because of the power of his meditation, the Yamaduttas couldn’t touch Markandeya.
Thus, Yama himself had to go. Yama threw his rope around Markandeya. While doing so, the rope also landed on the Shivalinga. Suddenly, an enraged Shiva came out of the linga and turned Yama to ashes, saving Markandeya. Shiva gave Markandeya the boon that he will stay sixteen years old forever. After that, at the pleading of the devas, Shiva revived Yama.
Yama becomes a Crow
Once, King Marutta was performing a Maheshvara yagna in the forest. Indra, Varuna, Kubera, and Yama were invited to the yagna. During the yagna, Ravana passed that spot. All four devas immediately ran and turned into different animals. Yama assumed the form of a crow. When Ravana was out of sight, they all turned back into their normal forms and blessed the animal they had turned into. Yama blessed the crow it will be free from ailments.
He holds a loop of rope (noose) in his left hand from which he pulls the soul from the corpse. On his right hand is a deadly staff (Danda). He has red eyes and fierce jaws. He usually has red clothes and has red, green, or blue skin. Yama’s mount is the water buffalo that formerly belonged to Mahishasura.
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