As promised to continue with the Younger Brother of Shani, here is a post on Yama…
Yama is the lord of death in Hinduism, first recorded in the Vedas. In Vedic tradition Yama was considered to have been the first mortal who died and espied the way to the celestial abodes, thus in virtue of precedence he became the ruler of the departed. In some passages, however, he is already regarded as the god of death. Yama’s name can be interpreted to mean “twin”, and in some myths he is paired with a twin sister Yamī.
Yama is assisted by Chitragupta who is assigned with the task of keeping complete records of actions of human beings on the earth, and upon their death deciding to have them reincarnated as a superior or inferior organism, depending on their actions on the earth (Karma).
Yama is also the lord of justice and is sometimes referred to as Dharma, in reference to his unswerving dedication to maintaining order and adherence to harmony.
Yama can be compared to the Greek deity Hades or Pluto, the god of the underworld.
Characteristics of Yama
Yama is a Lokapāla and an Aditya. He is the son of Surya (Sun) and twin brother of Yami, or Yamuna, traditionally the first human pair in the Vedas. Interestingly Surya’s two sons Shani and Yama judge. Shani gives us the results of one’s deeds through one’s life through appropriate punishments and rewards; Yama grants the results of one’s deeds after death.
He is one of the Guardians of the directions and represents the south. Yama is also the god of justice and is sometimes referred to as Dharma, in reference to his unswerving dedication to maintaining order and adherence to harmony. It is said that he is also one of the wisest of the devas. In the Katha Upanishad, among the most famous Upanishads, Yama is portrayed as a teacher. He is the father of Yudhisthira (also known as Dharmaraja), the oldest brother of the 5 Pandavas (Karna was born prior to Kunti’s wedlock, so technically Karna is Yudhishthira’s older brother) and is said to have incarnated as Vidura by some accounts in the Mahabharata period.
Yama is called Kāla Shiva is also called Kāla as well as Mahākāla (“Great Time”) in his form as the destroyer of the world
In the Ṛigveda he is mentioned as the son of Vivasvat and of Śaraṇyu, the daughter of Tvaṣṭa, with a twin sister named Yami. Only three hymns in the Ṛigveda are addressed to him.
Agni, who is a conductor of the dead, has close relations with Yama. Agni is Yama’s priest, serving as the burner of the dead. Agni, Yama, and Mātariśvan are mentioned together as the names of one being, along with other forms of the divine.
In art, some Sanskrit sources say that he should be of dark color, resembling the rain-cloud, with two arms, fire-colored eyes and sharp side-tusks. He is depicted with red clothes, and seated either on a lion throne or a he-buffalo. He holds a noose of rope (pāśa) in one hand.
Garuda Purana mentions Yama often. His description is “There very soon among Death, Time, etc. he sees Yama with red eyes, looking fierce and dark…, with fierce jaws and frowning fiercely, chosen as their lord by many ugly, fierce-faced hundreds of diseases, possessing an iron rod in his hand and also a noose.
Sub ordination to Shiva & Vishnu
Shiva defends his devotee Markandeya from Yama, who is seated on his bull.
Yama, although one of the most powerful controllers is still subordinate to the controllers Shiva and Vishnu because they are different aspects of the overuling Brahman. A story of Yama’s subordinance to Shiva is well-illustrated in the story of Markandeya.
Another story found in the Bhagavata Purana shows Yama’s subordinance to Vishnu. The man Ajamila had committed many evil acts during his life such as stealing, abandoning his wife and children, and marrying a prostitute. At the moment of his death he involuntarily chanted the name of Narayana (another Sanskrit name for Vishnu) and achieved moksha, becoming saved from the messengers of Yama. Although Ajamila had actually been thinking the name of his youngest son, Narayana’s name has powerful effects, and thus Ajamila was released from his great sins.
Surya’s two sons Shani and Yama judge. Shani gives us the results of one’s deeds through one’s life through appropriate punishments and rewards; Yama grants the results of one’s deeds after death.