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Yama Home -› Lesser Gods -› Yama
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Yama - the lord of the infernal regions
To the virtuous and to the sinner Yama appears in different forms. To the virtuous he appears to be like Vishnu. He has four arms, a dark complexion and lotus shaped eyes. His face is charming and he wears a resplendent smile. In the case of the wicked, he is seen with limbs appearing three hundred leagues long. His eyes are deep wells. His lips are thin, the color of smoke, fierce. He roars like the ocean of destruction. His hairs are gigantic reeds, his crown a burning flame. The breath from his wide nostrils blows off the forest fires. He has long teeth. His nails are like winnowing baskets. Stick in hand; clad in skins, he has a frowning brow.

Yama has three wives, called HEMA MALA (Golden Garland), SHUSHILA (Good natured one), and VIJYA (Victory). Yama has two ferocious dogs, which were born to SARAMA (The Fleet one) the bitch that guards the herds of Indra. These two dogs have four eyes each and very wide nostrils. They guard the road to Yama' s abode and which the departed are advised to hurry past with all possible speed. These dogs are said to wander about among men as his messengers.

Numerous stories about Yama are scattered in religious books and especially Puranas abound in them. One that shows Yama in a different light and is known to every Hindu is the story of SAVITRI SATYAVAN. This story from Mahabharata has stirred popular imagination since centuries. It relates to a noble princess who remains faithful to her husband unto death and even beyond it.

There was a beautiful princess named SAVITRI. One day she met in the woods a handsome young man, named SATYAVAN who was the son of an exiled and blind king who had been living in a hut like a hermit. She fell in love with the prince and wanted to marry him. The astrologers of her father's court warned that Satyavan was destined to die within one year. But the princess was adamant and married him.

On the fixed day Yama, the god of death, himself came on the buffalo and took the soul of Satyavan. Savitri, his wife, did not beg for his soul. She was very learned and just recited the beautiful and relevant passages concerning this god from the Holy Scriptures. Yama was pleased and asked Savitri to have any boon except her husband's life. Savitri requested god Yama to give back eyesight to Satyavan's father. She still continued her prayers and god agreed to grant another favor. Savitri asked Yama to give back to her father-in-Law the kingdom he had lost. This favor was also granted. Yama went away holding Satyavan's soul; Savitri too followed him. Yama agreed to grant her the third favor. Savitri replied, 'I wish to give birth to hundred sons'. Yama, in a hurry, promised this boon without giving a second thought to its implications. Savitri immediately said, "But how can I give birth to them without my husband? '. Yama was caught unawares and he could no go back of his promise. He had to grant this boon also to her.

Many other such legends are related concerning this god though the wide spread image of this deity is that of a fearful rod-bearer bent on punishing for deeds or misdeeds committed during life.
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