Lord Yamaraj – The God of Death and Justice

Lord Yama - Yamaraj

Almost everyone is scared of dying; therefore, everyone who knows Lord Yamaraj is also scared of the Lord as he is the God of Death. However, although true and obvious to be scared, he is also known as the God of Justice and is sometimes referred to as Dharmaraja. It is because he is responsible for his unswerving dedication to maintaining order and harmony in the world. He is frequently mentioned in Garuda Purana as the chosen Lord who directs the soul to either good or a bad state.

Lord Yama is said to be one of the wisest deities and is also believed to have been the first mortal to die. The word Yama stands for twin brother in Vedic Sanskrit, and in some Hindu epics, he has a twin sister named Yami. Additionally, in the great epic of Mahabharata, Lord Yama is said to have incarnated as Vidura. He is also depicted as a teacher and the father of Yudhisthir, the eldest brother among the five Pandavas.

Lord Yama - Yamaraj

Yamaraj is the son of Lord Surya and Sanjana and is depicted as riding a black water-buffalo, Mahisha, and is of a dark complexion and wears red robes. Lord Yamaraj is said to have fire-colored eyes and flaming hair and holds a noose of rope with his left hand and a mace with his right, using which he is believed to pull the soul from the dead.

Lord Yama is most known as the God of Death and the keeper of the Naraka Loka, the Hindu equivalent of Hell. Naraka is also rarely described as a bottomless pit of darkness where souls are trapped for eternity and deprived of rebirth.

Legends say that the messengers of Yama call the Yamadutas, who bring all beings to the court of Yama after death. Here, Yama himself weighs the virtues and the vices of the being and passes judgment, sending the virtuous to Swarga (Heaven) and the sinners to one of the Naraka (Hell). After the punishment, the souls are reborn as lower or higher beings per their merits.

As per the ancient Vedic texts of Hinduism, the concept of karma equates to predicting a person’s fate and their destined existence in their next life when they are reincarnated. Both karma and reincarnation are directly tied to the judgment of Yama and form the origins of the original caste system.

Hindu epics mention that Naraka holds 28 hells, and Yama directs the departed souls to the appropriate one with assistance from Chitragupta, who is assigned with the task of keeping complete records of different actions of human beings on Earth. Upon their death, they are reincarnated as a superior or inferior organism, depending on their actions. Ensuing, the soul gets purified from the sins committed during their lifetime, and then Yama directs them to Swarga Loka, the Heaven. Naraka Loka serves only as a temporary purgatory, a bridge between the Swarga Loka and Prithvi Loka, where the sinners are tormented.

Naraka Loka is also known as Pitra Loka since the departed souls are taken there to assess their actions. Pitra is a Sanskrit word for our forefathers, who are the mediators between Gods and humans. Since Yama is the Lord of Naraka or Pitra Lok, he is also called the Lord of Pitras, i.e., he directs the Pitras.

Chinese God of Death

As a result, it is obvious that Lord Yama is also known in other parts of the world. In Tibet, where Yama is known as Gsin-rje, he is often represented with a demonic face and viciously stamping on somebody. Yama appears in a similar pose on reliefs at Angkor Wat, Cambodia. Finally, he is a familiar statue figure in many Chinese temples, where he is known as Yen-lo wang.