STORY OF YAMUNA, THE RIVER (#1)
Do you know that Yamuna is another name for Yami, the sister of Yama, the god of death? Yami and Yama were born twins.
Yama and Yami were Surya’s children. Although I have not come across any person called Yama, or Narada for that matter, we often remember these two characters in our day to day life! If anyone thwarts a serious activity of yours, you will complain to another: “That fellow turned up like a Yama..” And if someone creates a misunderstanding between you and a friend, you will refer to him as a “Naradar” (with ‘ar’, denoting due respect!).
If you know what is behind the names in
I intend to take up at least three rivers, say
River Yamuna finds mention even in Rig Veda, our earliest literature. The immensity of Rig Veda, in verse form, can be gauged from the fact that its translation for the first time into English by Max Muller and his companions and assistants, consumed 51 volumes! The Vedic Aryans occupied the areas from Eastern U.P. to
You will find the above map to be interesting. (Source: http://www.tri-murti.com/ancientindia/rigHistory/ch4.htm) In the Rigveda,
Yamuna flows over 1370 kilometres (nearly 850 miles), coursing through H.P.,
RiverYamuni is sacred as it is identified with Yami who is sometimes regarded as goddess of death. A dip in Yamuna is supposed to eradicate any fears of death. And some people regard Yamuna as even more sacred than Ganges as the feet of baby Krishna were washed in it as he was being carried by Vasudeva across the river from the Mathura side to the Gokul side. Besides,the river was witness to Krishna's games and amorous pranks with gopis, and the growing Lord liberally indulged in swimming in it.
Now, let us go back to the Surya (sun god) story. Surya had three wives, sometimes referred to in politer language as consorts or queens. They were named Saranya (or Sanjna), Ragyi and Prabha. The twins Yama and Yami were born to Surya (also called Vivasvat) and Saranya. Saranya was also mother to Ashwins, twin sons, the divine horsemen cum physicians to the Devas. When Saranya could not bear the intensity of Surya’s rays, her shadow named Chayya gave birth to children including the planet Saturn (Shani) and the river goddess Tapti.
Surya is a Vedic God, and in Rigveda he is one among the seven solar deities or the seven Adityas (Surya, Varuna, Mitra, Aryaman, Bhaga, Daksha, Ansha). He was the chief solar deity. He was golden coloured and he rode a chariot with a single wheel drawn by seven horses. Surya’s father was rishi Kasyapa, father of the Nagas and the humankind.
The twins Yama and Yami (Yamuna) are regarded in the Vedas as the first man and woman (mortals) on earth. Yama becomes a promotee to a higher rank on his demise and is given the charge of supervising the deeds of humankind and punishing or rewarding them when their time is ripe. Thus, he is Dharmarajan, or rather god of justice. Yama’s vahan is a buffalo whereas Yami’s vahan is a tortoise. Yama, it is said, as per Rigveda, was also a great seer, teacher and philosopher.
It is said that while on a sea voyage, Yami expressed a wish to have sex with her brother Yama. Yama rejected the idea saying that it was not in consonance with the tradition of the ancestors “Apsu Gandharva”, “Apya Gandharvi”.( It seems that “Apsu Gandharva” must have been another name for Puru. And “Apya Gandharvi” must be referring to Saranya, as per Sayana and Muir.) He explained to her that sisters never had sex with brothers in their society. As per Atharvaveda, Yama was the first mortal to die. It is noted in the veda that music played in the residence of Yama all the 24-hours! It reminds me a bit of my Worldspace radio!
In Tibetan beliefs, Yami is the goddess of death and rules the female spirits in the underworld (Naraka). She is also the consort of Yama, lord of the underworld. There are perhaps some Indian stories that Yama and Yami parented the human beings but I could not read about it. In the Old Testament, we are presented initially with only Adam, Eve, and their sons Cain and Abel. So, how others evolve is a parallel mystery.
In the next blog in this series, I shall deal with the story of river
It is clear that the rivers Saraswati, Sindhu (Indus) and Yamuna are specifically mentioned even in the first Veda, Rig Veda, a number of times. I have not come across any theory that the IVC was actually related to 'Saraswati valley'. Indus flowed west of the Punjab (Saptasindhu). Saraswati flowed East of the Punjab.
Anyway, I shall try a greater probe on the issue pointed out by you before I write on Saraswati river.
Many thanks and regards!
Hi Swarajya sir,
Catch-22! Who took away the life of Yama, the first mortal? LOL! Only shows that in the beginning, there was always a beginning!
There have been so many Manus including the ones born to Surya.Manu and Satrupa created by Brahma were in the form of man and woman but were not mortals but celestials.
Thanks and regards!
Dear Dr Gopal,
In this blog, at the very outset, you frighten me, with the meaning of the word "Yamuna"!
On a more serious note, this is a very interesting and informative article.
I would like to add something else I have read (I have no recollection where): there is a theory that the Indus Valley Civilization was really a "Saraswati Valley Civilization", but the Saraswatti dried up for some reason, and some geological phenomena caused the Yamuna to become the principal tributary of the Ganga. This resulted in the initial references of the Saraswati (in the Vedas) giving way to references to the Yamuna, which had gained in economic and civilizational value and importance. I am sure that you, too, must have read some version of this hypothesis. Do you feel it has any credibility? Do you find anything in the Vedic literature to suggest such a thing?
Thanks for educating us on the history of Yamuna.It is good to learn that Yama and Yami were twins born to Sun's wife.Sani is also Sun's son.To my knowledge Manu and Satrupa were the first humans created by Brahma.The question which comes to my mind is who took away the life of Lord Yama?Was he not a greater Yama?
Thanks! Just a popularisation of relatively unknown myths!
Very interesting. Looking forward to other two portions of the triology.
Great scholarly post VS which gives an insight into our rich heritage of beliefs and myths about which we know so little.
Too serious hai naa?
Let me try a comedy before I go to ganga!
That made a very interesting read..Wonderful stories of Yami Yama,