Saturday, 22 December 2012

The day Yamaloka had a holiday

He is one God you will not want to meet either in your lifetime or even after your death. He is one God who has practically no festival named after him. There are not many temples to him too.
Yet, he is on everyone’s lips and whenever a major catastrophe happens he is remembered. He is Yama, the God of Death. But did you know that even he wanted a holiday on a particular day and on that day Yamaloka came to a standstill.
The legend of Yama and his holiday is eloquently told in the Narasimha Temple in Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu. Yama, who is always busy in his loka, wanted a day off to visit his sister, two days after Deepavali. Hence, the unexpected holiday.     
Yama is one of the most unique Gods in Hinduism. He is not really a deity like say Vishnu whom people worship. Nor does he ask you to worship him.
He holds the power of death and he is a staunch devotee of Vishnu. Infact, he is one of the twelve Mahajanas (staunch devotees) of Vishnu. He incarnated as Vidura during the Mahabharata period.
IN the Vedas, Yama is mentioned as the first mortal to die. Therefore, by virtue of precedence, he became the ruler of the dead world.
With a twist of the rope that he holds in his hand, he can send a person to either hell or heaven or even back to earth. As per the shastras, there are seven narakas (hell) and swargas (heaven).
Similarly, the seven heavens are Bhuvas, Swas (governed by Indra), Tharus, Thaarus, Savithaa, Prapithaa, Maha (governed by Brahma.
Yama is generally believed to be the son of the Sun God or Surya and Usha. He is sometimes also called the son of Vivasat and Saranya. 
Yama has entered not only the Indian conscious, he is also the God of Death in Buddhist, Chinese Tibetan, Korean and Japanese mythology and religion. He has a twin sister called Yami.  
Though India has temples to many of its gods, there are only a few to Yama. He is depicted with wide nostrils, sitting atop a black buffalo with a black rope in his left hand.
One of the most well-known of these temples is in Tamil Nadu.
It is located in Srivanchiyam, which is 16 kms from Thiruvavore and 28 kms from Kumbakonam.
This place is also called Thruvarayoor, Bhoo Kailasa or Sandana Vana.
The Puranas equate this place with Varanasi as this is one of the 275 Shiva stalas in India.
As in temples of Tamil Nadu, the Raja gopura is a impressive structure, five stories high. 
The temple has a separate shrine for Yama with Chitragupta standing hear him.
There are idols of Ganesha, Murugan and other deities.
Another temple to the God of Death is in Vellalur, near Coimbatore.
The Yama idol here is seen with a buffalo and faces south. Of course there is an idol of Chitragupta here. Women are barred from entering the Sanctum where Yama is consecrated.
In Dharmapuri in Tamil Nadu, the Narasimha temple has an idol for Lord Yama.  The God of Death is specially worshipped here on Karthika Bahula Vidiya, the second day of Deepavali.
The locals here say that Yama and his sister Yamuna (river) are the children of Lord Surya and Sandhya. While Yama took over Yamaloka to punish human beings, Yamuna decided that she should help people get rid of their sins and hence took the form of a river.
One day, Yamuna invited Yama to visit her house. Yama told her that he would visit her house on the second day after Deepavali and he declared a holiday for Yamaloka on that day. He visits his sister’s house on that day.
So the second day after Deepavali is also called Yama Dwitheeya day. People, in general, visit their sisters’ houses on that day. Devotees worship Yama at the Narasimha temple at Dharmapuri on that day to get rid of their sins.
They believe that Yamuna helps them get rid of their sins on that particular day.

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