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Goddess Yamuna

Updated on July 27, 2017

The Yamuna River is the second longest tributary of the River Ganges and it is regarded in both Hindu mythology and theology as a representation of the Goddess Yamuna who is none other than the sister of the God of Death, Yama - the very personification of Dharma.

Yama and Yamuna are the son and daughter of the Sun God Surya and the grandson and the granddaughter of the Primordial Creatrix, Aditi, and therefore are Devas or descendents of the race of Gods.

Yama and Yamuna were born onto what could only be described as the Hindu Garden of Eden and were its first habitants. They were the sole occupants of this earthly paradise, a place that was unsoiled by the rigors and turmoil of the physical world and whose inhabitants were untouched by the birth and death cycle and were not subjected to the turning of the karmic wheel. It was a land where the sun never set and it remained perpetually and continuously in the sky.

The Epic of Gilgamesh gives us some clues as to its location and whereabouts. Following the death of his close friend, Enkidu, Gilgamesh goes in search of the hereafter so that he won’t be touched by old age or death and from all accounts the paradise that he was searching for was the Harappa Civilization or the Indus Valley civilization epitomized by Mohenjo Daro, or the "Mound of the Dead" that flourished between 2600 and 1900 BC.

The stone tablets that the poem Gilgamesh was inscribed on date back to about 2100 BC, so it’s more or less during the same time-frame, give or take a few hundred years.

Does the term or the phrase “Mound of the Dead” have any reference to the God of Death, Yama, or does it implicate him in anyway? – the answer in short is yes.

The supreme God of the Indus or Lord of the Indus was Shiva and in seals and other artifacts found in the Indus Valley there are depictions of Shiva and two other Gods that are synonymous to Shiva, Rudra and Yama. The three Gods (Shiva, Rudra and Yama) are also associated to another indigenous Harappa God – Kallan.

I’m not going to elaborate on Kallan at this stage and I’ll leave it for another day but it is clear that Yama was a significant presence in the Indus Valley and that implies a strong Vedic link or connotation because Yama is a Vedic God.

According to the Vedas, Yama is an Āditya (child or descendent of Aditi), and therefore was granted dominion over the world after death, not to be confused with the hereafter but a transitory world that is synonymous to Yama or the Kingdom of Yama.

According to the legend, after years of isolated existence Yamuna fell in love with Yama and sought a union between the both but the God of Death and Virtue refused and counseled Yamuna instead to seek the tender embrace of another.

Thus shunned, Yamuna undertook a journey of self contemplation and wandered far from her brother. She returned much later to find him asleep beneath a tree. She shook him and tried to awaken him, to let him know that she had realized the error of her ways, but Yama neither moved nor stirred.

His body had gone completely cold and despite the resplendent heat that pervaded the earthly paradise, his body was devoid of warmth. It eventually dawned on Yamuna that Yama was no longer alive.

Yamuna started to cry and the tears rolled down her cheeks like little streams and flooded the ground below her feet. Yamuna vowed to cry for as long as the sun remained in the sky.

Realizing that their kindred and sibling was in mortal pain and that the world was in danger of being drowned by her tears the Devas conspired to create night and day.

Yamuna would cry during the day and only at night when the sun sets will her crying stop or abate. The tears that flow down Yamuna’s cheeks are, according to legend, the water that fills the river Yamuna.

There are a few temples dedicated to the Goddess Yamuna. The most famous Yamuna temple is located in the state of Uttarakhand at an altitude of 10, 797 feet.

© 2016 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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