In Hinduism, Yama (Sanskrit: यम:) – also referred to as Yamaraja – is a Rigvedic deity. He the lord of death and of justice, being responsible for the dispensation of law and punishment of sinners in his abode, Yamaloka.
In Vedic tradition, Yama was considered to be the first mortal who died and espied the way to the celestial abodes; thus, as a result, he became the ruler of the departed. His role, characteristics, and abode have been expanded in texts such as the Upanishads and Puranas.
His name means ‘twin’ (Yama has a twin sister, Yami), ‘moral rule or duty’ (i.e. dharma), ‘self-control’, ‘forbearance’, and ‘cessation’.
One of the Lokapāla – Guardians of the Directions – representing the south cardinal direction.
Depicted as riding a water-buffalo and holding a danda (meaning ‘stick’, also referring to Vedic punishment) as a weapon.
Skin colour is often depicted as blue, but also sometimes as red.
Often related to Kāla (“time”) since all must die in due course (Krishna and Shiva are considered to be the personifications of time).
Analogous to Hades (also known as Pluto, another meaning of ‘Yama’), the Greek god of the underworld.
In art, some Sanskrit sources say that he should be of dark color, resembling the rain-cloud, with two arms, fire-colored eyes and sharp side-tusks. He is depicted with red or black clothes, and seated either on a throne or a he-buffalo. A different iconographic form described in the Viṣṇudharmottara depicts him with four arms and wearing golden yellow garments. He holds a noose (pāśa) of rope in one hand. He is also depicted holding a danda which is a Sanskrit word for “stick”.
Although Yama is worshiped as part of daily prayer rituals as one of the Guardians of the Directions, there are few temples dedicated to the worship of Yama. All known temples and shrines are located in India.