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How Yama Lost His Good Looks

- June 4, 2021


By Komal Narwani A deity with fiery eyes, dark skin, and a huge moustache. The description involuntarily creates the image of the god of death in the minds of most readers. Yama, also referred to as Kala, is the guardian of the south, which is the region of death. Although he has a frightening appearance now, he wasn’t always like this. The Vedas describe him as a cheerful and handsome deity, but the Puranas show him as a fearsome god riding a buffalo and carrying a mace and a noose. There is an interesting legend behind Yama’s makeover.  In the beginning, Yama had very attractive physical features. He was so handsome that even the apsaras contended for his attention. He was too proud of his good looks and admired himself all day. He was responsible to free the souls from mortal bodies and escort them to heaven or hell. Haughty Yama got too busy idolising himself and ignored his duties as the god of death.  The people on earth were overjoyed when they realised that they could live happily for eternity. But soon, things started getting difficult. People grew in number and the basic resources started depleting. There was not enough food and water for all. The burden on mother earth increased, causing havoc and chaos. The situation troubled Shiva as he was responsible for the cycle of life. Enraged with Yama’s arrogance and disregard for his work, Shiva decided to teach him a lesson.   Illustration: Ram Waeerkar Shiva summoned Yama to his icy abode, Kailash. When Yama reached Kailash, Shiva smiled and gave him a warm welcome, quite opposite to Yama’s expectations. Yama got suspicious but Shiva asked him to take a seat. After exchanging greetings with him, Shiva requested, “Yama, could you please get me some water from the nearby pond?”...

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