Vedā: Yama Yami

Rig Vedā 10:10 is indeed a very deep hymn – and one of the few hymns in Rigveda to show a typically mythological character. There are several things we need to see here. What we essentially know as we proceed to the sūkta is that Yama and Yamī are twins. So they “are born together”.

Who is Yama? In Yama are the metres established. He is what “connects”. He connects mortality and immortality. He becomes a mortal who carves the path of mortals through dying himself and remains “immortal” as manifesting again. In him is time. Through time, he describes a course for life. After the course, the life is absorbed in time. Who is the sister of time? The spurt of what distinguishes things inside the dimension of time. How to see them in nature?

Sun, rises, sets, and takes the course under our horizon. Who is sun, but Ātmā. When ātmā is perceived, he is sūrya and he becomes the lover of his sister, the light. The self at enlightenment falls in love with the vision. They call Pūṣā as the lover of his sister, and wooer of mother. (because Uṣas is also the “mother” whose “calf” is sun) They create “viśvarūpāḥ” in dawn, (all forms) they prop up “heaven and earth”. Where Devas are manifest. Read the Yama-Yamī saṃvāda and see who tells these two things to defend their perspective. When it is night, sūrya is practically absorbed into time. (The time as a female later manifests as “Kālī” again) The setting sun doesn’t yield to Yamī the dusk to make a “backward oscillation”, he just absorbs himself to mortality. So that every self ātmā that is his representative is born and dying in this earth. Because Yama dies, Jīva is born with the dawn the next day. Because Yama is, the chandas is regulated. Because Yama is, the cattle return to their homes after grazing through the pastures.

Yamī is not a mortal, but Yama is. Yama is always “measured” and “known” by periods of life. Yamī is therefore the marker of Devayāna and Yama the marker of Pitṛyāna. In the popular culture, Yama stays as a true brother to Yamī, and the passover of Yama marks the beginning of year, (in Kārtika māsa), beginning of Devayāna, which is celebrated in the Kārtika Paurṇamāsa (the good old Dīpāvali and South Indian Kārtikai Dīpam) which also comes with the symbol of sister-brother relationship observed as Bhai dooj in North India and regarded along with Kārtikai Dīpāvali in Tamil Nadu/Kerala.

Does Yama yield to Yamī? No, say the legends. He already uses arguments from morals, and the “kinship” to assert that they are siblings, whereas Yamī is driven by emotions and the māyā of love. Then how does he procreate the mortals? Rigveda doesn’t answer it there, but in the 13th sūkta of tenth maṇḍala the answer is given – Yama was sacrificed by Bṛhaspati and Devas. Bṛhaspati, as you know, is the lord of the lofty sky, the lord of many cows which he releases at dawn from Vala, as Indra. Yama through the power of yajña, sacrifices himself through annihilation, thereby creating a debt – which is a cyclic yajña. Hence, the other Indo European myths also speak of Manu, the man, being the brother who sacrifices Yama through his sacrifice. The Norse myth has Ymir, the Norse Yama, sacrificed like Puruṣa (Puruṣa is indeed, as we saw, a form of Yama himself) to create everything. Dīrghatamas too delves on Yama quite passionately in his riddles. Find them out! 😉

Thus, through annihilation of the Puruṣa in Yama, a debt is created. Through a debt, exchange is created. Through exchange, the world moves on – and thus time is created and we “exist”. This exchange is what Indra is for. Yama is who “moves” from his sister so that he is mortal, he stays a mortal, and he finds a way for those who want to “live” and take the course of “life”.

Through soma, we take inspiration and resultant “birth” again. (No, not the ghostly rebirth, but in our selves) We just move through devayāna and pitṛyāna. This idea also gives way to the idea behind meditation where there is thought, (candramās, “moon the thought”) there is no beholding of self. (“sun”) Vedas would say that both should complement one another. In other words, ātman and anātman are to be our two eyes of existence.

Author/Researcher: Kiron Krishnan
April 9th, 2020