Deepavali is generally associated with lights, sweets and crackers. On the other hand, the pious generally think about the Lakshmi Pooja and Karthika Masam that follows the festival. Very few know other festivities and rituals associated with the festival. One such lesser known ritual is Yama Dwetheeya. This falls on the second day after the Deepavali festival and is to please Lord Yama (God of Death).
But praying Lord Yama is not considered to be a good omen among many, this is not true. And a visit to the Lord Yama temple during Yama Dweetheeya attains lot of importance among devotees. It is believed that people who offer prayers at the Lord Yama temple on Yama Dwetheeya would not go to ‘hell’ after their death.
Yama Dweetheeya which is celebrated on second day after the Deepavali festival, marking the visit of Lord Yama to his sister Yamuna Devi’s house for lunch, attains more importance to appease the God of Death. On this occasion, the devotees perform the special pujas such as “Ayoosha Sooktham homam” for longevity and good health and special abhishekhams, he maintained.
It is also believed that Yama promises his sister that people who offer prayers on this day (Yama Dwetheeya) would not go to hell and they would get rid of all sorrows and sufferings. Similarly, it is believed that people having ‘Bhagini-hastha’ (food served by one’s sister) on this day would enjoy longevity and cleansed of their sins.
Yama is god of death and he is feared by common folks and hence not prayed. But interestingly he is celebrated (other than on funerals). On the eve of Bhaiduj also called as Yama Dweeteeya (similar sister brother ritual like Rakshabandhan on Diwali) Hindus actually celebrate the meeting of Yami and Yama.
Also this deity Yama was earlier significant in vedic period but lost its importance to other more charismatic deities of pauranic period (Rama, Krishna, Devi, Ganesh etc).
While a visit to Yama temple is suggested for today, there are very few temples dedicated to the god of death. Let us look at few of them:
In Brahmapura, Himachal Pradesh
A solo temple dedicated to the “Lord of Death”, Yamadharmaraj – Dharmeshvar Mahadev temple is in the state of Himachal Pradesh. Being one of the guardians among the eight guardians of directions Lord Yama just has one temple and this is really fascinating.
Lord Yamaraj temple is located in Chaurasi Temple complex at Bharmour (formally known as Brahmapura), Chamba District, Himachal Pradesh, India and the Lord here is known as Dharmeshwar Mahadev.
Chaurasi Temple complex has immense religiuos imporatnce since it appears the temples here (84 in numbers) were built around 1400 years ago. In addition to the temple for Lakshana Devi (Oldest in this complex – constructed by Raja Maru Varman 680 AD), there are temples for Lord Siva, Lord Ganesha, Lord Narasimha etc.
Just in front of temple of Dharmeshvar mahadev is a shila (stone slab) protected by a wooden fencing on which is carved a ring and paduka (foot prints). It is said to be seat or a court of Chitragupt, who keeps record of satisfactory & evil deeds of every living being in this world.
Locals believe that ancient scriptures mentioned Dharmeshvar Mahadev, as a gateway for every departed soul. After death, each soul arrives in here to be served justice by the hands of Lord Yama.
In Dharmapuri, Telanagana
This is one of the temple shrines in country where Lord Yama (God of Death) is worshipped. The devotees who visit the Dharmapuri temple shrine first offer prayers to the Lord Yama at his temple before offering prayers to other deities. The devotees pour oil in the “Yamaganda deepam” to get rid of their sorrows and sufferings.
Yama Dharmaraja is worshipped as a subsidiary deity at the famous Sri Lakshminarasimha Swamy Temple. The main murti in the temple is the Lakshminarasimha Swami incarnation of Bhagvan Vishnu.
It is said that the Yama temple in Dharampuri was built after 15th century and completely relocated in the 17th century.
In Thanjavur, Tamil Nadu
Yama Dharmaraja Temple is a Hindu temple located at Thiruchitrambalam in the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu, India. The temple is dedicated to Yama. The presiding deity is Yama, the Hindu god of death. There are also shrines to Veeranar, Rakkachi, Muthumani, Karuppu Sami, Kombukkaran and Vaduvachi. There are also idols of Chitragupta, Pambatti Siddhar, Ayyanar and his consorts Purna and Pushkala.
According to Hindu mythology, Manmatha the Hindu Cupid provoked the ire of Shiva and was burnt to death. The Puradhana Vaneswarar Temple in neighboring Peravurani lies on the spot where the alleged incident took place. However, on Yama’s request, Manmatha was restored to life. The Yama Dharmaraja Temple is believed to have been built at the spot where he was restored to life.
In Thirupainjali, Tamil Nadu
Thirupainjali is 20 kms from the temple town of Tamil Nadu Trichy and is the abode of Neelivaneshwarar or Gneelivaneshwarar temple. There are seven theerthams in this temple – Visalakshi, Yama, Kalyana, Agni, Deva, Appar and Maniankarunai.
Lord Shiva vanquished Yama at Thirukadaiyur, after which no deaths occurred. Yama was reborn as child here and is seen as a child near their feet. Since Yama himself was brought back to life, people throng the shrine in large numbers and pray for longevity. Just like in Thirukadaiyur temple, people celebrate their Sashtipoorthy, Bhimaratha Shanthi and Sathabhishegam here.
The main gopuram is incomplete and second gopuram known as Ravana Vayil is complete. There is small shrine for Lord Shiva just outside the first gopuram.