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Yama and Yamuna

One of the most fascinating stories on Raksha Bandhan is that of Yama and Yamuna. Their story stands for the chaste brother-sister love and sacrifice. This day stands for the re-unification of brother and sister. It also symbolizes the society's respect for all women. The day gives every man the noble outlook to consider every woman as mother or sister.

There are several versions of the legend of Yama and Yamuna. According to the Shiv Puranas Vivasana or the Sun was married to Samjna (Tvashta’s / Vishwakarma's daughter). It states that Samjna is more beautiful than her husband (From Rig Veda and Harivamsa) and probably has more power than her husband. They have three children, Manu, Yama and Yamuna. But unable to bear Sun's dark form, Samjna flees back to her father. She creates a shadow woman of her own, Chaaya, and asks her to stay with her husband. Chaaya and Sun have a son of their own.
And like the stereotypical step mother, Chaaya paid more attention to her own son. Manu accepted the situation as it is, but Yama revolted. “In his anger and childishness, and through the force of future destiny, Yama threatened the shadow of Samjna with his foot.” [Splitting the Difference: Gender and Myth in Ancient Greece and India by Wendy Doniger]. As a result, Chaaya cursed Yama “Let that foot of yours fall”. Yama went and reported it to Sun and also asked him to revert the curse. Sun deduced that Chhaya could not be Yama’s mother. He grasped Chhaya by the hair and the truth came out. Sun then went to Tvashta in search of Samjna. It was discovered that Samjna had done all this because she could not bear the energy of her husband. Tvashta chiseled off some of Sun’s energy so that his radiance become muted.

On this occasion, Sun saves Yama from Death , but not from mutilation (owning to the curse). As a result, Yama becomes the god of Death (Rig Veda). He also became an embodiment of the first step in the eigthfold path of yogic discipline. Yama and Tamuna, the first mortal twins of Sun, loved each other a lot. As Yama becomes the king of the Land of the Dead, Yamuna mourned for her brother whom she would never see again. She wept until the gods decided to turn her into Yamini, the goddess of the night, who bridges the despair of sunset with the hope of sunrise. From Yami’s tears flowed the river Yamuna.

This occasion is celebrated all over the world with a lot of love. Brothers and sisters are blessed by Lord Yama and Goddess Yamuna on this auspicious day. This ritual is a sorrowful reminder of the parting faced by Yama and Yamuna. On this day the brother pays a visit to his married sister’s house, reminding that he has not forgotten her and that childhood memories are still fresh.

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