Digging into the depths of Indo-Iranian mythology, we will find the early mention of the character in history, which is known as the Lord of Death. Yama belongs to the world of Hindu belief and first made an appearance in the Vedas. According to Vedic tradition, it was Yama who was thought to be the first mortal to die and catch sight of the heavens. As the story goes, since he was the first to see death, he was given the title of ruling the departed.
Working with Yama, his assistance, Chitragupta was given the responsibility of keeping complete records regarding the actions of the humans who lived on Earth. When it came time for them to meet the afterlife, he was in charge of deciding where they would next journey. Depending on how they lived their lives (following the reasoning behind karma), the newly deceased would either enter heaven or hell.
The ruler of death was not the only title Yama was given. He was also known as the Lord of Justice. Sometimes, he was even referred to as Dharma, which connected dedication with order and harmony. When exploring the nature of this ruler, Yama was also described as being one of the cleverest of all the devas. To get a sense of the kind of reference is made to Yama, he holds the same position as the Greeks viewed Hades or Pluto, who was known as God of the Underworld.
If you ever wondered how Yama was depicted throughout the years, you should know that artworks are the best way to catch sight of this important god. His skin is often displayed as being green or red. His clothes are often red, and he is sometimes seen riding upon a water buffalo. In his left hand, a loop of rope is seen, which he uses to extract the soul from the dead.
He has a twin brother named Yami (also known as Yamuna) and the two are often known as the first human pair in the Vedas. In worship, individuals also regard him as the son of Vivasvat and Saranya.
Representing southern interests, he is also known as one of the Guardians of the Directions. Additional characteristics dealing with Yama includes the ability to showcase superhuman strength. He is also associated with possessing mystical powers.
In other belief circles, Yama also held a place within other realms of mythology. For instance, in Chinese and Japanese art, they too have a god similar to Yama. He was known as being a judge of the spirits of the deceased. After placing judgment, souls wither passed towards the heaven of the gods. When not worthy of the heavens, the soul will enter the nether world of Naraka, which is filled with punishment and unhappiness. After spending some time in the southern region, the soul may return to Earth for another try (the next time in a new body). A representation of Yama is also found in reference to Tibetan Buddhist texts and art.