The story of the river Yamuna

Story and trivia

Yamuna is next only to the Ganga in her sacredness. According to legend, Yamuna was a great favourite of her father Surya, the Sun god. Her mother Sanjna could not bear to look at her bright and dazzling husband. As she looked upon him with “samyama” (meaning restraint in Sanskrit) their son was called Yama. In spite of Surya asking her to keep her eyes open in his presence, they sometimes flickered, and so the daughter was called Yamuna.

In various old temples of Northern India, Yamuna is shown on her tortoise, a symbol associated with creation in the Vedas. Even today, tortoises can be found on the banks of the Yamuna.

After the children were born, Sanjna left her sister Chaaya (shadow) in her place pretending to be her, and returned to her parents’ home, as she could not bear the Sun’s intense brightness. Once Chaaya bore children, she was not very compassionate towards Sanjna’s children. One day, Yama, unable to tolerate Chaya’s cruelty any longer, stamped her foot hard. Enraged by this, Chaya cursed that that he would lose his foot. Yamuna his beloved sister could not bear this injustice. She came to Earth and prayed for the curse to be revoked.

In memory of this profound love between brother and sister, bhai dooj is celebrated in various parts of the country. Sisters pray for their brothers to have a long life and brothers vow to look after and protect their sisters. This is when the “rakhi” is tied.

How the night got created

In the Rig Veda, it is said that Yama and Yami the twins were extremely fond of each other and lived an idyllic life on Earth where the day never ended – they went where they pleased and did what they wanted. One day when Yami returned home, she found Yama lying under a tree appearing to be asleep. Not wanting to disturb him, she waited for him to wake up. When he did not wake up for a long while, she woke him up. When he did not stir out of his sleep, she shook him.

Nothing worked and Yama her dear brother lay still. Yami started to weep with such great sorrow that her tears threatened to flood the World. She missed him tremendously. The Gods came to pacify her. All she could say brokenly was – Yam died today…Yama died today.

Her sorrow was so intense that Earth suffered – fires began and raged. Slowly, it dawned on the Gods and Goddesses that Yami’s grief was not lessening, for she was stuck in time. It would be “today” forever. The Gods and Goddesses gathered and together created sunset. The calm of the darkness settled in. Yami’s sobs reduced.

When the Sun rose the following morning Yami whispered, “Yama died…yesterday.”

Time passed and her feeling of loss reduced. And Earth – well it survived, for us to always hope for a better tomorrow. And Yami – it is said that she is the River Goddess Yamuna who flowed down to Earth.

Krishna’s Yamuna

Description: KaliaKrishna grew up as Nanda’s son at Gokula, spending hours by the Yamuna with his friends. One day, they stopped by the river to quench their thirst. His friends drank at the river and fell dead. On looking around, Krishna noticed what he had missed earlier — birds, trees, cows, fish, and the grass — all dead!

Krishna immediately revived his friends with his magical touch. Yamuna had become toxic, for a huge serpent had moved in!

He dived in. The waters frothed because of the serpent’s poison. Sun rays couldn’t pierce the dark water. And suddenly, he was in Kalia’s grip. Coils tightened. The serpent swung him around. Overconfident, Kalia relaxed his grip. This was Krishna’s moment. In a blink, he was on Kalia’s five-headed hood. The serpent reared out of the river. It was an astounding sight – young Krishna dancing on Kalia’s hood!

Every dance-step was a hammering. Terribly wounded, Kalia begged for mercy. Krishna asked Kalia and his family to move away to the deepest part of the ocean, where no one would come to harm. Kalia agreed and moved away. With the source of the poison gone and sun rays reaching the deepest parts of Yamuna, her waters were clean again.


1.      This river is also known as the Jumna.

2.      Its source is the Yamunotri glacier in the southern Himalayas.

3.      The river breaks off into the Eastern and Western Yamuna canals.

4.      This river is also largely fed from the Ganges.

5.      The Yamuna is heavily polluted, especially around New Delhi.

6.      A great deal of waste is dumped into the river, making it one of the most polluted rivers of the world.

7.      Cleaning measures have been put in place; there are plans as well to remove the wastes and purify the waters.

8.      The Yamuna was a tributary of the Ghaggar in the ancient past before its movements were altered by a change in

          tectonic plate movement.

9.      It is now the largest tributary of the Ganges.

10.   Agra is on the banks of this river and it can be seen from the Taj Mahal.





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