In Hindu tradition, there are many gods and goddesses for various purposes. For example, Hindus believe in Agni as the sun god, Indra as the storm god, Vayu as the wind god and so on. Yamuna is a Hindu goddess (devi) of the river, who is also known as Yami. In Hindu mythology, Yamuna devi is the daughter of the sun god Surya and his wife Saranyu, and also the sister of the death god Yama. In Vedic tradition, the twins Yama and Yami were the first mortal human pair. Yamuna first appears in the Ṛg veda as Yami, where she urges cohabitation with Yama her brother to perpetuate the human race. However, Yama is very religious thus he refuses Yami’s incestuous overture. Therefore, Yamuna portrayed as a goddesses of boundless love and passion, who does not follow the dictates of reason in expressing her emotion (Kumar, James). This incident did not break their sibling relationship or diminish the affection of Yamuna for her brother. Although Yami’s brother Yama is the god of death, he is considered to be one of the most dharmic entities, becoming also known as the “King of Righteousness” (Haberman 137). After a long time when Yama visits her sister, she treats him with honour and delightful food which pleased Yami. Then he confers upon her a boon that if any brother and sister come together to worship Yamuna and bathe in her sacred water then they will never see the gates of hell (Kumar, James). In the Hindu tradition, the fifth day of Divali or the second lunar day after the new moon in the month of karttika (Oct–Nov), popularly called yamadvitiya or bhaiyaduj, is dedicated to Yama and Yami. On this day brothers and sisters come together and express their love and gratitude for each other. Hindus believe that she is a very powerful goddess, who manifests life-giving forces and blessings. According to ancient beliefs, Yamuna is considered pure and whoever takes a dip in her holy waters may not have fear of death. Moreover, anyone can diminish the reactions of his sinful activities. She is claimed as the consort of Siva and Visnu. Her waters are said to be the liquid embodiment of sakti.

The Goddess Yamuna, 8th century CE, Delhi National Museum
The Goddess Yamuna, 8th century CE, Delhi National Museum

Yamuna is the largest tributary river of the Ganges in Northern India. The Yamuna River, also known as the Jamuna River in Bengali, and is the largest tributary river of the Ganges (Ganga) in northern India. This river unites with Ganga after receiving water from all the major tributaries. Without the Ganga, Siva would remain the scorching, brilliant linga of fire; without Siva, the Ganga would flood the earth (Hawley, Wulff, and Marie148).Yamuna might be the Goddess of Love par excellence in the Hindu pantheon, and is often referred to as a river of love (Haberman 116). Moreover, she is a goddess of exquisite love and compassion. In the pantheon of Hindu goddesses, it would be difficult to find one more representative of divine love than Yamuna (Haberman 104). The rivers Ganga and Yamuna, along with the now dried Saraswati, are the most sacred rivers in India. The source of the Yamuna lies in Yamunotri Glacier, on the south western slopes of Banderpooch peaks, which lies on the Mussoorie range of Lower Himalayas, in Uttarkand, north of Haridwar. Yamunotri temple is a shrine dedicated to the goddess Yamuna and is one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism. According to Hindu scripture, Yamunotri is famous as one of the four most sacred pilgrim places. During the peak season of late May and early June, people from all social backgrounds and all walks of life: rich and poor, young and old visit this pilgrim place. Moreover, some pilgrims prefer to ride horses although walking is considered to be the most auspicious mode of transportation (Haberman 49). Others are known as Gangotri, Badrinath, and Kedarnath. These are all in the Himalayas. In winter, when snow covers the place, the Yamunotri temple closes down, and the image of Yamuna devi is carried down to the tiny mountain village of Kharsali where she continues to be worshipped for six months. This temple is reopened every year on the third day of the bright fortnight of the lunar month vaishakha (April–May). Some argue that the river is only free and pure in the mountains (Kumar, James).

In Hindu religious texts, especially in Puranas, there are many myths interconnecting with Yamuna and Krsna, another Hindu god and also known as a divine playboy (Haberman110). Krsna was taken across the Yamuna River on the night of his birth, as his maternal uncle planned to kill him. However, Vasudeva, Krsna’s father carried him in a basket on that rainy night and after reaching in front of the Yamuna River, it is said to have parted to make path for Vasudeva. The river Yamuna is closely connected to the Mahabharata and Lord Krsna (kumar, James). Yamuna River was blessed by Krsna when he fell down into the river from his father Vasudeva’s hand while crossing the river. He used to play along with his cowherd friends on the banks of river Yamuna during his childhood. This river is a recurring image in all stories of Krsna: she watched his father carry him across the river to Gokul, and she watched him herd (Haberman 114). In an article titled “Yamuna and the Environment,” Devendra Sharma writes, “Yamuna exists in Krsna, and Krsna exists in Yamuna.” She is the primary lover of Krsna. The bhagvatapuraṇa, however, narrates a story of the marriage of Yamuna and Kṛṣṇa. Once when Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna are walking along the banks of the Yamuna, they spot a young and beautiful woman absorbed in deep penance and austerity. When Arjuna approaches her, she discloses her identity as Kalindi, daughter of the sun, and expresses her desire to marry none but Viṣṇu-Kṛṣṇa. Impressed with her devotion and love, Kṛṣṇa takes Kalindi- Yamuna to Dvarka (now Dwarka, a city on the banks of the Gomati River near the Arabian Sea), where she becomes his wife (Kumar, James). Yamuna bountifully makes her love for Kṛṣṇa accessible to all her devotees and with her divine powers increases their bhaktibhava (feeling for devotional love). She removes all obstructions and impurities that keep devotees from direct access to the divine love of Kṛṣṇa. At Braj, the bluish-green waters of Yamuna assume a darker hue, indicating her divine union with the dark-skinned Kṛṣṇa (Haberman 117).

In the Puranas, “Kaliya Daman” is one of the famous stories of Krsna and Yamuna. Kaliya was a poisonous snake who used to live in the depth of the river Yamuna and terrorized the people of Braja. Lord Krsna killed this poisonous snake. From the history of Yamuna, she appears as a triple goddess because of flowing in three directions. As a triple river, Yamuna is said to flow on the earth, where she is known as Bhagirathi, in heaven, known as Mandakini, and in the underworld, known as Patala Ganga or as Bhogavati (Darian 69). Moreover, she is one of the blessing goddesses among all Hindu goddesses and Hindus believe that she grants blessings especially for marriage, children, health, and other domestic concern.

The Yamuna River is also well known for ritual baths and purification. People come to do their worship in this river. There are three primary centers of Yamuna worship in Braj- Vishram Ghat in Mathura, Keshi Ghat in Vrindaban, and Thakurani Ghat in Gokul (Haberman 100). The ancient stone steps lead down into the river and are always lineal with crowds of colourfully dressed people to worship Yamuna. Women especially wear beautiful green saris and greet Yamuna with a copper pot full of milk, sticks of incense, baskets of red roses, food and so on. They scoop water from the river, take 3 sips, and then pour it on their head. In this way they do their puja. At the end of the worship, they lights three sticks of incense, wave them before the river, and insert them into the sands by their side. This act of worship can be seen on the sixth lunar day of the fortnight. In almost all the arati hymns sung during her services, she is addressed as “Mother Yamuna,” and those who come to worship her daily greet her with the same epithet (Haberman 108). In addition, Yamuna Chath is celebrated on the sixth day of the bright half of the lunar month chaitra, which usually falls on April in solar calendar. This festival known as Yamuna Jayanti, is considered to be the celebration of Yamuna’s birthday. Hindu people celebrate this occasion with much happiness and redundant. The women step forward to the river to offer sweets, red sindur powder, and uncooked rice. Finally they offer a red sari along with necklaces, bangles, a comb, bindis, and a mirror to the goddess Yamuna, laying them on the sand at the edge of the water. This occasion and puja is occurred at Vishram Ghat by the priests and they seem to be very busy with more formal pujas for families and groups of pilgrims who come to worship the Yamuna. Then, later, the priests bring those items back to those women (Haberman 97). Whenever the offerings have been made, the priests led the group in singing a famous hymn to Yamuna, the ‘Yamunashtakam,’ written by the Vallabhacharya in the sixteenth century. After completing the hymn, Hindu people start to celebrate the climax of the birthday party by dressing the river goddess with a sari that stretched from shore to shore, with the aid of eight wooden boats.

The river Yamuna, the major tributary of the Ganges River has one of the most populated areas of Asia in its basin. This river is now polluted, especially downstream from Delhi. However, there are some cultural views of this pollution. Some Hindu people, who are devoted to Yamuna devi, think that the water of this river can never be impure even though it gets polluted. They believe the goddess Yamuna has the power which can save the quality of this river’s water and also can handle all the pollutants sent her way. Therefore, the water of Yamuna can never harm any living things on this earth. On the other hand, others feel this pollution is causing harm to humans, animals and also the goddess Yamuna. They think that this river’s water needs to be clean so that people can be free from various diseases caused by this polluted water. Nowadays, some Hindus have stopped bathing and using water from this river, which has caused various diseases. In the Yamuna Nagar district, rapid industrialization is taking place due to urbanization. The Yamuna River’s water was polluted by humans and heavy metals. In addition, organic compounds and large number of industrial effluent is thrown into this river which does not have apparent deleterious symptoms but led to accumulation of heavy metals in various parts of plants (Narwal 159). The existing heavy metals can be harmful for the ecosystem. To get rid of these heavy metals some possible approaches should be taken by all human beings in order to keep the environment clean and safe such as: avoid making industries near the Yamuna River, throwing organic compounds to the river, and also keeping the surface area of the river clean as much as possible. Moreover, water, air, trees, lands all are environmental resources which are beneficial to the society. Among them, water is one of the main resources of the environment without which people cannot pass a single day (Narwal 163). Yamuna River is an important river that flows through India’s capital New Delhi and supports various socio-economic activities in this basin. Even though this river is polluted, any improvement of the water quality can improve the utility of the river along with the citizens’ welfare (Nallathiga, Paravasthu 263).

To sum up, it can be said that the goddess Yamuna is a loving goddess and is believed to have the power to purify a person and make him or her fearless towards death. The worshippers of Yamuna devi, used to bath in the Yamuna River to wash away all their sins and to be purified. However, nowadays, it is not possible for them to take bath in this river’s water due to the serious pollution. This river’s water is not only important for the ritual bath, but also plays an important role in socio-economic condition. Therefore, it is the government’s and the citizens’ duty to keep this river’s water clean and should control the heavy metals in the environment which is causing damage to it.


Related research topics:







Yamuna Jayanti

Kaliya Daman




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Darian, Steven G. (2001) “Ganga and Artemis: Two Versions of a Single Theme.” The Ganges in Myth and History. Delhi, India: MotilalBanarsidass Publishers, 1st Indian ed.

Gupta, Linar (1993) “Ganga: Purity, Pollution, and Hinduism.” Ecofeminism and the sacred, ed. Carol Adams, 99-116. New York: Continuum.

Haberman, David L. (1952) “Goddess of Love.” River of love in an age of pollution: the Yamuna river of northern India. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Hawley, J., & Wulff, D. (1996) “Ganga: The Goddess Ganges in Hindu Sacred Geography.” Devi: Goddesses of India. University of California Press.

Kumar, Bidisha and James, George (2013) “Yamuna.” Brill’s Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Edited by: Knut A. Jacobsen, Helene Basu, Angelika Malinar, Vasudha Narayanan.Reference.University of Lethbridge. 09 April 2013 http://0-referenceworks.brillonline.com.darius.uleth.ca/entries/brill-s-encyclopedia-of-hinduism/yamuna-COM_1030220?s.num=0&s.f.s2_parent=s.f.book.brill-s-encyclopedia-of-hinduism&s.q=yamuna

Nallathiga, R., & Paravasthu, R. (2010) “Economic value of conserving fiver water quality: results from a contingent valuation survey in Yamuna river basin, India.” Water Policy, 12(2), 260-271.

Narwal, G. (2009) “Studies in Environmental Pollution: Absorption of Heavy Metal by Some Vegetable Plant Parts from Polluted Irrigation Canal Water and River Water at Yamuna Nagar.”Proceedings of World Academy of Science: Engineering & Technology, 51159-164.


Article written by Sonia Jerin (April, 2013), who is solely responsible for its content.