The God of Death, Lord Yama is also known as Lokpala (Guardian of all directions) of the South. According to the Hindu legends, he was the first mortal to have died, but by the virtue of his precedence, Lord Shiva crowned him as the ruler of the departed.
According to legends, at the time of death, Yamadoots arrive in to take the soul from the earth to the gates of hell and heaven where the soul is reprimanded for his Karmas in his life in front of Lord Yama. Lord Yama then decides the fate of the soul, whether to send it to hell or heaven.
As mentioned in ancient scriptures, Lord Yama had sent four letters of death to one of his devout devotee, Amrita.
The story `of Lord Yama and his four letters
In a small town situated close to the banks of the River Yamuna,lived a man called Amrita. Nothing in life caused him more anxiety than his fear of death. One day he had an idea that if he befriended Lord Yamaraj, he would be able to keep death at a distance, and so Amrita practised austerities and meditated upon the Lord of Death, who was pleased and granted him a vision.
Impressed by Amrita, Lord Yama decided to grant him his vision, which was unlikely of him, as his glimpse is only granted to those who are in the arms if death.
Amrita asked Yama to send a letter before his death, he said, “I ask this favour of you. If death is inevitable, I ask that if I am to die, then at least send me a letter before death so that I can make proper provision for my family before departure and also prepare myself for my next life with proper sadhana and worship of Krishna.
Lord Yama said, “Sure, I shall certainly do this. But as soon as you get the message, please set about making the preparations.”, and he disappeared.
Many years passed after this. Amrita’s hair turned grey, but he was living a life full of sinful activities with not a thought about the fear of death.
He was pleased that so far no letters had arrived from the Lord of Death. Some more years passed by. By this time Amrita had lost most of his teeth and the Vaishnava devotees came to warn him about his imminent death but he did not bother because no letter has come from his friend Yama. His eyesight became dim, almost making him blind, with old age catching up with his body, he could hardly stand and was paralysed, yet he thanked his friend for sending no letter announcing his death.
Then one-day Yamdoots arrived while he was sleeping and he was surprised. Startled he searched his house to find a letter of death from Lord Yama.
He was angry over this betrayal, but as fate would have it, he was accosted to the Yamalok, in front of Lord Yama. He told him that Yama did not send him any letters but now he has taken him from the world.
Lord Yama said, “Amrita! You spent all your life in sense indulgence with no interest in spiritual life. How then could you know the letters I sent you? Not one, but four letters I did send to you. But you ignored all of them.”
Amrita was puzzled and said that he did not receive any letter from Yama, to which Yama replied “My friend, do you think I will take a paper and pen and write a letter to you? No, With your body as paper, with the pen of bodily changes I wrote my letters and time is the messenger who delivered those letters.”
Years ago, his hair turned grey, that was Yama’s first letter which Amrita ignored, falling of his teeth was Yama’s second letter, Yama’s third letter was sent to him when his eyesight failed and the fourth letter was sent when his body became paralysed.
Yama continued. “You comfortably ignored all these letters. Now I have come not as your friend but as the dispenser of the Laws of God.”. Yamaraj tied the rope around Amrita’s neck and pulled it hard.People around Amrita said, “Amrita is now dead”.
Hence, it is said that, Yama does send four letters of death to everyone and one must not ignore it at any cost. When the body is young and when we don’t get any letter from Yamaraj, we should start our preparations for facing his lethal blow because death is formidable and unconquerable.