In the early Vedic tradition , the death god Yama kept two dogs, Syama the Black and Sabala the Spotted, to bring and hold souls in the Purgatory-like afterlife called Naraka.
This is by no means a comprehensive list of Yama’s monikers and appearences throughout cultures. Buddhist and Hindu tradition describe Yama as the Lord of Death. In Tantric and Tibetan Buddhism, Yama judges the dead, wielding the Karma mirror in his left hand, and in his right, the sword of Wisdom. In Japanese Buddhism, he is still the Lord of Death, but goes by “Emma-O”. In the Indian spiritual text The Rig Veda, Yama known as God of Ancestors. In the Upishads, he is a meditation god. Yama also makes an appearence in Iranian mythology. And finally, in China, he is known as “Yanlou” or “Yen-lo wang, the ruler of Hell.
This popular Lord of Death has a twin sister named Yami. In some legends, the two siblings are the first humans to walk the Earth and in others Yama was the first living man to die, and thus inherited the position.
Yama also has two fearsome four-eyed dogs that guard the trail that leads the deceased to him. These dogs sometimes are sent to the Earth to fetch unfortunate souls to come back with them.
Early Hindu art features Yama as a stocky green or blue figure, who typically rides atop an elephant or buffalo. He is usually equipped with a mace made from elements of the sun and a noose to capture souls with.
In Tantric and Tibetan Buddhism, Yama is often dark red or blue and is often depicted in art as holding the mirror of karma in his left hand and the sword of wisdom in his right. Sometimes he is seen holding the wheel of live.
In the Vedas, Yama was descibed as a red-eyed, green or black skinned figure, who wore regal red robes. Yama is also said to have a small mangled foot on one side because he tried to kick his mother and was rightfully punished.