Marc Tiefenauer

Lord of the Dead and Hounds of Hell
On the Literary Destinies of Some Indo-Iranian Characters

  • Time: Tue., 13. January 2015, 15:00
  • Venue: Institut für Kultur- und Geistesgeschichte Asiens, Seminarraum 1
  • Organisation: Vincent Eltschinger


Yama, the first mortal, and son of Vivasvat, discovered the path leading to the world beyond. This character belongs to one of the oldest representations of Vedic eschatology. His Iranian counterpart, Yima, was born from the same father, but according to the Avesta, he created a realm of immortality. Both of these Indian and Iranian primordial twin ancestors experience rich and epic destinies in their separate homelands. In my paper, I will trace the evolution of Yama and Yima in their respective literatures, but emphasize Yama’s. I will also broach another important Indo-Iranian eschatological character: the dog, or more precisely, the two dogs guarding the ancient path leading to the realm of the dead. As I will show, just as Yama has been reinterpreted throughout the whole of Indian literature, these dogs have taken different forms fitting the ever-evolving religious and ideological representations of the world beyond.


Marc Tiefenauer, University of Lausanne, Faculty of Arts, South Asian Studies.