The ruler of the great hell is called Yama or Yamaraja. But there is not only one Yamaraja for one Mahaniraya; there are actually four Yamaraja who are in charge of the four gates. Thus for eight great hells there are altogether thirty-two Yamaraja. Apart from these Yamaraja there are a number of hell-guardians called Niraya-pala.
The duty of the Yamaraja is to consider the case of each hell creature and give orders for punishment; the Niraya-pala’s duty is to inflict the penalties typical of each hell on the hell-creatures. Yamaraja and Niraya-pala are actually not hell beings but belong to the heaven of Catummaharajika.
They are described as Vemanikapeta, the beings that sometimes enjoy the fruitions of their meritorious kamma in heaven and sometimes suffer the results of their evil deeds in hell. By particular kinds of karnma they are sent to perform their duties in this realm of misery by inflicting penalties on the hell creatures.
The Wardens of Hell
These hell warden also belong to the class of Catumaharaja Deva. They are either ogres or demons. Their regular duties include sending minor sinners to Yama for trail and carrying out cruel punishments to serious sinners. Since hellfire is a form of utuja rupa caused by evil deeds, only the sinners and not the hell wardens are scorched by the heat.
Petas, by the name of Vemanika. Though they were Petas, their Abode being one which was installed by both merits and demerits, kusala and akusala mingled together, they had the benefit of enjoying all the pleasures pertaining to devas for a period of seven days, and then for the next seven days they had to pass through various kinds of severe pain and suffering, similar to those receiving punishment in Hell, alternately.
Yamadeva and Niraya-pala are from Catumaharajika Heaven; these beings sometimes enjoy the fruitions of their meritorious kamma in heaven and sometimes suffer the results of their evil deeds in hell.
plwk wrote:Maybe, just maybe, my memory is faulty, but I think that I have read on these two descriptions from some Sutta I can't seem to recall on. Anyone?