Yakshas and Yakshinis

Hinduism Concepts

by Jayaram V

The yakshas are a class of spirit beings or semi divine beings who are mentioned in Hindu, Buddhist and Jain literature as inhabitants of the subterranean earth and protectors of treasures.

Historically, a tribe of yakshas, known for their wealth and valor, seemed to have ruled some region in the foothills of the Himalayas, which was probably visited by the Pandavas during their sojourns into the north.

Their female counterparts, known as the yakshinis are known for their beauty and charm.

While the male yakshas are depicted in Hindu art and architecture as portly and deformed, the yakshis or yakshinis are depicted as women of great charm and beauty.

We find references to the yakshas and yakshinis in the epics, the Puranas and in the works of Kalidasa. They describe two types of yakshas, benevolent and malevolent.

The Yakshas are described in Hindu literature as the brothers of demonic beings (rakshasas), who live further down below the earth in the subterranean planes.

They are mentioned in both the Ramayana and the Mahabharata and in several Puranasa.

The famous Yaksha king, Lord Kubera was a cousin or brother of Ravana.

It is said that Lord Kubera was a benevolent king, who used to travel in the sky in his celestial spaceship, Pushpaka Vimana, showering people upon earth with his treasures.

Ravana later borrowed the plane from him and kept it with himself. The Pandavas visited the kingdom of Yakshas during their wanderings.

In some folk traditions of India, the yakshas are also worshipped as local deities.

In the Buddhist and Jain art and sculpture they are depicted as associates and attendant deities of Bodhisattvas and Tirthankaras.

Lord Kubera (meaning deformed) is known in Buddhist literature as king Vaisravana and in Jainism as Saravanabhuti.

He is described in the Hindu literature as giver of wealth (dhanada), lord of wealth (dhanadipa), king of kings (rajaraja) and king of hidden mysteries (guhyadhipa).

He is considered the wealthiest of all gods and divinities and a great entertainer, whose court was often frequented by Lord Siva and Parvathi.

Lord Venkateswara of Tirupathi is said to be indebted to him because he took a huge loan from him for his marriage, which is yet to be repaid, despite the vast wealth of donations he receives everyday from his devotees.

In Hindu temple art and sculpture, Kubera is depicted with a big belly, dwarfish limbs, and a rather fierce face, seated on a lotus with a club in his hands.

Although he is a yaksha, in Hindu rituals, he enjoys the status of a minor divinity as the lord of desires (Kamesvara) and receives offerings.

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