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Yakshas in Hinduism - Supernatural Beings In Hindu Religion

Yaksha was worshipped during the Vedic age and considered as supernatural beings in Hinduism. As per Hindu religion, Yakshas are divine beings that can change form at will. The female counterpart is known as Yakshi.

The word yaksha occurs in Rig Veda, Atharva Veda, Brahmanas and Upanishads. Etymology f the word is still uncertain. It may mean a supernatural being, a wondrous thing, spirit, genius. The chief of the Yakshas is Kubera, the treasure of the wealth of Gods in Hindu religion.

Worship of Yakshas was prevalent in pre Vedic days, and they appear frequently in Hindu, Jaina and Buddhist mythology.

From ancient times, they are an important element in popular folklore.

In the Vedic scriptures, yakshas and yakshis are described as frequenting forests, lakes and rivers. They live on sacred trees.

In certain Puranas, it is stated that the food of yakshas consists of meat and liquor.

Elements of tree worship considered popular during pre-historic and Vedic Ages are associated with Yaksha sects.

In iconography they are often associated with trees depicted behind their figures and also associated with wealth and well being. They are also associated with power and productivity.

As per some scriptures, their city is Alaka, situated on Mount Kailash, abode of Shiva. It is a magnificent town where dwell not only yakshas but also kinnaras, gandharvas, and rakshasas.

Yakshas are usually associated with north side.

In the epic Mahabharata (V, 192, 44), a mention is made of Manibhadra as Yaksha Raja and Kubera’s chief attendant. He is invoked along with kubera as a patron of merchants.

The abode of Yaksha created by human beings for worship is referred as chaitya or ayatana. It is usually located outside a village in a grove or on a mountain.

Some of the Yakshas mentioned in the scriptures are:
  • Manibhadra at Pawaya near Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh
  • Pitangalya and Sundara at Pitalkhora and Nashik
  • Purnabhadra and Manibhadra are two yakha brothers mentioned in Brahmavati
  • Sculptures of Bharhut have made images of several yakshas with their names inscribed as Supavasa, Virudhaka, Gamgita, Kupira, Ajakalaka and Sudashana.
Some of the Yakshis mentioned are Cada, Sirima, Culakoka and Mahakoka.

Worship and puja in Yaksha shrines are performed with red flowers obtained from thorny plants.

In Jainism, Yakshas and Yakshis are closely related with Tirthankaras each one of which has its own particular Yaksha and Yakshi. They are known as Sasana Devatas and are considered as guardian angels.

Other Information

The most famous incident associated with Yaksha occurs in the Mahabharata – all the four Pandava brothers except Yudhisthira are killed by a Yaksha for not answering his questions. Later all are brought to life when Yudhisthira successfully answers all questions.

One of the most important Yakshas in Hindu tradition is Kubera, the god of wealth.

Yakshas live in caves, mountains, forests, trees, water bodies and in cities created by them in sky. They have enormous powers.

Today, Yaksha is a subsidiary deity in many temples in South India.

In villages both Yaksha and Yakshi reside in sacred trees.

Stories of Yaksha are found in the Mahabharata, Ramayana and Puranas.

It must be noted that Yakshi in certain regions in India is equated with the female ghost.