Yakshi, Madan and other spirits
In Indian mythology, Yakshi is a female goddess associated with the fertility of the earth, love, and beauty. Yakshi probably originated with the early Dravidians but have subsequently been absorbed into the imagery of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. The goddess has been worshiped since prehistoric times in India. The roles and functions of Hindu goddesses went through dramatic changes over period of time.
Male equivalent of Yakshi is Yaksha. Yaksha Kingdom refers to the territory of a tribe called Yakshas who were one among the many Exotic Tribes of Ancient India. They had kinship with another similar tribe viz. Rakshasas. Yaksha king Vaisravana (also known as Kubera, Kuvera etc) and Rakshasa king Ravana were both sons of the sage Visrava Paulastya. Kubera is sometimes mentioned as a Rakshasa king. Kubera ruled a Yaksha kingdom of enormous wealth near the Kailasa mountains. Pandavas visited this place during their forest life, with the help of Rakshasa Ghatotkacha and his friends.
The Bastar district of Madhya Pradesh (central India) has a vast population of tribal people who have retained old customs. The area abounds with female deities, often called matas, or mothers, some of whom are known and venerated only within a single village. Bastar's ritual brasses are either worshiped or given as offering to deities in fulfillment of vows. Here the goddess and swing were cast as one piece that was attached to the supporting structure by twisted wire. Plates on which devotees may burn incense pellets are in her hand, balanced on her head, and placed atop the shrine.
Yaksha and Yakshani in Jainism
Jains mainly worship idols of Jinas, Arihants, Tirthankars, who have conquered the inner passions and attained God-consciousness status. Some section of jains believe that Yaksha and Yakshini look after the well beings of Thirthankarars. Usually, they are found in pair around the idols of Jinas as male (yaksha) and female (yakshini) guardian deities. Yaksha is generally on the right hand side of the Jina idol and Yakshini on the left hand side. In earlier periods, they were regarded mainly as devotees of Jina. They also wander through the cycles of births and deaths just like the worldly souls, but have supernatural powers. Over time, people started worshiping these deities as well. Some sections of Jains looked at yakshas and yakshanis for the immediate returns, and gave them the places in their temples. Some Yaksha were and are known for bestowing fertility and wealth upon their devotees. Therefore, they had become very popular and their idols had been placed in Jain temples and Jains worship them. Jains offer them different things in favor of boons for children, wealth or freedom from fear, illness or disease. Jainism provides very clear foundations and guidelines, and it is up to every individual Jains to decide which idols to worship and which ones we should just acknowledge. However Sthanakvasi and Terapanthi Jains of Svetambers sect and Taranpanthi Jains of Digambar sect do not believe in idol worshiping.
Some of the prominent Jain yakshas and yakshanis are:
She is the dedicated deity of Lord Parshvanath, the 23rd Tirthankar. 23rd Jain tirthankar Parshvanath is always represented with the hood of a snake shading his head. The Yaksha Dharanendra and the Yakshi Padmavati are often shown flanking him. Her color is golden and her vehicle is the snake with a cock's head. She has four arms and her two right hands hold a lotus and a rosary. The two left hands hold a fruit and a rein.
She is the dedicated attendant deity of lord Adinath (Rishabhadev). She is also called by another name i.e. Apratichakra. The color of this goddess is golden. Her Vehicle is the eagle. She has eight arms. In her four right hands she holds the blessing mudra, arrow, rope and wheel. In her four left hands she holds the rein, the bow, the protective weapon of Indra and the wheel.
She is the dedicated deity of Lord Neminath the 22nd Tirthankara. She is also called Ambai Amba and Amra
Her color is golden and the lion is her vehicle. She has four arms. In her two right hands she carries a mango and in the other a branch of a mango tree. In her one left hand she carries a rein and in the other she has her two sons.
Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, is considered to be the source of all learning. This divine energy is the source of spiritual light, remover of all ignorance and promoter of all knowledge. She is respected and adored by all faiths, worldly persons and saints. She has four arms, one holding a book, the other a rosary and two hands holding a musical instrument Veena. Her seat is a lotus and the peacock is her vehicle representing equanimity in prosperity. In some places it is mentioned that the swan is her vehicle.
Goddess Lakshmi represents wealth. People worship her as the goddess of wealth,
power, money etc. Just like Saraswathi, She is respected and adored by all
faiths, and popular amongst worldly persons. In the upper two hands, she is
holding a lotus with an elephant, in the lower right hand a rosary and in the
lower left hand a pot.
The list of thirty-six yakshinis given in the Uddamareshvara Tantra are as follows:
Vichitra (The Lovely One)
Vibhrama (Amorous One)
Janaranjika (Delighting Men)
Vishala (Large Eyed)
Kalakarni (Ears Adorned with Kalas)
Mahabhaya (Greatly Fearful)
Mahendri (Greatly Powerful)
Shankhini (Conch Girl)
Chandri (Moon Girl)
Shmashana (Cremation Ground Girl)
Vatayakshini, Mekhala (Love Girdle)
Vikala, Lakshmi (Wealth)
Malini (Flower Girl)
Shatapatrika (100 Flowers)
Sulochana (Lovely Eyed)
Kapalini (Skull Girl)
Anuragini (Very Passionate)
Ratipriya (Fond of Love)
Yakshi in Kerala
In Kerala Yakshi is a very popular folklore character. Similar characters are known in many parts of the world. While the Yakshi of Kerala folklore prefers white robes, similar characters, the Scottish BAOBHAN-SITH and Malaysian LANGSUIR prefers green apparels. The Portuguese character is known as BRUXSA. All these characters, including Yakshi of Kerala are said to target lonely and lost travelers at night. Palm trees are said to be Yakshi's abode. She is portrayed as an immensely beautiful female, like most of the vampires is nocturnal in habits.
There are several folklores on Yakshi. They have mostly a common modus operandi to lure the victims. During nighttime the Yakshi assumes the form of a beautiful woman and waits for her victim. When a potential prey is spotted, she approaches him and asks for a little ‘lime’ that is used for chewing along with betel leaf. If the victim relents he would be enchanted by the charm of the Yakshi and follow her for carnal pleasures. The charm would disappear soon and what appeared as a palace would transform back into the unassuming crown of a palm tree and the beautiful woman the dreaded Yakshi. All that remains the next day would be the hair and nails of the victim at the bottom of the Palm tree.
It is said that whenever a Yakshi appears there would be fragrance of jasmine or Pala (Alstonia scholaris - common name Indian devil tree). Iron is said to repel Yakshi. Legends have it that many who knew this escaped the clutches of this vampire by offering lime on the tip of their Ezhuthani (iron pen used to write on palm leaves in ancient times). Women dying unnatural death are believed to transform into Yakshi. There were great mantravadis (exorcists) who could end the menace of many a notorious Yakshi by nailing them on to a Kanjiram (Strychnos nuxvomica) tree. If by accident someone remove the nail the Yakshi would attain freedom and let loose her hunting prowess.
There are hundreds of folklores with Yakshis as central characters in Kerala. Most of them follow the same story line. Other than these folklores, Yakshis have been playing stimulants to many modern short stories , plays, poems and novels in Malayalam. Some of them have even been adapted for silver screen. Yakshi continues to live in the minds of Keralites.