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A yakshini is the female counterpart of the male yaksha, and they both attend on Kubera (also called Kuber), the Hindu god of wealth who rules in the mythical Himalayan kingdom of Alaka. They both look after treasure hidden in the earth and resemble that of fairies. Yakshinis are often depicted as beautiful and voluptuous, with wide hips, narrow waists, broad shoulders, and exaggerated, spherical breasts. In the Uddamareshvara Tantra, thirty-six yakshinis are described, including their mantras and ritual prescriptions. A similar list of yakshas and yakshinis is given in the Tantraraja Tantra, where it says that these beings are givers of whatever is desired. Although Yakshinis are usually benevolent, there are also yakshinis with malevolent characteristics in Indian folklore.
The list of thirty-six yakshinis given in the Uddamareshvara Tantra is as follows:
- Vichitra (The Lovely One)
- Vibhrama (Amorous One)
- Hamsi (Swan)
- Bhishani (Terrifying),
- Janaranjika (Delighting Men)
- Vishala (Large Eyed)
- Madana (Lustful)
- Ghanta (Bell)
- 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)
- Nati (Actress)
- Manohara (Fascinating)
- Pramoda (Fragrant)
- Anuragini (Very Passionate)
- Ratipriya (Fond of Love)
The three sites of Bharhut, Sanchi, and Mathura, have yielded huge numbers of Yakshi figures, most commonly on the railing pillars of stupas. These show a clear development and progression that establishes certain characteristics of the Yakshi figure such as her nudity, smiling face and evident (often exaggerated) feminine charms that lead to their association with fertility. The yakshi is usually shown with her hand touching a tree branch, and a sinuous pose, Sanskrit tribhanga.
The ashoka tree is closely associated with the yakshini mythological beings. One of the recurring elements in Indian art, often found at gates of Buddhist and Hindu temples, is a Yakshi with her foot on the trunk and her hands holding the branch of a stylized flowering ashoka or, less frequently, other tree with flowers or fruits. As an artistic element, often the tree and the Yakshi are subject to heavy stylization.
Some authors hold that the young girl at the foot of the tree is based on an ancient fertility symbol of the Indian Subcontinent. Yakshis were important in early Buddhist monuments as a decorative element and are found in many ancient Buddhist archaeological sites. They became Salabhanjikas (sal tree maidens) with the passing of the centuries, a standard decorative element of both Indian sculpture and Indian temple architecture.
The sal tree (Shorea robusta) is often confused with the ashoka tree (Saraca indica) in the ancient literature of the Indian Subcontinent. The position of the Salabhanjika is also related to the position of Queen Māyā of Sakya when she gave birth to Gautama Buddha under an asoka tree in a garden in Lumbini, while grasping its branch.
Yakshis in Jainism
In Jainism, there are twenty-four yakshis, including Chakreshvari, Ambika, and Padmavati, who are frequently represented in Jain temples. The names according to Tiloyapannatti (or Pratishthasarasangraha) and Abhidhanachintamani are:
- Rohini, Ajitbala
- Prajnapti, Duritari
- Vajrashrankhala, Kali
- Vajrankusha, Mahakali
- Manovega, Shyama
- Kali, Shanta
- Jwalini, Bhrikuti
- Mahakali, Sutaraka
- Manavi, Ashoka
- Gauri, Manavi
- Gandhari, Chanda
- Vairoti, Vidita
- Anantamati, Ankusha
- Manasi, Kandarpa
- Mahamansi, Nirvani
- Jaya, Bala
- Taradevi, Dharini
- Vijaya, Dharanpriya
- Aparajita, Nardatta
- Bahurupini, Gandhari
- Ambika or Kushmandini
Yakshis in Kerala
In South India, Yakshis are not considered benevolent beings. They are reputed to waylay men with their beauty and drink their blood. The Yakshi theme is the subject of popular Kerala tales, like the legend of the Yakshi of Trivandrum, as well as of certain movies in modern Malayalam cinema.
In popular culture
In Christopher Pike’s novel The Last Vampire, a yakshini is an extremely powerful and evil demon that led to the creation of the vampires around 3000 B.C. in what is now present-day Rajasthan, India. A yakshini was summoned by an Aghoran priest so that it could devour a rakshasa that was causing a plague. The yakshini was summoned into the corpse of a recently deceased woman who had been pregnant. It took control of the woman’s body, horribly maimed and killed the priest, and then appeared to disappear. The yakshini in fact transferred itself into the baby in the dead woman's womb which then begins to show signs of life. The child is freed from the dead woman's womb and grows up as an Aryan boy who is the first vampire.
- ↑ Magee, Mike. “Yakshinis and Chetakas.” Register.com. 2009-04-08. <http://www.shivashakti.com/yaksh.htm>. Accessed: 2009-04-08. (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5ftSBRwgA)
- ↑ Heinrich Zimmer, Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. (1946)
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Buddhistische Bilderwelt: Hans Wolfgang Schumann, Ein ikonographisches Handbuch des Mahayana- und Tantrayana-Buddhismus. Eugen Diederichs Verlag. Cologne. ISBN 3424008974, ISBN 978-3424008975
- ↑ Eckard Schleberger, Die indische Götterwelt. Gestalt, Ausdruck und Sinnbild Eugen Diederich Verlag. Cologne. ISBN 3424008982, ISBN 978-3424008982
- ↑ Jina Sasana Devatas http://www.oocities.com/tamiljain/sasandevs/index.html
- ↑ "History of Reserve Bank". http://www.rbi.org.in/Commonman/English/History/Scripts/anecdote3.aspx. Retrieved 2009-02-24.
- Encyclopædia Britannica — "Yaksha"
- RBI Monetary Museum — "Yaksha and Yakshini"
- Ideals of Female Beauty in Ancient India
- Huntingdon Archive