World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Article Id: WHEBN0000970992
Reproduction Date:

Title: Yaksha  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Greco-Buddhist art, Sinhalese people, Prince Vijaya, Dvarapala, Kubera
Collection: Indian Words and Phrases, Non-Human Races in Hindu Mythology, Tutelary Deities, Yaksha Kingdom
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Translations of
Pali: yakkha
Sanskrit: yakṣa
Burmese: ဘီလူး
(IPA: )
Chinese: 夜叉
Japanese: やくしゃ
Korean: 야차
Tibetan: གནོད་སྦྱིན་
Tamil: இயக்கர்
Thai: ยักษ์
Vietnamese: dạ xoa
Glossary of Buddhism
Kubera is also known King of yakshas, apart from being king of riches.

Yaksha (Sanskrit yakṣa, Pali yakkha)[1] is the name of a broad class of nature-spirits, usually benevolent, who are caretakers of the natural treasures hidden in the earth and tree roots.[2] They appear in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist texts.[2] The feminine form of the word is yakṣī)[3] or Yakshini (yakṣiṇī).[4]

In Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist texts, the yakṣa has a dual personality. On the one hand, a yakṣa may be an inoffensive nature-fairy, associated with woods and mountains; but there is also a darker version of the yakṣa, which is a kind of ghost (bhuta) that haunts the wilderness and waylays and devours travelers, similar to the rakṣasas.

In Kālidāsa's poem Meghadūta, for instance, the yakṣa narrator is a romantic figure, pining with love for his missing beloved. By contrast, in the didactic Hindu dialogue of the Yakṣapraśnāḥ "Questions of the Yakṣa", it is a tutelary spirit of a lake that challenges Yudhiṣṭhira. The yakṣas may have originally been the tutelary gods of forests and villages, and were later viewed as the steward deities of the earth and the wealth buried beneath.

In Indian art, male yakṣas are portrayed either as fearsome warriors or as portly, stout and dwarf-like. Female yakṣas, known as yakṣiṇīs, are portrayed as beautiful young women with happy round faces and full breasts and hips.


  • Yakṣas in Buddhism 1
    • Yak in Thailand 1.1
  • Yaksha and Yakshini in Jainism 2
    • Prominent Yakshas and Yakshanis 2.1
  • Images 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6

Yakṣas in Buddhism

Face of the yakṣa Thotsakhirithon (ทศคีรีธร) at Wat Phra Kaew, Bangkok

In Buddhist literature, the yakṣa are the attendants of Vaiśravaṇa, the guardian of the northern quarter, a beneficent god who protects the righteous. The term also refers to the Twelve Heavenly Generals who guard Bhaiṣajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha.

According to the Mahavamsa, Prince Vijaya encountered the royalty of the yakkhas' queen, Kuveni, in her capital of Lankapura, and conquered them. The Yakkhas served as loyal subjects with the House of Vijaya and the yakkha chieftain sat on equal height to the Sri Lankan leaders on festival days.

Yak in Thailand

Yakshas (Thai: ยักษ์, Yak) are an important element in Thai temple art and architecture.[5] They are common as guardians of the gates in Buddhist temples throughout the country since at least the 14th century. Ceramic sculptures of guardian Yakshas were produced in Thailand, during the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods, between the 14th and 16th centuries, at several kiln complexes in northern Thailand.[6] They are mostly depicted with a characteristic face, having big round bulging eyes and protruding fangs, as well as a green complexion. Yakshas and their female counterparts are common in the Buddhist literature of Thailand, such as in the The Twelve Sisters and Phra Aphai Mani. As ogres, giants, and ogresses, yakshas are present as well in Thai folklore.

"ย ยักษ์", (yo yak) is also used as an illustration in order to name the letter ย, the 34th consonant of the Thai alphabet, according to the traditional letter symbols Thai children use to memorize the alphabet.[7]

Yaksha and Yakshini in Jainism

Jains mainly worship idols of Arihants and Tirthankaras, who have conquered the inner passions and attained God-consciousness status. Some Jains also believe that Yaksha and Yakshini look after the well-being of the Tirtha. 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, and have supernatural powers. They are also wandering 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.[8]

Some sections of Jains looked at yakshas and yakshinis 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 fears, 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 that should just be acknowledged. Sthanakvasi and Terapanthi Jains of the Svetambara and Taranpanthi Jains of the Digambaras do not believe in idol worshiping.

Prominent Yakshas and Yakshanis


See also


  1. ^ For yakkha as a "rare use in Pali" see Franklin Edgerton, Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary, vol. 2., Motilal Banarsidass, First Edition, 1953, p. 442.)
  2. ^ a b "yaksha". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2007-07-15. 
  3. ^ For यक्षी as the feminine of यक्षः see V. S. Apte, The Practical Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p. 776.
  4. ^ For yakṣiṇī (यक्षिणी) as a regular Sanskrit term for a female yakṣa, and yakṣaṇī as a Buddhist variant, see Franklin Edgerton, Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Grammar and Dictionary, vol. 2., Motilal Banarsidass, First Edition, 1953, p. 442.
  5. ^ Thai temples
  6. ^ Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, Florida
  7. ^ Thai alphabet in Letters
  8. ^ Pramodaben Chitrabhanu, Jain symbols, Ceremonies and Practices


  • Dictionary of Hindu Lore and Legend (ISBN 0-500-51088-1) by Anna Dhallapiccola
  • Encyclopædia Britannica: Yaksha, EBC: Yaksha
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.