Dictionary Of Hindu Religion | History


Home | Rel-Dictionary | History

99-Yaksh in Jain Religion

Back to History

99-Yaksh in Jain Religion
Taken from in AIA Group, by Sunil Nair, on Jul 2, 2011
See also  Jain Religion,    Teerthankar;    Avasarpinee and Utsarpinee

Jains worship idols of Jin, Teerthankar, who are reverend as supreme beings but as the time passed by Jains also started worshipping many other deities, Yaksh and Yakshinee, in Jain temples. It makes many wonder who are they? How did they get there? How did they get such a prominence? Should they be there?

The answer to first question is, even though at times it may seem that they get more reverence by many, they are not same as Jin, Arihant, or Teerthankar who have conquered the inner passions while these deities (Yaksh and Yakshinee) are full of passions and are wandering through the cycles of births and death just like us. They are also called Shashan Devtaa, or guardian deities. They are heavenly beings of Vyantar group who have supernatural powers including changing capabilities of their form and size. The answer to second question is, according to some belief, Jains believe that these Yaksh and Yakshinee were appointed by Indra to look after the well beings of Teerthankar. Therefore, they were always found around Jin and that has reflected their presence in Jain temples also. They are found in pair of a male (Yaksh) and a female (Yakshinee). Yaksh usually found on the right side of the Jin idol while Yakshinee is found on their left side. In the earlier period they were regarded mainly as devotees of Jin but as the time passed by, people started worshiping them too.

Not all Yaksh are benevolent, because some can be malevolent too. Just as some Yaksh paid homage to Mahaaveer and protected him from some sufferings, Yaksh Sulpaani troubled Mahaaveer in his meditation and inflicted much suffering. Similar stories are available where Yaksh troubled others too. The residential place (Bhavan) of Yaksh is also known as Chaitya or Aayatan. It could be anywhere, outside the city, on the hill or a mountain, on the tree, by the water reservoir, at the gate of a city, or within a city in a house or a palace. The famous Yaksh Angulimaal was living on the tree in a forest and when reformed for a better situation he got a place at the city gate.

The humans are opportunistic and since Jin would not reward, no matter how sincerely one may worship them, Jains looked at Yaksh and Yakshinee for the immediate returns, and to self serve Jains gave them the places in their temples. Some Yaksh were and are known for bestowing fertility and wealth upon their devotes. 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.

The earlier scriptures like the Sthanagan Sootra, Uttaraadhyayan Sootra, Bhagavatee Sootra, Tattwaarth Sootra, Antagadasasao Sootra, and Paumachariya have frequent references to the Yaksh. Their reference as Shasan Devtaa in the Harivansh Puraan (783 AD) made the beginning of this concept. Among all the Yaksh, Manibhadra and Poornabhadra Yaksh and Bahuputrikaa  Yakshinee have been the most favored one. Manibhadra and Poornabhadra Yaksh are mentioned as chiefs of demigods - Manibhadra of Northern horde and Poornabhadra of Southern horde. Bahuputrikaa (having many sons) is named as one of the queens of Manibhadra. Harivansh Puraan also describes the capability of Yaksh and Yakshinee to pacify the harmful power of Rog (diseases), Graha, Raakshas, Bhoot and Pishaach. The people also believed that they bestow favors to those who worship them and because of that became more popular then Jin for some. Therefore, the people started worshipping them for materialistic desires which could not be fulfilled by the worship of Veetaraag Jin. Due to this, between 10th and 13th centuries AD. Two Yaksh Sarvanubhooti, or Sarvahna and Yakshinee Chakreshwaree, Ambikaa, Padmaavatee, and Jwaalaamaalinee became so popular that independent cults developed around them. Various temples were erected just to worship them and you can see that even now.

The Jain works from 6th to the 10th century AD mention only some of the iconographic features of Yaksh Raaja (Sarvahna or Sarvanubhooti) and Dharanendra Yaksh and Chakreshwaree, Ambikaa, Padmaavatee, Yakshinee. The list of 24 Yaksh and Yakshee pairs was finalized in about 8th to 9th century AD as found in Kahavali, Tiloyapannatti (4.934-39), and Pravachan Saroddhar (375-78) while their independent iconographic forms were standardized in 11th - 12th century AD as mentioned in the Nirvaan Kalikaa, the Trisastisalakapurus Acharitra, the Pratishtha Saar Sangrah, Pratishthaa Saroddhar, the Pratishthaa Tilak and Aachaar Dinakar and a number of other texts. However, we find much difference between Shwetaambar and Digambar traditions as to the names and iconographic features of Yaksh and Yakshinee. The names and the iconographic features of the majority of the Yaksh and Yakshinee bear the influence of the Braahmanical and Buddhist gods and goddesses. The Jains seem to have adopted either the names or the distinct iconographic features, sometimes both, in such cases.

The original Aagam don't mention about the Jin idol and idol worship, even then for the last 2500 years Jains have constructed thousands of excellent temples at tremendous cost and have installed idols to respect the Teerthankar. Therefore the idea of idol and idol worship, even that of the Jin, was an athema to the very spirit and words of the Jin. But now by erecting and worshipping Yaksh and Yakshinee, and asking for materialistic gains from them, Jains are distracted from spiritual path and digging their own graveyard to false belief (Mithyatwa). Jain's aim is to be free from materialistic attachment. For a moment even if we look at the materialistic gain by their worship then everybody who worships should get it but that does not happen. Therefore, one lives in Mithyatwa. One should not forget that if at all materialistic gain is attained then that is from maturation of one's own Shubh good Karm). Som Dev might have felt that these Shashan Devtaa may replace rather than being complementary to the Jin as the object of worship cautioned; anyone who worship them equal to Jin is heading downwards. Asadhara declares that a person with true insight would never worship Yaksh even when beset with great calamities. Because as a Jain, we believe that our calamities are our own doing and we should bare down such calamities with calmness to stop the whirlpool of reaction which would do nothing but will bring more calamities. In conclusion in Jainism, the guidelines are set which tell us what is right and wrong, but it is up to every individual to decide which idles to bow down (worship) to and which ones we should just admire.

1. Sthanakvasi and Terapanthee Jains of Shwetaambar sect and Taranpanthee Jains of Digambar sect don't believe in idol worshiping.
2. Ambikaa in Jain arts and literature by Dr. M.N.P. Tiwari, published by Bhartiya Jnanapith.

Some of the prominent Yaksh and Yakshinee Chakreshwaree Devee
She is the dedicated attendant deity of Aadinaath (Rishabh Dev). 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.

Ambikaa Devee
She is the dedicated deity of Neminaath the 22nd Teerthankar. She is also called Ambai Ambaa and Amra Kushmandini. 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 hasher two sons.

Padmaavatee Devee
She is the dedicated deity of Paarshwa Naath, the 23rd Teerthankar. 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.

Saraswatee Devee
Saraswatee, 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 Veenaa. 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.

Lakshmee Devee
Lakshmee represents wealth. People worship her as the goddess of wealth, power, money etc. 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.

Manibhadra Dev
Manibhadra is originally a Yaksh, worshipped by Indian masses from very old times and his introduction in Jain worship is only a later adaptation. It is an image of six-armed Yaksh with an elephant as his vehicle.

Ghantaakarn Veer
This deity is worshipped for protection and for driving away the evil influence created by lower types of negative energy. His arrow indicates penetration of evil forces. The bow gives forceful momentum to the arrow. His symbol is the bell that resounds to create auspicious sounds in the atmosphere. Sometimes people who are not aware of the facts call him by mistake Ghantaakarn Mahaaveer that creates confusion between Mahaaveer and Ghantaakarn Veer. He is not connected to Mahaavir in any way.

Naakodaa Bhairav
This is the tutelary deity of Bhairav. This deity is usually found near the entrance of the temple. People from far and near, visit the shrine and make offerings to the deity on fulfillment of their material desires. It is the positive force around the temple.

This deity is in the shape of a mountain. It is the natural positive energy of the mountain Samet Shikhar Jee. This energy inspires and guides the believer and the traveler.

[This information has been taken from the book "Jain symbols, Ceremonies and Practices" by Pramodaben Chitrabhanu.]


Home | Rel-Dictionary | History


Back to History

Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/06
Updated on 03/15/12