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Yaksha, aka: Yakṣa; 14 Definition(s)


Yaksha means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Jainism, Prakrit. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

The Sanskrit term Yakṣa can be transliterated into English as Yaksa or Yaksha, using the IAST transliteration scheme (?).

In Hinduism


Yakṣa (यक्ष, “demigod-form”) refers to one of the fifty-six vināyakas located at Kāśī (Vārāṇasī), and forms part of a sacred pilgrimage (yātrā), described in the Kāśīkhaṇḍa (Skanda-purāṇa 4.2.57). He is also known as Yakṣavināyaka, Yakṣagaṇeśa and Yakṣavighneśa. These fifty-six vināyakas are positioned at the eight cardinal points in seven concentric circles (8x7). They center around a deity named Ḍhuṇḍhirāja (or Ḍhuṇḍhi-vināyaka) positioned near the Viśvanātha temple, which lies at the heart of Kāśī, near the Gaṅges. This arrangement symbolises the interconnecting relationship of the macrocosmos, the mesocosmos and the microcosmos.

Yakṣa is positioned in the Western corner of the sixth circle of the kāśī-maṇḍala. According to Rana Singh (source), his shrine is located at “Kotwalpura, CK 37 / 29”. Worshippers of Yakṣa will benefit from his quality, which is defined as “together with Sṛṣṭi, provides wealth and peace”. His coordinates are: Lat. 25.18667, Lon. 83.00545 (or, 25°11'12.0"N, 83°00'19.6"E) (Google maps)

Kāśī (Vārāṇasī) is a holy city in India and represents the personified form of the universe deluded by the Māyā of Viṣṇu. It is described as a fascinating city which is beyond the range of vision of Giriśa (Śiva) having both the power to destroy great delusion, as well as creating it.

Yakṣa, and the other vināyakas, are described in the Skandapurāṇa (the largest of the eighteen mahāpurāṇas). This book narrates the details and legends surrounding numerous holy pilgrimages (tīrtha-māhātmya) throughout India. It is composed of over 81,000 metrical verses with the core text dating from the before the 4th-century CE.

Source: Wisdom Library: Skanda-purāṇa

1a) Yakṣa (यक्ष).—A Rākṣasa and a son of Khaśā. As he wanted to eat his own mother, he got the name of Yakṣa; of four hands and four feet, a fearful figure wandering in the night in search of prey; took the form of Vasuruci and lived with the apsaras Krathusthalā in Nandana; she bore him a son Rajatanābha; went home in the Himālayas with the son, when Krathusthalā came to know of his birth as a Rākṣasa.*

  • * Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 7. 60, 100-17; 22. 14; 41. 30; 71. 111; Vāyu-purāṇa 69. 160, 167.

1b) A son of Gāndinī.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 96. 110.

1c) A semi-celestial group, usually of the class of demons; born of Viśvā and Kaśyapa;1 followers of Rudra (Śiva), their overlord; their lord, Kubera;2 milked the cowearth, with Vaiśravaṇa as the calf and āma as the vessel;3 worship the Barhiṣad manes;4 helped Vṛtra against Indra and went with Satī to Dakṣa's sacrifice;5 sport of;6 got mokṣa meditating on Hari;7 usurped the Ānarta kingdom of Kakudmi when he was absent at Brahmā's court;8 came with the gods to see Kṛṣṇa and saw Kṛṣṇa retiring to his own region;9 (see Puṇyajanas); vanquished by Rāvaṇa;10 worship the Pitṛs and ruin the śrāddha;11 their kingdom;12 their loka;13 the nails of Vāmana when he grew.14

  • 1) Bhāgavata-purāṇa II. 6. 13; VI. 8. 24; X. 6. 27; 62. 19; 85. 41; Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 32. 1-2; 35. 191; 36. 118; Matsya-purāṇa 6. 46.
  • 2) Bhāgavata-purāṇa IV. 10. 5; XI. 16. 16; 23. 24; Matsya-purāṇa 8. 5.
  • 3) Ib. 10. 22.
  • 4) Ib. 15. 4.
  • 5) Bhāgavata-purāṇa VI. 10. 20; IV. 4. 4, 34.
  • 6) Ib. X. 90. 9.
  • 7) Ib. VII. 7. 50.
  • 8) Ib. IX. 3. 36.
  • 9) Ib. VII. 8. 38; XI. 31. 2.
  • 10) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa III. 7. 255.
  • 11) Ib. III. 10. 38, 111; 11. 81; IV. 2. 26; 14. 4; 20. 50; 30. 9; 33. 75.
  • 12) Matsya-purāṇa 23. 39; 121. 48.
  • 13) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 39. 56.
  • 14) Matsya-purāṇa 246. 54.
Source: Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana IndexPurāṇa book cover
context information

The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Nāṭyaśāstra (theatrics and dramaturgy)

1) Yakṣa (यक्ष) is a Sanskrit word referring to a group of deities. Acording to the Nāṭyaśāstra 1.88-94, when Brahmā, Indra and all other gods went to inspect the playhouse (nāṭyamaṇḍapa) designed by Viśvakarmā, he assigned different deities for the protection of the playhouse itself, as well as for the objects relating to dramatic performance (prayoga).

As such, Brahmā assigned the Yakṣas, the Bhūtas, the Piśācas and the Guhyakas to the pillars of the Mattavāraṇī (two side corridors of the stage used for peripheral acting or partial entry/exit). He also assigned the Yakṣas, the Guhyakas and the Pannagas underneath the stage (raṅgapīṭha). The protection of the playhouse was enacted because of the the jealous Vighnas (malevolent spirits), who began to create terror for the actors.

2) Yakṣas are to be worshipped during raṅgapūjā, according to the Nāṭyaśāstra 3.1-8. Accordingly, the master of the dramatic art who has been initiated for the purpose shall consecrate the playhouse after he has made obeisance (eg., to Yakṣas).

Source: Wisdom Library: Nāṭya-śāstra

Yakṣa (यक्ष).—Description of a women of yaksa type;—A woman who sweats during sleep, loves quiet rest in bed or seat, is very intelligent, fearless and fond of wine, sweet scent and meat, takes delight on seeing the beloved one after a long time, feels gratitude to him, does not sleep for a long time, is said to have the nature of a yaksa.

Source: archive.org: Natya ShastraNāṭyaśāstra book cover
context information

Nāṭyaśāstra (नाट्यशास्त्र, natya-shastra) refers to both the ancient Indian tradition of performing arts, (e.g., theatrics, drama, dance, music), as well as the name of a Sanskrit work dealing with these subjects. It also teaches the rules for composing dramatic plays (nāṭya) and poetic works (kāvya).

Dharmaśāstra (religious law)

Yakṣa (यक्ष) and the rest (rākṣasas and piśāca) are lower classes of beings, ignorant of the law relating to what should and what should not be eaten; and it is they that eat meat (See the Manubhāṣya verse 11.95)

Source: Google Books: Manusmṛti with the Manubhāṣya
context information

Dharmaśāstra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharma-shastra) is a category of Hindu literature containing important instructions regarding religious law, ethics, economics, jurisprudence and more. It is categorised as smṛti, an important and authorative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

General definition (in Hinduism)

Yakṣa (यक्ष):—In Vedic hinduism, the Yakṣas represent a group of mysterious beings, with Kubera as their chief. They are also known as Guhyaka (‘the secret-ones’) and are often associated with Rākṣasas (‘the night-wanderers’) and Nāgas (‘serpents’). Kubera is the Vedic God of wealth presiding over all earthly treasures.

Source: Wisdom Library: Hinduism

Yaksha 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. They appear in Hindu, Jain and Buddhist mythology. In Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist mythology, 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.

Source: WikiPedia: Hinduism

Yakshas are sometimes considered to be a class of the Gandharvas, but are definitely of a more malevolent disposition. They are the sons of the sage Kashyapa and Khasa. In many stories, they harrass mortals, chiefly by enchanting forests, lakes and rivers and killing any human who ventures near them.

They are more closely related to the Asuras because of their dark deeds. They are not immortal, and definitely not worshipped. They are mostly the enemies of mankind. They are very long lived and possess magical powers, although they can be defeated by men without magic.

The Yakshas are said to be very wealthy. Their king Kubera is said to be the wealthiest of all beings.

Source: Apam Napat: Indian Mythology

In Buddhism

Mahāyāna (major branch of Buddhism)

"Yaksha" is a Sanskrit word which means "speedy" (jie yi). It also means "courageous and strong" (yong jian). Yakshas are a kind of ghost. There are three main types of ghost:

  1. Earth-travelling ghosts;
  2. Flying ghosts;
  3. Space-travelling ghosts.
Source: City of 10,000 Buddhas: The Shurangama Sutra
context information

Mahāyāna (महायान, mahayana) is a major branch of Buddhism focusing on the path of a Bodhisattva (spiritual aspirants/ enlightened beings). Extant literature is vast and primarely composed in the Sanskrit language. There are many sūtras of which some of the earliest are the various Prajñāpāramitā sūtras.

Theravada (major branch of Buddhism)

in popular belief, a kind of ghost, goblin or ogre. See Yakkha.

Source: Pali Kanon: Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines
context information

Theravāda is a major branch of Buddhism having the the Pali canon (tipitaka) as their canonical literature, which includes the vinaya-pitaka (monastic rules), the sutta-pitaka (Buddhist sermons) and the abhidhamma-pitaka (philosophy and psychology).

General definition (in Buddhism)

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. King Maha Kalasena, Queen Gonda on the celebration of the marriage of their daughter Princess Polamitta in the Yakkha capital of Lankapura and conquered them. Lankapura may have been in Arithra or Vijithapura. The Yakkhas served as loyal subjects with the Vijiyan dynasty and the Yakkha chieftain sat on equal height to the Sri Lankan leaders on festival days.

Source: WikiPedia: Buddhism

The demons in the lower realm, like the Ghost Realm. They are evil, malignant and violent. They live on earth or in air.

Source: Buddhist Door: Glossary

In Jainism

General definition (in Jainism)

1) Yakṣa (यक्ष) is the shorter name of Yakṣadvīpa, one of the continents (dvīpa) of the middle-world (madhyaloka) which is encircled by the ocean named Yakṣasamudra (or simply Yakṣa), according to Jain cosmology. The middle-world contains innumerable concentric dvīpas and, as opposed to the upper-world (adhaloka) and the lower-world (ūrdhvaloka), is the only world where humans can be born.

Yakṣa is recorded in ancient Jaina canonical texts dealing with cosmology and geography of the universe. Examples of such texts are the Saṃgrahaṇīratna in the Śvetāmbara tradition or the Tiloyapannatti and the Trilokasāra in the Digambara tradition.

2) Yakṣa (यक्ष).—The yakṣas are a group of deities categorised as belonging to the vyantara class of Gods (devas). Their color is black and their tree is the “banyan tree” (vaṭa).

There are twelve types of yakṣas in Jaina cosmology:

  1. Maṇibhadra,
  2. Pūrṇabhadra,
  3. Śailabhadra,
  4. Manobhadra,
  5. Bhadraka,
  6. Subhadraka,
  7. Sarvabhadra,
  8. Manuṣya,
  9. Dhanapāla,
  10. Svarūpaka,
  11. Yakṣottama,
  12. Manohārin.

The vyantaras represent a class of Gods (devas) comprising eight groups of deities that wander about the three worlds (adhaloka, madhyaloka and ūrdhvaloka).

2) Yakṣa (यक्ष) is the name of class of piśācas according to the Digambara tradition of Jainism, while Śvetāmbara does not recognize this class. The piśācas refer to a category of vyantaras gods which represents one of the four classes of celestial beings (devas).

The deities such as the Yakṣas are defined in ancient Jain cosmological texts such as the Saṃgrahaṇīratna in the Śvetāmbara tradition or the Tiloyapaṇṇati by Yativṛṣabha (5th century) in the Digambara tradition.

Source: Wisdom Library: Jainism

Yakṣa (यक्ष).—A class of vyantara gods;—According to the Tiloyapaṇṇatti, they are divided into 12 kinds:

  1. Maṇibhadra,
  2. Pūrṇabhadra,
  3. Śailabhadra,
  4. Manobhadra,
  5. Bhadraka,
  6. Subhadra,
  7. Sarvabhadra,
  8. Mānuṣa,
  9. Dhanapāla,
  10. Sarūpa,
  11. Yakṣottama,
  12. Manoharaṇa.

Their Caitya-tree is the Banyan tree.

According to the Śvetāmbaras, they are divided into 13 groups:

  1. Pūrṇabhadra,
  2. Maṇibhadra,
  3. Śvetabhadra,
  4. Haritabhadra,
  5. Sumanobhadra,
  6. Vyatipātikabhadra,
  7. Subhadra,
  8. Sarvatobhadra,
  9. Mānuṣyapakṣa,
  10. Vanāhāra,
  11. Rūpayakṣa,
  12. Yakṣottama,
  13. Vanādhipati (Dhanādhipati in Saṃgrahaṇī).

They are beautiful to look at and possess well-proportioned limbs, serene in appearance, wearing shining kirīṭamukuṭas, and other ornaments. Black in complexion, they have the Banyan-tree on their dhvajas.

Source: Google Books: Jaina Iconography

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