Icomography Jain Yakshas

Topics: Jainism, Mahavira, Tirthankar Pages: 9 (3301 words) Published: April 27, 2013
Final Assignment
Yakshas in Jainism
Introduction to Jainism
Jainism is propounded by the Tirthankaras. There have been 24 Tirthankaras in the Jain religion. Tirthankaras are free from the worldly sorrows, worries, pain and suffering. The first Thirthankara was Rishabnath, the last one was Mahavira (599-527 B.C.). Jainism does not have one single founder but a path to purity and the right way to achieve moksha has been taught by all the Tirthankaras. A Thirthankar is not an incarnation of God, he is an ordinary soul and he is mortal. He achieves the state of Thirthankar by intense meditation and penance. The basic Jain philosophy is to be free from the cycle of birth, in order to be free from suffering and pain. Jainism is further divided into two major sects, Digambaras and Shvetambaras. The main differences between these two sects are:

a. Practise of Nudity
b. Liberation of women
c. Food for omniscient

The Digambaras believe in complete renunciation and non attachment. They stress on practicing nudity. While the Shvetamabars believe nudity is not necessary to attain liberation or moksha.

The Digambaras believe women cannot achieve enlightenment because they lack the rigid will to do so. While Shvetambaras share a contrary view.

According to Digambaras, once a saint becomes omniscient he needs not even a morsel of food to survive. The Shvetambaras however, disagree with this.

The people of this religion worship Tirthankaras who are believed to be the supreme beings and worshipped idols of Jinas. As years passed they also started believing in many other deities like the Yakshas and the Yakshinis in Jain temples.


The yakshas are a class of nature spirits or tree spirits who are mentioned in the Jain, Buddhist and Hindu religion as populace of the subterranean earth and its treasures. In these texts, the yakshas have a dual personality. One side of the yaksha may be seen as inoffensive fairy like spirit associated with nature like woods and mountains but there is another darker side of the same yaksha, which is similar to that of a ghost ( bhuta) that haunts the woods and devours travellers, and this side is similar to a rakshasas. Their female counterpart is known as yakshinis. The Yakshas in Indian art are portrayed to either as fearsome warriors, portly, deformed and dwarf like, while their female counterparts are known for their charm and beauty. The yakshinis are depicted as beautiful young women having exaggerated spherical breasts, wide hips, narrow waist, and broad shoulders with a charming face.

There are a few references to the yakshas and yakshinis in Mahabharata, Ramayana and works of Kalidasa. In Ramayana, Ravana drove his half brother Kubera away. Kubera resided in the Himalayas and was the chief of all the yakshas and the yakshinis. The yakshas and yakshinis are also said to be married among humans at times too like Aryans and Nagas. The yakshas earlier were believed to be cannibals; they were flesh eaters and later shifted to a vegetarian diet by Lord Gautama Buddha. Bloody offerings were an important and a chief feature in the Yaksha cult. There are two types of yakshas, malevolent and benevolent.

Yakshas in Jainism
The Jains worship the Tirthankaras. The Tirthankaras are deities who have helped the people in achieving liberation and enlightenment. They are models for the people who want guidance and achieve enlightenment. They have defeated all their suffering. All twenty four of them are associated with a yaksha and yakshi. Each Tirathankara has a particular yaksha and yakshi. Jina iconography has undergone major changes since the Gupta period. Earliest figure of Jaina yaksha and yakshi are in the Jaina caves in Badami and Athole. During the 9th and 10th century A.D. they had emblems of their own. The Jain philosophy suggests there is no creator god. They believe in karma. If we do good deeds we will have less suffering and...
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