Chapter 32 – Yakshas and Yakshinis
Jains pay their respect and worship idols of Jinas for three reasons:
- He has liberated Himself and attained Moksha
- He expounded the path of Liberation
- To get an inspiration to become like Him
The only goal of Jainism is to free ourselves from worldly sufferings and attain liberation. Jin is a liberated soul, free of its material body and resides at the top of the universe, called Siddha-loka. The images of Jinas are intended to serve as a reminder to the faithful of the possibility of liberation. They serve as role models for Jain lay people in, guiding their ethical code of living; and for the aspirant Jin provides inspiration and a reminder that spiritual liberation is an attainable goal. As a detached soul, free from this world, the Jin is incapable of responding to a devotee’s prayers or requests. This inability to intervene and, to respond to the prayers and offerings from the faithful, sets Jin images apart from all Hindu and most Buddhist deities, who can be called upon to help a devotee by different rituals.
In addition to images of Jinas, we notice images of Yakshas and Yakshinis (deities) in many Jain temples. These deities are neither eternal nor divine, and they themselves are the worshippers of the Jinä and, true devotees of Jinä. In addition, these Yakshas and Yakshinis are full of passions and are wandering through the cycle of birth and death just like us. Yakshas are males and Yakshinis are females. They are also called Shäsandevtäs (male ones) and Shäsandevis (female ones). They are guardian angel deities. They are heavenly beings of the Vyantar group who have supernatural powers including the ability to change their forms and sizes. These Yakshas and Yakshinis were either appointed by Indra (king of heavenly gods) or were themselves associated with Tirthankars in their previous lives. Even though, Tirthankars do not require or ask for any protection, these Yakshas and Yakshinis due to their devotion for Tirthankars took upon themselves to protect them and Jain religion whenever it becomes necessary.
The earlier scriptures like the Sthänänga-sutra, Uttarädhyayan-sutra, Bhagawati-sutra, Tattvärtha- sutra, Antagadadasäo-sutra, and Pauma-chariya have frequent references to Yakshas and Yakshinis. Many Jains pay their respect to these Yakshas and Yakshinis because they provided protection to the Tirthankars and to the existence of Jain religion. These are the reasons they are found around the images of Jinas. Their individual images are also found in many Jain temples. Yaksha is usually found on the right side of the Jin idol while Yakshini on the left side. In Jain temples, they are never situated at a higher locations in relation to images of the Jinas. These are benevolent Yakshas and Yakshinis. There are also malicious Yakshas and Yakshinis who caused sufferings to Tirthankars and troubles to Jains and existence of Jain religion. For example, Yaksha Sulpäni troubled Lord Mahävir in his mediation and inflicted many sufferings. There are similar stories in, which malicious Yakshas troubled others as well. We Jains do not pay our respects or worship Yakshas and Yakshinis for the material gains, favor and freedom from danger, illness and disease. We pay our respect to them because of their service to Tirthankars and Jain religion. Asking for materialistic gains from them will be quite opposite to the teachings of the Jinas.
The following provides a brief description of commonly found Yakshas and Yakshinis in Jain temples:
She is the dedicated attendant deity of lord Ädi Näth (Rishabhadev). She is also known as Apratichakrä. The color of this goddess is golden. Her vehicle is an eagle. She has eight arms. In her four right hands she holds the blessing Mudrä (posture), arrow, rope and wheel. In her four left hands she holds the rein, the bow, the protective weapon of Indra, and the wheel.
She is the dedicated deity of Lord Nemi-Näth the 22nd Tirthankar. She is also known as Ambai Amba and Amra Kushmändini. Her color is golden and the lion is her vehicle. She has four arms. In her one right hands she carries a mango in one hand and in the other a branch of a mango tree. In one left hand she carries a rein and in the other she has her two sons.
She is the dedicated deity of Lord Pärshva-Näth, the 23rd Tirthankar. Her color is golden and her vehicle is a snake with a cock’s head. She has four arms. Her two right hands hold a lotus and a rosary and two left hands fruit and a rein.
Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, is considered to be the source of all learning. Her divine energy is the source of spiritual light, eradicator of all ignorance and promoter of all knowledge. She is respected and adored by all faiths, worldly people and saints. She has four arms, one hand holding a book, one holding a rosary and two hands holding a musical instrument Veenä. Her seat is a lotus and the peacock is her vehicle representing equanimity in prosperity. In some books it is mentioned that the swan is her vehicle.
Goddess Lakshmi represents wealth. The people worship her as the goddess of wealth, power, money etc. In her upper two hands, she holds a lotus with an elephant, in the lower right hand a rosary and in the lower left hand a pot.
Shri Manibhadra is originally a Yaksha, worshipped by Indian masses since very olden times. His introduction to Jain worship is only a later adaptation. It is an image of a six-armed Yaksha with an elephant as his vehicle.
This deity is worshipped for protection and for driving away evil influence created by the malicious Yakshas and Yakshinis. 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 Ghantäkarna Mahävir by mistake. That creates confusion between Lord Mahävir and Ghantäkarna Vir. He is not connected to Lord Mahävir in any way.
This is the deity of Bhairava. 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 upon fulfillment of their material desires. It is a positive force around the temple.
This deity is in the shape of a mountain. It is the natural positive energy of the mountain Sametshikhar. This energy inspires and guides believers and the pilgrims in completing their pilgrimage of Sametshikhar peacefully.