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Ancient Indian Cult Of Yakshas - The Tutelary Deity of Plants and Fragrances

by R.K's Aroma on Feb 28, 2022

Ancient Indian Cult Of Yakshas - The Tutelary Deity of Plants and Fragrances

Everything present in the universe is sacred, and whatever grows (trees, forests, etc.) is more so. The animistic beliefs of Hinduism found a place side by side with the highest philosophical and religious speculation. They are often expressed esoterically and mystically. 

Yakshas and Yakshis are the nature spirits connected with trees, forests, water, and fertility. There are considered as the angel guardians of wilderness and treasures buried beneath. Yaksas have been mentioned many times in passages of Rig Veda and Atharva Veda as the tutelary gods symbolizing the mysterious principle of life and creation. There are many references to Yakshas in Puranas, epic books like Mahabharata, and the works of Kalidasa.

One such Yaksha who is the guardian deity of cosmetics and perfumery is the GANDHAYAKSHA. This article lets us dive deep and learn about the deity worshipped by those who are engaged in the vocations relating to the manufacture and trade of cosmetics and perfumery.

Yakshas (male) and Yakshis (female) have a special place in Buddism, Jainism, and Hindusim. According to Hindu mythology, Yakshas are the nature spirits residing under the earth in the Himalayas, guarding the wealth of the planet.

During the Vedic period, the priests conducted sacrifices to worship Yaksha. In the pre-Aryan day, they were honored by the rural, wishing for good and protection against evil. The villagers worship the yakshas considering them as the guardian deities that resided on trees and water bodies in a formless manner. In the Jain and Buddhist art sculptures, Yakshas and yakshis are depicted as the attendant deities of Thirthankaras and Bodhisattvas. Kalidasa, the great author, too mentioned Yaksha in his lyrical Sanskrit work, Meghadoota.

Yakshas are generally portrayed as diverse kinds of beings - semi-humans, superhumans, or extraterrestrials. We see them with a big belly, dwarf limbs, and a big face with chubby cheeks in the pictures. They are assumed as powerful magicians who can change their shape, size, fly, or disappear as per their wish and will.

An exciting statue dated to around 2nd or 3rd central AD has been discovered in a sacred grove in Harigunda, an island of Sharavathi river, Uttara Kannada District. This statue was about 1.69m tall and exhibited Graeco-Roman influence in his dressing.

Harigunda is rich in cultural and historical heritage. The villagers of the Harigunda have great beliefs in Yaksha. They call him Bobri, and he is considered the protector of the island. 

There is a story of a question-and-answer dialogue between Yudhishthira and a yaksha mentioned in the Hindu epic, Mahabharata. This story is known as the Yaksha Prashna or as the Dharma Baka Upakhyana (the legend of Virtuous Crane). It appeared in Vana Parva and is set as the Pandavas end their twelve years of exile in the forest.

Kubera - The King Of the Yakshas

In the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist religions, Kubera (Vaisravana) is considered the king of the yakshas. He is the god of wealth and prosperity and is regarded as the regent of the North (Dikapala) and the protector of the world (Lokapala).

The banks of the Narmada River are known as the birthplace of Kubera. Here is where his father, Visravas, who was a sage, lived. Kubera, or King Vaisravan, is the ruler of Lanka that is guarded by numerous Rakshasas before being defeated by Rakshasa Ravana in a battle. His chariot, Pushpaka, was capable of going anywhere according to the will of the rider. 

Kubera is regarded as the overlord of numerous semi-divine species and the owner of the world's treasures. He is often shown with a plump body carrying a money pot and a club and adorned with jewels. Kubera is seen chiefly with Lakshmi (the goddess of fortune, prosperity, and wealth).

Gandhayakṣa (गन्धयक्ष) - The Tutelary Deity Of Cosmetics And Perfumery

Gandhayakṣa (गन्धयक्ष) is one of a Yaksha who is referred a special tutelary deity presiding over Gandhaśāstra (the science of cosmetics and perfumery). He is a demigod attending to Siva and is being praised by Gaṅgādhara (the author of Gandhasāra) at the beginning of his work together with Siva, Sarasvati, and Ganapathi.

Considered as the primary deity of aromatic plants, Gandhayakṣa is worshipped by those who are engaged in the vocations relating to the manufacture and trade of cosmetics and perfumery.
Like every Hindu scholar of the yore writing on different subjects, Gangadhara, the author of Gandhasastra, assigns a Dharmic and divine goal to the making and using perfumes. He invoked four deities before starting his treatise. They are the lord Shiva, Ganapathi, Saraswati, and Gandha Yaksha (a demigod who is a servant of Shiva). Needless, the Gandhayaksha is the presiding deity of the art and science of cosmetics and perfumes. Gangadhara says that the final goal of perfumery is to infuse semi-divinity within us. It also added that perfume should elevate our mind by freeing it from the mundane worries of the world.

To be continued...........

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