This paper intends to focus on the idea of Yakshis in both literary traditions and iconographies in the Indian subcontinent. The constant appearances of the Yakshis, in both benevolent and malevolent forms, are extant in the Brahmanical, as well as Buddhist and Jaina traditions. The Yakshis, initially understood as spirits of nature, such as lakes, rivers, trees, hills, and so on, existing in fluid forms, started to calcify in figurines adorning temples and Stupas, being worshipped as mother goddess to consorts of Gods and as enchantresses, from 3rd century BCE onwards, acting primarily as guardians of wealth, whether intellectual or physical. This paper raises questions as to how the depictions of Yakshis changed over time, their iconographic forms evolved, and whether their agencies and functions point to the processes of social changes being taken place, thereby transforming their initial identities. With a close examination of the sites of Chandraketugarh in West Bengal, Sanchi and Bharhut in Madhya Pradesh, Karle and Ellora in Maharashtra, and Badami in Karnataka, as well as Puranic texts, the Mahabharata, the Buddhist and Jaina literatures, and a detective novel written in 1974, this paper attempts to study the many nuances of the elusive phenomenon of Yakshi in the subcontinent.
Nairita Ghosh, Jamia Millia Islamia University, India
About the Presenter(s)
Ms. Nairita Ghosh is an advanced PhD candidate at the Department of History and Culture, at the Jamia Millia Islamia University, New Delhi. Her research interests include social history, epigraphy, textual traditions, geography, and philology.
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