Every one used to speak about her with great fear and widened eyes. Listening to them over and over again, I too began to believe them. When Yakshi bared her incisors, lengthened them and then drew them in again, khirrrrrr All your blood would be inside her belly! She would then chew on your bones and spit them out. It was about Yakshi that they said these things.
They said the Yakshi , usually walked through the burial ground compound a few yards away from our school compound twice a day—once in the afternoon, at “uchakkanam”” especially on Friday and tuesday and then at midnight. The period we call ‘uchakkanam’ in our school is the fifth period, in the afternoon. The time our Parukutty teacher comes to fifth period to our third standard to call aloud the names in the rolls after having served wheat Uppuma to the students who enjoys that sitting in a row .the vapours mirages swelled and overflowed. My mother slips into a nap on holidays during this period.Later she gets up to make coffee.
Subru ,my friend in the village lower primary school had a strange collection of articles at his home!!. Subru’s collection included strange things, Xancus , strange shells,Kakkikaya seed the big seed with dark brown cover, horns of animals, feathers of strange birds Subru revealed me a secret , which he ranked as a Top secret. His father used to talk with his dead grandpa through dreams !!.His eyes were widened and a strange sense of pride and fear started to brim on his face!.He had witnessed this at pale bluish midnight when every body was s asleep!.His father would break the hard shell of Kakkinkaya seed and chop the fleshy parts.It is then dried and mixed with tobacco. His father used to smoke cigars made of this mixture whenever he wanted to see Subru’s dead grandfather father in dreams.According to Subru,Nagayakshi, who is very important in the form of worship, is a Goddess in this category. This was the primary education I received on the topic of Yakshi from inside the school .
But some other agencies taught me out side the school based on an informal curriculum.The bronze anklets clanged to the rhythm of the oracle’s pronouncements in our village.
Velichappadu. Darikan appears. It is the last stage of his manifestation as the oracle. He utters pronouncements in his own unique style.
‘Children, when you leave the area around the temple, know that the Mother Goddess walks in front of you and behind you in order to watch over you.
Turning what came like the rain into mist .
By my father’s sacred feet…hum…hum…’
Devotees wait to hear the pronouncements.This is the velichappadu of village.Darikan.and an people count him as a best sorcerer .Once he told me..while taking rest once he told to me..”There are many mysterious worlds beyond the sky.. one such world is the world of Yakshis.
Blissful the world is full of primordial plants with strange blooms, blossom saphire emeralds and topazes. They stood bending their body along the the string which dribbles with a song. You may think that water maybe flowing through .Its molten silver but as cool as moonlight. The luxuriant growth of grass tickets bending into the stream is not green in colour They are deep red coloured. Young yakshi children cross the streams on the back of huge dragonflies .
Each dragonfly is about 6 feet long with golden dazzling wings.
The Yakshis never walk on the carpet that covers the main way towards the stream.They slide and float over the carpet . adjust the strain the parties covered with carpets together soon together with the skin of golden fish. The carpet carpet vin never get wet or the colour will never fade.
Yakshis relish on milk from the milky way. The mature Yakshis should come down to earth to suck the blood of Namboodiris Namboodiris.If they fail to descend..
Velichappadu continued..the most funniest item in the world of Yakshis, I think that it is examination each young Yakshis should pass to attain the status of mature Yakshis.. Young Yakshis have to climb and down on a black palm tree. It is made out made out of cast bronze .Each of them has to climb up and slither down three times.Each one should remain completely naked, dreaming of the sun turning blue suggesting a storm and danger,
The convocation ceremony is done by the Queen herself.She may pronounce the names of eligible Yakshis .The queen may dip her finger in the blood of emperor’s on the earth stored in diamond studded vessels and smear it vertically on her on forehead.
Yakshis can be tamed using iron and holy books.Namboodiris usually tame Yakshis.But Kalladikkodan sorcerers also share the power to tame her.Darikan continued ” in Thentheth illam ,when kunhathol ( young namboodiri girl )to fetch a very well-known sorcerer from Kalladikodu.
An astrologer was summoned. Not one, but two! so that everyone’s horoscopes could be examined at the same time. Amma wanted to know all about the enchantress . these men drew their sacred patterns on the floor, set out their cowries and intoned slokas.
or some such place. I went to see him to fix an auspicious day and brought back a note with the date the astrologer had calculated.
The young namboodiri girl ( kunhathol )sat in front of the old sorcerer from Kalladikottu while he conducted the pooja. A great many oil lamps were lighted and a pattern was drawn on the ground in the shape of a chakram , a wheel. the girl was quite scared.
When they drove a nail into the block of wood,she was twisting in pain,
After that they set fire to the jackfruit-wood and it grew terribly hot and the air was full of smoke. Kunhathol fell backward .
‘They’ve gone away, all the evil spirits. There’ll be no more trouble now,’ said Kalladikkodan, the sorcerer. kunhathol was lying on mothers lap’, In the our concept, some yakshis uses to enter into the bodies of beautiful women. The magicians of ‘Sambraday Aaya’ would exorcise these yakshis from their bodies and these yakshis would be given place to somewhere else. its sure that that some diseases get spread because of these yakshis.”The informal learning about Yakshis ..
The ” Yakshi stories ,”we have heard of them are those that send shivers down the spine. As legend goes, these Yakshis, Kerala’s version of vampires, charm people, mostly men, with their ethereal beauty, before drinking their life blood.
They are, however, very misunderstood, says B Prasad, An editor at the Kerala State Institute of Children’s Literature who has authored a collection of stories, Yakshikathakal, for children. , He says, “The term Yakshi originally could have evolved from the term Devi (goddess),” he adds. “Yakshis from folklore are actually women who lived extraordinary lives. They were honest, brave and honourable. From these stories, one can guess that women in those times were respected in society.Neeli, Ponnirathal, Purushadevi, Chembakavalli and Vadukachiyamma. These women were heroes in their own right, Purushadevi, for instance, was the daughter of the queen of Pennarasunadu, a kingdom ruled by women.
Why were they stamped as Yakshis?
What are the reasons behind it?
Who might have been benefitted by this act? Who were the real persons stamped as Yakshis? Who were the then how dis the society chanced as temptress and blood sucking vampires?Does it bear any close relationship with The sociological systems and practices prevailed in Brahminical settlement s in the middle ages.? Questions pop up as we are haunted by the seductress..
The Yakshi concepts were started to get beautified, in India after the declination of Jain religion and the spreading of Hindu religion. . In the early stage, the Yakshis who were in the Dravidian Goddess concept, were worshipped with the Vamachara method . In the Ashtavakara Geetha, yakshinis are decribed as the symbol of desire. As per the odes of Kerala like Unmuneelisandesam and Sukasandesam yakshi is a very powerful Goddess. The artists portray only the concept of beautiful Yakshi because the basic trait is beauty. The Yakshi who is applying the bindhi gives a support to his body, by keeping her right leg on the Areca palm. This beautiful yakshi is worshipped throughout Kerala. Most of the famous temples in Kerala, give a particular place to this Goddess in their mural paintings. Yakshi haunts the mural paintings of Thiruvananthapuram Sree Padmanabha and Guruvayoor Temples.The Method of worship was changed later, because this Goddess came into the worshipping method of Brahmins As per the Indian cultural heritage, the worship of Yakshi existed, since the time of Tree worship. In 9th, 10th centuries this Goddess was worshipped throughout South India. Yakshi is a contribution of Jain religion. As per the Jain belief it is Parswanathan who started the worship of Yakshis. He was the predecessor of Vardhamana Mahaveera, who founded the Jain religion. Yakshi is the Yogini form of Padmavathi, who is a Jain Goddess. The Jain worshippers call this Goddess as ‘Jakshini’. The Swethambaras and Digambara as 17 used to worship this Goddess alike. When Jain religion get spreaded in South India, this Yakshi worship also came here. Even though the Jain religion declined here, the worship of Yakshi still exists here.with a Yakshi concept in Kerala, named ‘Baraprada’. . Yakshi was worshipped in the form of Yogini. This Goddess was known as Ahiyakshi (Ayala Yakshi) in the ‘Anthimahakalankavi’ of North Kerala. The Siddha worshippers in Tamil Nadu call this Goddess as Isakkiyamman
There could be another historical reason behind the association of night travel with
female monsters. Donna Jordan quotes Kosambi’s study which argues that the crossroads were
“the original Stone Age sites of the Mother-goddess cults of India, junctions of primitive nomad
tracts where the Mothers were normally worshipped.” (Jordan, 2012, p. 202) In course of time
“Some of these tracts developed into trade routes, and traders, before starting a journey, made
animal sacrifices to the deities at the crossroads promising more if their journey helped them in
reaping profit. It was the “travelling merchant’s custom to salute, and if possible, sacrifice, to the
Mother-goddess encountered during a voyage.” (Jordan, 2012, p.202) .When the trade started to flourish later,that triggered the competition between traders .From the economic perspective,we may infer that most of the notorious Yakshi haunted areas are situated close to the trade routes. The basic reason could be Kosambis theory and the scaring away other competators from trade routes.
The scholar K. S. Prakash mentions how the Yakshis used to trap those Namboothiris who
would be hurriedly leaving to meet the women whom they were in a sambandham with (2007, p.
63). Hence one may speculate that the Yakshi tales were perhaps rooted in the social structure of
the time when the Namboothiris entered into sambandham with women from the matrilineal
castes whose sexuality was then demonised in these tales.
But Yakshi reappears in slightly different clothing at a particular historical moment
during the medieval period in Kerala. when Namboothiris are part of a cultural set up where they
have the right to engage into sexual liaisons with women from certain matrilineal communities !!?
The stories we have heard of Yakshis are those that send shivers down the spine. As legend goes, these Yakshis, Kerala’s version of vampires, charm people, mostly men, with their ethereal beauty, before drinking their life blood.
They are, however, very misunderstood, says B Prasad, An editor at the Kerala State Institute of Children’s Literaturewho has authored a collection of stories, Yakshikathakal, for childWhen the time came for her to have a baby, the kingdom waited eagerly for the heir to the throne. Soon, Purushadevi became pregnant and her mother orders for a fort to be built around the palace, for protection. This angered the neighbouring king, who waged a war against Pennarasunadu.the stories are tragic as the heroines die in the end. Women who led exemplary lives were believed to have got another life after their deaths, and they were worshipped in temples.”When the time came for her to have a baby, the kingdom waited eagerly for the heir to the throne. Soon, Purushadevi became pregnant and her mother orders for a fort to be built around the palace, for protection. This angered the neighbouring king, who waged a war against Pennarasunadu.the stories are tragic as the heroines die in the end. Women who led exemplary lives were believed to have got another life after their deaths, and they were worshipped in temples.”ren. , He says, “The term yakshi originally could have evolved from the term devi (goddess),” he adds. “Yakshis from folklore are actually women who lived extraordinary lives. They were honest, brave and honourable. From these stories, one can guess that women in those times were respected in society.Neeli, Ponnirathal, Purushadevi, Chembakavalli and Vadukachiyamma. These women were heroes in their own right, Purushadevi, for instance, was the daughter of the queen of Pennarasunadu, a kingdom ruled by women. When the time came for her to have a baby, the kingdom waited eagerly for the heir to the throne. Soon, Purushadevi became pregnant and her mother orders for a fort to be built around the palace, for protection. This angered the neighbouring king, who waged a war against Pennarasunadu.the stories are tragic as the heroines die in the end. Women who led exemplary lives were believed to have got another life after their deaths, and they were worshipped in temples.”
As Mrs Kavitha Sivadas through her research studies presents that ”During the Perumal period ,women were not completely excluded from the mainstream of the society.Sangham songs reflect presence of female priests and also the poetess who were admired in the society.Women in the society enjoyed socio political prominence as suggested in the title deeds of that period.,”
She adds , “Thiruvalla was a significant Brahmin settlement in southern Kerala.The plates of Thiruvalla refer many names of women either as donor or as recipient.The striking remarks of the endowments made by Bhadracharini,or Pattisaranikal,and Uttaracharini suggest that the terms were much familiar to people of that time.But such offices gradually disappeared without leaving a single trace in the later period.Their rights might have been forced to transfer to temples and remained confined to the walls of professional Brahminic norms.”
Mrs Kavitha continues “”Chembara inscription during the reign of Indukotha refers to one Yakshan and his family .It states that the Yakshan should live together along with his mother and aunt in Mayilkkara settlement and provide two and half nazhi of rice to the temple daily.The inscription also lists out the persons responsible for meeting the expense of the temple.Thus the possessions of the community got transferred to the temple property.The stone mountain inscriptions were engraved in such a way that they turned to be the centre of attraction of the public.”
She presents the proof of documents again.”Thiruvalla plates denote the presence of Yakkis (Yakshis).It speaks of Yakkan donating gold to temple and Yakkiyamma his wife supplying the same amount of gold .The term Yakkan is referred in many of the inscriptions of Kerala and Yakki in a few records.Most of the records reveal the endowments bestowed by them suggesting they were powerful during the period under concern…Their wealth was being transferred to the hands of Brahmins through the temples.”
“When Brahminic settlements began to emerge in Kerala by about eighth centuries learning and priesthood began to be controlled by by Brahmins with the newly emerged political power system. Consequently women were denied access to learning and priesthood.this alliance turned to be deadly and disadvantaged a large section of society It may be possible that some women protested against this marginalisation.The stories of Yakshi as temptresses and blood sucking vampires point toward such probability.The multiplication of written documents and deeds made the special rights of these religious communities lawful and gradually they started to impose the power .Thus a larger sections of the society including women were brought under the jurisdiction of temples ,Brahmins and the ruling authorities.Thus the activities of sustainable and freedom loving women thinkers are bridled implicitly. Their economic and political freedom was brought under control by the new Brahminical system..
“When Brahmins began to to enhance their power and domination in the society .Thus women were kept out of the mainstream. It was under this context that there raised questions against the women who had intellectual qualities and power.
The women who were economically sound and with independent thoughts begin to be described as demonic and deserving no respect.. The mythical stories of exercise symbolising a bloodsucking demon and gradual transformation of Nangas to Tevadichis or prostitutes as well the waning of different female officers can be seen as the part of strategy of silencing and ousting women from the mainstream society .A notion has been woven that’s women failed to play a vital road in the temple centred society of early mediaeval Kerala.”Dr Kavitha adds..
Thus Mrs Kavitha Sivadas breaks new grounds analysing the field of historical search of Yakshis that lead to monsterisation of sophisticated women to vampirish Yakshis. She proves that Yakshis as a vampire is a deliberately woven myth.
courtesy artist Gopu Pattithara, Mrs Kavitha Sivadas ,(research hand)