Friday, June 25, 2010

The Rakshasa

The Rakshasa is a terrifying, bloodlusting demon from Indian mythology and legend. It has a ravenous hunger for human blood and flesh, and it is feared by all.


The word rakshasa (feminine Rakshasi) itself literally means “destroyer” or “injurer” in the Indian language.


The Rakshasa appears as a huge, misshapen human, having fiery red eyes and abnormally long tongues. Their bodies are covered with bristlelike hair. Other features include yellow or red matted hair and beards, horns, a fat belly, slitlike eyes, and as is typical of Indian mythology, an unusual number of limbs or perhaps even a single eye. Some wear a wreath of intestines about their necks, and the skin color of this creature varies, usually being black, green, blue, or yellow.


The Rakshasa is a species of asuras (demon) from Hindu and Buddhist mythology. This vampiric demon comes out to hunt for human prey at night, especially during the new moon and the dark of the moon (as their demonic powers increase at nightfall). These creatures are evil to the core and extremely hostile to mankind. It preys on humans who are more vulnerable, usually children and women (preferably during the woman’s wedding).

The Rakshasa’s eating habits are, in a single word, disgusting. They eat human flesh and drink the blood (usually using a skull as a cup), devour excrement (apparently, they consume the life essence of an individual through this act), and they consume food that has been tainted in some way or another (i.e. having been sneezed upon, walked on, or soiled by bugs. The creature also endlessly roams the forest, preying upon the wildlife in a vain effort to satiate its unending hunger. Their talons are poisoned, and it is said that a human who is merely touched by a Rakshasa will die. A Rakshasa’s attack will devastate villages and destroy entire communities, most often in a single night. Although it prefers human flesh, the creature will also slaughter and devour the livestock (most often horses and cattle, which are essential to the Indian way of life).

The Rakshasa prefers to dwell in dark, secluded locations, namely the jungles, wooded areas, and deep forests. When the creature walks about, it howls eerily and constantly look from side to side in search of prey to satisfy their never-ending bloodlust. Unusually for a demon, the Rakshasa likes to haunt temples and other places of worship, reveling in disrupting the prayers of humans. The creature enjoys disrupting sacrifices and desecrating graves as well.


The Rakshasa possesses a supernatural degree of strength, able to tear a man apart with ease. It is also a shapeshifter and, although it may become almost anything or anyone, it prefers to become a dog, a vulture, an owl, an eagle, or a cuckoo. However, the creature can also assume human form, usually becoming a woman of unnatural beauty and sexual power (a disguise the Rakshasa uses to seduce men and then devour them). They may also masquerade as a dwarf, a husband, or a lover. The creature is also a gifted sorcerer, and uses dark magic to wreak havoc on its victims. It is able to take possession of humans, usually when they are eating or drinking, causing either illness or madness (or perhaps both). The Rakshasa has the power to reanimate the corpses of the recently dead, turning them into revenants. This demon may also become invisible at will. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to attack.


Despite its formidable abilities, the Rakshasa can be repulsed or even killed. One ritual calls for eating a bowl of porridge or rice pudding that had been boiled over a bird’s nest. Supposedly, the smell will somehow placate the demon. Like many demonic creatures, many Rakshasa (but not all) are slow-witted and able to be outsmarted by humans. Although clever and extremely powerful, the Rakshasa may be destroyed by burning it, and fire will repulse and drive it away. Meditation, prayer, or quoting certain Holy Scriptures may upset the Rakshasa and drive them away for a time, but the creature will return sooner or later. According to some legends, the Rakshasa may be banished by simply saying “Uncle”.

Sunlight is another vulnerability, although forcing the creature into the daylight is another matter altogether. However, some legends say that the Rakshasa can be killed with a dagger forged of pure brass. But, the catch is that the dagger must pierce the heart. The last resort is an exorcism. The exorcism involves the burning of certain sacred herbs and chanting holy names. However, this exorcism is known only to a few select holy men. But identifying the Rakshasa in another form is (like it is with all shapeshifters) a difficult challenge. The exorcist must be both highly trained and very experienced (not to mention having to be either very brave or very stupid). An improperly-performed exorcism will lead to a bloody, painful death for all humans involved.


Hindu mythology holds that the Rakshasa were created by Brahma to protect the sea from those who would steal the elixir of immortality. Over time, however, the Rakshasa devolved into demons that desired nothing more than to satisfy their own hungers and desires. Now, it is believed that a Rakshasa can be created if a child is forced to consume human brains. A curse will have the same result. Some legends hold that the Rakshasa were once humans who had been extremely evil during their lifetime and as a result are reincarnated into monstrous, demonic forms as a punishment for their wickedness.


Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Vampires & Werewolves (Second Edition). New York: Checkmark Books. Copyright ©2011, 2005 by Visionary Living, Inc.

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