scispace - formally typeset
Journal ArticleDOI

Anxious Encounters with the (Monstrous) Other: The Yakshi Tales of Medieval Kerala

05 Jun 2020-Rupkatha Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies in Humanities (Aesthetics Media Services)-Vol. 12, Iss: 3
Abstract: Stories about monstrous encounters during travel are ubiquitous in every culture. Scholars see them as figurative representations of the cultural anxiety related to traversing the unknown and the encounter with the “Other”. For instance, the early Greek ‘monster-on-the-road’ tales are often read in the context of the expansion of trade among Greek city-states and the Greek colonization of far flung territories which necessitated going beyond the safety of familiar town boundaries. The Indian epics and folktales also abound with encounters of travellers with supernatural/monstrous beings. Whether it is episodes such as the “YakshaPrasna” in the Mahabharata, or the Bodhisatta’s encounter with the Naga and the Yaksha in Buddhist legends, or his encounter with Yakkhinis in the Jataka tales, travel often involved encountering the Dangerous “Other” who had to be defeated/satiated/converted. These early traveller’s tales can be read as records of the anxieties regarding expansion/establishment of the Kshatriya hero’s kingdom where the wild/primitive outside the bounds of civilization had to be conquered/appropriated. In the case of the religious hero, the monster represented a crisis of faith – either he/she was an embodiment of the allures of material pleasure the ascetic had to guard against or a staunch believer of another faith who had to be converted/conquered. All these “forgotten” traditions of travel come together in the Yakshi tales of medieval Kerala where a shape-shifting tree spirit haunting lonely pathways evokes memories of the ancient traveller’s encounter with the wilderness and its corresponding deities. This paper attempts to read these tales from medieval Kerala against earlier Indian traditions of travel as well as the literal and metaphorical crossings of caste and gender borders that travel entailed during the medieval period.

...read more

Citations
More filters

Book ChapterDOI
03 Jun 2020-

1 citations



Journal ArticleDOI
Abstract: Anxiety, nervousness, and an unplumbed fear grip our sense of being, waking to the realization of a thrilling experience that we enjoy over and over again. Ironically, the use of horror films to ne...

...read more


References
More filters

OtherDOI
31 Jul 2018-

162 citations


"Anxious Encounters with the (Monstr..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Jeffrey Jerome Cohen in his path-breaking work Monster Theory(1996) sees the monster as being the embodiment of “a certain cultural moment – of a time, a feeling and a place” (p....

    [...]

  • ...(Cohen, 1996, p.8) According to Michael Uebel, the second paradox arises from the boundary line's “double status as both marker of separation and line of commonality” when he argues that boundaries “simultaneously partition reality, by separating continua into discrete entities, and serve as lines…...

    [...]

  • ...Jeffrey Jerome Cohen in his path-breaking work Monster Theory(1996) sees the monster as being the embodiment of “a certain cultural moment – of a time, a feeling and a place” (p.4)....

    [...]

  • ...(Cohen, 1996, p. 5) Thus, the 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…...

    [...]


Book
25 Apr 1984-

47 citations


"Anxious Encounters with the (Monstr..." refers background in this paper

  • ...(Kosambi, 1983, pp.95-96) Hence, the Yakshas and Yakshis encountered on the crossways in the Jataka tales may be the deities of local cults, especially mother goddess cults, whose use of animal sacrifice (which was anathema to the Buddhist monks), must have resulted in their being cast as…...

    [...]


Book
01 Jan 2004-
Abstract: Early European histories of India frequently reflected colonialist agendas. The idea that Indian society had declined from an earlier Golden Age helped justify the colonial presence. It was said, for example, that modern Buddhism had fallen away from its original identity as a purely rational philosophy that arose in the mythical 5th-century BCE Golden Age unsullied by the religious and cultural practices that surrounded it. In this book Robert DeCaroli seeks to place the formation of Buddhism in its appropriate social and political contexts. It is necessary, he says, to acknowledge that the monks and nuns who embodied early Buddhist ideals shared many beliefs held by the communities in which they were raised. In becoming members of the monastic society these individuals did not abandon their beliefs in the efficacy and the dangers represented by minor deities and spirits of the dead. Their new faith, however, gave them revolutionary new mechanisms with which to engage those supernatural beings. Drawing on fieldwork, textual, and iconographic evidence, DeCaroli offers a comprehensive view of early Indian spirit-religions and their contributions to Buddhism-the first attempt at such a study since Ananda Coomaraswamy's pioneering work was published in 1928. The result is an important contribution to our understanding of early Indian religion and society, and will be of interest to those in the fields of Buddhist studies, Asian history, art history, and anthropology.

...read more

41 citations


"Anxious Encounters with the (Monstr..." refers background in this paper

  • ...Robert DeCaroli (2004) calls such varied beings as Yakshas/Yakshis and Nagas as spirit-deities “because these deities hold a liminal position between the realms of ghosts (preta, bhūta) and the gods (deva) and frequently seem to share the nature of both”(DeCaroli, p. 89, note 17)....

    [...]


Book
03 Jul 1991-
Abstract: The Disguises of the Demon-Gail Hinich Sutherland 1991-01-01 Among the most ancient deities of South Asia, the yaksstraddles the boundaries between popular and textual traditions in both Hinduism and Buddhism and both benevolent and malevolent facets. As a figure of material plenty, the yaksis epitomized as Kubera, god of wealth and king of the yaks In demonic guise, the yaksis related to a large family of demonic and quasi-demonic beings, such as nagas, gandharvas, raksand the man-eating pisaacas. Translating and interpreting texts and passages from the Vedic literature, the Hindu epics, the Puranas, Kalidasa's Meghaduta, and the Buddhist Jataka Tales, Sutherland traces the development and transformation of the elusive yaksfrom an early identification with the impersonal absolute itself to a progressively more demonic and diminished terrestrial characterization. Her investigation is set within the framework of a larger inquiry into the nature of evil, misfortune, and causation in Indian myth and religion.

...read more

23 citations


"Anxious Encounters with the (Monstr..." refers background in this paper

  • ...The outer limits of this natural order lie “dangerously close to bestiality and abrogation of the order established in the centers of human society” (Sutherland, 1991, p.92)....

    [...]

  • ...(Sutherland, 1991, p. 63) However, this tale can also be read as the necessity for civilization and its new moral order, represented by the King, to acknowledge the wilderness and its deities....

    [...]

  • ...(Sutherland, 1991, p. 139) The Jataka tales frequently follow this pattern as can be seen in the Telapatta Jataka (no.96) which records the story of the Bodhisatta’s journey from Benares to Takkasila through a forest of yakkhas and yakkhinis....

    [...]

  • ...(Sutherland, 1991, p. 138) Sutherland’s observations are regarding the representation of the Yakshi in both religions, Hinduism and Buddhism....

    [...]

  • ...(Sutherland, 1991, p. 138) Unlike in this tale, the Yakshi, in the typical tale in Kerala’s folklore, does not sit in her home and call out to the visitor....

    [...]


Book
04 Apr 2007-

22 citations


"Anxious Encounters with the (Monstr..." refers background in this paper

  • ...(Devika, 2007, p.122)The younger males in the Namboothiri family were expected to seek marital alliances called sambandham with women from the sudra castes like the Nairs or the Ambalavasis as well as from the matrilineal kshatriyas....

    [...]

  • ...(Devika, 2007, p.121) The women in the Namboothiri community called as Antarjanams (‘inner-people’) had to observe elaborate seclusion, and when outside their homes, had to be shielded by a cloak (putappu) and a large cadjan umbrella (kuta)....

    [...]

  • ...(Devika, 2007, pp.1-2)....

    [...]

  • ...However, these alliances were considered by the Namboothiris as beyond the domain of kinship (Devika, 2007, p.121)....

    [...]


Performance
Metrics
No. of citations received by the Paper in previous years
YearCitations
20211
20201
20141