rakshasa In Indian folklore, a Demon that appears as a black figure with yellow or flaming hair, and wearing a wreath of entrails. Their name literally means “destroyer,” and rakshasas are considered to be evil and hostile to mankind. They can take many shapes, including beautiful men and women and animals or birds, such as dogs, vultures and owls. Generally, however, they are monstrous in appearance, with huge bellies, slits for eyes and matted hair. If not black, they are yellow, green or blue.

Rakshasas are nocturnal creatures and have disgusting habits, such as eating human flesh and drinking human blood from the skull; eating food which has been sneezed upon, walked upon or soiled by insects; and eating corpses. They also roam around forests looking for animals to eat, always trying to satisfy an insatiable hunger. They have the power to reanimate corpses, and will take possession of an unwary man through his food, causing madness or illness. One touched by a rakshasa dies.

Despite their formidable evil powers, rakshasas, like many Demonic beings, are reputed to be dim-witted. According to Indian lore, one may banish them simply by saying “Uncle.”

Further Reading :

  • Leach, Maria, and Jerome Fried, eds. Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1979.

The Encyclopedia of Ghosts and Spirits – Written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley  – September 1, 2007


Night Wanderers

Origin: India

Rakshasas, a type of Ashura, are wild forest spirits who cling to the primal law of the jungle rather than rules of civilization and religion. Needless to say, as myths tend to be filtered through religion, Rakshasas have a bad reputation. Hinduism and Buddhism frequently classify them as Demons. Lord Ravana, villain of the epic Ramayana, is king of Rakshasas. His Rakshasa army battled Hanuman’s monkeys.

Rakshasas are not trivial spirits but very powerful, capable of reanimating corpses and inhabiting them. Rakshasas have profound occult powers and knowledge. Although they tend to be hostile spirits, they can theoretically heal illnesses and bestow fertility to men and women. Male Rakshasas are lusty spirits who crave sex with human women. They are accused of eating people, too. These stories may originally have been intended to defame an earlier pantheon and discourage veneration.

Manifestation: Rakshasas are shape-shifters who take many forms. Favorites include dogs, owls, and vultures. They can disguise themselves in the form of specific individuals. They take the forms of men in order to trick wives into having sex with them. Identifying characteristics tend to be matted hair (a sign of ascetism, spirit possession, or spirit alliance in India) and multiple legs. A Rakshasa may have five or six legs instead of the anticipated two or four.

A half-Demon werepanther named

Rakshasa appears in the comic book series

Purgatori, (Chaos! Comics).

Iconography: Rakshasas are frequently portrayed with horned, fanged animal heads atop a potbellied human body. They have exceptionally wide mouths, sporting an ear-to-ear grin, the better to display their fangs.

See also: Ashura; Demon; Hanuman; Kubera; Neko-Mata; Sita; and the Glossary entry for Pantheon

From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.