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The history of Yaksa was not being seen clearly from the documents and had nothing about the origin. The story of Yaksa, which means “Thai Demon”, was only appearing in the scriptures both in Buddhism and Brahman. It described that Yaksa was neither human nor angel. Sometimes it was called Devil.

When we said “Yaksa” especially in Thailand, it looked everybody could understand what the word means. It was a kind of “Demon” in a huge body with the canine teeth, ferocious and disguisable. Human was its food. There are lots of terms to call this demon such as orge, giant, and beast.

The word “Yaksa” in Pali and Sanskrit has different writing. In Sanskrit, it is Yaksa but in Pali, it is Yakha. Both of them mean “a male spirit”. The terms of Yakkha, Yakkhim and Yakkhi in Pali were used for “a female spirit”. In Sanskrit, it is Yaksini or Yaksi. No matter how different they have been called, they all have the meaning of demon.

In the Tipitaka (The Pali Canon) informed that Yaksa had both of good and bad side. On the other hand, in the Great Sermon had a totally different explanation that Yaksa had the splendid character with powerful and respectable. Because of this supernatural status, Yaksa could be transfigured to be in every form and it could disguise to everywhere.

All those above, it can be seen that Yaksa was the constituent between human and angel but sometimes Yaksa means Demon in the view of fierce and frightening, so Yaksa had a status between Demon and Angel.

In Thailand, Yaksa is famous for its sculpture. The sculpture of Yaksa has been appeared since Sukhothai Era but it was assumed that the sculpture of Yaksa was widely known at the beginning of Rattanakosin Era. The Yaksa sculpture mostly standing in front of the Buddhist Temple with the influence of “Ramayana” which was a famous epic. Furthermore, the wall painting in the Grand Palace was a part of the imagination to make Yaksa sculpture.

In the Buddhist scripture, Yaksa had a duty to be a guardian spirit. In the temple around Thailand, there are usually Yaksa to be the gatekeeper. Yaksa had a duty to prevent the holy places from disturb of devils.

The Yaksa gatekeeper can separate into 2 groups depends on the standing characters. The first group is the Yaksa stand straight and holds a cudgel in the front, for example, the sculptures at the Grand Palace which are the master of Yaksa from “Ramayana”. The second group is Yaksa stand up in legs open and holds a cudgel in the front. You can see it from the sculptures at the Temple of Dawn. They are the soldier Yaksa from “Ramayana”.

Yaksa in the duty of guardian had a similar status to the angle because it must have been the guardian before in previous life.

Thailand has no custom to worship the Yaksa like in India. Thailand considers that Yaksa is only a Demon and has no important role in Buddhism. There is only the belief of making guardian sculpture to protect the holy places.

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Additional Photos by Vincent Tiberghien (tibervince) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 106 W: 16 N: 141] (781)
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