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firmly impressed on their minds. They afflicted both man and beast, and were devourers of raw flesh. Sometimes they appeared bodily-not in their true forms, but in the shape of dogs, owls, and other birds-and obstructed the sacrifices. of the Aryans in various ways, and especially by the pollution of their presence. In the hymn 104 of Book vii, the Marutsthe Gods of the Storm-winds-and Indra are appealed to :
She, too, who wanders like an owl at night-time, hiding her body in her guilt and malice,
May she fall downward into endless caverns. May press-stones with loud ring destroy the demons.
Spread out, ye Maruts, search among the people: seize ye and grind the Rakshasas to pieces,
Who fly abroad, transformed to birds at night-time, or sully and pollute our holy worship.
Indra hath ever been the fiends' destroyer who spoil oblations of the Gods' invokers:
Yea, Sakra, like an axe that splits the timber, attacks and smashes them like earthen vessels.
Destroy the fiend shaped like an owl or owlet, destroy him in the form of dog or cuckoo.
Destroy him shaped as eagle or as vulture: as with a stone, O Indra, crush the demon.
They were considered to be especially-malignant sorcerers. The same hymn continues: Slay the male demon, Indra! Slay the female, joying and triumphing in arts and magic.' It concludes with the prayer, Indra and Soma, watch ye well. Cast forth your weapon at the fiends: against the sorcerers hurl your bolt.'
The hymn 87 of Book x is entirely devoted to denunciations of these demons, and appeals to Agni to destroy them :
Where now thou seest, Agni Jātavedas, one of these demons standing still or roaming,
Or flying on those paths in air's mid-region, sharpen the shaft and as an archer pierce him.
The fiend who smears himself with flesh of cattle, with flesh of horses and of human bodies,
Who steals the milch-cow's milk away, O Agni-tear off the heads of such with fiery fury.
Agni, from days of old thou slayest demons: never shall Rakshasas in fight o'ercome thee.
Burn up the foolish ones, the flesh devourers; let none of them escape
thine heavenly arrow.
In the Sama-Veda (Stevenson's translation) the Rakshasas are said to be indomitable (Adhyāya xii, 2), and to be all around (Prapathaka vi, 6).
In the hymns of the Atharva-Veda (Bloomfield) we learn that the Rakshasas robbed people of their senses (vi, 3), and possessed' them (ii, 9), and that errors made in the prescribed ritual of the sacrifice were also sometimes due to their malicious interference (vii, 70). They were unable to face Indra; 'Indra forced the demons into the nethermost darkness' (ix, 2).
Such were some of the earliest ideas of the Aryans concerning the Rakshasas, in the second or third millenium before Christ. In the first half of the pre-Christian millenium, the Ordinances of Manu confirm the statement that the Rākshasas were flesh-eating demons, and that night was the special time of demons' activity; they also place them in a position of high respectability after the Gods and Manes, along with other classes of supernatural beings. In the Sutta-Nipāta (Fausböll's translation, S.B.E., p. 51) we find the Rakshasas uniting with the Gods in reprobating the slaughter of cows.
When the Indian epic poem, the Rāmāyana, was composed, the Rakshasas had developed into beings who constantly made their appearance before men, in their own or other forms which they took at will. They were first described as wandering malignant demons of the great Vindhya forest, which extended far to the south in India; and afterwards, in the later portions of that work, they were represented as occupying all Ceylon, then (and still) denominated Lankā, under the rule of their own king, Rāvana. The Mahā-Bhārata has the same tradition.
The latest account of them in these works is as follows 1: When Brahma created the Waters he formed Rakshasas to guard them. Visvākarman, the general architect and builder of the Gods, erected a city termed Lankapura for them in Ceylon, on the top of the mountain Trikūṭa, 'Three Peaks,' on the shore of the southern ocean. Three of their princes
1 Muir. Original Sanskrit Texts, Vol. iv, pp. 414 ff.
2 Two Rakshasas are carved in relief as guards in Fig. 159. I know of no other representation of them in the Sinhalese carvings.
performed intense austerities for which they were rewarded by the grant of long life and a certain amount of invincibility. They made use of these gifts to oppress the Gods and sages, and at last prepared to attack heaven itself. The SamaVeda mentions another Rakshasa called Kravi, who had previously got heaven and earth into his power and desolated them (Adhyāya xiii, 8). They were defeated by Vishnu, and driven back to Ceylon, and afterwards to the underworld, Pātāla, as stated also in the Atharva-Veda, where the deed is attributed to Indra (see above).
Kuvēra, the God of Wealth, with his attendants the Yakshas, who were demons of another type, in some respects not much better than the Rakshasas, but of a higher rank, then took up his residence in Ceylon, at Lankāpura. Eventually, his half-brother Ravana, the Rakshasa king, by means of thousands of years of austerity obtained from Brahma the boon of indestructibility by all beings of a higher class than
This enabled him to re-occupy Ceylon, which once. more became the headquarters of the Rakshasas. He also conquered Kuvēra, whose magic car he took, Yama, the God of Death, and Indra, and generally made the lives of the Gods extremely unpleasant. The Gods then addressed a word to Brahma, the Creator of the world: "A Rakshasa named Rāvana having obtained a boon from thee, O Brahmā, in his pride harasses us all. Obedient to thy words, we endure everything at his hands. . . . We are therefore in great fear of this Rakshasa of horrible aspect (Muir, O.S.T. iv, p. 140).
The Rāmāyana recounts at great length how these truculent demons interfered with or polluted the sacrifices of the anchorites in the Vindhya forest, and even devoured those holy men. The situation was evidently insupportable. In the meantime, the Gods had a rod in pickle for the demons. Vishnu, the younger brother of Indra, had acceded to the unanimous request of the deities, and become incarnate as Rāma, the son of Dasaratha, the king of Ayodhya or Oudh. Rāma, who was suitably provided with magic weapons, first destroyed the Rakshasas in India on account of their crimes