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Kubera

by Sumanta Sanyal
In the Vedic times in Indian Mythology, Kubera was a being associated with evil. He was envisaged to be the chief of all evil creatures living in darkness. It was only after Hinduism consolidated into what it is today that this hideous dwarf began to get acknowledged as a god and as one of the eight guardians of the world. He still remained the king of the Yakshas. Today, in the Hindu pantheon, Kubera is widely known as the god appointed the guardian of the treasures of the gods. He often rides in his airborne magic chariot Pushpak and showers jewels and other precious objects onto the lands he passes over to succor the poor.

There are two versions of how Kubera was elevated to the stature of a god. The first version postulates that Kubera performed stringent austerities for thousands of years and, as a reward, was promoted. Another rather more romantic version is that one day Kubera had gone to rob a temple of Shiva, who is the king of robbers. During the robbery Kubera's taper had somehow been blown out. No matter how hard the dwarf tried he could not relight the taper. Nevertheless, he persisted with his efforts no matter how nefarious they were and, on the tenth attempt, he succeeded. Shiva is a benign god who is often pleased by the most illogical of efforts. This perseverance of Kubera's in his attempt to rob the god's temple won him much admiration from Shiva who subsequently granted the dwarf access to the Hindu pantheon of gods.

Kubera is physically envisioned as a dwarf with an ugly and deformed body. His skin is white and he has three legs. He has a set of only eight teeth. Why this is so is rather mysterious, as are so many physical features of the other Hindu gods. Since Kubera was so deformed, he had difficulty in moving around. Brahma took pity and ordered Vishwakarma, the architect of the gods and a god in his own right, to build the disabled god a chariot. Vishwakarma conceived and built Pushpak, an aerial chariot which moves of its own accord and which is so large that it can contain a whole city. Kubera flies in this fantastic chariot and throws down jewels and other precious objects to people on the ground to aid them with averting poverty.

Kubera has three famous half-brothers, Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Bivhishana. All three find mention in the great Indian epic story Ramayana and are relatively better-known than Kubera, especially to Indian children. This association has spawned many interesting tales and here are some of them.

It was Ravana, the eldest of Kubera's half-brothers, who stole Pushpak from him and made use of it to further his nefarious activities. The accounts of his misdeeds with the aid of the magic chariot are amply narrated in the Ramayana. First, Ravana abducted Sita, Rama's wife, from her cottage in a forest to his capital in Lanka where he held her captive. When Rama attacked Lanka to rescue his wife, Ravana used Pushpak to parry Rama's forays until Rama, Vishnu's seventh incarnation, at last overcame the evil king's forces and used Kubera's magic chariot to transport himself with his wife back to his kingdom in Ayodhya. After that the fantastic contraption was back in the hands of the dwarf god who again began going about his usual business of consolidating the wealth of the worlds.

The tale of how Ravana and his other two brothers were conceived is also an interesting story. The fabulous city of Lanka was built by Vishwakarma and the Rakshasas, the demons of Indian mythology, got hold of it. For some reason or another, the Rakshasas annoyed Vishnu who decided to attack the city. The evil ones fled because, although Lanka was the best fortified and richest city in the world at that time, they feared that it was still not safe enough against an attack by a god of Vishnu's stature. At this time Kubera, always the opportunist, took over the ghost city and settled there with his own attendants. This was not for long for as soon as Vishnu was pacified, the Rakshasas became determined to get their city back from the deformed god. They sent a beautiful maiden to seduce Kubera's father. She succeeded and from their union was born the three half-brothers of Kubera. Ravana, like quite a few notorious Rakshasas before and after him, performed stringent austerities which earned him the boon of invincibility from Shiva. With this boon he ultimately defeated his own half-brother Kubera and got back the city of Lanka for his people, the Rakshasas. After the loss of this luxurious asset Kubera approached Vishwakarma with the request of creating a residence for him. The builder god conceived for him a palace on Mount Kailash, in the Himalayas. The opulent palace was an appropriate abode for Kubera as it was in the north, the portion of the globe of which he was the guardian. Of course, as guardian of the treasures of the gods and the nine Nidhis, special treasures of indefinite significance, Kubera had for himself the most splendid city in the world on Mount Mandara, a mythical mountain in the Himalayas. Within this city, Alakapuri, is the most beautiful garden in the world, Chaitraratha. Both are a part of the many sybaritic possessions of Kubera.

Kubera is assisted in his duties by his constant attendants, the Kinnaras, male creatures, and their female counterparts, the Kinnoris.


Article details:

  • Also known as:
    Kuvera

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