Published on 16th April, 2023, in Mid-day.
The Jaiminiya Brahmana is the prose section of the Sama Veda, composed almost 2,800 years ago. It tells the story of one Yavkri, the first serial rapist and murderer of Hindu mythology.
The text states that Yavakri has the power to attract any woman to him. He seduces them, and then they die. If they reject his advances, they die. In other words, any woman he calls upon will die whether they choose to have sex with him or not. One day, he calls upon a brahmin woman who agrees to go to him. When her husband finds this out, he decides to perform a yagya and create magical creatures to kill Yavakri. The magical creatures include a female and male ogre. The female ogre seduces Yavakri. She then says that she is no ordinary woman by displaying “hair on the soles of her feet”. He is then caught by her husband who decides to kill Yavakri. Yavakri begs for his life. The husband drives Yavakri mad and forces him to kill all the animals in the village. As he goes about killing all the animals in the village, people want to catch hold of Yavakri, lock him or kill him. But Yavakri’s father tries to protect him and casts a spell so that nobody can hurt his son. Unfortunately, a deaf wood cutter does not hear the spell. He sees Yavakri going on a rampage killing the animals in the village. So, he strikes Yavakri dead.
A similar story of Yavakri is found in the Mahabharata where a Rishi called Raibhya enters his house. He is horrified to find Yavakri forcing himself on his daughter-in-law. Raibhya uses the yagya to create the fierce female and male ogre. The female enchants and seduces Yavakri. By seducing him, she makes him unclean, so her husband has the power to kill him. Fearing for his life, Yavakri runs towards his father’s sacrificial ground. But he is not allowed to enter the sacred precinct by a blind servant. Thus, unable to enter and nowhere to escape, he is caught by the ogre who beats him to death.
In both stories, we find Yavakri seducing women. In the older story, he can seduce any woman with his charm, this detail is not found in the Mahabharata. In the older story, the husband creates the monsters who kill Yavakri, while in the Mahabharata it is the father-in-law. In the older story, the father tries to protect the son, but is undone by a deaf woodcutter. In the Mahabharata story, the father’s protection is denied by a blind servant. Thus, the seducer and killer of women is under the protection of his father who loves him, but cannot escape the consequences of his actions. Punishment is rendered through magical creatures, the female who seduces him and renders him impure so that the male can kill him.
This story talks about violence against women, it also talks about a serial rapist and murderer, rather modern concepts when we consider that they are stories from the Vedic period. Jain literature speaks of a serial murderer called Arjun-mali who is driven mad by the sight of his wife getting gangraped until he is cured and cleansed by Mahavir. Buddhist literature speaks of Anguli-mala, a man wrongly accused of seducing his guru’s wife, who becomes a serial killer who collects the thumbs of his victims. He tries his best to kill the Buddha but is unable to catch Buddha. Ultimately, he repents for his terrible crime.