This verse of Rigveda mentions a class of beings called Yatudhanas:

  1. I balm with oil the mighty Rakṣas-slayer; to the most famous Friend I come for shelter Enkindled, sharpened by our rites, may Agni protect us in the day and night from evil. 2 O Jātavedas with the teeth of iron, enkindled with thy flame attack the demons. Seize with thy tongue the foolish gods' adorers: rend, put within thy mouth the raw-flesh caters. 3 Apply thy teeth, the upper and the lower, thou who hast both, enkindled and destroying. Roam also in the air, O King, around us, and with thy jaws assail the wicked spirits. 4 Bending thy shafts through sacrifices, Agni, whetting their points with song as if with whetstones, Pierce to the heart therewith the Yātudhānas, and break their arms uplifed to attack thee. 5 Pierce through the Yātudhāna's skin, O Agni; let the destroying dart with fire consume him. Rend his joints, Jātavedas, let the cater of flesh, flesh-seeking, track his mangled body.

There are similar other verses that point to these demons being a class of Rakshasas that may be especially susceptible to fire. From the above verse we can also surmise that they eat flesh and fly in the air but I haven't come across any specific Yatudhana story.

So my question is - Who are these demonic beings & are there any stories related to them in any other scriptures?


3 Answers 3


A Yatudhana is a type of Rakshasa. The demoness created by by the king Vrishadarbhi is referred to as both a Yatudhani and a Rakshasi in this chapter of the Anushasana Parva of the Mahabharata:

Thus addressed by his ministers, king Vrishadarbhi became filled with wrath against all those Rishis. Indeed, to take vengeance upon them, the monarch entered his own chamber. Observing the austerest of penances, he poured on his sacred fire libations of ghee, accompanying each with Mantras uttered by him. From that fire there then arose as the result of the incantation, a form capable of striking every one with fear. Vrishadarbhi named her as Yatudhani. That form which had been from the incantations of the king, looking as terrible as the Last Night, appeared with joined hands before the monarch. Addressing king Vrishadarbhi, she said, 'What shall I accomplish?'" Vrishadarbhi said, 'Go and follow the seven Rishis, as also Arundhati, and the husband of their maid-servant, and the maid-servant herself, and comprehend what the meanings are of their names. Having ascertained their names, do thou slay all of them. After slaying them thou mayst go whatever destination thou likest.' ...Saying, 'So be it! the Rakshasi who had been named Yatudhani, in her proper form, proceeded to that forest in which the great Rishis wandered in search of food.

And the Rakshasas that Ghatotkacha brings to the Mahabharata war are referred to in this chapter of the Drona Parva as being of two types, Paulastya and Yatudhana:

The son of Hidimva was accompanied by those fierce followers of his, with frightful faces and heads and necks. Those Rakshasas consisted of both Paulastyas and Yatudhanas.

Paulastyas refers to those Rakshasas who, like Ravana, are descendants of Paulastya' son Vishravas. But Ravana's wife Mandodari is a granddaughter of a Yatudhana, as she says in this chapter of the Yuddha Kanda of the Ramayana:

prasupta iva śokārtāṃ kiṃ māṃ na pratibhāṣase |
mahāvīryasya dakṣasya saṃyugeṣvapalāyinaḥ ||
yātudhānasya dauhitra kiṃ māṃ na pratibhāṣase |

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    @Dr.VineetAggarwal I think Yatudhanas just refer to all Rakshasas who are not descended from Pulastya. Jan 3, 2018 at 7:14
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    @Dr.VineetAggarwal This book says it literally means traveling spirit: books.google.co.in/books/… I guess that refers to the fact that Rakshasas roam around causing mayhem. Jan 3, 2018 at 8:54
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    @Dr.VineetAggarwal The Amarapadavivrtti says 'Yaatooni Yaatanaah Teevravedanaah Dheeyanta Asmin Iti' - "Great Pain and Torture are their refuge" - OR - 'Yaatuna Dheeyate Atra Iti' - "They are the refuge of great pain". In short, they are known as Yatudhanas because of their tendency to inflict suffering.
    – Surya
    Jan 3, 2018 at 8:57
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    OK, found from other sources that this are explanations of the amarakosha. Will check this out. Jan 4, 2018 at 4:16
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    @user1952500 in particular this is the commentary by the scholar Lingayasuri.
    – Surya
    Jan 5, 2018 at 5:22

According to Brahmanda Purana, Volume 2, Chapter 7, Yatudhana was the daughter of Jantudhana. She belongs to a class of Pishacha.

80-82. On seeing the Raksasa seized (and brought near) by their daughters, the Pisacas asked him- (Who are you ?) To whom do you belong?' And he told them everything. On hearing the activities and the lineage of that Raksasa, Aja and Sanda handed over their daughters to him. Being pleased with his activities, they gave him their daughters (in marriage).

83-84. Even as the girls were crying, the Raksasa married them in accordance with the marital rites called Paisaca (pertaining to the Pisacas). Aja and Sanda then proclaimed the assets and riches of their daughters. W Sanda spoke (first)-This splendid girl who is conducive to your welfare is Brahmadhana (having Brahmanas as her wealth ?) by name. Brahmanas constitute her greatest (staple) diet.'

  1. Aja then announced the assets (of his daughter). “This girl with the insects clinging to all the limbs like hair is Jantudhana by name. She is capable of seizing the riches of all creatures.’

  2. The girl who was called Jantudhana had profuse growth of hair all over her body. She was capable of producing a great roar. She gave birth to a girl Yatudhana.

  3. The girl who was called Brahmadhana was red in colour. She was bereft of hair. She too was capable of producing a great roar. She gave birth to Brahmadhanas (or Brahmadhamā).

  4. Thus the two daughters of Pisacas gave birth to children. Know them as I recount their creation of progeny.

89-90. Yätudhänähad these ten Räksasas asher soms viz. Heti, Praheti, Ugra, Pauruseya, Vadha, Vidyutsphürja,* Väta, Aya, Vyaghra and Surya (? Sarpa in verse 97).

According to Shrimada Bhagavatam, Canto 8, Chapter 1, Yatudhana had tried to devour Svayambhuva Manu when he was doing penance.

śrī-śuka uvāca
iti mantropaniṣadaṁ
vyāharantaṁ samāhitam
dṛṣṭvāsurā yātudhānā
jagdhum abhyadravan kṣudhā

Synonyms: śrī-śukaḥ uvāca — Śrī Śukadeva Gosvāmī said; iti — thus; mantra-upaniṣadam — the Vedic mantra (uttered by Svāyambhuva Manu); vyāharantam — taught or chanted; samāhitam — concentrated the mind (without being agitated by material conditions); dṛṣṭvā — upon seeing (him); asurāḥ — the demons; yātudhānāḥ — the Rākṣasas; jagdhum — desired to devour; abhyadravan — running very fast; kṣudhā — to satisfy their appetite.

Translation: Śukadeva Gosvāmī continued: Svāyambhuva Manu was thus in a trance, chanting the mantras of Vedic instruction known as the Upaniṣads. Upon seeing him, the Rākṣasas and asuras, being very hungry, wanted to devour him. Therefore they ran after him with great speed.

But in above verse, translator has translated Yatudhan as Rakshasas.

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    Thanks so this sort of corroborates them belonging to the rakshasa clan. Since Jatudhana a pishach girl was married to a rakshas, her daughter would probably be half pishach-half rakhsasi too. Jan 4, 2018 at 7:24
  • Yes, I think half Pisachi and half Rakshasi kind of. Jan 4, 2018 at 7:29

I was pleasantly surprised to find an answer in the Brahmand Puran regarding not just Yatudhanas but all the major groups of Rakshasas. Though I have accepted the answer by Keshav earlier still sharing the information here for others who may be interested.

Aiḍaviḍa (i.e. Kubera), the descendent of Pulastya, who was Savyapiṅgala (? Tawny-coloured in the left side) became the king of all Yakṣas, all those Rākṣasas who were the descendants of Pulastya, and of all those cruel Brahmarākṣasas belonging to the families of Agastya and Viśvāmitra who still carried on the study of the Vedas and who performed regularly penances and holy rites.

The other three groups of Rākṣasas were the performers of Yajñas. They were Yātudhānas, Brahmadhānas and Vārtās. They were moving about during the day time and they were not nocturnal wanderers like other demons. Their four groups are remembered by the wise (learned men).

So it seems there were some Rakshas tribes that followed the Vedic injunctions and roamed around in the day time while others were night-dwellers and opposed to the Vedic teachings.

They were Niśācaras (moving about at night), They were Paulastyas (descendants of Pulastya), Nairṛtas, Āgastyas and Kauśikas. Thus it is remembered that there were seven classes (communities) of those Rākṣasas. I shall describe their form and features inherited by them naturally.

The next verses actually give a detailed description of their look and habits:

They are tawny-coloured and have round eyes. They have big bellies and huge bodies. They have eight-curved fanglike teeth and pikelike ears. Their hairs stand upright. Their mouths appear as though slit open upto the ears (on either side). Their smoke-coloured upright hairs are like the Muñja grass. They have large thick heads shedding bright lustre. Their thighs and forearms are short. Their faces are copper-coloured. Their tongues and lips hang down. Their brows appear dangling. Their noses are thick.

They have blue (black) limbs with red necks. Their eyes are majestic and they appear terrible. Their voice and tone are extremely terrible. Their calves are hideous and rolled up. They are stout and have prominently protruding noses. They are firm and have sturdy bodies like rocks. They arc cruel and terrible ever since their birth. Generally they are consistent in their activities.

They put on (ornaments like) earrings, armlets and coronets. They bedeck themselves in diverse kinds of ornaments. They wear many kinds of garlands and use all types of fragrant scents and unguents. They are remembered as habitual eaters of cooked rice, meat and even human flesh. Thus is remembered the similarity in forms and features of demons by learned men. They are unequalled in strength, intelligence and ability to fight using the deceptive power of Māyā (or black magic).

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    Quite amazing. Could be descriptions of creatures encountered in the forests encountered by the Rigvedic tribes.
    – ajitdas
    Sep 14, 2023 at 12:36

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