Kubera – God of Wealth: Introduction
Kubera – God of Wealth: In the Vedic era, people worshipped nature and the Cosmic elements. Later on, they began worshipping deities who had distinct personalities and various aspects and formed the Saakar aspect of the Ultimate Reality Brahman. These deities were exhibited as various Murtis or idols and were venerated by the masses according to their personal choice. They felt that constant worship and prayer to their chosen deity could establish a close rapport with them. This would enable the deity to help them during times of crisis and fulfil their desires. It was easier for people to relate to a personal deity than comprehend the nature of Brahman. One of the most famous deities of Hinduism is Lord Kubera who is the Lord of Wealth and the King of Yakshas in Hindu mythology. He is considered as the protector of the world (Lokpala) and Lord of the North (Dikpala). The Yakshas were dwarf-like in nature with pot bellies and the laughing Buddha image from Zen Buddhism is closely associated with them. They are very similar to the goblins of Irish folklore and the dwarfs of Viking mythology. They were also considered water Gods hence where there is water, there is said to be wealth. In ancient times, they were considered as creatures of wilderness, worshipped in caves, under trees, next to waterfalls and as religion became more organised they were relegated to the sides of the pantheon of deities. They can be seen today next to the main shrine on the sides of the temple walls. There are a number of legends about Yakshas in Hindu mythology, Buddhism and Jainism.
According to Vastu Shastra, Lord Kubera constructed the first dam in the world on the River Alaknanda for supplying water to his city Alakapuri. The art of gold mining is said to have been initiated by him, hence, all mining work is said to begin after offering prayers to him. The oldest Kubera half statue is said to be about 2000 years old and found in Bharahut. Ploutos or Plutus in Greek Mythology is the God of Wealth similar to Lord Kubera in Hindu tradition.
Lord Kubera is often described as a short person with a pot belly, fair and adorning jewels though different texts interpret him in various forms, sometimes four armed and one-eyed, sometimes carrying a mace and riding a man and at other times riding a goat with his wife Riddhi seated on his left lap. In some texts, he is described as being three legged with eight teeth and one yellow eye and holding a money bag in his hand.
There are different versions regarding the origins of his name. The name Kubera or Kuvera in Sanskrit means ill-shaped one or deformed. Another version states that Kubera may have been derived from the word Kumba meaning to conceal. The name Kuvera can also be split into ‘Ku’ meaning earth and ‘Vira’ meaning hero. He is also called Vaishravana meaning son of Vishrava. ‘Ekaksipingala’ meaning ‘one who has yellow eyes’ and ‘Bhutesha’meaning ‘Lord of Spirits’. Another name is ‘Naravahana’ meaning ‘one whose vehicle is a man’. His other titles are Dhanadhipati (Lord of wealth), Rajaraja (King of Kings), Yaksharaja (King of Yakshas), Guhyadhipa (Lord of the hidden), Dhanada (Giver of wealth) and many other names. The names of Lord Kubera are said to be Alakadhipa, Dhanada, Dhanadeshwara, Dhanadigopta, Dhanadhipa, Dhanadhipati, Dhanadhyaksha, Dhaneshwara, Dravinapati, Gadadhara, Guhyakadhipa, Guhyakadhipati, Kailasanilaya, Naravahana, Nidhipa, Paulastya, Rajaraja, Rajarat, Rakshasadhipati, Rakshaseshwara, Vaishravana, Vittagopta, Vittapati,Vittesha, Yakshadhipa, Yakshodhipati, Yakshapati, Yakshapravara, Yaksharat, Yaksharaja, Yakarakshasabharta, Yaksharadhipa, Trayamabkasakha, Manushyadharma, Kinnaresha, Ekalinga, Ailabila, Shrida, Punyajaneshwara.
In the Vedas
In the Shatapatha Brahmana (a text describing Vedic rituals, history and mythology associated with Yajur Veda), he is called the Lord of thieves and criminals. In the Atharva Veda, he is referred to as the son of Vaishravana and the Chief of Spirits of darkness or evil spirits. He is considered to be an Asura (demon) and prayers are offered to him at the end of all ritual sacrifices. The early texts Apastamba and Gautama Dharmashastra describe him as a man. Later the Grihyasutras of Hiranyakesin and Shankhayana refer to him as a God who can be propitiated with sesame seeds, flowers and meat. Mahakavi Kalidas’s Meghadoota describes the darbar of Lord Kubera.
In the Puranas
Here, Kubera is referred to as a God, the Lord of riches, a Lokpala and Dikpala, a treasurer of the Gods, Lord of the Yakshas, Guhyakas, Gandharvas and Kinnaras. Kubera is said to be married to the daughter of the demon Mura called Bhadra and she is also known by other names as Kauberi or Yakshi or Charvi or Riddhi. They had three sons, Nalakubera, Varnakavi (or Manigriva) and Mayuraja along with a daughter called Minakshi. The Bhagavata Purana mentions the story of the just King Muchukunda whose Kshatriya Dharma and ideal qualities were honoured by Kubera.
In the Ramayana
Kubera was considered as the son of Brahma and the ruler of Alakapuri. He is said to be a worshipper and close associate of Lord Shiva and is also called Isasakha. His wife is called Hariti or Yakshi meaning ‘the stealer’. The tale of Ravana was said to be related by Sage Agasthya to Lord Rama. The grandson of Lord Brahma was Vishrava whose father was Sage Pulastya. He had two wives, Mandakini and Kaikasi. Kubera was the son of Mandakini while Kaikasi had three sons Ravana, Kumbhakarna and Vibheeshana. Lanka was built by the divine architect Vishwakarma and Kubera ruled over it. One day Kubera came to see his parents in the Pushpak Vimana vehicle. After he returned to Lanka, Ravana was much impressed by his royal appearance and asked his mother Kaikasi who he was. She told him that he was his powerful step brother Kubera and is said to have goaded him on his puny and meaningless existence. Ravana then decided to perform austerities to become powerful. He is said to have performed severe penances for ten thousand years by fixing his gaze on the sun and standing on one foot. Lord Brahma pleased with his devotion granted him his desire. Ravana then began tormenting the Gods and they fled from heaven. He then drove away Kubera from Lanka and took his vehicle Pushpak Vimana too. The Gods then rushed to Lord Brahma who was helpless and took them to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva then took them to Lord Vishnu who promised them that he would be reborn as Rama and destroy Ravana. Meanwhile, Ravana had threatened the Gods that anyone who provided shelter to Kubera would be destroyed. Hence, no one dared give refuge to Kubera. Kubera then went to his grandfather Pulasthya for advice. Pulasthya asked him to go to the banks of the Goutami Ganga River and propitiate Lord Shiva. Shiva then appeared and blessed him. Kubera (some legends state Shiva) then approached Vishwakarma who is said to have built Kubera the beautiful city Alakapuri and the most beautiful garden Chaitraratha. According to Uttar Ramayana after the battle between Kubera and Ravana at Alakapuri, Ravana ransacked the place and carried away many precious items.
Another legend in the Ramayana states that Rambha, the Queen of the Apsaras who was the wife of Nalakuber, the son of Kubera cursed Ravana (some legends state that Nalakuber cursed him) when he violated her honour stating that his head would burst into pieces if he dared to take a woman against her will. This curse protected the chastity of Sita when she was kidnapped by Ravana.
In the Mahabharata
Sage Narada is said to have related the story of Lord Kubera to Yudhishtira in the Vanaparva of the Mahabharata which describes the beauty of Kubera’s city Alakapuri. Lanka was in the South and when Ravana drove away Kubera to the North and took control of Lanka, Kubera established A-Lanka, implying the city that was not Lanka, hence it came to be known as A-lakapuri. In Vastu Shastra, South is associated with death and change, implying Rakshasas while the North is associated with prosperity, permanence and growth, implying Yakshas. A number of stories related to Kubera are found in the Mahabharata. On Sage Vyasa’s advice, Arjuna performed severe penances in the forest during exile to pray for divine weapons. Pleased with his devotion and steadfastness Shiva gave him the Pasupatastra and all the other Gods too gave him their weapons. Kubera gave him the Anthardhyanastra, a special weapon which was said to confer on them the wealth of the earth and heavens and which would prove useful to the Pandavas after victory in the battle against the Kauravas.
When Kubera heard about Ravana’s atrocities, he sent a messenger asking Ravana to refrain from committing evil acts. But Ravana was furious and killing the messenger fed his body to the demons. In anger, he set off to Alakapuri to fight Kubera. A fierce battle ensued between Kubera and Ravana in which Kubera fell unconscious. The Yakshas then carried away Kubera to safety.
In another instance, as mentioned in Chapter 161 of the Vanaparva, Kubera was proceeding to attend a religious programme organised by the Devas with his friend and the leader of his army Maniman on his divine flying chariot. On the way, they spotted Sage Agasthya performing worship on the banks of the River Kalindi. When Maniman spat, it landed on Agasthya’s head which made the sage furious. He cursed Maniman that he would be destroyed along with his army at the hands of a human and Lord Kubera would be cursed to watch it in grief. On having a glimpse of the human, Kubera would be free of the curse. Kubera is said to have consoled the Pandavas during their exile. They heard how once Rama lost consciousness during his war with Ravana. Kubera sent the yaksha Guhyaka to him with holy water which revived Rama. The Mahabharata also relates the story of Ashtavakra and his journey to Mount Kailash. On his way, he was welcomed by Kubera who entertained and refreshed him after his long journey in his palace Alakapuri.
Kubera’s earlier life
This story has been related in the Shiva Purana. There lived a pious Brahmin named Yajnadutta who had a son named Gunanidhi. As the boy grew up, he fell into bad company and took to evil habits. Once he stole a gold ring which his father had given to his mother for safekeeping when he went for his bath to a river. He then used the money for gambling. Unfortunately, his father saw the ring in the hand of the person who bought it and when he learnt his son’s evil deed he decided to confront him. When Gunanidhi realised that his father was upset he ran away from home to avoid confrontation. He roamed around for a few days and finally hungry and tired rested against a tree. Suddenly he saw and smelt food offerings being made at a nearby Shiva temple. After the devotees fell asleep, he crept into the sanctum sanctorum where the offerings had been placed. Noticing the flame in the lamp beginning to flicker off as the wick had been extinguished, he tore a strip of his attire, dipped it in oil and using it as a substitute wick, lit the lamp. Then he grabbed the bundle of food offering and hurried out. In his haste he stumbled against a sleeping devotee who raised the alarm and Gunanidhi was caught. They began beating him with a stick and when a fatal blow struck his head, Gunanidhi expired. When the attendants of Yama came to take away his soul to hell due to his past misdeeds, the attendants of Shiva (Ganas) prevented them as his last pious act had redeemed him. He was then reborn as Damana, the son of the King of Utkala and led a life of piety, nobility and devotion. The accumulation of all his pious acts then finally led him to be born as the son of Pulasthya who was the grandson of Lord Brahma. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and pleased with his intense prayers, he was blessed by Shiva who named him Kubera and conferred on him the title and position of Lord of Wealth.
Kubera and the mongoose
Kubera was worshipped extensively and was very popular in Ancient India. He was considered a guardian and the God of fertility. He was said to have two wives Riddhi, the Goddess of growth and Nidhi, the Goddess of accumulation. He was said to have a golden mongoose in his hand which spat out gems every time it opened its mouth. Mongooses are the enemies of snakes, indicating the ancient Nagas who were said to have attacked Kubera for the purpose of stealing his wealth and was ultimately saved by Lord Shiva. He was said to be Nara Vahana, indicating that unlike other Gods who had animals as vehicles, Kubera’s vehicle was a man. Symbolically it indicated that man had become a slave to wealth. Even to this day, people who catch sight of a mongoose feel lucky as it heralds the acquisition of wealth or money (Dhanlabh).
Kubera’s sons and Krishna
Once, the sons of Kubera, Nalakuber and Manigriva were in the company of their wives and failed to notice the arrival of Sage Narada. Narada felt insulted and cursed them into becoming two Arjuna trees in Gokul Dham forever. The wives were shocked and falling at the sage’s feet begged for mercy. Narada relented and as he could not take back his curse stated that they would be released from their curse when Lord Vishnu took his Avatar as Krishna. Once, Krishna was tied up by Yashoda to a wooden mortar as she had punished him for his naughty pranks. Krishna dragged the mortar between the trees and when it got stuck in between, he heaved it forward and due to the force of the pull, the trees got uprooted and crashed to the ground. Kubera’s sons then emerged from the trees, free of the curse. They bowed to Krishna in reverence and seeking his permission, they returned to their heavenly abode.
Kubera’s Nava Nidhis
The Nava Nidhis of Kubera constitute the nine treasures of Hindu civilisation. They are Padma (meaning Lotus implying lake in Himalayas with minerals and jewels), Maha Padma (meaning Great Lotus implying a lake double in size of the Padma in the Himalayas with minerals and jewels), turtle/tortoise shell (Kacchapa), Conch shell (Shankha), Baked vessels (Kharva), quicksilver or a kind of precious stone (Kumud), Black Antimony (Makara), Arsenic to produce bell metal (Kunda), Antimony or blue sapphire (Nila).
This book carries basic guidelines and discussions about life similar to those given in Vidur Niti, Chanakya Niti and Shukra Niti. It stresses on the acquisition and use of wealth for noble means without exploitation and slavery.
Kubera and Hanuman
When Hanuman as a child flew up to the sky to eat the sun thinking of it as a fruit, Lord Indra hit him with his Vajra. This angered his father, the Wind God Vayu who withdrew air from the universe creating panic. All the Gods along with Brahma approached Vayu and prayed to him to relent. Then every God gave Hanuman a boon. Kubera gave him the boon that he would never suffer from loss of mental courage in any battlefield and Kubera’s own mace would never be able to harm him.
Kubera and Bhima
Once the Pandavas on their exile reached a beautiful place, scenic and picturesque, so settling there they had a pleasant time. One day, Draupadi was sitting enthralled at the beauty of nature when a thousand petalled lotus was carried to her by the wind. Its beauty and fragrance fascinated her and when Bhima approached her, Draupadi expressed her desire for more of such flowers. Bhima immediately decided to fulfil her desire and heroically set out. On the way, he was tested by Hanuman who then directed him to the flowers called the Sougandhika flowers. The lake where the flowers grew was guarded by the Yakshas who were the servants of Kubera. Bhima refused to listen to them and killed hundreds of them. When they rushed to inform Kubera, he divined that it was Bhima and asked the guards to permit him to pluck the flowers. Meanwhile worried about Bhima, his brothers Yudhistira, Nakula, Sahadeva and wife Draupadi (as Arjuna had gone to perform austerities) came in search of him and reunited with him happily. Kubera invited all of them to spend a few days in his beautiful palace after which they left with his blessings. Since Maniman and the army were destroyed, Kubera was also free from Agastya’s curse.
Kubera and Parvati
Once Kubera went to Mount Kailash to have darshan of Lord Shiva and was stunned by the beauty and splendour of Goddess Parvati. One of his eyes closed at the sight and Parvati felt that Kubera was inappropriately looking at her. She cursed him to have one eye and to look ugly. Kubera pleaded with Shiva that he was innocent. Shiva then decided to leave the decision to Parvati. She let him have his eye back though it was smaller than the other eye. Some legends state that it was yellow in colour; hence Kubera is also referred to as Pingaksha. They then blessed him to be the Lord of the North direction and God of all wealth and prosperity.
Kubera and Ganesha
Once Kubera became proud of his wealth and decided to show off his stature to Lord Shiva and Parvati. He went to Mount Kailash and invited them to his house for a meal. Shiva and Parvati wished to humble his pride. They smilingly asked him to invite Ganesha instead. Kubera laughed, looking at little Ganesha thinking that he could feed thousands of children like him. Ganesha duly went to Kubera’s palace and sat down to eat. To Kubera’s astonishment, Ganesha continued to eat till the royal kitchens had no more food to offer. He then brought more food from all over the kingdom but still Ganesha’s hunger was unappeased. Ganesha then began to eat all the utensils, furniture and declared that as he was still hungry, he would have to eat Kubera. The shocked Kubera ran to Shiva and Parvati and begged them to save him. Shiva then asked Kubera to eschew all his pride and feed Ganesha a handful of rice. Kubera went back to his palace and with all humility placed a cup of rice in front of Ganesha. Ganesha smiled and ate the rice which satisfied his hunger. Lord Kubera learnt a valuable lesson on the folly of pride and bowed down to Ganesha.
Kubera’s loan to Vishnu
On one occasion, Sage Bhrigu was entrusted the task of selecting the most deserving God from Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. When he found Brahma and Shiva unsuitable, he entered Vishnu’s abode. Vishnu was resting with his consort Lakshmi and did not notice Bhrigu. This enraged him and he kicked Vishnu on his chest with his foot. Vishnu immediately apologised to Bhrigu and pacified thus, he left Vaikunta. But Lakshmi was upset and left Vaikunta and went to earth. Vishnu searched for her but could not find her. Finally, he took birth as Srinivasa when Lakshmi took birth as Padmavati. Once when Srinivasa was chasing a wild elephant, it entered the garden where Padmavati and her maids were present. It then saluted the Lord and vanished. At the sight of Padmavati, the Lord was entranced and wished to marry her. His mother Vakula Devi (Yashoda reborn) then approached the King for Padmavati’s hand who on the advice of Sage Brihaspati agreed to the wedding. Lord Kubera is then said to have offered a heavy loan to Srinivasa for wedding expenses and Srinivasa agreed that the loan would be repaid by the end of Kaliyuga with interest.
Lord Kubera is the great God of wealth and hence is also known as Ratna Garbha (womb of jewels). He is said to be in supreme command of all the riches in the world. He is generally worshipped along with Goddess Lakshmi who is the Goddess of wealth. Devotees worship an idol of Lord Kubera or the money chest (safe) which represents him. All items of the puja are generally yellow in colour like the clothes of the devotee, the asan and the idol and the puja is referred to as Pitambar Prayog. A ghee lamp with five wicks pointing to the five different directions is lit. The bhog and Prasad offered to the Lord is honey, jaggery, kheer and five dry fruits or Panchmewa. The flowers offered are rose and lotus (red and yellow coloured). The 108 names of Lord Kubera are chanted. In North India, Kuber Puja is done to safeguard the health and well-being of babies with the Balraksha Mantra. Yogis who wish to activate their Kundalini generally wear the Rudraksh Kuber chain. In Tamil Nadu, a whole month is dedicated to the worship of Lord Kubera. In South India, a rangoli called Kubera Kolam is drawn on Tuesdays and Fridays with rice flour to please the Lord as he is said to watch over the Earth’s store house of all wealth.
A yantra is a powerful symbol, a talisman and a tangible manifestation of a Deity. It consists of a geometric design engraved on a metal plate of copper, silver or gold. Installing and meditating on a properly energised Kubera Yantra, consistently with great faith and discipline is said to improve the financial position of the seeker and bring wealth and good health. Kubera is also said to protect devotees from black magic and effects of evil spirits.
Kubera Gayatri Mantra
Om Yaksha Rajaya Vidmahe
Tanno Kuberah Prachodayat
Let us pray to Lord Kubera, the King of Yakshas and the son of Vaishravana. May he bestow wealth and fortune on us.
This is a popular prayer comprising of four hymns from the Vedas and is sung as the final prayer at the end of Arathis of which the second hymn is in honour of Lord Kubera.
Om Raajaadhiraajaaya Prasahyasaahine
Namo Vayam Vaishravanaaya Kurmahe
Sa Me Kaamaan Kaamakaamaaya Mahyakaameshwaro Vaishravano Dadaatu
O, King of Kings, Victorious Conqueror, Descendant of Vishravas, May he fulfil my desires, I bow to him, the great King Kubera.
This day marks the birthday of Lord Kubera. Prayers are offered to him on this day all over the country.
This day is also celebrated as Dhantrayodashi and is dedicated to Lord Kubera. It is the first day of the five-day festival of Diwali in North and West India and is also known as Dhanalakshmi Pooja in South India. The Kubera Lakshmi Puja is performed by all devotees and gold is purchased on this day.
On Vijayadashmi day, the Bidi or the Apta leaves representing gold are distributed among relatives and friends. According to a legend in Ramayana, a young man named Kautsa insisted on giving Guru Dakshina to his Guru after completing his education. In spite of the Guru’s resistance the disciple insisted so, to get rid of him the Guru asked him for 14 crore gold coins. Kautsa then approached Lord Rama for the money and the Lord with the help of Kubera showered the leaves of the Apta tree which turned into gold coins near which Kautsa was waiting patiently for three days. Overjoyed Kautsa took all the gold coins and after paying his Guru the required amount distributed the rest to the needy. This happened on Vijayadashmi day; hence, people distribute the leaves as gold (Sonpatta).
There are a number of temples in all states of India dedicated to Lord Kubera. Some of the famous temples are –
Dhopeshwar Mahadev Temple in Madhya Pradesh
This temple depicts the bonding between Lord Shiva and Kubera and shows a unique idol of both of them together.
Kubera Bhandari Temple in Gujarat
This temple referred to as Kubereshwar is located on the banks of the River Narmada where Lord Kubera was said to have performed his penance. It was built 2500 years ago by Lord Shiva who had also organised a free food distribution (Bhandara) at this place. A yatra is held every Amavasya (No Moon Day) and Somavati (No moon day on Monday) which is attended by thousands of pilgrims.
Kuber Tirtha, Thanesar
This Tirtha is located on the banks of River Saraswati near Faridkot House in Thanesar, Haryana and is dedicated to Lord Kubera. A dip in the holy river is said to make a pilgrim wealthy and prosperous. Some legends state that it was here that Kubera performed severe penances to propitiate Lord Shiva and ultimately won his grace.
In Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, the statue of Lord Kubera has a striking resemblance to the Laughing Buddha or Happy Man. There are temples dedicated to Kubera all over the world generally in conjunction with Goddess Lakshmi or Lord Shiva.
One of the most important deities worshipped by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains is Lord Kubera, the Lord of Wealth. Wealth in Hinduism is one of the four Purusharthas namely Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha and is a prerequisite for satisfying all desires and live a life of happiness. Hence, Lord Kubera is propitiated with pujas, mantras and yantras. Good fortune and luck is said to follow all those who pray to him with faith and devotion. All the deities of Hinduism encourage man to meditate on them to fulfil all desires leading him ultimately to a life of piety, humility and self-realisation.