Pretas, and other demonic spirits, called pisachas, also appear dancing
among the dead and wounded on battlefields, or in burial grounds. They
personify the forces of darkness, cruelty, violence and death as do the
yatudhanas, guardians of Kubera’s mountain. The yatudhanas are associated
with aboriginal tribes and are said to have animal hoofs.
Among the other spirits are raksasas, bhairavas, nagas, asuras and
vetalas. Both raksasas and pisachas are hideous, bloodthirsty, nocturnal
eaters of raw flesh. Pisachas may ‘possess’ people, but the Atharva Veda
provides protection against them by means of mantras and specific plants.
Bhairavas are the terror-inspiring attendants of Rudra. Nagas are serpent
deities and guardians of the treasures of the earth. Asuras are skilled in magic
and powerful in battle. In the Rig Veda, asura is synonymous with ‘god’ but
from the later Vedic period onwards the term is applied to demons. Vetalas
resemble vampires who reanimate the dead. Their eerie singing is supposedly
often heard in cemeteries. Vetala is also a term for a kind of black magic.
Other beings belonging to the sphere between man and gods are the
gandharvas, celestial musicians and inspirers of earthly musicians, singers
and dancers. Their female counterparts, the nymph-like apsarasas, the
dancers of the gods, may cause war in men. Both gandharvas and apsarasas
dwell in specific trees.
The yogin is (the female form of yogi) are regarded as witches or
demonesses, which reflects the misogynist attitude prevalent in the larger part
of Indian tradition, and also explains the ban on women attempting to practise
yoga. The yoginis are attendant on Durga and Siva, and are sometimes
regarded as minor epiphanies of Durga. Other demonesses associated with
Durga are the sakinis and dakinis, eaters of raw flesh. The dakinis are
connected with both Buddhist and Hindu Tantrism.
Different Sects of Brahmanism
Along with the appearance of religions of non-theistic nature (heterodox sects
were non-theistic at least in the beginning in the sense that they were more or
less of an ethical character and did not encourage vague enquiries about god
and soul), creeds of a definitely theistic character came to be evolved. The
central figures around which they grew up were not primarily Vedic deities
but come from unorthodox sources. In fact, pre-Vedic and post-Vedic folk