YAKSHAS AND YAKSHINIS
Jains pay their respect to and many worship idols of Jinas for three reasons: 1) He has liberated Himself and attained Moksha, 2) He expounded the path of Liberation and 3) to get an inspiration to become like Him. The only goal of Jainsim is to free ourselves from the worldly sufferings and attain liberation. Jina is a liberated soul, freed of its material body and resides in the top of the universe, called Siddhaloka. The images of Jinas are intended to serve as reminders to the faithful of the possibility of liberation; i.e., they served as role models for both the Jain laity, guiding their ethical code of living, and for the aspirant, Jina providing inspiration and a reminder that spiritual liberation is an attainable goal. As a detached soul, removed from this world, the Jina is incapable of responding to a devotee's prayers or requests. This inability to be interventionist, to respond to the prayers and offerings from the faithful, sets Jina images apart from both all Hindu and most Buddhist deities, who can be called upon to ritually correct approaches by a devotee.
In addition to images of Jinas, we notice images of Yakshas and Yakshinis (deities) in many Jain temples. These deities are seen as neither eternal nor divine, and they themselves are said to be worshippers of the Jina, true devotees of Jina. In addition, these Yakshas and Yakshinis are full of passions and are wandering through the cycles of births and death just like us. Yakshas are males and Yakshinis are females. They are also called Shäshandevtäs (male ones) and Shäshandevis (female ones). They are guardian deities, angels of order. They are heavenly beings of Vyantar group who have supernatural powers including ability to change their forms and sizes. Either these Yakshas and Yakshinis were appointed by Indra (king of heaven) or were positively associated with Tirthankars in their previous lives. Even though, Tirthankars do not require or ask for any protection, these Yakshas and Yakshinis looked after Tirthankars and came back to protect the Jainism when it became necessary.
The earlier scriptures like the Sthanangasutra, Utradhyayansutra, Bhagwatisutra, Tattvarthsutra, Antagadasasaosutra, and Paumacariya have frequent references to Yakshas and Yakhinis. Many Jains pay their respect to these Yakshas and Yakhinis for having them provided protection to Tirthankars and to the existence of Jainism. These are the reasons, they are found around the images of Jinas as well as their individual images in many Jain temples. Yaksha usually found on the right side of the Jina idol while Yakshini on the left side. In Jain temples, they are never situated in superior physical locations in relation to images of the Jinas. These are benevolent Yakshas and Yakhinis. There are also malevolent Yakshas and Yakhinis who caused sufferings to Tirthankars and troubles to Jains and existence of Jainism. For example, Yaksha Sulpani troubled Lord Mahavira in his mediation and inflicted much sufferings. And there are similar stories in which malevolent Yakshas troubled others as well. We Jains do not pay our respects or worship Yakshas and Yakhinis for the material gains, favor and freedom from fear, illness and disease. We do pay our respect to them for their service to Tirthankars and Jainism. Asking for materialistic gains from them will be quite opposite of the teachings of Jinas.
The followings provide the brief description of commonly found Yakshas and Yakhinis in Jain temples:
She is the dedicated attendant deity of lord Adinath (Rishabhadev). She is also called by another name i.e. Apratichakra. The color of this goddess is golden. Her Vehicle is the eagle. She has eight arms. In her four right hands she holds the blessing mudrä (posture), arrow, rope and wheel. In her four left hands she holds the rein, the bow, the protective weapon of Indra and the wheel.
She is the dedicated deity of Lord Neminath the 22nd Tirthankara. She is also called Ambai Amba and Amra Kushmandini. Her color is golden and the lion is her vehicle. She has four arms. In her two right hands she carries a mango and in the other a branch of a mango tree. In her one left hand she carries a rein and in the other she has her two sons.
She is the dedicated deity of Lord Parshvanath, the 23rd Tirthankara. Her color is golden and her vehicle is the snake with a cock's head. She has four arms and her two right hands hold a lotus and a rosary. The two left hands hold a fruit and a rein.
Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, is considered to be the source of all the learning. This divine energy is the source of spiritual light, remover of all ignorance and promoter of all knowledge. She is respected and adored by all the faiths, worldly persons and saints. She has four arms, one holding a book, the other a rosary and two hands holding a musical instrument Veenä. Her seat is a lotus and the peacock is her vehicle representing equanimity in prosperity. In some places it is mentioned that the swan is her vehicle.
Goddess Lakshmi represents the wealth. The people worship her as the goddess of wealth, power, money etc. In the upper two hands, she is holding a lotus with an elephant, in the lower right hand a rosary and in the lower left hand a pot.
Shri Manibhadra is originally a Yaksha, worshipped by Indian masses since very old times and his introduction to Jain worship is only a later adaptation. It is an image of six armed Yaksha with an elephant as his vehicle.
This deity is worshipped for the protection and for driving away the evil influence created by the lower types of negative energy. His arrow indicates penetration of evil forces. The bow gives forceful momentum to the arrow. His symbol is the bell that resounds to create auspicious sounds in the atmosphere. Sometimes the people who are not aware of the facts call him by mistake Ghantakarna Mahavira that creates confusion between Lord Mahavira and Ghantakarna Veer. He is not connected to Lord Mahävir in any way.
This is the tutelary deity of Bhairava. This deity is usually found near the entrance of the temple. People from far and near, visit the shrine and make offerings to the deity on fulfillment of their material desires. It is the positive force around the temple.
This deity is in the shape of a mountain. It is the natural positive energy of the mountain Sametshikharji. This energy inspires and guides the believers and the travelers.
Reference: "Jain symbols, Ceremonies and Practices" by Pramodaben Chitrabhanu.