Kanjirottu Yakshi: Blood Drinking Tale of Kerala

In every culture, there are stories about monstrous meetings especially related to travel and night. This representation can be understood as a figurative expression of the cultural anxiety of facing the unknown. In medieval Kerala, there are plenty of narratives about ‘Yakshis’ who were normally depicted as gorgeous women who are ready for sexual adventures to entrap and drink blood from lustful men and it starts from a woman who wants to have a ‘paan’ in the night.

The Kanjirottu Yakshi in the B vault of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple. The photo was taken from the Facebook account of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple

One of the favorite Yakshis of Kerala is a folkloric deity known as Kanjirottu Yakshi also known as Chiruthevi or Sreedevi. She was born into a rich Nair tharavad by the name Mangalathu Sreedevi in Southern Travancore. She was a well-known courtesan who had fun with the lives of her many wooers due to her beauty and she used to ruin them by exploiting them. She had a maid by the name Kunjiraman (palanquin-bearer), he was said to be a tall and well-built youthful man. The job of Kunjiraman was to carry Sreedevi and her brother Govindan on his back. Very soon Sreedevi fell in love with Kunjiraman but Kunjiraman got already married on the other side, Govindan and Kunjiraman were close friends. To get Kunjiraman, Sreedevi planned to kill his wife but Govindan got to know this and he told Kunjiraman. Kunjiraman agreed to sleep with Sreedevi and killed her. Following her death, she was reborn into a Yakshi and then, started to seduce-terrorize men and drink their blood.

When she started following Kunjiraman, to help him Govindan a devotee of Lord Balarama made a deal with her. The deal was she will get Kunjiraman for a year but after that, she has to become a devotee of Narasimha and build a temple where she has to pray for Govindan and Kunjiraman. She was installed at a temple that was later owned by Kanjiracottu Valiaveedu and known as Kanjiracottu Valiaveedu Temple. Where the devotees used to give ‘Pongala’ to the Sreedevi Yakshi Amma on Pooram on the first Friday in every Malayalam month except Meenom.

Nowadays, she is believed to live in the B vault of the ancient Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. B vault is one of the six vaults of the temple and in 2011 following the Supreme Court’s order five of them were opened and were found to be one of the largest treasure troves in the world. But the B vault remains unopened remarking it is a “secret and sacred place” and opening the B vault will make Sreedevi Yakshi angry because it will interrupt her prayers to Lord Narasimha. Some of the legendary stories say that in B vault there are more immense treasures than what is found now. But till the Sreedevi resides there it will get protected and her prayers to Lord Narasimha go on.

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