I have had quite an influx of followers from India as of late so I am continuing to research Vampire lore from that region. As a welcome, I am writing today about the handsome devil to the left of the page. This guy is what is known as a Rakshasa.
The legend states that the Rakshasas were created from the breath of Brahma when he was asleep at the end of Satya Yuga, the age of truth when humanity is governed by Gods. It is said that as soon as they were created, the Rakshasas were so bloodthirsty that they began to eat Brahma himself! In a last effort of defense, Brahma shouted Rakshasa! (Sanskrit for “protect me”) and Vishnu came to his aid, banishing the Rakshasas to Earth, naming them after Brahma’s plea for help.
Documentation of their existence can be traced back to Vedic sources through hymn 87 of the tenth mandala of the Rig Veda. This documentation is known to be one of the oldest texts in any Indo-European language. Philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the Rig Veda was composed roughly between 1700-1100 BC.
Rakshasa were most often depicted as ugly, fierce-looking and enormous creatures and with two fangs protruding down from the top of the mouth as well as sharp, claw-like fingernails. They are shown as being mean, growling like beasts and as insatiable cannibals who could smell the scent of flesh. Some of the more ferocious ones were shown with flaming red eyes and hair, drinking blood with their palms or from a human skull (similar to vampires in later Western mythology). Generally they could fly, vanish, and had Maya (magical powers of illusion), which enabled them to change size at will and assume the form of any creature.
In the world of the Ramayana and Mahabharata, Rakshasas were a populous race of supernatural humanoids. There were both good and evil rakshasas, and as warriors they fought alongside the armies of both good and evil. They were powerful warriors, expert magicians and illusionists. As shape-changers, they could assume various physical forms, and it was not always clear whether they had a true or natural form. As illusionists, they were capable of creating appearances which were real to those who believed in them or who failed to dispel them. Some of the rakshasas were said to be man-eaters, and made their gleeful appearance when the slaughter on the battlefield was at its worst. Occasionally they serve as rank-and-file soldiers in the service of one or the other warlord.
Aside from its treatment of unnamed rank-and-file Rakshasas, the epic tells the stories of certain members of the race who rose to prominence, some of them as heroes, most of them as villains.