God Kubera, the God of Wealth and Material in Indian Painting

Kubera, revered by millions of Hindus all over, is the god of wealth and material. People consider him to be the guardian of great treasures. Mythology has it that he is the son of sage Vishrava, who is the son of Lord Brahma. He generally represents the north direction and is the king of Yakshas, and one of the Ashta Dikpalakas (Dikpalas). While Goddess Lakshmi creates wealth, he is entrusted with the task of distributing the wealth earned. Therefore, both Goddess Lakshmi and Kubera are worshipped for wealth, luxury, abundance and prosperity, particularly during Diwali, in houses, shops as well as business establishments. In Indian paintings and art works, Kubera is usually portayed as a short stout man with a pot belly, adorning jewels, carrying a money bag or money pot and a club.

In the Vedic era Kubera was the chief of all the evils lurking in shadow and darkness. Later, he became mainstream as one of Hindu Gods and one of the eight protectors of the world. There are two mythological versions of how this hideous dwarf received the immortality boon. One account tells that he did austerities for thousands of years so as to elevate himself to the status of God. The other narrative is that he was a thief in the former life who later earned the pleasure of Lord Shiva with severe austerity.

In his elevated capacity he adorns himself with jewels and other precious ornaments, yet retains his baldness, deformity and ugglesome form. Brahma offers Kubera, a magical aerial chariot – Pushpaka Vimana, so large that it can accommodate an entire city, and move on its own on command. The chariot is to be later confiscated by Ravana, the mythical Lankan King and also the step-brother associated with the Ramayana tale, who further ousts him with a boon from Brahma. A distressed Kubera leaves the city of Lanka and settles in Alakapuri near Kailash.

Hindus believe that by chanting Kubera mantra, ‘Oṃ Shaṃ Kuberāya Namaḥ’, 108 times one is bestowed abundant gold and other precious possessions from his treasury. Kubera’s existence isn’t just confined to Hindu scriptures; he is found in the Jain and Buddhist mythologies as “Vaiśravaṇa”, one of the four heavenly rulers in four cardinal directions and “Sarvanubhuti” or “Sarvahna”, the attendant Yaksha of the 19th Tirthankar Mallinath respectively.

Kubera draws followers in millions from various communities of Hinduism. It is widely believed that if one worships him with steadfast reverence and devoutness, the worshiper is almost assured of complete success.