Kubera also known as Kuvera, Kuber and Kuberan, is the god of wealth, and the god-king of the semi-divine yakshas in Hinuduism He is regarded as the regent of the north, and a protector of the world. His many epithets extol him as the overlord of numerous semi-divine species, and the owner of the treasures of the world. Kubera is often depicted with a plump body, adorned with jewels, and carrying a money-pot and a club.
Originally described as the chief of evil spirits in Vedic-era texts, Kubera acquired the status of a deva (god) only in the Puranas and the Hindu epics. The scriptures describe that Kubera once ruled Lanka, but was overthrown by his half-brother Ravana, later settling in the city of Alaka in the Himalayas. Descriptions of the “glory” and “splendour” of Kubera’s city are found in many scriptures.
Kubera has also been assimilated into the Buddhist and Jain pantheons. In Buddhism, he is known as Vaisarvana, the patronymic used of the Hindu Kubera and is also equated with Pancika, while in Jainism, he is known as Sarvanubhuti.
Kubera is often depicted as a dwarf, with complexion of lotus leaves and a big belly. He is described as having three legs, only eight teeth, one eye, and being adorned with jewels. He is sometimes depicted riding a man. The description of deformities like the broken teeth, three legs, three heads and four arms appear only in the later Puranic texts. Kubera holds a mace, a pomegranate, or a money bag in his hand. He may also carry a sheaf of jewels or a mongooes with him. In Tibet, the mongoose is considered a symbol of Kubera’s victory over nagas—the guardians of treasures. Kubera is usually depicted with a mongoose in Buddhist iconography.
In the Vishnudharmottara Purana, Kubera is described as the embodiment of both Artha (“wealth, prosperity, glory”) and Arthashatras, the treatises related to it—and his iconography mirrors it. Kubera’s complexion is described as that of lotus leaves. He rides a man—the state personified, adorned in golden clothes and ornaments, symbolizing his wealth. His left eye is yellow. He wears an armour and a necklace down to his large belly. The Vishnudharmottara Purana further describes his face to be inclined to the left, sporting a beard and mustache, and with two small tusks protruding from the ends of his mouth, representing his powers to punish and to bestow favours. His wife Riddhi, representing the journey of life, is seated on his left lap, with her left hand on the back of Kubera and the right holding a ratna-patra (jewel-pot). Kubera should be four-armed, holding a gada (mace: symbol of dandaniti—administration of justice) and a shakti (power) in his left pair, and standards bearing a lion—representing Artha and a shibika (a club, the weapon of Kubera). The nidhi treasures Padma and Shankha stand beside him in human form, with their heads emerging from a lotus and a conch respectively.
The Agni Purana states that Kubera should be installed in temples as seated on a goat, and with a club in his hand. Kubera’s image is prescribed to be that of gold, with multi-coloured attributes. In some sources, especially in jain depictions, Kubera is depicted as a drunkard, signified by the “nectar vessel” in his hand.
Puranic and epic descriptions
The Puranas and the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana grant Kubera unquestioned godhood. Kubera also acquired the status of the “Lord of riches” and the wealthiest Deva. He also becomes a lokapala (“world protector”) and guardian of the north direction , although he is also sometimes associated with the East. Kubera’s status as a lokapala and a dikpala is assured in the Ramayana, but in the Mahabharata, some lists do not include Kubera. Thus, Kubera is considered a later addition to the original list of Loka-palas, where the gods Agni or Soma appear in his place. This status, the Ramayana records, was granted to Kubera by Bramha—the creator-god and father of Pulastya—as a reward for his severe penance. Brahma also conferred upon Kubera the riches of the world (Nidhis), “equality with gods”, and the Pushpaka Viman, a flying chariot. Kubera then ruled in the golden city of Lanka, identified with modern-day Sri Lanka. The Mahabharata says that Brahma conferred upon Kubera the lordship of wealth, friendship with Shiva, godhood, status as a world-protector, a son called Nalakubera/Nalakubara, the Pushpaka Vimana and the lordship of the Nairrata demons.
Both the Puranas and the Ramayana feature the half-blood siblings of Kubera. Vishrava, Kubera’s father, also married the rakshasa (demigod) princess Kaikesi, who mothered four rakshasa children: Ravana, the chief antagonist of the Ramayana, and his siblings, Kumbhakarna, Vibhishana, and Shuparanaka. The Mahabharata regards Vishrava as the brother of Kubera, so Kubera is described as the uncle of Ravana and his siblings. It records that when Kubera approached Brahma for the favour of superseding his father Pulastya, Pulastya created Vishrava. To seek the favour of Vishrava, Kubera sent three women to him, by whom Vishrava begot his demon children. Ravana, after acquiring a boon of Brahma, drove Kubera away from Lanka and seized his Pushpaka Vimana, which was returned to Kubera after Ravana’s death. Kubera then settled on Gandhamandana mountain, near Mount kailash – the abode of the god Shiva—in the Himalayas. Sometimes, Kailash itself is called Kubera’s residence. His city is usually called Alaka or Alaka-puri (“curl-city”), but also Prabha (“splendour”), Vasudhara (“bejeweled”) and Vasu-sthali (“abode of treasures”). There, Kubera had a grove called Caitraratha, where the leaves were jewels and the fruits were girls of heaven. There is also a charming lake called Nalini in the grove. Kubera is often described as a friend of Shiva in the epics. The Padma Purana says that Kubera prayed to Shiva for many years, and Shiva granted him the kingship of yakshas.