Hindu god Kubera, most people know him only as the god of wealth. But in reality, he is much more beyond that.
Origin of Lord Kubera: Like most other stories in our vast scriptures, the origin of Kubera also greatly varies from text to text.
If we go by the time period, the first mention of Kubera is found in the Vedas. However, he is not hailed as a god in Vedas. Instead, he is regarded as the chief of evil spirits. Even the prestigious text Shatpath Brahman also regards him as the chief of murderers and criminals.
It is later in the Puranas that Kubera gets the honor of a god. Even Manusmriti speaks positively of him. He is mentioned in Ramayana and Mahabharata too, with unquestionable godhood.
The meaning of the word Kubera also has several definitions. According to the scholars in Sanskrit, Kubera means one having a monstrous or deformed shape.
Kubera is the son of great sage Visharva and Iladevi. This description is maintained in most of the texts including Ramayana. This makes him the stepbrother of Ravana, the main antagonist of Ramayana. However, contradicting the same, Mahabharata states that he was the son of sage Pulatsya and brother of Vishrava.
Appearance and significance: Unlike most other gods, Kubera doesn't enjoy a great appearance according to the texts. He is generally described as a dwarf with a big belly, three legs, eight teeth, and only one eye. He is said to have a lotus complexion and he is generally depicted as having a pot of gold or jewels in his hand.
According to a legend, Kubera lost one of his eyes when he saw Parvati, the wife of Shiva with lustful eyes. However, some also say that after repeated requests, Parvati finally restored his eye.
He is generally seen riding a mongoose. In Tibet, it is believed that he defeated Nagad, the protectors of treasure. That's why the mongoose has been depicted as his vehicle. However, sometimes he is seen riding a goat as well.
Kubera - the god of wealth: This is the main description most Hindus identify Kubera with. He is revered as the god of wealth throughout the country. He is worshipped along with Lakshmi because it is believed that he blesses one with wealth and prosperity. The event is celebrated as the great festival of Dhanteras, which precedes Diwali by a few days. Many people buy gold and jewelries on this auspicious day.
Kubera is referred to as the wealthiest among gods. He is also sometimes mentioned as the treasurer of gods. There are many stories we find in Puranas related to the wealth of Kubera.
The King of Yakshas: We find many mentions of Yakshas in Hindu texts, along with Buddhists and Jain texts as well. Yakshas are a broad class of nature spirits. They could be either benevolent or helpful, or they could be sometimes mischievous and troublesome too. They are connected to various natural elements.
Unlike humans, they possess some divine powers. Carvings and statues of Yakshas are found across temples in South and Southeast Asia. They are even sometimes mentioned as the guardian deities of the temple. Kubera is mentioned as the king of Yakshas in many Hindu texts. He gains this title in later Puranas and this title is reiterated in many other texts.
Although Vedas generally disregard him as the chief of evil spirits, he gains many other prominent titles in later texts. It is said that Kubera was a great devotee of Shiva. He did many years of penance so that Shiva finally appeared before him.
Shiva conferred him with the title of Lokpal, means protector of the gates. He was also given the title of Dikpala, which is protector of a direction. Kubera is considered the Dikpala of the north. However, sometimes he is associated with the east as well.
Kubera and Lanka: According to Puranic Stories, Kubera did great penance of Brahma. Brahma impressed by his austerities appeared before him and made him ask for boons.
Brahma gave Kubera the riches of the world, the Pushpak Viman, and the great city of Lanka along with its golden palace. However, later Ravana attacked Kubera and took charge of the city, and stole Kubera's Pushpak viman as well. Kubera was displaced from the city.
Then Kubera went to settle near Kailash, known in the texts as Alkapuri. Many texts explain the grandeur and beauty of Alkapuri, even comparing it sometimes to the great city of Indra. Alkapuri is frequented by Shiva and Parvati, and many other beings. There are stories in Puranas how Alkapuri was attacked by various people over time and how its wealth was stolen.
Legend of Kubera and Ganesha: There is a very popular story that narrates how the arrogance of Kubera was broken.
Once Kubera organised a grand feast to show off his riches and invited many deities. Among the invitees were Lord Shiva and Parvati. However, Lord Shiva refused to attend the feast and said Ganesha will attend the feast in his place.
When Ganesha started eating, there was no bound to his hunger. Ganesha already ate all the food even when all the other guests were still pending. Not getting food anymore, Ganesha started eating the dishes and whatever else he could find.
Kubera became very worried and rushed to Shiva. Shiva laughed and gave a bowl of rice prepared by Parvati to him. He asked Kubera to present this rice to Ganesha with humility. Understanding his context, Kubera fell on Shiva's feet. When this bowl of rice was offered to Ganesha, finally his hunger was fulfilled.
Kubera and Tirupati: Kubera is the treasurer of the gods. It is said that he lent some money to Lord Venkateswara for his marriage with Padmavati. That's why many devotees go to Tirupati to donate in the lord's hundi or donation pot. This is done so that the lord can pay back the money to Kubera.
Summary: Among all the gods, Kubera is a very interesting personality in Hinduism. From being the chief of evil spirits, he went on to become the lord of wealth and king of Yakshas. On one hand, he is greatly material with delving in his riches, and on the other hand, he is a great devotee of Shiva. His personality encompasses every characteristic one can think of. That's why he maintains such a sacred place in the heart of many Hindus.