Yali (mythology)

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Yali in pillars at Madurai Meenakshmi Amman Temple
Yali pillars, Rameshwara Temple, Keladi, Shivamogga District, Karnataka state, India
Yali in Aghoreswara temple, Ikkeri, Shivamogga district, Karnataka state, India

Yali, Yāḷi; also known as Vyala or Vidala in Sanskrit) is a mythical creature seen in many Hindu temples, often sculpted onto the pillars. It may be portrayed as part lion, part elephant and part horse, and in similar shapes. Also, it has been sometimes described as a leogryph (part lion and part griffin),[1] with some bird-like features.

Yali is a motif in Indian art and it has been widely used in south Indian sculpture, notably by Nayak Rulers. Descriptions of and references to yalis are very old, but they became prominent in south Indian sculpture in the 16th century. Yalis are believed to be more powerful than the lion/Tiger or the elephant.

Iconography and image[edit]

In its iconography and image the yali has a catlike graceful body, but the head of a lion with tusks of an elephant (gaja) and tail of a serpent. Sometimes they have been shown standing on the back of a makara, another mythical creature and considered to be the Vahan of Budh (Mercury). Some images look like three-dimensional representation of yalis. Images or icons have been found on the entrance walls of the temples, and the graceful mythical lion is believed to protect and guard the temples and ways leading to the temple. They usually have the stylized body of a lion and the head of some other beast, most often an elephant (gaja-vyala).[2] Other common examples are: the lion-headed (simha-vyala), horse-(ashva-vyala), human-(nir-vyala) and the dog-headed (shvana-vyala) ones.[3]

Yali is found as stone carvings in numerous temples in the style of Dravidian architecture in Tamil Nadu and across South India, including the Kailasanathar Temple, Tharamangalam, Salem district, Tamil Nadu.[4]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Carved Wood bracket - description". British Museum. Retrieved 13 December 2011. 
  2. ^ "Sculptural fusion". The Hindu. India. 21 January 2007. 
  3. ^ Khandro - Yali & Mukha
  4. ^ "Heritage Vital". Salem Local Planning Authority, Tamil Nadu Government. Retrieved 30 November 2011. 

External links[edit]