A Rakshasa is said to be a mythological humanoid being or unrighteous spirit originally in Hinduism. As mythology made its way into other religions, the rakshasa was also incorporated into Buddhism.
Hindu epics proclaim rakshasas were a numerour race of powerful shapeshifters and illusionists. They came into being when the creator god Brahma breathed in his sleep. Somehow they were tainted with extreme passions trending towards violence.
Rakshasas are also called man-eaters (Nri-chakshas, Kravyads). A female rakshasa is called a Rakshasi, and a female Rakshasa in human form is a Manushya-Rakshasi. The words Asura and Rakshasa are sometimes interchangeably used, but not all Asuras are Rakshasas.
Rakshasas are often portrayed as ferocious humanoid creatures that have fangs much like a Vampire does, but also have strong and sharp claws capable of inflicting wounds. However, their individual appearance varies, and not the least because of their shapeshifting powers.
Although Rakshasas gravitate towards evil, not all of them are such. They have served warlords and gods as great heroes as well, but these are major exceptions. Usually Rakshasas have succumbed to their primal urges and cravings, which include different passions like excessive eating, drinking, bloodlust, greed and unjust fame.
The term man-eater comes from the vampire-like tendencies of extremely violent Rakshasas, who ate raw flesh of humans and drank blood from their skull.
There are many different powers and abilities a Rakshasa can have or learn. It's rare for a Rakshasa to have every ability listed here.
- Extraordinay strength.
- Magic skills, specializing in illusions.
- Illusory shapeshifting. The ability to take any illusory form that was true if others believed it to be.
- True shapeshifting. It's possible Rakshasas have no true form, and however they truly look outside of illusions, the form has been shifted. Apparently the illusionary shapeshifting is quicker to use.
- Vanish out of sight.