Yaksa Prasnam is an important segment in the Mahabharata. But why is this portion important and why the title? Before this question is answered, one has to answer a few more questions and also go back a little in time, V.S. Karunakarachariar said in a discourse.
Who is the hero of the Mahabharata? People may think it is Krishna or Arjuna. But the hero is Yudhishtra! The story goes that when Goddess Bhooma appealed to the Lord to come to the Earth and vanquish the wicked, the Lord said he would come three years after the birth of Yudhishtra. One can pay obeisance only to a person who is at least three years one’s senior. Krishna wanted to pay obeisance to Yudhishtra. Hence, His desire for a three-year gap.
As for the importance of the word ‘Yaksa,’ one has to look at an occasion, mentioned in the Kenopanishad, when the celestials celebrated one of their military victories. Indra, Agni, Vayu and all other celestials were making merry, for they had won a battle. Even as they indulged in celebrations, they noticed a huge presence, a Yaksa, lurking outside. Agni was sent to investigate. The Yaksa asked Agni who he was. Agni gave his name. The Yaksa than asked what Agni meant. Agni explained that he could burn anything. The Yaksa then said: “Then burn this blade of grass.” Agni did his best to make the grass catch fire, but nothing happened. Frightened, Agni returned to his comrades. Then Vayu went to investigate. He told the Yaksa that he could blow off anything. The Yaksa then asked Vayu to blow off the piece of grass. Vayu failed. Indra himself then decided to find out more about the Yaksa.
Goddess Parvati, who came there, asked Indra why he looked scared. Indra replied that he did not know who the Yaksa was. Parvati explained that the Yaksa was Parabrahma, who had made Indra’s victory possible, but Indra had forgotten that it was the Supreme One who had made his victory possible. That was why, the Yaksa had come there to remind him of the Supreme One’s role in the victory. Yaksa means he who is worthy of respect. In the Mahabharata, the Yaksa asks questions, which are so significant that the questions themselves are worthy of worship. So the title is justified.