In this part of the world they call us rākṣasa hatyārā, the light that keeps the darkness at bay […] The lamas are the vital intermediaries between the human and spirit words, and we are its protectors. We are mediators and guardians, our presence venerated, for though we are trained for war we smooth ruffled feathers as often as we spill blood. We are an integral part of society; a secret kept in the open, unspoken but understood in the myths and stories that surround us.


The Rākṣasa Hatyārā are a remote subset of Atharim based in the Ladakh region of India, around the city of Leh. Leh was for centuries an important stopover on trade routes along the Indus Valley between Tibet, Kashmir, India and China. It may have also once been the site for a temple belonging to the 5th Age Taras — though such supposition has long since fallen into fanciful myth, even amongst the Rākṣasa Hatyārā themselves.

They do not remember their own origins. They in fact predate the first Atharim uprisings of the 6th Age, having formed during the godwar that destroyed the benevolent consortium of the Taras. They fought in order to defend it, but were eventually overrun by the forces of Ahriman. Disillusioned with their loss, many of their descendants went on to join the uprisings against the gods in the following age.

Rākṣasa Hatyārā monasteries follow Buddhist practise and are dotted about the region. One of them can be found north of the small, mountainous village of Alchi. The road to it ribbons steeply into the Himalayan Range, following the brown waters of the river into the sweep of the valley. It is very isolated, and very far from Rome, thus its teachings have diverged greatly from those of the main culture of Atharim.

Once, Rākṣasa Hatyārā were welcomed into all homes with respect and reverence for what they did to protect the world around them.There is still a mystique to them in remote and rural areas, but the modern world has sent them into hiding. Thus the name of Rākṣasa Hatyārā is synonymous with superstition.

Their hunters number few, usually working alone, and favour a nomadic lifestyle in order to travel where needed. Hunting in the cities, where their influence is less grand, is conducted in secrecy. But there are still villages as far as southern India where a Rākṣasa Hatyārā will find themselves welcomed.


Our hand is cautious; we kill sparingly, and not without thought, for every life taken is a chip against our own souls.


Rākṣasa Hatyārā are taught the ways of Buddha. Philosophy over what distinguishes human from monster varies between schools, and is frequently debated, but there is a precedence for exceptions. One notable example being a monk across the border in China, named Tai Djin, who lived many years ago: the werewolf of Shaolin was what they called him.

The monastery at Alchi, in particular, has begun to offer sanctuary to sparked channelers — known there as the spirit-possessed. They do not kill them unless forced, but cannot turn a blind eye to the problem either. Though the debate is ongoing, in the meantime so long as these people maintain the peace, they are taught meditations that seem to help them with control, as well as to survive the Sickness. Their numbers amongst the Rākṣasa Hatyārā are still few.

All Rākṣasa Hatyārā bear the snake tattoo, but a version that is always in the form of a Saṃsāra. Each design, including its colours, references the monastery at which each individual was raised.

The School

There is a school in Leh that houses strange and unwanted children. The villagers abandon them sometimes, or call upon the rākṣasa hatyārā to mediate. Contrary to popular superstition, most of us cannot scent evil, and even the most hardened of our kind do not like to kill younglings without good reason. It is rare to find tiyanak or any other creatures that cloak themselves in innocent flesh when we are called to this job. Nearly always the children are just children, and yet the people look upon us to help them: it is what we do. We cannot leave them, and if we cannot kill them, we must take them somewhere else.


Given the superstitions that surround Rākṣasa Hatyārā and their work, it has never been unusual for them to be called to villages to mediate unusual happenings. As a result, they often take in abandoned children. Such is the way both Ashavari Mehra and Tenzin Dolma first came to Leh.

The orphanage there operates as a school, and also a vehicle for recruitment to Rākṣasa Hatyārā ways. At twelve, those with aptitude are moved to a monastery to begin their true training.

Those who learn at Leh are taught the art of Kalaripayattu, a distinctive brand of acrobatic combat drawing heavily on yoga and ancient Indian knowledge of the human body, and which involves both hand-to-hand combat and the use of weapons. Kalaripayattu takes inspiration from the attack poses of wild animals. Translated literally, it means “art of the battlefield.” Its teaching also includes the learning of ancient medicine and massage.

The monks are kind. They give the children names, teach them to read and write, and to meditate. Many have difficulties and disabilities – the reasons they find themselves orphans. Others are able-bodied and sound of mind. There is a superstition among some that offering a child to the rākṣasa hatyārā brings good luck. I’m not sure, but sometimes I speculate that it was something we started. We train them, after all, and the best are allowed to wear the saṃsāra. Schools like the one in Leh are our foundation.


Associated Characters

  • Tenzin; raised by the school, and initiated as a Rākṣasa Hatyārā.
  • Ashavari’s Uncle; took Ashavari to the school in Leh as a child, where she stayed for 3 years


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