(Image: CC BY-SA 4.0/Cropped)
Coming from the Tamil words Brahmin and Rakshas, which mean a person of the upper class and a demon respectively, a brahmarakshasa is a person of great power who committed great sins during his or her life and has been reincarnated as a demon. A brahmarakshasa may have hoarded money and knowledge or committed treachery to others, for instance. Most often, one of these demons would continue to prey on those it sees below it, just as it did in its previous life(Ramanujan 199-142). There is no defined shape for such a demon to take, although they are almost always vaguely human with more monstrous elements, such as claws and fangs (Gopal 72).
The brahmarakshasa’s transformation from a person of high class to a demon is a warning against greed and selfishness. Further, this transformation may also have comforted those of lower classes, knowing that the Brahmin could have a horrible second life, while they themselves are safe from this fate.