Kubera is considered the Lord of Wealth and the god-king of the semi-divine Yakshas in Hindu mythology. But few people know that he was actually a thief in his previous birth. There goes an intriguing tale regarding this.
As per the legends, in his previous birth Kubera was not only a thief, but he would not even mind stealing from temples of Gods. Once he entered into a Shiva temple with obvious intentions. The temple was filled with precious wealth. But it was drowned in darkness as lamp had gone off. Kubera lit the lamp but it went off again as the wind was blowing fiercely. He tried again to no avail. This kept going on for some time. Shiva mistook the whole endeavor as some kind of lamp lighting ritual (Deeparadhana) performed by Kubera to please him. He was indeed impressed by his persistence. So he blessed him with being the Lord of Wealth in his next birth. A classic case of misplaced blessings.
Despite being the God of Wealth, Kubera is famously known for not being a good looking God in Hindu tradition. There goes stories about him having three feet and eight teeth. Most of his idols are crude and clumsy and cut a not-to-elegant-looking figure, unlike other Hindu Gods. “Shatpatha Brahmin” even goes on to describe him as a “Rakshasa”, and for good reasons, as he was blood-relative to Ravana.
Kubera is also called a Yaksha, a semi-divine figure in Hindu mythology. He is the keeper of wealth but he himself consume it not. This answers why Kubera idols are found on the outer sanctum of most temples, not inside it. As he is not supposed to be worshipped primarily as a God but his role is to look after the wealth being kept inside temples. Kubera was even considered an “Anarya” God but later he made his way into the orbit of “Arya” Gods and people started worshipping him during marriage ceremonies and all.
However, he was never thought to be at par with Laxmi, the Goddess of Wealth, in Hindu mythology. Diwali, the prominent festival of Hindus, is celebrated by worshipping Laxmi, not Kubera. He is considered the second rank Gods among the Hindus. More the reason why Kubera’s wealth is not considered fit for public good which circulates from one person to other, like that of Laxmi. Kubera’s wealth is more of a static and stale money, not there for “Lokmangala” ie. public good.