The tyranny of Mahishasura…

Read the previous part here…

But when you get rid of kāma, krodha and lobhā, that is just the first step. A celebration is not in order. There are more challenges on the way – challenges that will involve the Devi fighting with Mahishasura and Raktabija. How does she win? What is the inner meaning?

Mahishasura is probably the first (and only one) name that comes to mind when one speaks of Devi Durga. Mahisha was an Asura.

Asura is typically construed as evil, and is used interchangeably with Danavas, Daityas and Rākshasās, mainly because in English, they are all demons! But all asuras were not considered evil. In fact, King Mahabali (who was an Asura) is still worshipped in India – the festival of Onam is in his honor. Here are some of the niruktas (etymologies) of the root word asu.

Asu can mean, prana – life breath, life- force; in this sense, asura means ‘one who brings, gives prana’ (asun, pranan rati, dadati iti asurah).

Asu can mean, kshepana – to throw, throw about, scatter, remove away; in this sense, asura can mean ‘one who removes undesirable things and dangers’ (anishtakshepanasheelah); by the same sense it can also mean ‘time’, since ‘time moves or scatters everything (asyati, kshipati sarvamityasurah – kaalatmaa samvatsarah)’.

Asu can mean, prajna – awareness, wisdom; thus, asura can mean, ‘one who is endowed with wisdom or awareness’.

Asu can mean, bala – strength, force; thus, asura can mean ‘one who is endowed with a great strength’.

Likewise, asura has been used to connote ‘someone who is very charitable’; at some places asura is used to mean, megha- clouds.

Asu also can mean food, water and wealth, and the word asura attains various meanings in accordance with those connotations to denote, ‘one who possesses food’ etc.

The word asura referred to both inner tendencies, as well as clans. Bhakt Prahlad was born into the asura clan of Hiranyakashyapu, but he wasn’t evil.

अस्यति देवान् क्षिपति इति असुर: – the ones who oppose suras or devas, are asuras.

Second Charita – the slaughter of Mahishasura’s armies

There was one battle between the devas and asuras, that lasted one hundred years. The devas were commandeered by Indra, and the asuras were led by Mahishasura. The war ended in Mahishasura’s victory, and the triumphant asuras drove Indra and the devas from swarga, and instilled Mahishasura as the new king.

Cast out of their home, the devas rushed to Siva and Vishnu for help. “Mahishasura has crowned himself king, and has usurped the positions of Surya, Indra, Agni, Vayu, Chandra, Yama and Varuna and of other devas too”, they said. ” Thrown out from heaven by that evil Mahisha, all of us devas wander on earth like mortals. And so we have come to you for help, and to seek shelter. Help us, think of a way to destroy Mahishasura!”

Their story greatly disturbed Siva and Vishnu, and their faces lit up with anger. So much so, that it’s radiance spread to all the other devas, and this light then became concentrated in one spot, it’s brilliance overshadowing everything that had ever been created, and that ever would be created. From this unique light, emerged a female form, that was the manifestation of all the devas, their lustre.

This, was Devi Durga.

The devas gave the Devi the essence of their power. Siva gave her a trishul, Vishnu gave her the Sudarshana Chakra, Varuna gave her a shankh (conch), Agni a spear, Maruta gave her a bow and an inexhaustible quiver of arrows. Indra presented her the vajra (thunderbolt) and a bell from Airavata, his elephant. Yama gave her a staff, and Varuna gave her a noose. Brahma gave the Devi a mala and a ghata (pot), and Surya focused his powerful rays on the pores of her skin, making her even more radiant. Kala gave her a sword and shield. The deva of the oceans gave the Devi garments and ornaments, Vishwakarma presented her an axe and an impenetrable armour. Himavan gave the Goddess gems, and a lion to ride on, and Kubera gave her a cup ever-full of soma.

The Devi roared with laughter, and the sky was filled with her roar and the echo that it created. The worlds shook, and the oceans churned. The mountains rocked and the devas exclaimed “Vijayi Bhava!”, may you be victorious!

The armies of the devas were mesmerised. They chanted in unison as their spirits rose after witnessing this huge spectacle. From his palace, Mahishasura wondered what was happening, and walked up to his window only to see nothing but a dazzling light. This was the glory of Devi Durga, and Mahishasura knew that he had to fight once again.

to be continued…

ॐ देवी कूष्माण्डायै नमः॥

Om Devi Kushmandayai Namah॥

या देवी सर्वभू‍तेषु माँ कूष्माण्डा रूपेण संस्थिता। नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमस्तस्यै नमो नमः॥

Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Maa Kushmanda Rupena Samsthita। 
Namastasyai Namastasyai Namastasyai Namo Namah॥

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