The story of Goddess Durga and Mahishasura
The interesting story of Goddes Durga and Mahishasura is produced here for you. This is a facinating story of battle between Devas and Asuras and how the trinity of gods was helpless before the demon Mahishasura. The demon was granted a boon by Brahma, which made by undefeatable, but there was a small chink in his armour, which proved to be his achilles heel.
Birth of Mahishasura
Mahishasura was born to the King of Asuras named Rambha (different from the divine nymph Rambha). Rambha was a formidable demon (asura) and he had the boons from Brahma which made him invincible among devas and asuras.
Empowered by boons, Rambha began a rampage of fear and destruction, killing all living beings to cross his path. One day, roaming the garden of Yaksha, he met the beautiful female-buffalo Mahishi – who was actually the princess Shyamala, cursed to be a buffalo – and fell in love. Rambha, in an expression of love, transformed himself into a male-buffalo and seduced Mahishi.
But all too soon a real buffalo discovered Rambha and killed him as Rambha did not have the immunity against animals.
Through their union, Mahishi became pregnant and at Rambha’s funeral rites, threw herself into the funeral pyre. Out of the flames sprang a mighty beast with the head of a buffalo and the body of a human. This was Mahishasura. Being born from alliance of asura and buffalo, He could,change form at will.
Boon of Mahishasura
As boons and curses are an integral part of mythological stories, Mahishasura too was a recipient of a boon which was near to immortality. He performed severe penances praying and fasting for months as he stood on one foot.
He practiced severe austerities, meditating on Brahma. He consumed neither food nor water, and stood on one leg, focusing on nothing but the Creator. Over the course of time, ant hills began to form over his massive body, vines crept over it and there grew a mound that covered the Asura completely. The power of his austerities was such that flames began to emanate from his being and foul smoke arose from these flames.
The three worlds trembled under the strength of his penances and a pleased lord Brahma came to give him a boon. Mahisha asked for immortality, which the lord said he could not have as every creature that was born had to die. Mahisha decided that he would ask for a boon that would make him as good as immortal. He asked that no man should be able to kill and, if he had to die it should be only at the hands of only a woman. He was sure that no woman could ever fight against him however strong she may be.
Thus we was also immune from death from the hands of holy trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh.
Mahishasura captures Amravati
Mahishasura, having received boon, now considered himself invincible and started a reign of terror and conquest of the three lokas. Slaying and killing mercilessly, he and his army of demons soon conquered earth, and set their eyes upon Devaloka, the abode of the Devas.
Accordingly, the Devas and Lord Brahma went to the abode of Shiva and prayed to the Lord to protect Indra and his kinsmen against the marauding Asuras. Lord Sankara (Shiva) then suggested that the help of Lord Vishnu should also be taken. Accordingly, all of them went to Vaikunta and secured Lord Vishnu’s help.
Soon, the trinity appeared in the battlefield, arrayed for war. When the Asuras beheld them, impelled by a desire to win glory, Asiloma, Trinetra, Bashkala, Andhaka and many others gave battle to the foremost among the Gods. When Vasudeva (Vishnu) saw that the Devas were being sorely harassed, he faced Mahisha in battle. He hit the Asura on the head, with his famous mace, known as Kaumodaki. Stunned by the force of the blow, the King of the Asuras fell down in a swoon. However, he quickly regained consciousness and discarded his form as a Buffalo. He assumed the form of a Lion. Angered, Vishnu tried to behead him with his discus. However, thanks to the boon of Brahma, the discus was powerless against him. He bull-rushed Vishnu and knocked the Lord down. Stunned by the force of the blow, and realizing that his efforts against the Asura were futile, the Lord retired from the battlefield and took refuge in Vaikunta, his abode.
When they saw that Vishnu had disappeared from the battlefield, Lord Shiva and Lord Brahma also realized that their efforts would be futile. Struck with fear, they also left the battlefield, abandoning the Devas to their fate. The Devas were disheartened. Indra tried to rally them around, but fear had already entered their hearts and they could no longer fight as effectively as before.
The invincible army of Mahisha entered Amravathi unopposed. The Asura installed himself on the great throne of the King of heaven. He appointed his trusted generals in the posts occupied by the principal Devas. As far the Devas, they fled from heaven and spent many years wandering in the mountains and forests.
Emergence of Goddess Durga
A council of Gods was convened in Vaikunta. Indra said, “O eternal one, as you are well aware, we have been chased away from our kingdom by that evil Asura, Mahisha. Strengthened by the boon from the Lord Brahma, he is confident that death cannot come to him and has let loose a reign of terror. He can be killed only by a woman. But what woman is there who will be able to kill this evil demon?”
Vishnu smiled and said, “We tried to defeat him in battle. Not only did he survive, all of us had to ignominiously flee from battle. As of now, there is no woman who can be his death. Let a woman be created the best parts of all our powers. This lady shall be the death of Mahishasura.”
As Lord Vishnu said this, a dazzling pillar of light emerged from the face of Brahma and shone in the sky. It was red like a flawless sapphire and was bright like the sun. Next, from the body of Lord Shiva, a silver colored flame emerged and joined that from Brahma. Vishnu also contributed his power to this group.
Similarly, Kubera, Yama, Agni and the other Devas, sent their power to join this bundle of light and energy. The collection had grown so bright that not even the Trinity could gaze at it without shielding their eyes. As all were watching, a beautiful woman emerged. She was Durga (a form of Shakti or Parvati). She combined the powers of all the devas in a beautiful form. After that, she marched against the demons on her mount, the lion (sometimes depicted as a tiger).
Born of the best part of all the devas, she is known as Mahalakshmi. Of unsurpassed beauty, she is three-colored, three-natured and had eighteen arms. She is eternal. She is the protector of the Gods. Though she appears in many forms, her true form is one and is beyond sensory perception.
She was a manifestation of the Shakti of all the celestial beings, a manifestation of the Supreme Power, of Energy. She was the governing force of all the universe, in the form of an eight armed woman of great beauty and She was mounted on a lion. The gods descended to the hermitage of Kaatyan and they paid obeisance to Her. They sang Her praises and each gave Her a symbol of their might. Thus, Vishnu gave Her His Sudarshana chakra, Siva gave Her His Trishoola, His trident spear, Brahma gave Her His kamandalu that held the water of Ganga, Indra gave Her his Vajra, his thunderbolt and the other gods too gave Her their weapons. They named Her Kaatyaayani, the daughter of Kaatyan. Armed with their weapons and heady with their songs of Her praise, Durga let out a laugh. Immediately, Her lion let out an earth shaking roar. Wasting no time, She rode out to meet Her destined foe.
Durga’s face off with Mahishasura’s troops
Durga, riding the lion marched towards Amravathi, the capital city of Indra, where Mahisha had currently established his court. She let out a terrible roar that far surpassed that of her beast as she approached the city.
When Mahisha heard this this noise, he was struck with wonder. He turned to his advisors and asked them, “What is the reason for this uproar? Who dares to disturb the peace of my city?”
Soon he came to know that Durga has come and she challenged him to fight with and she said she would kill him.
Mahishasura in his arrogance had not considered that a woman could be of any threat, but Devas knew that he was only protected against animals, men and Gods, and that a woman, a Devi, with the boons and powers of the three would be able to slay the demon and restore balance and prosperity to the worlds.
He was smitten by devi’s immense beauty but was enraged by Her desire to want to fight him. Did She, a mere woman, stand any chance against him, the supreme Lord of the universe? He thought Her to be an impudent fool and decided to teach Her a lesson. He sent out his troops to humor Her.
He ordered them to subdue Her and bring Her to him. His hordes rode out to meet Her in combat but She decimated them in no time. She laughed as She killed each one of them. When Mahisha learned of their defeat, he became furious and ordered his most powerful soldiers to go and capture Her. However, Durga welcomed them all with death. She created replicas of Herself and Her army soon killed all of Mahisha’s soldiers.
His commanders Bashkala and Durmukha were also killed by Devi. Then Tamra was also killed.
The final battle
At last, Mahishasura came out in person to confront the Goddess. He changed his form into that of a handsome man and said to her, “O thou of the beautiful eyes, I have been slain by the arrows of lust emanating from thy person. I have never begged anyone for any favour. I request you to accept me as your lover. All Gods know of my prowess in battlefield. I am your slave to command. Please accept me”
Goddess Durga advised her to return the kingdom to Devas. In response, the demon king donned his armor and armed himself as he prepared himself to fight. His mind was so full of rage that not once did he pause to consider if Durga could be the woman to bring about his downfall.
When at last he saw her, She was alone. All the other Durgas had withdrawn into Her, after killing Mahishasura’s army. Seeing him approach, Durga said – O Mahishasura, the tormentor of all worlds! In your great ignorance, you asked the creator to grant you death only at the hands of a woman, a being you had utter disregard for.
You never thought a woman could ever overpower you and after receiving the boon, you believed you are immortal. Now look at me. I am Durga, the manifestation of Shakti. I am come to slay you and rid the universe of your malice.” Her words infuriated Mahisha more. Blinded by rage, he took the form of a massive buffalo, stomped menacingly and then rushed to tackle Her lion.
The lion deftly dodged him and Durga slashed out at him with Her sword. However, Mahishasura transformed himself to an elephant using his powers of sorcery and charged at Durga, whipping Her with his mighty trunk. Durga grabbed him by one of his tusks and dashed him to the ground. He changed form yet again and became a lion as fierce as Goddesses’s. The two lions pounced on each other, their paws slashing each others’ faces. Durga’s lion overpowered Mahishasura but he escaped and took on the form of a buffalo once more.
This time, Durga tamed the raging buffalo with a noose and then beheaded the beast. From its torso, Mahisha began to emerge in human form but Durga’s lion, sturdy as the Himalaya mountains, pounced upon him and pinned him to the ground as Durga raised Her trident and pierced the chest of the evil Mahishasura, slaying him.
Then She rode back to the heavens, Her lion roaring fiercely and the reinstated gods all sang hymns in Her praise. Mashishasura-Mardini they named Her. She who slew Mahishaasura.
It is believed that after nine days of fierce fighting (Mahishasura gave Durga a stiff opposition), Durga finally managed to kill the powerful Mahishasura on the tenth day of the waxing moon. This day is celebrated as Vijayadashmi.
In Hindu tradition, when one recites the Devi Mahatmyam – Durga Saptashati – during Navaratri, he invokes the blessing of Maa Durga. It is recommended that the entire Devi Mahatmya should be read in one sitting. However, if one cannot, then the chapters are divided accordingly.
1st Day – Chapter 1 – Madhu kaitabha samhaara
2nd Day – Chapters 2, 3 and 4 – Mahishhasura samhaara
3rd Day – Chapters 5 & 6 – Dhuumralochana vadha
4th Day – Chapter 7 – Chanda Munda vadha
5th Day – Chapter 8 – Rakta biija samhaara
6th Day – Chapters 9 and 10 – Shumbha Nishumbha vadha
7th Day – Chapter 11 – Praise of Narayani
8th Day – Chapter 12 – Phalastuti
9th Day – Chapter 13 – Blessings to Suratha and the Merchant
10th Day – Chapter 14 – Aparadha Kshamaprarthana
Note: The story of Mahishasura and Goddess Durga appears in Markendeya Purana.