Once upon a time, a king named Suratha lost his kingdom to a palace coup and had to flee to the forest but even after being betrayed by his own kith and kin, the king could not help but worry about his kingdom, his sons and his queen. He started longing for his family but he was also angry with them for betraying him. In this confused state of mind, he met a merchant named Samadhi who was also cast out by his wicked wife and sons. Like Suratha, Samadhi was also fond of his wife and sons in spite of their betrayal. They both wanted to know why they were having feelings of love and affection towards those who clearly betrayed them and did not care for them. They approached a hermit named Medhas to explain their conflicting feelings towards their families. The pious Medhas replied: “It is the Mahamaya of Devi which deludes humans. She creates and sustains this Universe. No one can escape her Mahamaya. Even the wise come under the influence of the Mahamaya.” Hearing this, Suratha and Samadhi said to Medhas: “Venerable sir, please teach us about this Devi who is Creator and Ruler of the Universe. Who is She and where does She originate from? What form is She? What is Her Mahamaya? We want to hear all about Her from you.”
Madhu and Kitabha
Then, Medhas started telling the story of Devi. Once upon a time, at the end of time when the entire universe was one big ocean, Lord Vishnu was in deep Yogic sleep under the influence of the Devi’s maya. Then from Lord Vishnu’s ears two terrible demons, Madhu and Kitabha, emerged. They were threatening to kill Lord Brahma who was sitting on the lotus that emerged out of Lord Vishnu’s navel. Brahma, afraid for his life, prayed to and extolled Devi to withdraw Her maya from Lord Vishnu so He can wake up to protect him. Devi was pleased by Brahma’s prayers, and she withdrew her Maya from Lord Vishnu whereupon Lord Vishnu woke up. In a fierce battle that lasted five thousand years, Lord Vishnu killed the two demons.
When the demon Mahishaasura was the leader of the demons, they fought the gods and vanquished them. Then Mahishaasura became the lord of heaven, an Indra, and assumed the duties of Surya, Agni, Vayu, Chandra, Yama and Varuna. The gods approached Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva became very angry when they heard the pitiful story of the gods’ defeat. From their faces, as well as from the faces of all the gods who were present there, an intense light emerged that pervaded all quarters of the universe. That light then assumed a female form. Thus Devi was manifest from the light and power of all gods. Then the gods all gave her their respective weapons and other gifts: Lord Shiva gave her His trident; Vishnu his chakra; Indra his thunderbolt and so on all the gods gave their respective weapons to Devi.
Armed with the power of the gods and all their weapons, Devi started out to kill Mahishaasura. The earth trembled under Her feet. The twang of Her bow raised fear in the hearts of the demons. Mahishaasura’s generals, Ciksura, Udagra, Mahahanu, Asiloman, Baskala, Privarita, Bidala and great many other demons came out to fight Devi in millions of numbers with millions of horses, elephants and chariots. They fought with arrows, javelins, spears, swords, maces, clubs, axes and every other kind of weapon. Devi killed the demons by the thousands while Her lion killed several hundreds more. Each of Her sighs in the battle gave birth to a battalion of army which fought and killed the demons by the million. The blood that was spilled on the battle ground flowed like a
Then one of Mahishaasura’s generals, Ciksura, got very angry and attacked Devi with many kinds of weapons. Devi nullified all of his weapons and killed him by hurling a spear at him. This brought Camara in to the battle who was very angry for the death of Ciksura. He attacked Devi from atop a huge elephant, but Devi’s mount, the lion, killed both the demon and the elephant. Next Udagra, Karala, Uddhata, Baskala, Tamara and Andhaka were killed by Devi in fierce battles. Last of Mahishaasura’s generals, Ugrasya, Ugravirya, Bidala, Durdhara and Durmudha, were killed by Devi in no time. Thus, all of the army of Mahishaasura was killed in the battle by Devi.
Mahishaasura gets killed
Then Mahishaasura himself came on to the battle field in the form of a fiercely terrible buffalo. He was ferocious and killed many soldiers on the battle field with his horns and trampling them under his feet. He charged at Devi’s lion. He kicked up so much dust with his hooves that the earth trembled. The mountains were tossed and the clouds were shattered by his horns. The force of his breath swept away even the biggest mountains. Seeing him in that ferocious buffalo form, Devi bound the demon by throwing Her noose over him, but the demon quit his buffalo form and became a lion and charged towards Devi. She cut his head off but it did not kill him. Instead he took a human form with a sword in his hand. When Devi killed the demon in the human form, the demon appeared as an elephant and tried to drag the lion with his trunk. Devi then cut the elephant’s trunk off. Seeing that all his magical powers were useless before Devi, Mahishaasura took his original buffalo form and charged at Devi with such speed and fury, that the three worlds shook and trembled. Devi was angry now. She sipped a divine drink and jumped down onto the demon from atop her lion and pinned the demon under her foot. While pinning him down, she brought down the spear in her right hand with all the force to sever the head of the demon. Thus, loosing all his magical powers, Mahishaasura was finally slain. Therefore, Devi is called Mahishaasura Mardhini (Killer of Mahishaasura.) There upon, all the gods praised Devi with bent shoulders and heads and offered her celestial flowers. Devi was pleased with their worship and granted them Her help whenever they needed it.
Later, two asuras named Shumba and Nishumba defeated the gods and drove them out of heaven again. The gods remembering Devi’s promise to help them in their time of need went to Himavati mountain and prayed to Her to help them. Devi appeared as Parvati and out of Parvati’s physical sheath emerged a form. Because She came out of the kosha of Devi, she is called Kaushiki. Kaushiki was very beautiful and resplendent with a brightness of a million moons. Then two servants of Shumbha and Nishumbha, Chanda and Munda, saw Her and told their masters of Her celestial divine beauty. They added that since Shumbha and Nishumbha owned everything that was beautiful and precious in all the three worlds, they should also possess Kaushiki. Thus persuaded, Shumbha and Nishumbha sent a messenger named Sugriva to Devi to get Her consent to marry one of them. Devi was furious on hearing the proposal and replied: “I made a promise to myself to marry him who defeats me in battle. If either Shumbha or Nishumbha wishes to marry me he shall have to defeat me in battle.”
Dhumralochana is Killed
Hearing Devi’s reply from Sugriva, Shumbha and Nishumbha got very angry. They summoned one of their bravest chieftains called Dhumralochana and commissioned him to capture and bring Devi to them. “Drag Her here by Her hair,” they told him. Dumralochana took sixty thousand fighters with him and attacked Devi. However, Devi reduced him to ashes with a mere sigh of the sound ‘hum’. Thereupon his fighters attacked Her with all kinds of weapons but Devi’s lion killed them all. Thus Dhumralochana and his army were destroyed. Shumbha was very angry and sad for his friend and bravest chieftain. He sent Chanda and Munda to destroy Devi.
Chanda and Munda get killed
Chanda and Munda took with them an array of elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers to attack Devi. Devi became very angry, and out of Her frowned forehead emerged Kali wearing a garland of skulls and holding a skull-topped staff. Her eyes were red and Her tongue was lolling out generating fear in the hearts of the demons. She destroyed all the army of Chanda and Munda in no time. Seeing their army destroyed, Chanda rushed at Kali with great ferocity and hurled all kinds of weapons such as spears and chakras at her. Kali could not be hurt. She went after Chanda with her lion and cut his head off with her sword. Seeing this, Munda was enraged beyond description. With all his might he rushed at Her and hurled hundreds of chakras at Her with great speed. But Kali nullified them all. She killed Munda also by severing his head by Her sword. Kali then approached Devi holding the heads of Chanda and Munda and told Her that Chanda and Munda are dead but She will have to kill the demons Shumbha and Nishumbha Herself. Devi told Kali that since She killed Chanda and Munda in battle, She will be known as Chamundi.
Killing of Raktabeeja
Shumbha was stricken by sorrow. He was mad with anger which was limitless. Unable to contain his anger and shaking all over, he summoned all his armies of Asuras, Kumbhas, Kotiviryas, Dhumras, Kalakas, Daurhrdas, Mauryas, and Kalakeyas. Followed by all the big armies of all these warriors, Shumbha raced towards Devi. Seeing him approaching, Chandika roared so loud that the entire space reverberated. Her lion’s loud roar only added to the terror in the hearts of the demons. The demons surrounded Devi on all sides. The gods seeing Devi thus surrounded sent their respective powers to the aid of Devi. Brahmini, the power of Brahma, Maheshwari, the power of Shiva, shakti the power of Ambika, Vishnavi, the Shakti of Hari, and Nrisimhi, the power of Nrisimha came to Her. Then Devi looked at Shiva and told Him to carry Her message to Shumbha that the heaven should be returned to gods. Since She sent Shiva Himself as a messenger (duta), She came to be known as Shivaduti. Shiva took Her message to Shumbha but he could not be persuaded to return heaven to gods and accept Indra as its lawful ruler.
Thus, the great battle ensued. Devi killed many asuras. The various shaktis of gods such as Aindri, Varahi, Nrisimhi, Brahmini, Maheshwari, and Vishnavi killed the armies of asuras like ants. The asura army was greatly reduced. Thereupon, a demon named Raktabeeja attacked Devi. Raktabeeja possessed an invincible power. Wherever a drop of his blood was spilled, there emerged another Raktabeeja with similar powers. This great demon fought with Aindri, Maheshwari, Vishnavi and other shaktis of gods who were unable to kill him because each time he was slain, scores of Raktabeejas came into being in his place. Thus Raktabeeja played havoc among Devi’s army of fighters. No one knew how to overcome this demon.
Devi roared. She summoned Chamundi and ordered Her to drink the spilling blood from the demon’s body before it dropped on to the earth and germinated another Raktabeeja. Thus aided by Chamundi, Devi set out to kill Raktabeeja. As soon as Devi pierced the demon with her spear, Chamundi made sure that no blood spilled on to the earth.Together they annihilated all the numerous Raktabeeja demons who came in to existence on the battlefield as well as the real Raktabeeja.
Nishumbha is slain
And now Nishumbha trailed by armies in front, back and both sides charged at Devi with innumerable weapons. With great force, the asura struck the lion. The lion let out a roar so loud that the entire army of Nishumbha was terrified. Devi getting angry at Nishumbha for striking Her lion, broke his spear and shield with a powerful arrow. All the weapons that the demon hurled at Her were broken by Devi’s weapons whereupon the asura charged at Devi with a battle axe. Devi fell him down swiftly with an arrow. Meanwhile, Shumbha who was fighting heroically saw his brother fall down and drove his chariot towards Devi with all his army following. Devi saw him approaching. She pulled on the tout string of her bow which emitted a sound so loud that all the directions and entire space between the sky and the earth was filled with it. Devi roared at Nishumbha’s army sending fear through their ranks. Shumbha fought valorously with Devi for a long time. During this time Nishumbha came to his senses and attacked Devi with increased zeal. Devi hurling a dart at the demon, pierced his heart; but a great powerful demon emerged out of his heart instead. Devi cut the head off of this being with her sword and then killed Nishumbha himself. The shaktis of gods killed all the armies of the demon.
Shumbha is Killed
Shumbha was now enraged immensely. He charged at Devi and challenged Her. Devi said to him: “All these goddesses who are fighting on my side are none but the manifestations of my powers. I am now going to withdraw all these devis in to myself so only you and I will fight.” Then the duel between the two started. They fought with various weapons. Each sent great many powerful weapons against the other while nullifying the enemy’s weapons. Devi then succeeded in breaking the demon’s bow and arrow whereupon he charged at her with a sword which also was broken by Devi’s arrow. His chariot was broken and his steeds were also killed. Then Shumbha charged at Her with a mace. Devi split his mace with an arrow but Shumbha got up and lunged at Devi and struck Her with his fist. Undaunted, Devi struck a powerful blow to his chest with Her hand. Unable to bear the pain of Her blow, the king of the asuras then sprang high in to the sky but Devi followed him there and they began to fight there. After a prolonged fight, Devi lifted the asura high, whirled him around until he was dizzy and threw him to the ground. But Shumbha got up and charged at Her again. Seeing him approaching and wanting to kill him swiftly, Devi pierced his heart with a dart. Shumbha was hurt deeply and fell down lifeless. The earth was rid of the demons and rule of justice restored. The gods were happy and they praised Devi immensely. Devi, pleased by their bhakti, granted them several boons.
“Such is the power of Devi,” said the rishi, Medhas. “She is the primordial Shakti. She is the Ruler of the Universe. She creates the maya under which all beings are led to believing that they are experiencing pain and pleasure. Your attachment to your families, friends, kingdom and wealth, in spite of the betrayal by them is because of this ignorance. Realize this and be at peace.” Thereupon, Suratha and Samadhi, freed from their ignorance were at peace.
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