The destroyer and preserver: Mahishasurmardini

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Mahishasurmardini photo by Kirit Mankodi

Somewhere in the mists of the deep dark past, they say, lies
the beginning of the present Goddess Durga. This genesis can
be traced back to the Devi Mahatmya story of the Markandeya
Purana where she was created to fight the demon Mahishasur.
The legend goes that Mahishasur (Mahish – buffalo; Ashu –
demon) managed to earn the favour of Lord Brahma, through
extreme austerity and prolonged meditation. Pleased with his
devotion, the Lord blessed him with a boon that no man or deity
would be able to kill him.

Soon after, Mahishasur started his reign of terror over Prithvilok
(Earth) and Swargalok (Heaven) and usurped the throne of
Heaven. The troubled gods went to the Supreme Trinity – Brahma,
Vishnu and Shiva for help. Furious, the three gods combined
their divine energy and created the shape of the beautiful
Goddess, Durga. They then equipped her with heavenly gifts –
weapons and jewellery. In addition to this, she was also given a
magnificent lion to ride into battle. That is how she got her name
‘Shimhavahin’ – she who stands astride on the king of beasts.
Durga then went into battle and while Mahishasur rampaged
against her changing many forms, she finally killed him, relieving
heaven and Earth from his evil power, gaining the name
Mahishasurmardini or the slayer of Mahishasur.

It is believed that since then ‘Durgatinashini Durga’, our mother
goddess who destroys evil, protects her devotees and ensures
peace and prosperity in heaven and on earth. She is worshipped
by all gods and human beings. It is this annual worship of Devi
Durga in autumn that is famous as Durga Puja or Durgotsav
among Bengalis all over the world.

Authors: Judhajit Bagchi, Ranadeep Bhattacharyya
Photograph © K.L. Mankodi
Source: Heritage India Volume 3 Issue 1 (Feb 2010)

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