MOST PEOPLE know a fair bit about stories from Puranas. But I suspect not too many know about Bhanda. Here is that story from Brahmanda Purana.
After Sati gave up her body, Shiva lost interest in everything. Meanwhile, the demon Taraka made the devas suffer and he could only be killed by Shiva and Parvati’s son, Kumara. Therefore, Shiva and Parvati needed to marry, Sati having been reborn as Parvati, daughter of Himalaya. Everyone knows the story of how Manmatha, the god of love, tried to entice Shiva and how Shiva burnt him down. Ganas are Shiva’s companions and attendants, and Chitrakarma was a lord of the ganas. When Manmatha was burnt down, Chitrakarma gathered up those ashes. Using those ashes, he fashioned a wonderful man. This being instantly came to life. He was radiant, strong and energetic. Chitrakarma embraced him and said, “O child! Worship Mahadeva. He is the one who bestows siddhi in everything.” Saying this, he taught him the Shatarudriya hymn. The being did as he was asked and performed japa with Shatarudriya mantra. At this, Bhagavan Mahadeva was pleased. He asked him to choose a boon and the child asked for a boon. “Let it be such that half of my adversary’s strength is united with my strength. Let me be able to render the best of astras and shastras futile.” Shiva agreed. He granted him a kingdom for sixty thousand years. Witnessing this conduct, Brahma said, “May you be Bhanda. You will be Bhanda.” (Bhanda means happy and prosperous. Brahma blessed him that he would be this.) Since Brahma said this, the worlds referred to him under the name of Bhanda. Having granted him this boon and having bestowed all the astras and shastras on him, Shiva vanished from the spot.
The immensely strong Bhanda was born from the fire of Rudra’s rage. Therefore, he became a terrible danava. Shukra, the priest of the daityas, went to him. Hundreds of extremely strong daityas also assembled. Urged by Shukracharya, Bhanda summoned Maya, the architect born in the daitya lineage and spoke to him. “Earlier, the daityas were established in Shonitapura (Banasura’s capital) and ruled over the three worlds from there. Go there and build a city, like the former one.” Hearing these words, the architect went to that great city. Using the powers of his mind, he instantly created a city that was like the city of the immortals. After this, Shukra and the immensely strong daityas instated Bhanda. Filled with supreme prosperity and energy, he was radiant. Earlier, Brahma had given a crown to Hiranya (not clear whether this means Hiranyaksha or Hiranyakashipu). As long as one was alive, it would not be destroyed. It dazzled like the rising sun and lords among the daityas had been ornamented with this earlier. Shukracharya gave Bhanda this. There were two whisks that resembled the moon, constructed by Brahma. As long as one was alive and was fanned with these, there would be no ailment and no misery. These were given to him and he was also given an umbrella, fashioned by Brahma in earlier times. Those seated under its shade were not harmed by crores of weapons. There was a bow named Vijaya and a conch-shell that killed enemies. He was given many other extremely expensive ornaments too. Adorned with every kind of ornament, he seated himself on that throne. Like a jewel that had been polished, the energetic one was resplendent. Eight immensely strong daityas served him—Indrashatru, Amitraghna, Vidyunmali, Vibhishana, Ugrakarma, Ugradhanva, Vijaya and Shrutiparaga. He had four wives who were extremely beautiful to behold— Sumohini, Kumudini, Chitrangi and Sundari. All the devas, along with Indra, served him. There were thousands of chariots, elephants, horses and foot-soldiers. All the danavas followed Shukracharya’s instructions. Abiding by Shiva’s command, they worshipped Mahadeva. Sacrifices were performed in every direction, in every house. In every daitya house, there were chants of Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, mimamsa and other subjects. In the sacrifices of the daityas, gods ate the havya, just as they did so in the best of hermitages of sages and dvijas. All this was done with a hope for Bhanda’s victory. (This may seem unusual for a daitya, but Bhanda was blessed by Shiva, and worshipped Shiva.)
Mayaa seated herself at the foot of a Champaka tree. She sang in sweet tones. Bhanda heard the sounds of the Veena and saw the beautiful lady. He saw her, beautiful in all her limbs, resembling a flash of lightning. He descended into the huge pit full of Maya, known as Madana
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Sixteen thousand years passed as if it was an instant. The daitya’s strength and austerities increased. Indra’s strength diminished. Seeing this, Vishnu created a beautiful Mayaa that would confound the worlds. (This Mayaa is feminine, which is why it has been written in this way. The architect of the daityas is Maya, male.) Janardana told Mayaa, “With your energy, you are the one who deludes all beings. Roam around as you will. No one will ever detect you. Quickly go to Bhanda, the leader of the daityas. Without any delay, confuse him and enjoy his material objects.” Having obtained this boon, Mayaa prostrated herself before Janardana. She asked for some foremost apsaras as aides. As asked by her, he sent some. The foremost among them was Vishvachi. Along with them, Mayaa went to the excellent shores of Manasa, where shining trees grew. Along with his own women, Bhanda was sporting there. Mayaa seated herself at the foot of a champaka tree. She sang in sweet tones. Bhanda heard the sounds of the veena and saw the beautiful lady. He saw her, beautiful in all her limbs, resembling a flash of lightning. He descended into the huge pit full of maya, known as madana. The hearts of the ministers were also affected by madana. The lord of the daityas entreated the virtuous lady for a long time. This kind of enchantment cannot be obtained through great sacrifices and horse sacrifices. Having obtained this, the daityas were greatly content. They forgot the Vedas and Shiva. They abandoned sacrifices and all the other auspicious rites. Their priest was shown utter contempt by them. Ten thousand years passed as if it was but one muhurta. All the daityas were deluded in this way and the devas, along with Vasava, were freed from the calamity. They were filled with great joy.
On one occasion, the sage Narada went and saw Indra seated on his throne, surrounded by all the devas. Joining his hands in salutation, the lord of the devas addressed him in these words. “O illustrious one! You know about every kind of dharma. You are supreme among those who possess superior and inferior knowledge. You only go to places you want to bless. The cause of your arrival must be something that will be auspicious for us. When one hears your words, which are like amrita, the ears are filled with bliss.” Narada replied, “Bhanda, Indra among the daityas, has been confounded by Vishnu’s maya. If he is freed from her, like another fire, he will burn down the three worlds. He is superior to you in energy, weapons and strength of maya. You should act so as to remove his energy and great strength. O Vasava! Even if you practice austerities for hundreds of crores of kalpas, you will be incapable of doing this, unless you worship Devi Para-Shakti. Before the enemy wakes up, worship her. When Bhagavati is worshipped, she will ensure what is beneficial for you.” Along with all the devas, Shakra worshipped the sage. Instructed to perform austerities, he went to the slopes of the Himalayas. There, the banks of the Bhagirathi are dazzling, because of flowers from all seasons. All the gods performed a great worship of Para-Shakti. The place came to be known as Indraprastha and it bestows every kind of siddhi. (Indraprastha literally means Indra’s plain. Clearly, this couldn’t have been in today’s Delhi.) They followed the supreme rites indicated by Narada. With their minds fixed on japa and dhyana, they performed Devi’s great worship. They immersed their minds in performing these fierce austerities. Ten thousand years and ten days passed.
Seeing that Bhandasura was deluded in this way, Shukracharya approached him. The priest said, “The excellent danavas always seek refuge with you. That is how, as they will, they roam around in the three worlds, without any fear. Hari always kills all those who are born in your species. The maya that has deluded you has been fashioned by him. Indra is intent on seeking out a weakness. Seeing that you have been deluded, for the sake of triumphing over you, he is performing great austerities. If Jagaddhatri is pleased, he will be victorious. Along with the ministers, you should cast aside this maya. Go to Mount Himalaya and act so as to create impediments for the enemy.” Addressed by the guru in this way, he summoned his aged ministers and told them what had happened. Hearing what the king said, Shrutavarma (Shrutavarma and Bhimakarma were his advisers) thought about it and said, “For sixty thousand years, Shiva has bestowed a kingdom on you. The period that has passed is much more than that. The period indicated by Shiva is impossible to counter.” The one known as Bhimakarma said, “The enemy’s strength must not be ignored. As long as we can create hindrances in their rites, we will be victorious. O great king! Shiva has granted you the learning that you will take away half of the enemy’s strength in a battle. Therefore, you will always triumph.”
(We will continue with Bhanda’s story in the next column.)