BHANDASURA’S CITY was named Shunyaka. Those residents were greatly agitated when they heard the sounds of Devi Lalitaa marching out. The impregnable city was beyond the limits of Mount Mahendra, on the shores of the great ocean. The entire city, full of asuras, extended for one hundred yojanas. It was repeatedly enveloped in smoke and there were evil portents. The walls of the city were shattered at the wrong time. Giant meteors whirled around and fell down on the ground from the sky. An earthquake is chief among evil portents. This occurred in Shunyaka and the entire earth blazed. The daityas faced untimely palpitations of the heart. Herons, vultures, cranes and other birds perched on the tops of standards. They repeatedly glanced at the solar disc and called out loudly. There were many predatory creatures that could not be seen with the eyes. Harsh voices were repeatedly heard from the sky. In every direction, banners were seen to become dirty. The smoke agitated the daitya and rakshasa populace. At the wrong time, the ornaments and garlands of the daitya women were dislodged. They lamented and wept piteously and shed profuse flows of tears. Mirrors, armour, standards, swords, wealth, jewels and garments were repeatedly sullied. The loud and harsh shouts uttered by bhutas could be heard in mansions, chambers on tops of buildings, everywhere in pleasure-chambers, houses, cow-pens, shops, assembly houses, quadrangles, balconies, turrets, camps of soldiers, homes, excellent treasure houses, all the delivery chambers, arches, doors, roofs, boundaries, windows, rooms and threshing floors. All the residents heard these sounds. Everything turned lax, horrible in hue, and dreadful. Looking towards the sun, crows called in hideous tones. While they crowed, crores of skulls fell down on the ground. Drops of blood mixed with water fell down in the centre of sacrificial altars. Bunches of hair fell down everywhere, smoky in complexion and grey. All the residents witnessed these evil portents on earth, in the sky, and in heaven. Greatly terrified, all of them went to Bhandasura and reported to him what they had seen.
However, Bhanda was not disturbed. He went to the assembly hall and sat down on an excellent throne, decorated with many colourful gems. He was radiant and seemed to illuminate the directions. The arena of that great pavilion extended for one yojana. As he was seated on that lofty throne, he was served by his two younger brothers, Vishukra and Vishanga, extremely strong and valiant. Their terrifying arms were like staffs, acting as thorns to the three worlds. They never transgressed the commands of their elder brother. They repeatedly enhanced his great fame by obtaining victory in the three worlds. They lowered their heads a bit, before his foot-stool. Joining their hands in salutation, they prostrated themselves and sat down on the ground. All the vassals of Indra among daityas arrived, so as to see him. It was impossible to count the number of soldiers each possessed. They announced their respective names and prostrated themselves before Bhanda, the lord.
‘The commanders of my soldiers are invincible. They will crush the enemy, treating them like ripe cucumbers. I have extremely strong sons. When my soldiers follow my sons, they will rout the worst among immortals’
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Vishukra spoke to his elder brother. His voice was like that of bellows, or like the sound of the great ocean being churned. “Terrible in your strength and valour, you have destroyed the devas. Those worst among gods are sinners. They are evil-souled and wicked in conduct. They could not find refuge with anyone and were dejected. They faced destruction, as if they were descending into a fire full of a circle of flames. A woman has arisen from those devas and she is proud of her strength. Devas, Vasava and others, have themselves created her. Hence, they have again been infused with great strength and enterprise. Through this, many women and their attendants have been created, armed with diverse kinds of weapons. They are full of enthusiasm and valour. This will lead to great hardships for us. Such is the perverse nature of destiny. Though we are strong, if these weak women were to vanquish us, this will be like a stone being shattered with a broken sprout. If anyone speaks of such a possibility, that should be dismissed as jest. Is this not ridiculous? Is this not shameful? Perhaps they have been filled with fright at the leading warriors among our soldiers. Shakra and the other residents of heaven have been overwhelmed by distress. Because of our strength and weapons, Brahma and the others have lost interest. What need be said about Vishnu? Maheshvara is scared. The guardians of the directions have fled. What need be said about others? Our sharp arrows descended on their limbs. Everywhere, the invincible armour of the gods has been shattered. Such has been the great valour in our arms. Nevertheless, a woman is advancing against us, desiring to defeat us. Though she is a woman, one should never ignore her. Those who wish for victory should not disregard and ignore an enemy, however insignificant. Therefore, to uproot her, servants should be sent. Let that insolent one be seized by her hair and brought here. Those who traverse a wicked path against you are like those who should be hunted. Within a short period of time, that evil one will be reduced to the status of a female servant.”
Vishanga possessed great spirits. He could reflect and was discriminating. He addressed his elder brother. “When it is a question of following the path of good policy, there is nothing that needs to be said to you. If an act is undertaken without reflection, it leads to destruction from the roots. One should make efforts to send spies to the adversary’s camp. Kings should not ignore enemies, even if they belong to inferior species, are women, or are insignificant. Power can be generated everywhere. Hiranyakashipu was the lord of all beings. But he was killed by an entity, with a body like a man and inferior species, originating from a pillar. (Vishnu’s Narasimha/Nrisimha (half-man, half-lion) avatara.) Earlier, there was a woman named Chandikaa, who manifested herself from maya. In battles, she destroyed Shumbha, Nishumbha and Mahishasura. In that connection, many daityas were destroyed by her. Therefore, I say that one should never act so as to ignore her, even if she happens to be a woman. It is the nature of this world that power manifests itself everywhere. Therefore, you should seek to ascertain her wishes and her conduct. Who is she? Where did she originate? What is her strength? Who are her aides?”
Addressed thus by Vishanga, Bhandasura replied, “Why should extremely energetic ones reflect? In our army, there are hundreds of leaders of akshouhinis who possess great spirits. They are capable of drinking up fathomless oceans and their fire can burn down heaven. Why are you scared of women? Using spies, I have already ascertained all this. Someone has risen up from Agni and her name is Lalitaa. Her name is appropriate. (Lalita means gentle and soft, beautiful and charming.) Her form and features are like those of a flower. She possesses no spirit or valour and does not know about battles. She does not think about what she does, but resorts to maya. Since she lacks in spirit, she created all these women from her atman. She is exerting herself through them. Or perhaps, as you have properly stated, there is a large army. Even then, who can defeat Bhanda, whose greatness has surpassed the three worlds? Even now, the residents of heaven are almost unable to breathe. They have been rendered senseless by the force and strength of my arms. Some of them have resorted to the depths of Patala. Some have entered the waters of the ocean. Some have sought refuge in the corners of the directions. Some are hidden in groves in mountains. Extremely scared, they have vanished, abandoning their wives, sons and prosperity. They have been dislodged from their positions and are wandering around, hidden in the garb of animals. This woman did not originate a long time ago and does not know that the valour of my arms is like this. Hence, she is proud. Women do not know. They are foolish and their conceived bravery is futile. Deluded about what should be done and what should not be done, they head towards destruction. Nevertheless, placing her at the forefront, if the residents of heaven, great uragas, siddhas, Sadhyas, Brahma, the one with a lotus in the navel, Rudra, the lord of the gods and other guardians of the directions do come, I am capable of crushing them. The commanders of my soldiers are invincible in battle. They will crush the enemy, treating them like ripe cucumbers. I have extremely strong sons. They are the equals of Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha. Each of these has given birth to another one hundred brave sons. My soldiers are intoxicated. When they surround and follow my sons, in a battle, they will rout the worst among the immortals. Even if they are enraged in battle, even if they possess thousands of excellent akshouhinis, the enemy will be reduced to ashes. What need be said of women? When they come into battle, all of them use maya. However, those on my side use greater maya and will angrily reduce their forces to ashes. Therefore, let your mind not be depressed on account of unnecessary fears.”
Saying this, Bhandasura prepared for the imminent battle.