AS I MENTIONED IN the earlier column, I don’t think Lalitaa’s story is that well known, even among those who know the Puranas. Suffering at the hands of Bhandasura, the devas prayed to Mahadevi and she assured them that she would herself defeat Bhandasura. All the rishis and devas arrived there to see Mahadevi. Brahma was there. Vishnu arrived astride Garuda. Shiva arrived astride Nandi. Narada and the other devarshis arrived. There were gandharvas and apsaras. Commanded by Brahma, Vishvakarma created a divine city there. With mansions, ramparts and gates, the city was beautiful. There were excellent stations for elephants, horses and chariots. There were glittering royal roads. There were vassals, advisers, soldiers, and male and female servants. There were beautiful houses. There was a divine and royal residence in the centre, decorated with gates and turrets. There were many chambers. The place was decorated with assembly halls. There was an auspicious throne in the assembly hall studded with navaratnas.
Brahma wondered, “Even if a person happens to be foolish, as a result of the city’s powers, if he presides over it, he will become lord of all the worlds. However, a woman alone, without a man, does not deserve to rule over a kingdom. The Shruti texts say that a great man must be consecrated with auspicious benedictions, provided that he has the auspicious signs. This beautiful lady is radiant. Her form is like that of a divinity of shringara. Other than Shankara, no one in the three worlds deserves to be her groom. He has matted hair and wears a garland of skulls. His eyes are malformed and he holds a skull. He is speckled with ashes smearing his limbs. Bones from cremation grounds are his ornaments. His signs are inauspicious. Will this auspicious lady choose him?” While Brahma was thinking this, Maheshvara appeared in front of him. His body was divine. He wore garlands and his garments were divine. He was smeared in divine unguents and pastes. He was ornamented with a diadem, necklace, bracelets and earrings. In a form that charmed the universe, he manifested himself. Brahma, the grandfather of the worlds, embraced that youth, who possessed a delightful body, and gave him the name of Kameshvara. “This is an appropriate groom for supreme Shakti.” Having decided this, along with him, he went to her. Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshvara praised Shakti. On seeing her, the youth, Nilalohita, was overcome by desire and forgot all his rites. All her limbs were filled with desire, too, and she thought he was worthy of her. They looked at each other, full of love and desire.
Brahma spoke to Mahadevi, the leader of the worlds. “Along with Isha, your beloved, these devas, rishis, gandharvas and large numbers of apsaras wish to see you in the great field of battle. O Devi! Who is worthy of you? Who is your beloved? Who is that blessed man? To protect the worlds, serve the supreme purusha. Become the queen of the city and be seated on the excellent throne. You will be consecrated by the unblemished and immensely fortunate devarshis. Be marked with all the signs of the kingdom, adorned in every kind of ornament. We wish to see you seated on the seat, along with your beloved.”
On hearing these words, there was a gentle smile on Devi’s lotus face. She addressed Brahma, Vishnu and the other gods in these words. “O devas! I am always independent. I always roam around according to my own wishes. A person whose conduct is similar to mine will be my beloved.” The grandfather and all the devas agreed to this. Brahma addressed Mahadevi in words that were in conformity with dharma and artha. “Between a man and a woman, there are four kinds of marriage—kalakrita, krayakrita, pitridatta and svayamyuta. A kalakrita bride is a courtesan. A krayakrita bride is a dasi. A yukta bride is one who has been married according to gandharva rites. Bharya is a bride who has been bestowed by her father. Yukta is one who follows the same dharma as the groom. Bharya follows her father’s commands. The supreme Brahman has no duality and is devoid of notions of existence and non-existence. It is in the nature of consciousness and bliss and prakriti originated from it. You are that Brahman and you are also that prakriti. You are the one who is without a beginning. You assume the form of cause and effect in everything. Yogis, Sanaka and others, seek you out. You are praised as the five forms of the Brahman— that which is existent, that which is non-existent, that which is in the form of karma, that which is manifest and that which is not manifest. Compassion is in your atman. In the beginning, you are the one who creates. You are the one who instantly protects. With a desire to show favours to the worlds, serve some purusha.” Brahma and all the other gods requested Devi in this way. She picked up a garland in her hand and hurled it up into the sky. The garland she threw up was radiant in the firmament. It fell down and hung around Kameshvara’s neck. With Brahma and Vishnu at the forefront, all the devas were delighted. Fanned by a gentle wind, the clouds showered down flowers.
‘The marriage between Shiva and Shivaa must be carried out in the proper way. This Muhurta, when the devas have arrived, will be auspicious for the entire universe. You and Mahadevi originated together’
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(In general, there are eight kinds of marriage—brahma, daiva, arsha, prajapatya, gandharva, asura, rakshasa and paishacha. The taxonomy given here is different, though svayamyuta corresponds to gandharva and pitridatta corresponds to brahma. Kalakrita is when a bride is bought for a fixed period of time. Krayakrita is when the bride is bought as a servant. Yukta means someone who has been united. Bharya means wife and has the connotation of someone who is supported and cherished.)
Brahma spoke to Bhagavan Janardana. “O Hari! The marriage between Shiva and Shivaa must be carried out in the proper way. This muhurta, when the devas have arrived, will be auspicious for the entire universe. You and Mahadevi originated together and her form is similar to your own. Therefore, you should bestow the fortunate one on Kameshvara Shiva.” Trivikrama, the lord of the devas, heard his words. Following the norms, he happily bestowed her on Shankara. Devarshis, ancestors, all the devas, yogis and the primordial Keshava performed the auspicious rites for the marriage between Shiva and Shivaa. Brahma and all the other gods gave them gifts. Brahma gave her a bow made out of sugarcane. It was imperishable, with an essence that was as firm as the vajra. Hari gave her weapons made out of flowers. They would not fade and decay. Varuna, lord of aquatic creatures, gave her a noose made out of serpents. Vishvakarma, lord of the worlds, gave both of them goads. Agni gave a crown and the sun and the moon gave earrings. The ocean gave her ornaments studded with navaratnas. The lord of liquor gave her a vessel stocked with an inexhaustible supply of liquor. Kubera gave her a garland made out of chintamani jewels. Lakshmi’s husband gave an umbrella, indicative of the empire. Ganga and Yamuna gave the two of them two whisks that were as brilliant as the moon. Content, the eight Vasus, the Rudras, the Adityas, the two Ashvins, the guardians of the directions, the Maruts, the sadhyas, gandharvas and the lords of pramathas gave them their own respective weapons, chariots, horses, elephants that were immensely strong and swift, camels free of ailments and horses that did not suffer from hunger and thirst. They gave them weapons as firm as the vajra and other equipment. In this way, Shiva and Shivaa were instated in that kingdom. Brahma constructed a vimana named Kusumakara. It was always full of garlands that did not decay and weapons could not penetrate it. Full of great prosperity, as it wished, it could travel on earth, in the firmament and in heaven. As soon as one inhaled its fragrances, confusion, disease, hunger and afflictions were instantly destroyed. It was auspicious and brought delight to the mind. The divine couple was seated in that vimana, which was full of charming whisks, fans, umbrellas and staffs. There were the sounds of many kinds of musical instruments—veenas, flutes, drums and trumpets. Served by a large number of gods, she emerged from the king’s palace. Wishing to sport, she advanced along the road, illuminating everything with her own energy. Thousands of apsaras stationed themselves on the terraces of all the mansions. Women residents of the city showered down parched grain and akshata from their hands. Auspicious songs were sung. There were the sounds of veenas, flutes and musical instruments. As she gradually travelled along the roads, these satisfied her. She got down from the vimana and accepting the worship performed by the apsaras, entered the large assembly hall.
Along with Shambhu, she was seated on the throne. Since she was omniscient, she knew whatever the great people assembled there wished for. Through a glance of her eyes, she satisfied those desires. On witnessing Devi’s conduct, Brahma, the grandfather of the worlds, gave her the names of Kamakshi and Kameshvari. Following her command, a wonderful cloud showered down extremely expensive objects and other divine ornaments. She was a great queen on earth. Along with Ambikaa, Kameshvara ruled as the king of the three worlds for ten thousand years and the period passed like an instant.