EVEN THOSE WHO know the Puranas may not be that familiar with the ‘Lalitaa mahatmya’ section of Brahmanda Purana. Hayagriva described Lalitaa’s slaying of Bhandasura to the sage Agastya.
To do battle, Lalitaa advanced. Rajanayikaa aided her, with a blazing goad in her hand. She also held a noose, which resembled a serpent. She held a bow made out of sugarcane and five arrows made out of flowers. The bangles tinkled on her hands. A shower of extremely red radiance spread from her body, as if one thousand suns had suddenly arisen. The radiance from her face spread in all the directions and it seemed as if she had filled up the sky with moons. The white umbrella held aloft her was more than 10 yojanas in expanse. It was studded with pure pearls and its radiance penetrated the three worlds. It seemed as if it was a friend of the lunar disc. She was served by attendants, Vijaya being the foremost, who fanned her with four whisks rendered beautiful with jewels and gems. It was as if fresh moonbeams were spreading over four green plantain trees. The javelin in her hand indicated her status as empress of the empire. Her soldiers were marked with hundreds of other marks of royal insignia. The immortals praised her prosperity and pervasive radiance with compositions sung and played through musical instruments. The prosperity and pride of her kingdom, along with the circle of Shaktis, filled up the inner recesses of the three worlds. It could not be grasped through words. Nor could it be grasped through intelligence. Using any comparisons, it was impossible to describe it. She showered down sidelong favourable glances towards the faces of the excellent gods, Brahma, Isha, Vishnu and Indra being the chief. They devoutly joined their hands in salutation and raised them up above their heads, each proclaiming, “I will serve her first.” Radiance arose from the five flowers, her arrows, and suddenly filled up the three worlds with illumination. Large numbers of apsaras, with a resplendence like that of flashes of lightning, showered down parched grain, pronouncing benedictions for her victory. Kameshvari and other beautiful ladies served her. They were attired in extremely charming garments, ready to do battle. Their blazing weapons seemed to challenge the sun. They constantly served at her feet. To perform acts in battle, she was mounted on a supreme chariot named Shrichakra. As it moved, the force of one fierce roar merged into another. Tawny in complexion, she was attired in a charming and sparkling garment, which enhanced her beauty. As she advanced in the direction of the battle, Lalitaa was praised by the accomplished Maruts, who used 25 names that were like jewels in pacifying the miseries of prapancha.
These names are Simhasanaa, Shri Lalitaa, Maharajni, Parankushaa, Chapini, Tripuraa, Maha-Tripurasundari, Sundari, Chakranathaa, Samrajni, Chakrini, Chakreshvari, Mahadevi, Kameshi, Parameshvari, Kamarajapriyaa, Kamakotigaa, Chakravartini, Mahavidyaa, Shivananga-vallabhaa, Sarvapatalaa, Kulanathaa, Amnayanathaa, Sarvamnaya-nivasini, and Shringara-nayikaa. If a person uses these to praise the immensely fortunate Lalitaa Parameshvari, he obtains the eight types of siddhi and great fame. In this way, full of intolerable force, she made the large army advance. Lalitaa Ambikaa marched, angry at Bhandasura. A beautiful description follows of her chariot, which had layers.
There were said to be 10 Siddhidevis stationed on the ninth layer of the blazing chariot. They were Animaa, Mahimaa, Laghimaa, Garimaa, Ishitaa, Vashitaa, Prapti-Siddhi, Prakamya-Siddhi, Mukti-Siddhi, and Sarvakamaa. These Devis possessed four arms and their complexion was like that of the japa flower. They held chintamani, a skull, a trident and the collyrium of siddhi. They were full of compassion and yogis served them. In the front half, there were eight Shaktis, Brahmi and others. They were Brahmi, Maheshvari, Koumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Mahendri, Chamundaa and Mahalakshmi. They were red in complexion and possessed two arms. They held a lotus and a skull and were radiant in their red garments. Mudradevis were greater and were stationed above their heads. With hands as beautiful as lotuses, they were engaged in displaying mudras. Their complexion was like a pomegranate flower. Their yellow garments were charming. They possessed four arms. Two of these held a sword and a shield. Their rolling eyes were red with intoxication. They were Sarva-samkshobhini, Sarva-vidravini, Sarvakarshana-krinmudraa, Sarva-vashankari, Sarvonmadana-mudra, the staff of Sarva-mahankusha, Sarva-khecharikaa mudra, Sarva-bijaa, Sarva-yoni and Sarva-trikhandikaa. Siddhis, Brahmis and Mudras—these were the Shaktis who were manifest. To destroy Bhandasura, they were stationed on the red chariot. There were some who were Gupta Shaktis. (The word gupta means secret/concealed. The seats of these 16 Gupta Shaktis are hidden and secret. They are also known as Nitya Shaktis, the word nitya meaning eternal. These 16 correspond to the 16 digits (kalaas) of the moon.) They were Kama-karshanikaa, Buddhya-karshanikaa Kalaa, Ahamkara-karshini, Shabda-karshini Kalaa, Sparsha-Karshanikaa Nityaa, Rupa-Karshanikaa Kalaa, Rasa-Karshanika Nityaa, Gandha-Karshanikaa Kalaa, Chitta-Karshanikaa Nityaa, Dhairya-Karshanikaa Kalaa, Smritya-Karshanikaa Nityaa, Nama-Karshanikaa Kalaa, Bija-Karshanikaa Nityaa, Atma- Karshanikaa Kalaa, Amrita-Karshini Nityaa and Sharira- Karshini Kalaa. These were the 16 Shaktis, in the form of the digits of the moon. This completes the eighth layer and they are described under the appellation of Gupta. They were charming and smiled gently, resembling coral trees. They possessed four arms and three eyes. They possessed shining crowns, resembling the sun and the moon. They held bows and arrows, swords and shields. Their beauty was divine. They embarked on the destruction of Bhandasura. Those known as Guptataraas were stationed on the seventh layer of the chariot, which resembled a radiant lamp in the evening. They were Ananga-Madanaa, Ananga- Madanaturaa, Ananga-Lekhaa, Ananga- Vegaa, Ananga-Ankusha and Ananga- Alingyaa as the next one. These Devis resembled a japa flower. Their bows were made out of sugarcane and their arrows out of flowers. They held clusters of flowers and lotuses. They were radiant and extremely brave, following Lalitaa’s commands. They were established there, blazing against Bhandasura. Those known as the Sampradayaas, with Sarva- Samkshobhini as the foremost, were stationed on the sixth layer of the excellent chariot, Chakraratha. Their shining hair was in braids and there was a dazzling tilaka mark of sindura on the forehead. They were exceedingly fierce in nature, possessing a virulence like that of the fire of destruction. The arrows were made out of fire. The bows were made out of fire. The swords were made out of fire. Blazing in form, they held shields known as Vahnichakras. Arising from the ashes of Kama, they were enraged at the Indra among the asuras. These immensely energetic Shaktis followed Lalitaa’s commands. They were Sarva-Samkshobhini, Sarva-Vidravini, Sarva- Karshanikaa Shakti, Sarva-Hladinikaa, Sarva-Sammohini Shakti, Sarva-Stambhanaa Shakti, Sarva-Jrimbhanaa Shakti, Sarva-Unmadanaa Shakti, Sarvartha-Sadhikaa Shakti, Sarva- Sampattipurani, Sarva-Mantramayi Shakti and Sarva-Dvanda- Kshayankari. Those stationed on the fifth layer are described as Kulottirnaas. They resembled crystals. Blazing in form, they held a battle-axe, a noose, a mace, a bell and a jewel. As a result of the rage against the enemy of the devas, their foreheads were furrowed. They were Sarva-Siddhipradaa Devi, Sarva- Sampatpradaa, Sarva-Priyankari Devi, Sarva-Mangalakarini, Sarva-Kamapradaa Devi, Sarva-Duhkhavimochini, Sarva- Mrityuprashamini, Sarva-Vighnanivarini, Sarvanga- Sundari Devi and Sarva-Soubhagyadayini. These 10 devis are described as those whose hearts were full of compassion. Ten famous ones, described under the names of Nirbhaya- Yoginis, were stationed on the fourth layer and they resembled necklaces made of pearls. They were Sarvajnaa, Sarvashakti, Sarvaisharya-Pradaa, Sarva-Jnanamayi Devi, Sarva- Vyadhivinashini, Sarvadhara-Svarupaa, Sarva-Papaharaa, Sarvanandamayi Devi, and Sarva-Rakshasvarupini. The tenth Devi was known as Sarvepsita-Phalapradaa. It should be known that all of them possessed four arms. They held a vajra, a javelin, a club and a chakra. They dazzled and got ready to kill Bhandasura. Those stationed on the third layer of the excellent chariot, Chakraratha, were named Rahasya- Yoginis. They were famous as those who presided over speech and intelligence. Their complexion was like that of red ashoka flowers and they held bows and arrows in their hands. All their limbs were covered in armour and they were also adorned with veenas and books. They were Vashini, Kameshi, Bhogini, Vimalaa, Arunaa, Javini, Sarveshi, and Koulini. These eight are described as the devis responsible for the destruction of the daityas. There were three, established on three seats on the second layer of the excellent chariot, Chakraratha. They possessed eight arms and held bows, arrows, a drinking vessel, a matulunga (a kind of citron), a sword, a shield, a noose made of serpents and a bell that made a loud noise. They were radiant and intoxicated and guarded mysteries and secrets. They were Kameshi, Vajreshi and Bhagamalini. These three devis are said to have been full of rage towards Bhanda. Their greatness was like that of Lalitaa. Their energy was like that of Lalitaa. These are always described as great confidantes of Shri Devi. In the central layer of the chariot, there was a great seat of bliss. There are said to be 15 imperishable ones who set up abodes all around this. They were Tithinityaas (corresponding to tithis) and their forms were that of time. They were established there, pervading the universe. Their foreheads were furrowed and they were agitated against Bhandasura and other daityas. Their forms were like that of Devi. Their weapons were like that of Devi. For the welfare of the worlds, they exist from one yuga to another yuga. They were Kameshi, Bhagamalaa, Nityaklinnaa, Bherundaa, Vahnivasini, Mahavrajeshvari, Duti, Tvaritaa Devi, Kulasundari, Nityaa, Nilapatakaa, Vijayaa, Sarvamangalaa, Jvalamalinikaa, and Chitraa. Along with these, who were always intent on rendering service, Devi Parameshvari emerged to defeat the wicked Bhandasura.