MENTIONED EARLIER that I don’t think too many people know about Bhandasura. This story is from Brahmanda Purana. Bhanda was encouraged by his advisers and other danavas. With his army, he went to the Himalayas. Jagaddhatri (the mother of the universe) saw that the danavas were intent on creating hindrances in the path of austerities. She created a large and dazzling wall in front that was impossible to cross. On seeing this, Bhanda was surprised. Enraged, he shattered it with the extremely powerful danava weapon. However, it materialised in front again and it was impossible for any of the danavas to cross it. He shattered it with a vayavya weapon and roared. As many times as it was reduced to ashes, it repeatedly rose up again. On seeing this, Bhanda was dejected and left for his own city.
Seeing Jagaddhatri and seeing the blazing wall, the devas trembled because of their excessive fear. Indra told them, “Bhanda came here. All of us are incapable of defeating him in battle. Even if we flee, there is no other place we can go to. Let us construct a proper and beautiful pit that is one yojana in expanse. We will kindle a fire, according to the norms laid down for a great sacrifice. Using mahamamsa, we gods will perform a sacrifice to the supreme Shakti. We will either become one with the Brahman, or we will enjoy heaven.” (Mahamasa is a kind of bean, Dolichos catjang. This is the word used in the text. From what follows, it is clear that this should be mahamamsa. Mahamamsa means expensive flesh, specifically, human flesh. The devas offered flesh from their own bodies as oblations.) Thus addressed, all the devas, with Indra leading the way, sliced off pieces of flesh and offered them as oblations. This was done with the use of mantras. All the flesh from the hands and the feet was offered as oblations. The devas then wished to offer the rest of the body as oblations. At that time, an excellent and supreme mass of energy appeared in front of them. An excellent chakra arose in its centre. Mahadevi was in the middle, with a radiance resembling that of the rising sun. She is the one who imparts life to the universe and Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are in her atman. She possessed the ultimate essence of every kind of beauty. She was an ocean of bliss. Her complexion resembled that of a japa flower. Her garments possessed the hue of a pomegranate flower. She wore every kind of ornament. Her sidelong glances were like moonlight, the tips of her eyes tinged with compassion. Her hands held a noose, a goad, a bow made out of sugarcane and five arrows. All the devas, along with Vasava, saw Mahadevi. They repeatedly prostrated themselves before the one who has everything in her atman. As soon as she looked at them, they lost all their anxiety. Their limbs became whole again and firmer. They became immensely strong, with bodies as firm as the vajra. They praised Mahadevi Ambikaa, who bestows everything desired.
This is a beautiful prayer to Lalitaa. Among the many hymns listing the Devi’s names, one of the most famous is ‘Lalita Sahasranama’, the one thousand names of Lalitaa. Contrary to popular impression, this is a later text and is not part of Brahmanda Purana. This praise, from Brahmanda Purana, doesn’t have one thousand names. It has more like two hundred, though we have translated some into English and sometimes, it is difficult to distinguish adjectives from proper names. If one regards this entire prayer as a mantra, there are roughly one thousand aksharas in the mantra.
‘All of us are incapable of defeating him in battle. Even if we flee, there is no other place we can go to. We will kindle a fire, according to the norms laid down for a great sacrifice. Using Mahamamsa, we gods will perform a sacrifice to the supreme Shakti’
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The devas said, “O Devi! Victory to you. O mother of the universe! O greater than the greatest! O reservoir of everything auspicious! O one with the arts of kama in your atman! O one who brings about victory! O one with the beautiful eyes! O Kamakshi! O beautiful one! O one who triumphs over everything! O one who deserves to be worshipped by the gods! O Kameshi! O one who bestows honours! O one who is full of the Brahman! Victory to you. O Devi! O one who absorbs the Brahman into your atman! O Narayani! O supreme one! O abode of every kind of delight! O one loved by Shrikantha (Shiva)! O Shri Lalitaa! O Ambikaa! O one who wins over prosperity! O Devi! O one who bestows victory, riches and prosperity! You are the cause behind those who have been born, those who will be born and ishta and purti. You are the one who preserves the three worlds. I prostrate myself before you. You are greater than the greatest. Kalaas, muhurtas, kashthas, days, months, seasons and years are in your atman. I prostrate myself before the one with one thousand heads, one thousand faces and one thousand eyes. I prostrate myself before the one with one thousand hands like lotuses and adorned with one thousand feet that are like lotuses. O Devi! You are smaller than the smallest and larger than the largest. O mother! You are supreme, you are beyond the supreme. You are the most energetic, you are beyond the most energetic. Your feet are Atala and your knees are Vitala. Rasatala is the region around your waist, the earth is your stomach. Bhuvarloka is your heart and Svarloka is said to be your face. The sun, the moon and the fire are your eyes. O Ambikaa! The directions are your arms. The wind is your breath. All the shruti texts are your speech. In your pastimes, you create the worlds. Your friend is Shiva, who is full of consciousness. Constant bliss is your food. You reside in the hearts of the virtuous. Your own forms are in everything visible and invisible. The worlds are your forms. The clouds are the hair on your head, the stars are your flowers. Dharma and the others are your arms, adharma constitutes your weapons. Yamas and niyamas are the nails on your hands and feet. Your breasts are the sounds of svaha and svadha, which impart life to the worlds. Pranayama is your nose and Sarasvati is your tongue. Your senses are pratyahara. Dhyana constitutes your excellent intelligence. The power of dharana is your mind and samadhi is your heart. The large trees are the hair on your body, dawn is your garment. The past, the present and the future represent your eternal form. Your form is the sacrifice. O Jagaddhatri! Your sanctifying form is the universe. In the beginning, you were full of compassion and created all the prajas. You reside in the heart, but are invisible to all the worlds. Delusion is in your atman. In your own pastimes, you create divisions of names and forms. You preside over everything, but you are not attached to anything. You are the one who bestows artha and kama. I prostrate myself before Mahadevi. I prostrate myself before the one who is every kind of shakti. The fire, the sun, the moon and the winds function because of your command. So do earth and all the other elements. I prostrate myself before that Devi. At the beginning, you are the one who created Dhatri. You are the one who bestows creation, prosperity and everything else. You are alone the one who supports everything. I prostrate myself before that Devi. You are the immeasurable one who holds up earth and space. The sun rises in you. I prostrate myself before that Devi. Everything in the universe arises because of you, is established in you and obtains support from you, merging into you at the end. I prostrate myself before that Devi. I bow down before the rajas of origin. I prostrate myself. I bow down before the sattva of preservation. I bow down before the tamas of destruction. I bow down before Shivaa, who is nirguna. I prostrate myself. I bow down before the only mother of the universe. I bow down before the only father of the universe. I bow down before the one whose form is in every kind of tantra. I bow down before the one whose form is in every kind of yantra. I prostrate myself. I bow down before the one who is the supreme guru in the worlds. I prostrate myself. I bow down before the one who is every kind of splendour in speech. I prostrate myself before Lakshmi, the only one who brings satisfaction to the universe. I prostrate myself. I bow down before Shambhavi, who possesses every kind of shakti. You do not have a beginning, a middle, or an end. You are not made out of the five elements. You cannot be reached through words or thoughts. You are beyond debate. You are without form and devoid of the opposite pair of sentiments. You cannot be perceived through sight. Your power is great. O Ambaa! How can you be described? O Vishveshvari! O one worshipped by the universe! O Ishvari of learning! O one whose form is the Vedas! O one who is full of maya! Be pleased. O one whose form are the mantras! O Sarveshvari! O one whose form is everywhere! Be pleased.”
In the next column, I will speak about the boon granted to the devas by Devi.