Bhumi (goddess)

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Bhudevi
Goddess of the Earth[1]
Bhudevi in temple.jpg
Idol of goddess Bhumi at a temple in Tamil Nadu
Other namesBhudevi, Prithvi, Varahi, Puhumi, Vasundhara, Vasumati, Basumati
AffiliationVaishnavism Lakshmi
AbodeBhuloka and Dyuloka
MantraOm Bhumyai Namah
MountElephant
Personal information
ConsortVaraha (Vishnu)
ChildrenNarakasura, Mangala, Sita
Equivalents
Greek equivalentGaia
Roman equivalentTerra
The idol of Malayappa Swami in a float shaped like the kalpa-vriksha (The Tree of Life) along with his consorts Sridevi (left) and Bhudevi (right) Tirumala

Bhumi (Sanskrit: भूमि, romanizedBhūmi), also known as Bhudevi and Vasundhara, is a Hindu goddess who is the personification of the Earth. She is a consort of the god Vishnu. According to Vaishnava tradition, she is the second aspect of Vishnu's consort, Lakshmi, along with the aspects of Sridevi and Niladevi.[2] Varaha, the third avatar of Vishnu, saved her from the demon Hiranyaksha and later married her, making her one of his consorts. She is regarded as the mother of Narakasura, Mangala, and Sita.[3]

Etymology and iconography[edit]

The name "Bhūmi" is Sanskrit word for "earth". The version "Puhumi" is the equivalent in Old Awadhi.[4] She is known by various names such as Bhuvati, Bhuvani, Bhuvaneshwari, Avni, Prithvi, Varahi, Dharti, Dhaatri, Dharani, Vasudha, Vasundhara, Vaishnavi, Kashyapi, Urvi, Ira, Mahi, Ela, Vasumati, Dhanshika, Vasumati, Hema, and Hiranmaya.

Bhudevi is depicted as seated on a platform that rests on the back of four elephants, representing the four cardinal directions. She is usually portrayed with four arms, holding a pomegranate, a water vessel, a bowl containing healing herbs, and another bowl containing vegetables, respectively.[5] She is also sometimes depicted with two hands, the right hand holding a blue lotus known as Kumuda or Utpala, the night lotus, while the left hand may indicate the pose of Abhayamudra, the fearlessness or the Lolahasta Mudra, which is an aesthetic pose meant to mimic the tail of a horse.[6][7]

Literature[edit]

Padma Purana[edit]

The episode of the devas seeking the assistance of Vishnu's Varaha avatar in rescuing Bhudevi is described in the Padma Purana:[8]

They sought the shelter of Nārāyaṇa, Viṣṇu. Then knowing that wonder, he, Viṣṇu, the holder of a conch, a disc, and a mace, took up the Boar-form, existing everywhere and having no beginning, middle or end. The highest lord full of everything, having hands and feet on all sides, having large fangs and arms, struck the demon with one fang. The mean son of Diti, with his huge body pounded, died. Seeing the earth fallen (from the demon’s head), he lifted it with his fang, and putting it on Śeṣa’s head as before, took up the form of a Tortoise.1 Seeing great Viṣṇu of the form of the hog, all deities and sages, with their bodies bowed with devotion, praised him.

— Padma Purana, Chapter 237

Brahmanda Purana[edit]

Prahlada, the son of Hiranyakashipu, was a devotee of Vishnu. The father did not like the son’s devotion to Vishnu. He punished Prahlada in a number of ways. Once, he threw down Prahlada from the top of a high building. At that moment, Bhudevi appeared there and received him in her arms.[9]

Consort and children[edit]

Bhudevi is the consort of the anthropomorphic Varaha, an avatar of Vishnu.[10] In the Satya Yuga, the demon Hiranyaksha kidnapped her and hid her in the primordial waters, and Vishnu appeared as Varaha to rescue her. Varaha slew the demon and retrieved the Earth from the depths of the ocean, lifting it on his tusks. He restored Bhudevi to her rightful place in the universe, and proceeded to marry her. Mangala, and according to Vaishnava tradition, Narakasura, were the sons of Varaha and Bhumi.[11][12]

Narakasura was the first born of Bhudevi. There are two stories about Narakasura's birth. In the first one, he was the first son of Bhumi and Varaha. He was born when Bhumi requested Varaha for a son. Narakasura later performed a penance to receive a boon that only his mother would be able to kill him. In the second one, Narakasura's father was Hiranyaksha and was born when Hiranyaksha's horns touched Bhumi.[13] Narakasura is believed to have been the founder of the legendary Bhauma dynasty among the Boro people.

Sita, the wife of Rama, emerged from the earth, and thus Bhumi is her spiritual mother. The tale goes that there was once a drought in Mithila, the hometown of Sita. Janaka, the future father of Sita, was ploughing the ground. Under his plough, he found a baby girl (Sita). Rain showered upon the earth and Janaka and his wife, Sunaina, decided to adopt the girl. As Sita was born from the earth, she was also known as Bhumija.[14]

Temples of Bhudevi

The milking of the earth[edit]

One of the most well-recounted legends of Bhumi is her episode with the emperor of the world, Prithu. When Prithu hears that his people are starving because the earth had withdrawn most of her vegetation, he furiously chases her in her form of a cow. She submits, allowing herself to be milked so that living beings could be nourished once more. Attributes such as the courage, valour, knowledge, and the bodily health of the Brahmin sages are stated to have been milked from the earth, and the virtues and the truths that characterise animals may be attributed to her as well:[15]

Pṛthu got angry on hearing this and taking his bow Ajagava and several arrows went in search of the goddess of earth. The goddess got frightened and fled taking the form of a cow. She went to all lokas but Pṛthu followed her with his bow and arrows everywhere. At last desiring to escape from the arrows of such a valiant king Bhūmidevī went to him and trembling with fear said "Oh king, why do you make such a persistent attempt, to kill me which would be the great sin of Strīvadha? (killing a woman)." The Rājā replied that there was no sin in killing wicked persons. The goddess asked what refuge was there for the people if the earth was destroyed. The king said that he would protect his people by the power of his yoga. Bhūmidevī was frightened and she said "Oh king, I shall give you back all I have destroyed in the form of milk. Therefore, virtuous as you are, if you are really interested in the welfare of the people I shall allow you to milk me and take back everything you want. Do bring a calf."

Satyabhama avatar[edit]

After receiving his desired boon, Narakasura grew arrogant and drunk with his power. He started capturing women and forcefully made them his wives. He captured nearly 16,000 women. He wrested control of heaven from Indra and no deity was able to defeat him because of his boon. Narakasura even took the earrings of Indra's mother, Aditi, and gave them to his mother, Bhumi. Bhudevi was requested by the devas to slay her son. She manifested herself upon the earth as Satyabhama, the daughter of Satrajit. Satyabhama married Krishna, and the couple waged war on Narakasura. She finally beheaded the latter with her husband's Sudarshana Chakra, thus fulfilling the prophecy that the asura could only be killed by his mother.[16]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Bhumi, Bhūmi, Bhūmī: 41 definitions". Wisdom Library. 11 April 2009. Earth (भूमि, bhūmi) is one of the five primary elements (pañcabhūta)
  2. ^ Duffy, Michelle; Mair, Judith (2017-08-07). Social inclusion, social exclusion and encounter. Festival Encounters. Routledge. pp. 83–93. doi:10.4324/9781315644097-8. ISBN 9781315644097. Retrieved 2022-06-28.
  3. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (2019-01-28). "Story of Bhūmi". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
  4. ^ "पृथिवी", Wiktionary, 2022-07-03, retrieved 2022-10-22
  5. ^ Rao, T.A.G. (1997). Elements of Hindu Iconography. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-0876-2.
  6. ^ Stutley, Margaret (2003). The Illustrated Dictionary of Hindu Iconography. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. p. 82. ISBN 81-215-1087-2.
  7. ^ Mitchell, A. G.; Victoria and Albert Museum (1982). Hindu gods and goddesses. United Kingdom: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. p. 8. ISBN 9780112903727.
  8. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (2019-10-31). "The Boar Incarnation of Viṣṇu [Chapter 237]". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 2022-08-11.
  9. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (2019-01-28). "Story of Bhūmi". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 2022-08-11.
  10. ^ "Killing of Narakasura".
  11. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  12. ^ "Bhoomi Devi – Our Sacred Goddess Mother Earth". Anaadi Foundation Blog. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
  13. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  14. ^ "The Story of Mother Sita the consort of Rama". Salagram.net. Archived from the original on 30 May 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  15. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (2019-01-28). "Story of Pṛthu". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 2022-08-11.
  16. ^ "Happy Diwali: The Legends Linked To Deepavali Festival". NDTV.com. Retrieved 2020-06-09.

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Bhūmi at Wikimedia Commons