Daitya

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In Hinduism, the Daityas (Sanskrit: दैत्य) are a clan or race of Asura as are the Danavas. Daityas were the children of Diti and the sage Kashyapa. They were a race of giants who fought against the Devas because they were jealous of their Deva half-brothers. The female Daityas are described as wearing jewelry the size of boulders.[1] Manu Smriti (XII - 48) classifies Daityas as ones possessing the quality of goodness but places them at a level lower than Gods: "Hermits, ascetics, Brahmanas, the crowds of the Vaimanika deities, the lunar mansions, and the Daityas (form) the first (and lowest rank of the) existences caused by Goodness." Sometimes the Daityas are praised, RV 2.25.16 "tava dityas ca Daityas ca bhavantu sukhadah sada."[2]

Political influence of the Daityas[edit]

It is believed that the Daityas (like the Danavas[3]) were originally exiled from heaven in the Krita Yuga by the Devas and they had then taken refuge in the Vindhya mountains and by the sea.[4] The Daityas are usually associated with areas around the Vindhyas.

The most well-known of the Daityas are Hiranyakashipu, Hiranyaksha, Prahlada, and Bali. The Daityas had originally been given political influence from them having been descended from the great Rishi Kashyapa. Daityas were of particular kingdoms and they normally fought for a particular Daitya kingdom. Their political powers increased as they were granted boons by Brahma or Shiva, or when they were performed yajnas (sacrifices) such as the Aswamedha, as in the case of Bali[5] and Mahisa.

While there were Daityas who fought, (and many had been able to defeat the Devas) but were eventually defeated, they were either slain or they were allowed to be admitted into the Devas' assembly or mainstream politics. For example, Varuna has an Asura named Meghavasas in his assembly,[6] and after Khandoba had defeated King Malla and his brother Mani, they accepted his suzerainty, and a statue of crowned Malla can be seen in the Khandoba temple at Jejuri, Maharashtra.[7] Daityas had also at times, conflicted with other Asuras. For example, Narakasura had captured the daughters of fellow Daityas, and of siddhas and kings.[8] There were also Daityas that were supported by Shiva or Skanda in wars, such as the battle between Bana (son of Bali) and Krishna, and that between both Maya (Daitya) and Namuci (Danava) with Agni wherein Agni spared the former.[9] There were also Daityas that had never fought with Devas, such as Nandur Nimba Daitya. Some Daityas, such as the Maruts, were brought to the side of the Devas, wherein Indra had entered the womb of Diti and altered the fetus to produce multiple children from her, that would become his soldiers.

Some of the Daityas are commemorated in modern times by Hindus. For example, Bali's generosity towards his subjects in the western coast of India is celebrated in Maharashtra as Balipratipada, in Karnataka as Bali Padyami, and in Kerala as Onam. Prahlada is worshiped in the Temple are Multan. Talava (Kalvo) is remembered by some people of Talaja town by lighting a lamp in the cave. The Maruts are worshiped in the Rig Veda and later scriptures. (The Mahabharata 12.34:25-34 says that Maruts had helped Indra in his war against the Daitya Paka.[10])

The Daityas had also mingled amongst non-Daityas and retained their Daitya identity. There were some Daityas that had married Danavas, and so some persons are referred to both as a 'Daitya' and a 'Danava'. Such is the case of Jalandhara, Mahisa, and others.

Daityas had seven main regions which they were firmly in control of. They were Atala, Vitala, Nitala, Mahatala, Sutala, Patala, and Gabhastimata.[11] Patala is mentioned and associated most often with Daityas, and it was their main capital in most texts.

Religious beliefs of Daityas[edit]

Shiva is outright called the originator of all beings, including classes of Asuras in some Shaiva texts. "Brahma Vishnu Maheshan deva danava rakshasaha Yasmat prajgyire devastam Shambhum pranamamyaham. (I Salute that Lord Shambhu who created the Devas, Danavas and Asuras.) The piousness of many Daityas have been recognized. Madhu and Kaitaba were called "Arya Asuras" and are said to have "never told a lie." Daityas, like most Asuras have normally been described as being devotees of Shiva (who bears the title "Devasura Guru" or Guru of both the Devas and Asuras.) It was usually Shiva however, who saved Shaiva Daitya devotees, such as Naraka and Bana. The Daitya guru Shukracharya is also a worshiper of Shiva. Maya was rescued by Shiva's chief attendant Nandikesvara.[12] Shiva rescued Andhaka to be spared from being slain by Vishnu.[13] Shiva (and his son Skanda) had taken Bana's side when he had captured Aniruddha, and Krishna, Balarama, and Pradyumna were on Aniruddha's side to defeat Bana.[14]

There were some such as Prahlada who was one of the dearest devotees of Vishnu. Prahlada had built the Prahladpuri Temple dedicate to Vishnu. It was renovated by a certain King Pururava of the region.

Madhu, the "father of the Asura race" practiced great penances and possessed very high spiritual values.[15] Dhundhu, his son, was a great "Tapasvi" (mendicant) sage.[16] Tapasya was always highlighted amongst the stories of the Daityas. In Chandogya Upanishad (VIII.8.7.8), both Virocana and Indra, in order to go find out the true nature of the Self, go to Prajapati to learn from him. The mistake Virocana makes is that he sees the body as the true Self.

For the enlargement of their kingdoms, some Daityas performed Aswamedha and other yajnas (ceremonial sacrifices), performed penance, and in many cases obtained boons from Shiva or Brahma.

Apart from Shukracharya, the Daityas are known to have had a few other priests. Bhargava Brahmins were purohitas (ceremonial priests) to Hiranyakasipu, and that 'Vasistha was his hotar (fire ceremony priest.)[17] When Vamana (Vishnu's avatar) had arrived in Bhargavesa (modern day Somanath Temple) in order to request Bali for a wish, Brahmins in the city that were happy with Bali's rule had told Vamana, "O Vamana, you should always swell in the town of the Daitya chief."[18]

Rishi Kapila, the founder of the Samkhya philosophy has been associated with Prahlada. In the Skanda Purana (172.59-66), a Daitya named Prahlada is said to have gone to Kapila's chief disciple Asuri for understanding the Samkhya, and after realizing it, Prahlada becomes acharya Pancasikha and from Samkhyasiddhanta, reached Brahman.

There were also Brahmins amongst the Daityas, such as Talmegha (just as there are amongst Danavas, such as Namuci and Vritra.) In Devas' war against Kalanemi and his army, after Kalameni perished, Indra continued executing Kalanemi's soldier's on the battle field, for which Narada had told him to stop of that Indra would incur the sin of brahmahatya (Brahminicide.)

List of Daityas[edit]

Daityas are said to have had many children. Mura had 7000 children.[19] Bali is said to have had 100 children. Daityas are also to have mingled amongst prominent non-Daityas. For example, Anuhrada's daughter Bhadra with Yaksha Rajatanabha (in Vayu Purana).[20]

Some of the notable Daityas mentioned in the Indian mythology include:

List of Known Daityas[edit]

Generation Name Parent(s) Region(s) of assoiciation Sampradaya Boon Granted Significance Defeated By
First Hiranyaksha Kashyapa and Diti (eldest son) Shaiva[21]
First Hiranyakashipu Kashyapa and Diti Shaiva[22]
First Holika (or Sinhika) Kashyapa and Diti (their daughter) From Brahma, that she couldn't perish if she entered a fire alone.[23]
First Bhasmasura Kashyapa Rampur-Lukesvar region (Maharashtra) Shaiva
(had done severe penance)[24]
Mata Mahalasa (form of Vishnu according to Skanda Purana.[25])
First Maruts Kashyapa and Diti They were in Indra's Deva army.
Second Andhaka Hiranyaksha[26] (Adopted) From Brahma that obtained hat no ordinary god would be able to kill him.[27]
Second Anuhlada (or Anuhrada) Hiranyakashipu[28]
Second Bhutasantapana Hiranyaksha
Second Hlada (or Hrada) Hiranyakashipu[29] Shaiva
Second Mahanabha Hiranyaksha
Second Prahlada Hiranyakashipu and Kayadhu Simhachalam Hill,
Multan (especially Prahladpuri Temple),
Patala
Vaishnava
Second Putana Hiranyaksha
Second Sakuni Hiranyaksha (daughter)
Second Samhlada (or Samhrada) Hiranyakashipu[30] Mentioned in the Mahabharata as 'Bahlikapumgavah' or Bull of the Bahlikas.[31]
Third Adi Andhaka[32]
Third Baka Andhaka[33]
Third Virochana Prahlada
Third Devamba mother of Bali
Third Nivatakavachas Prahlada Vaishnava
(had performed great austerities[34])
Third Ayushman Samhlada (in Vishnu Purana) or of Prahlada (in Vayu Purana)[35]
Third Shivi Samhlada (in Vishnu Purana) or of Prahlada (in Vayu Purana)[36]
Third Vashkala Samhlada (in Vishnu Purana) or of Prahlada (in Vayu Purana)[37]
Third Nisunda Hlada[38]
Third Mayavi Hlada[39]
Third Siva Hlada[40]
Third Kala Hlada[41]
Forth Bali (or Vairochana) Virochana Patala
(his capital, Gujarat)
Shaiva
Forth Sunda Nisunda[42]
Forth Upasunda Nisunda[43]
Forth Arista Was a soldier in Bali's army, and was called a Daitya (Brahma Purana 189.46-58.) Krishna
Fifth Bana (or Vairochi) Bali[44] his capital was Mahatala
Other Ganganapriya Bana Performed severe penance for Brahma, for which he was granted a silver chariot.[45]
Fifth Maricha Sunda[46]
Fifth Taraka (or Kalanabha) Updasunda[47]
Other Ambarya Yugamarya Dandaka
(King of the region, Madhya Pradesh)
Boon of strength from Brahma Narasimha[48]
Other Brhadisu Sudhanus
Other Brahmadatiya Bengal Was a Brahmin that was also a Daitya in Bengal[49] Brahmadaitya Puja is being celebrated on 1st of Magha month every year just after the next day of Deuli Mela on the bank of Ajay River.
Other Dadhmo Talaja
(Gujarat)
He was slain by Bhavani[50]
Other Hiranya
Other Indra Vahana Slain by Vishnu[51]
Other Jalodbhava Sati Sara Lake
(King of the region, Kashmir)
Would cause darkness
Other Kaitabha Lola Yogini[52]
Other Jalandhara (or Sankhacuda, Tul) After him the Tulasi plant is named, and tulasi (of Tul) it refers to Vrinda. His other form is Jwala Mukhi, with which he fought Vishnu's Narasimha form during a part of a battle.
Other Jambuka[53]
Other Kesi
Other Madhu Lola Yogini[54]
Other Mahalasa (or Mahaala) Kohlapur Slain by Laxmi
Other Mahisa Vindhya mountains Shaiva Brahma
Other Malla (Maharashtra) Jejuri Shaiva Considered to have come from the body of Madhu. He was a king of the Daityas.[55] (Daityanath in Martand Vijaya 11.26[56]) Boon from Brahma Defeated by Khandoba, and converted again to Shaivism from hedonism
Other Mani Jejuri (Maharashtra) Shaiva Considered to have come from the body of Kaitaba Boon from Brahma Defeated by Khandoba, and converted again to Shaivism from hedonism.
Other Marutvasura Jalandhara From Brahma.
Other Maya Mentioned in the Rig Veda
Other Mridumarrya Haryana Shaiva
(a staunch devotee of Shiva in northern India around Haryana[57])
Other Mura
Other Murdhaja Mushtika Conquered Amravati. Durga
Other Namuci Mentioned in the Rig Veda.
Other Nandur Nimba Daitya Nandur Nimba Daitya village (King of the village, Maharashtra)
Other Pancajana
Other Sambara - called the "Lord of the Daityas," (Brahma Purana 134.16) and an "Asura",[58] Mentioned in the Rig Veda.
Other Sankha Captured Amravati and defeated Indra, plundered the city[59]
Other Talav (or Kalvo) Talaja
(Gujarat)
Associated with him is the Sahasralinga Talav. The shrine in the past had 1000 lingas.[60] He was slain by Bhavani.[61]
Talmegha He was born in a Brahmin family.[62] Sesasayi
Other Viradha Captured Amravati and defeated Indra, plundered the city[63] Brahma

Daitya Shaiva Temples[edit]

In Nandur Nimba Daitya village, within the Pathardi taluka in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, there is a temple dedicated to the Daitya and Shaiva vibhuti mark are visible on his forehead.

Shukracharya is also the guru of the Daityas, and his temples can be found in several parts of India, also mostly with the Shaiva vibhuti mark on his forehead.

Daityas in Iranian legends[edit]

Daityas are also mentioned in ancient Zoroastrian texts as good beings. It is believed that the homeland of the Aryans is located by the Daitya River as said in this Avesta quote, "Airyanem Vaijo vanghuydo daityayo," which Darmesteter translates as "the Airyana Vaejo, by the good (vanghuhi) river Daitya."[64]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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