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In Hindu scriptures, Mahishasura was an asura, a race of divine spirit beings who are the opponents of the Deva. Mahishasura's father Rambha was king of the asuras. He once fell in love with Princess Mahishi, who was cursed to be a water buffalo. Mahishasura was born out of this union. Because of this, he is able to change between human form and buffalo form at will. The name Mahishasura comes from the Sanskrit word for buffalo, Mahisha.
This painting shows a pivotal battle between Durga and a powerful demon named Mahasura. The demon, with an animal head and purple skin, appears three times, attacking the goddess with bow and arrow, sword and shield, and trident (this weapon is shown snapped in two, a sign that he will eventually lose).
The two demon brothers Rambh and Karambh arrived on the throne of the Underworld. Their mother, Danu, instructed them to perform act of penance and obtain desired boons. Rambh and Karambh did penance to please Agni (fire) and Varuna (Water). Rambh began to do penance in Agni chakra, while Karambh was half-immersed in river water while doing penance. Lord Indra assumed the disguise of a crocodile and killed Karambh, while Rambh successfully completed his penance and received a boon from Agni. This boon would allow him to obtain an extremely powerful son who would rule over the three worlds in this universe.
Rambh fell in love with Mahishi (buffalo woman) and they married. Mahishi soon became pregnant. When her lover, a Mahish, tried to abduct her Rambh came in to protect his wife. Rambh was killed by the Mahish. In the cremation process of Rambh, Mahishi jumped into the fire to sacrifice her life to express her love for her husband. Yama was stopped from taking away the soul of Rambh. Rambh was retained into the womb of Mahishi. From the cremation fire emerged two demons, namely Raktabeej (rebirth of Rambh) and Mahishasura (the child of Rambh). The demon Mahishasura obtained a boon from Lord Brahma which indicated that no man would kill him. He gathered strong powers from Lord Brahma as a reward for his penance.
Mahishasura also gathered a large demon army to win for the heavens. In Heaven, Indra learned about the boon that Mahishasura got from Lord Brahma. He sent in a large heavenly army. Mahishasura came to the battlefield with his army as well with Indra's. The demons were chanting for Mahishasura while the heavenly army was chanting for Indra. Indra warned Mahishasura to go back where he belonged, but Mahishasura refused. A severe battle began. The heavenly army failed to kill Mahishasura's army. Mahishasura's army was so powerful and strong that Mahishasura defeated Indra and obtained the heavens. All Gods went to Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu to destroy Mahishasura. Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu assembled forth together and from their anger emerged rays of light which were combined onto other flames with other Gods who had lost their anger. The rays of light were combined onto other flames, and they issued forward together taking the shape of a woman. The woman, who was wearing an old dress, had a fair complexion, long black hair, and uncountable hands. All of the Gods presented her with new red clothes, jewelry, a crown, a tiger for her vehicle, weapons and many other items.Shiva gave her a trident, Vishnu gave her a discus, Brahma gave her a water pot and rosary, Marut gave her a bow and arrow, Indra gave her a thunderbolt, Wind God gave her a noose, Fire God gave her a spear, Rain God gave her a conch shell, Sun God gave her his powers of the bright 10,000 suns inside her most powerful body, Rudra and Veerbhadra both gave her a shield, sword and scimitar, Lord Yama gave her a lasso, Vishwakarma and Kuber gave her a battle-axe, lotus, weapon made out of thorns, spear, longsword, vajra, spade, baton, beating stick, cleaver, javelin, snake. The Gods kindly asked her to destroy the evil demon Mahishasura. Upon hearing Lord Vishnu giving her the name of Goddess Durga, she spoke out to the Gods announcing that she would annihilate the evils in many forms. She caused trouble for the demons by making the three worlds shake, including the heavens and hell. That shake echoed throughout the skies, and the seas trembled as the Goddess descended on earth. The Gods and sages beheld the Supreme Goddess.
In Kerala, there is a story about Mahishasura's sister, Mahishi, who was adopted by his uncle. She had the head of a female buffalo. After the death of Mahishasura, Mahishi took the throne and continued the war against gods. She had obtained a boon from Lord Brahma that only the son of Shiva and Vishnu could kill her. The main aim of her life was to destroy Goddess Parvati, who's incarnation Kathyayani, also known as Durga, had killed her brother.