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Sculpture of Mahishasura in Mysuru

Mahishasura (Sanskrit: महिषासुर, IAST: Mahiṣāsura) is a bovine asura in Hinduism. He is depicted in Hindu literature as a deceitful demon who pursued his evil ways by shape-shifting.[1][2][3] Mahishasura was the son of the asura Rambha and a she-buffalo named Mahisi. He was ultimately killed by the goddess Durga with her trishula (trident) after which she gained the epithet Mahishasuramardini ("Slayer of Mahishasura"). Mahishasura had a son named Gajasura.

The Navaratri ("Nine Nights") festival eulogises this battle between Mahishasura and Durga, culminating in Vijayadashami, a celebration of his ultimate defeat. This story of the "triumph of good over evil" carries profound symbolism in Hinduism, particularly Shaktism, and is both narrated as well as reenacted from the Devi Mahatmya at many South and Southeast Asian Hindu temples.[4][5][6]

The Mahishasura Mardini Stotra by Adi Shankara was written to commemorate her legend.[7]


Mahishasura is a Sanskrit word composed of Mahisha meaning "buffalo" and asura meaning "demon", translating to "buffalo demon". As an asura, Mahishasura waged war against the devas, as the devas and asuras were perpetually in conflict. Mahishasura had gained the boon that no man could kill him. In the battles between the devas and the demons (asuras), the devas, led by Indra, were defeated by Mahishasura. Subjected to defeat, the devas assembled in the mountains where their combined divine energies coalesced into the goddess Durga. The newborn Durga led a battle against Mahishasura, riding a lion, and killed him. Thereafter, she was named Mahishasuramardini, meaning The Killer of Mahishasura.[3][8] According to the Lakshmi Tantra, it is the goddess Lakshmi who slays Mahishasura instantaneously, and extolling her feat is described to offer everlasting supremacy.[9]

Artwork depicting the goddess Durga slaying the buffalo demon Mahishasura is found all over India, Nepal and southeast Asia. Clockwise from top: 9th-century Kashmir, 13th-century Karnataka, 9th century Prambanan Indonesia, 2nd-century Uttar Pradesh.

Mahishasura's legend is told in the major texts of the Shaktism traditions known as the Devi Mahatmya, which is part of Markandeya Purana. The story of Mahishasura is told in the chapter where Markandeya is narrating the story of the birth of Savarnika Manu. Per the Markandeya Purana, the story of Mahishasura was narrated in the second Manvantara (approximately 1.3 billion years ago, as per the Vishnu Purana) by Maharishi Medha to a king named Suratha.[10] Mahishasura is described as an evil being who can change his outer form, but never his demonic goals.[8] According to Christopher Fuller, Mahishasura represents the forces of ignorance and chaos hidden by outer appearances.[11][2] The symbolism is carried in Hindu art found in South Asia and South-East Asia (e.g., Javanese art), where Durga is shown as a serene, calm, collected and graceful symbol of good as she pierces the heart and kills the scared, overwhelmed and outwitted Mahishasura.[12][2]


Durga slaying Mahishasura is a prominent theme which was sculpted in various caves and temples across India. Some of the prominent representations are seen at the Mahishasuramardini caves in Mahabalipuram, the Ellora Caves, in the entrance of Rani ki vav,[13] Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu and many more temples across India. The worship of Durga during Durga Puja in Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Odisha and other eastern states is represented in Pandal which depict Durga killing Mahishasura.[14] The legend of Mahishasura has also been inspiration for films, plays and dance dramas.[15]

Etymology of Mysore

The popular legend is that Mysore (Mahishooru) gets its name from Mahishasuramardini, a manifestation of goddess Durga. The buffalo demon Mahishasura, states the regional tradition, had terrified the local population. It is believed that goddess Durga (Chamundeshwari) killed Mahishasura on top of the Chamundi Hills. The spot was constructed as the Chamundeshwari Temple in Mysuru, an event that is annually celebrated at Navaratri and Mysuru Dasara. The British Era in India saw the name of "Mahishooru" change to "Mysore" and later Kannadized into "Mysuru".[16]

The temple of the city's guardian deity, Chamundeshvari, has a giant statue of Mahishasura on the hill facing the city.[17][18] The earliest mention of Mysore in recorded history may be traced to 245 B.C., i.e., to the period of Ashoka when on the conclusion of the third Buddhist convocation, a team was dispatched to Mahesha Mandala.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Bane, Theresa (2012). Encyclopedia of Demons in World Religions and Cultures. McFarland. p. 214. ISBN 978-0-7864-8894-0.
  2. ^ a b c Amazzone, Laura (2012). Goddess Durga and Sacred Female Power. University Press of America. pp. 96–97. ISBN 978-0-7618-5314-5.
  3. ^ a b Kinsley, David (1988). Hindu Goddesses: Visions of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Tradition. University of California Press. pp. 96–103. ISBN 978-0-520-90883-3.
  4. ^ Jones, Constance; Ryan, James (2014). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. p. 399. ISBN 978-0816054589.
  5. ^ Rocher 1986, pp. 191–192.
  6. ^ McDaniel 2004, pp. 215–216, 219–220.
  7. ^ Marlow, Chris (29 October 2019). Navaratri: Prayers, Praises and Hymns. Lulu.com. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-244-22986-3.
  8. ^ a b Lochtefeld, James G. (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: A-M. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 410. ISBN 978-0-8239-3179-8.
  9. ^ Lakshmi Tantra A Pancharatra Text Sanjukta Gupta. p. 50.
  10. ^ The Markandeya Purana. Penguin Random House India Private Limited. 24 October 2019. p. 421. ISBN 978-93-5305-671-1.
  11. ^ Fuller, Christopher John (2004). The Camphor Flame: Popular Hinduism and Society in India. Princeton University Press. pp. 108–109. ISBN 0-691-12048-X.
  12. ^ Zimmer, Heinrich (1990). Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 195–198. ISBN 978-81-208-0751-8.
  13. ^ mahishasuramardini. "Rani ki vav". Frontline. Retrieved 26 January 2016.
  14. ^ Durga Puja, Encyclopaedia Britannica
  15. ^ Ahalya, Performing Arts. "Mahishasura Mardhanam - Dance drama". Ahalya Performing Arts. Archived from the original on 22 December 2021. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  16. ^ "Mysuru name". mysore.org.uk. Retrieved 27 January 2016.
  17. ^ Manjunatha, M. C.; Siddaraju, M. S.; Ahmed, Abrar; Basavarajappa, H. T. (7 February 2023). "Application of Geospatial Mapping in the Analyses of Pre-monsoon Groundwater Fluctuation: A Case Study of Piriyapatna Taluk of Karnataka State, India". Journal of Global Ecology and Environment: 26–32. doi:10.56557/jogee/2023/v17i18062. ISSN 2454-2644.
  18. ^ Sajnani, Manohar (2001). Encyclopaedia of Tourism Resources in India. Gyan Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-7835-018-9.
  19. ^ "DISTRICT CENSUS HANDBOOK MYSORE" (PDF). Census of India 2011 KARNATAKA. SERIES-30 PART XII-B: 8. 2011. Retrieved 31 January 2016.

Further reading