Mahishasura was a buffalo Asura (Demon) in Hinduism. He is known among Hindus as a deceitful demon who pursued his evil ways by shape-shifting. Mahishasura was the son of Mahisi (Buffalo), and the great-grandson of Brahmarshi Kashyapa. He was ultimately killed by Goddess Durga - after which She gained the epithet Mahishasuramardini ("Slayer of Mahishasura"). The Navaratri ("Nine Nights") festival eulogizes this battle between Mahishasura and Durga, culminating in Vijaya Dasami, 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.
The Legend of Mahishasura
Mahishasura is a Sanskrit word composed of Mahisha meaning buffalo and asura meaning demon, thus meaning 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 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.
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 being told in the chapter where Markandeya is narrating the story of the birth of Savarnika Manu (Ref: Vishnu Purana). As per the Markandeya Purana, the story of Mahishasura was narrated in the 2nd Manvantara (approximately 1.3 billion years ago, as per the Vishnu Purana) by Maharishi Medha to a king named Soorut, as an incident which occurred in times ancient for even the 2nd Manvantara. Therefore this ostensibly dates the Mahishasura story to several billion years ago, as per the narrative of the Markandeya Purana. A proper explanation of a manvantara as a unit of time is given in the Vishnu Purana. The geography, society, and the living things on earth were all different as compared to the social set up described in other Hindu mythology. Mahishasura is described as an evil being who can change his outer form, but never his demonic goals. According to Christopher Fuller, Mahishasura represents the forces of ignorance and chaos hidden by outer appearances. 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.
Mahishasura in Art
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 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. The legend of Mahishasura has also been inspiration to films, plays and dance dramas.
Mahishasura & 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".
The temple of the city's guardian deity, Chamundeshwari, has a giant statue of Mahishasura on the hill facing the city. 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 Mahisha Mandala.
Durga killing Mahishasura, 9th century Sirpur temple, Chhattisgarh.
Mahishasura at Durga's foot in the Aihole Temple
- Garh Jungle
- Chandi di Var
- Durga Puja
- Markandeya Purana
- Sumbha and Nisumbha
- Rambha (asura)
- Chanda and Munda
- Sugriva (asura)
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