Mahishasura is a buffalo demon in Hindu mythology, known for deception and who pursued his evil ways by shape shifting into different forms. He was ultimately killed by Durga in her Mahishasuramardini form. It is an important symbolism-filled legend in Hindu mythology, particularly Shaktism. The legendary battle of Mahishasura as evil and Durga as good is narrated in many parts of South Asian and Southeast Asian Hindu temples, monuments and texts such as the Devi Mahatmya. The story is also told in the Sikh text Chandi di Var, also called Var Durga di, which many in Sikh tradition believe was included in the Dasam Granth by Guru Gobind Singh.
The legend of Mahishasura
Mahishasura is a Sanskrit word composed of mahisha meaning buffalo and asura meaning demon, or "buffalo demon". As an Asura, Mahishasura waged war against the Devas, as the Devas and Asuras' were perpetually in conflict. Mahishasura had gained the gift that no man could kill him. In the battles between the gods and the demons, the Devas led by Indra were defeated by Mahishasura. Dejected by their defeat, the Devas assemble in the mountains where their combined divine energies coalesce into goddess Durga. The new born Durga led a battle against Mahishasura, riding a lion, and killed him, thereafter she is remembered in this form as Mahishasuramardini.
Mahishasura symbolic legend is told in the major Shaktism tradition text Devi Mahatmya. He is described as evil who keeps changes his form, shape and how he appears on the outside, but never his values, intent and demonic goals. According to Christopher Fuller, Mahishasura symbolically represents forces of ignorance and chaos hidden by outer appearances. The symbolism is carried in Hindu arts found in South Asia and southeast Asia (Javanese artwork, for example), where Durga is shown as 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 Mahabalipram, the Ellora caves, in the entrance of Rani ki vav Hoysaleswara Temple in Halebidu and many more temples across India.
Mahishasura and Mysore
The popular legend is that Mysuru gets its name from Goddess Durga, Mahishasura Mardini. The Buffalo Demon Mahishasura, states the regional tradition, had terrified the local population. Goddess Durga killed the Mahishura, an event that is annually celebrated at Navratri and Mysore Dasara.
The temple of the city’s guardian deity, Chamunda 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.
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