Mahishasura is both reviled as well as worshipped by sections of Hindus. For some, he was a buffalo demon in Hindu mythology whereas for many others he is a God. He is known among some sections of Hindus for his deception and as someone who pursued his evil ways by shape shifting into different forms. He was ultimately killed by Durga getting named Mahishasuramardini. It is an important symbolic 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.
Many Dalit and Adivasi communities in Indian Subcontinent worship and believe in the power of Mahishasura. It is also believed by them that Mahishasura was an indigenous king who was killed during the invasion by the upper caste Hindus. Those who mourn Mahishasura's death believe he was portrayed as a 'demon king' by the Brahmins and upper caste Hindus who tops the charts of Hindu caste system hierarchy.
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 boon 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 named Mahishasuramardini, meaning "the killer of Mahishasura".
Mahishasura's legend is told in a major text of the Shaktism tradition known as the Devi Mahatmya. He is described as an evil being who can change his outer form, but never his 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 Mahishasuramardini, a manifestation of Goddess Durga. The Buffalo Demon Mahishasura, states the regional tradition, had terrified the local population. Goddess Durga killed the Mahishasura, 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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