The Markandeya Purana

by Frederick Eden Pargiter | 1904 | 247,181 words | ISBN-10: 8171102237

This page relates “the goddess’ conversation with the asura’s messenger” which forms the 85th chapter of the English translation of the Markandeya-purana: an ancient Sanskrit text dealing with Indian history, philosophy and traditions. It consists of 137 parts narrated by sage (rishi) Markandeya: a well-known character in the ancient Puranas. Chapter 85 is included the section known as “the devi-mahatmya”.

Canto LXXXV - The Devī-Māhātmya: The goddess’ conversation with the Asura’s messenger

The Asuras Śumbha and Niśumbha conquered the gods and drove them from heaven.—The gods invoiced Caṇḍikā at Himavat in a hymn, appealing to her by all her attributes to help them.—Pārvatī came there and Caṇḍikā sprang forth from her body.—The servants of Śumbha and Niśumbha saw her and extolled her perfect beauty to Śumbha.—He sent a messenger to invite her to marry him.—She explained that by a vow she could marry no one who did not conquer her in fight.

The ṛṣi spoke:

Of yore the Asuras Śumbha and Niśumbha, trusting in their pride and strength, robbed Śaci’s lord of the three worlds[1] and of his portions of the sacrifices; they both usurped likewise the sun’s dignity and the moon’s dominion, and Kuvera’s and Tama’s and Varuṇa’s; and they both exercised Vāyu’s authority and Agni’s sphere of action,[2] Thereby the gods were scattered, deprived of their sovereignties and put to rout. The thirty gods, bereft of their dominion and set at nought by those two great Asuras, all recall to mind that never-vanquished goddess,—“Thou didst grant us the boon,[3] ‘As ye when in calamities shall call me to mind,[4] that very moment will I put an end to all your direst calamities.’” Making this resolve the gods went to Himavat, lord among mountains, and there raised their hymn to the goddess, who is Viṣṇu’s illusive power. [5]

The gods spoke:

Reverence to the goddess, to the great goddess!
To her who is auspicious reverence perpetually!
Reverence to Prakṛti the good!
Submissive we fall prostrate before her![6]
Reverence to her who is terrible, to her who is constant!
To Gaurī, to Dhātrī reverence, yea reverence!
And to the Moon-light,[7] to her who has the moon’s form,
To her who is happy, reverence continually!
Falling prostrate, to her who is propitious, to Prosperity,[8]
To Perfection let us pay[9] reverence, yea reverence!
To Nirṛti,[10] to the goddess of Good-Fortune of kings,
To thee, Śarvāṇī, reverence, yea reverence!
To Durgā, to her who is a further shore difficult to be reached,[11]
To her who is essential, to her who works all things,[12]
And to Fame also, to her who is blue-black,[13]
To her who is smokedark reverence continually!
Before her who is at once most gentle and most harsh
We fall prostrate; to her reverence, yea reverence!
Reverence to her who is the foundation of the world!
To the goddess who is Action reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created things
Is called Viṣṇu’s illusive power,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Bears the name Consciousness,[14]
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm†† with the form of Intellect,[15]
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Sleep,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Hunger,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence,
To the goddess who among all created beiugs
Stands firm with the form of Shadow,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Energy,[16]
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Thirst,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Patience,
Reverence to her, ye a reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Speciality,[17]
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Modesty,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Peaceableness,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Faith,
Reverence to her, yea, reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Loveliness,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Good-Fortune,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence![18]
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Activity,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Memory,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Mercy,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence![19]
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Contentment,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Mother,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To the goddess who among all created beings
Stands firm with the form of Error,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
To her who both governs the organs of sense
Of created beings, and rules among all
Created beings perpetually,—to her
The goddess of Pervasiveness reverence, yea reverence!
To her who exists pervading this entire
World with the form of Thinking Mind,
Reverence to her, yea reverence to her!
Reverence to her, reverence, yea reverence!
Praised by the gods afore-time because of eagerly-desired protection,
And waited upon by the lord of the gods many days,
May she, the goddess, the origin of brightness, accomplish for us
Bright things, yea good things, and ward off calamities!
And she, who is both reverenced as queen by us gods,
Who are tormented now by the arrogant Daityas,
And whom we called to mind as we bow our bodies in faith,[20]
She this very moment destroys[21] all our calamities!

The ṛṣi spoke:

While the gods were thus engaged in offering hymns and other reverential acts, Pārvatī came there to bathe in the water of the Ganges, O prince. She, the beautiful-browed, said to those gods,—“Whom do ye, lords, hymn here?” And springing forth from the treasure-house of her body the auspicious goddess spoke—“For me this hymn is uttered by the assembled gods, who have been set at nought by the Daitya Śumbha and routed in battle by Niśumbha.” Because Ambikā issued forth from the treasure-house[22] of Pārvatī’s body, she is therefore named in song as Kauṣikī[23] among all the worlds. Now after she had issued forth, the other also, even Pārvatī, became Kṛṣṇa; she is celebrated as Kālikā; she fixed her abode on Mount Himavat.

Thereafter Caṇḍa, and Muṇḍa, the two servants of Śumbha and Niśumbba, saw Ambikā displaying her sublime and most captivating form; and both spake out unto Śumbha;—

“What woman then, most surpassingly captivating, dwells here, illuminating Mount Himavat, O great king? Such sublime beauty was never in sooth seen by anyone anywhere; let it be ascertained if she is any goddess, and let her be taken possession of, O lord of the Asuras. A gem among women, surpassingly beautiful in body, illuminating the regions of the sky with her lustre, there she is then, O lord of the Daityas; deign, Sir, to look at her. Moreover, whatever gems, precious stones, elephants, horses and other valuable things indeed exist in the three worlds, O lord, all those display their splendour at this present time in thy house. Airāvata, gem among elephants, has been captured from Purandara; and this Pārijāta tree and also the horse Uccaiḥśravas. Here stands the heavenly chariot yoked with swans in thy court-yard; it has been brought here, the wonderful chariot composed of gems, which belonged to Brahmā. Here is the Nidhi Mahāpadma,[24] captured from the Lord of wealth. And the Ocean gave a garland made of filaments and of undying lotus flowers. In thy house stands Varuṇa’s umbrella, which streams with gold. And here is the choice chariot that belonged to Prajāpati formerly. Thou, O lord, hast carried off Death’s power which is named Utkrānti-dā.[25] The noose of the Ocean-king is in thy brother's possession. And Niśumbha has every kind of gem which is produced in the sea. Agni also gave thee two garments which are purified by fire. Thus, O lord of the Daityas, all gems have been captured by thee; why dost thou not seize this auspicious lady, this gem of womankind?”

The ṛṣi spoke:

Śumbha, on hearing this speech then from Caṇḍa and Muṇḍa, sent the great Asura Sugrīva as messenger to the goddess, saying —“Go and address her thus and thus according to my words, and lightly conduct the matter so that she may come to me of her own good pleasure.” He went to where the goddess sat on a very bright spot in the mountain and spoke gently with mellifluous voice.

The messenger spoke:

O goddess! Śumbha, lord of the Daityas, is supreme lord, over the three worlds. A messenger am I, sent by him; to thy presence here I have come. Hearken to what he has said, whose command is never resisted among all beings of divine origin, and who has vanquished every foe of the Daityas—“Mine are all the three worlds; obedient to my authority are the gods, I eat every portion of the sacrifices separately. The choicest gems in the three worlds are altogether under my power; and so are the finest elephants and the chariot of the lord of the gods, since I have captured them. That gem among horses, named Uccaiḥ-śravasa, which came forth at the churning of the sea of milk, was presented to me by the immortals who prostrated themselves before me. And whatever other created things in the shape of gems existed among the gods, Gandharvas and Nāgas, they were presented even to me, O brilliant lady. I esteem thee O goddess, to be the gem of womankind in the world; do thou, who art such, approach unto me, since I am an enjoyer of gems. Either to me, or to my younger brother Niśumbha of wide-reaching prowess, approach thou, O lady of quick side-glances, since thou art in truth a gem. Supreme dominion beyond compare thou shalt gain by wedding me. Understand and consider this, and come unto wedlock with

The ṛṣi spoke:

Thus accosted the goddess, smiling deeply within herself, she, Durgā the adorable and good, who supports this world, sang this reply then.

The goddess spoke:

Truly hast thou spoken; nought hast thou uttered falsely herein. Sovereign of the three worlds is Śumbha, and like unto him is Niśumbha also! But how can that which has been promised concerning this myself be fulfilled falsely? Hearken, what vow I made formerly by reason of my small understanding at that time, —‘He who vanquishes me in fight, who forces my pride from me, and who is my match in strength in the world, he shall be my husband.’ Let Śumbha come here then, or Niśumbha the great Asura; let him vanquish me—what need of delay here? and let him lightly take my hand in marriage!

The messenger spoke:

Proud art thou! Talk not so before me, O goddess! What male in the three worlds may stand front to front with Śumbha and Niśumbha? All the gods verily stand not face to face with even the other Daityas in battle, O goddess; how much less canst thou so stand, a woman singlehanded! With Śumbha and those other Daityas, against whom īndra and all the other gods stood not in battle, how shalt thou, a woman, venture face to face? Do thou, being such, to whom I have in sooth delivered my message, go near unto Śumbha and Niśumbha; let it not be that thou shalt go with thy dignity shattered in that thou wilt be dragged thither by thy hair!

The goddess spoke:

So strong as this is Śumbha! and so exceedingly heroic is Nīsumbha! What can I do, since there stands my ill-considered promise of long ago? Go thou thyself; make known respectfully to the lord of the Asuras all this that I have said to thee, and let him do whatever is fitting.

Footnotes and references:

[1]:

For traikokyam read trailokyam.

[2]:

The Bombay edition inserts a line here —

anyeṣāṃ cādhikārān saḥ svayam evādhitiṣṭhati

and reads the first three words with the preceding words, but does not explain the last four in its commentary. I would suggest that the line should run thus—

anyeṣām adhikārāṃśca svayam evādhitaṣṭhatuḥ

“and they themselves dominated the lordships of the other gods.”

[3]:

See canto lxxxiv, verse 31.

[4]:

Smṛtākhilāḥ, i.e., smṛtā, and akhilāḥ agreeing with paramāpadaḥ.

[5]:

Viṣṇu-māyā.

[6]:

Praṇatāḥ sma tām; sma is used here with a past participle.

[7]:

Jyotsnāyai.

[8]:

Kurmo; the Bombay edition reads Kūrmyai, “to the female Tortoise.”

[9]:

“Dissolution.”

[10]:

Durga-pārāyai.

[11]:

Sarva-kāriṇyai; this violates the metre. The Bombay edition reads better, sarva-kāriṇi, “O thou who workest all things!”

[12]:

Kṛṣṇāyai.

[13]:

Cetanā.

[14]:

Saṃsthitā; or “abides.” The commentary explains it as samyak sthitā.

[15]:

Buddhi-rūpeṇa.

[16]:

Śakti-rūpeṇa.

[17]:

Jāti. The commentary explains it as nityaikānugata-pratyaya-hetur aneka-samavāyinī.

[18]:

The Bombay edition inserts here a similar verse, invoing the goddess in the form of Steadfastness (dhṛti).

[19]:

After this verse and after verse 30 the Bombay edition inserts two similar verses, invoking the goddess in the form of Good Policy (nīti) and Nourishment (puṣṭi) respectively.

[20]:

Bhakti-vinamra-mūrttibhiḥ, must be taken with asmābhir, though it is ill-placed as the verse stands. It would be better to read the second hall of the verse thus—

Yā ca smṛtā bhakti-vinamra-mūrttibhiḥ
Sarvāpadas tat-kṣaṇam eva hantī naḥ.

[21]:

Hantu, “may she destroy,” would be better than hanti.

[22]:

Koṣa; but kośa is better.

[23]:

Kauśikā is better. The derivation is of course absurd.

[24]:

See canto lxviii, verse 12.

[25]:

“Giving an exit,” “granting departure.”

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