The Markandeya Purana

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

This page relates “the slaying of nisumbha” which forms the 89th 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 89 is included the section known as “the devi-mahatmya”.

Canto LXXXIX - The Devī-Māhātmya: The slaying of Niśumbha

Niśumbha attacked the goddess Caṇḍikā and was worsted in single combat.—Śumbha came to his help, but the goddess foiled him, and slew Niśumbha—Numbers of the Asuras were destroyed.

The king spoke:

Wonderful is this that thou, Sir, hast related to me, the majesty of the goddess’ exploits in connexion with the slaying of Raktavīja; and I wish to hear further what deed did Śumbha do after Raktavīja was killed, and what the very irascible Niśumbha did.

The ṛṣi spoke:

After Raktavīja was slain and other demons were killed in the fight, the Asura Śumbha gave way to unbounded wrath, and Niśumbha also. Pouring out his indignation at beholding his great army being slaughtered, Niśumbha then rushed forward with the flower of the Asura army. In front of him and behind and on both sides great Asuras, biting their lips and enraged, advanced to slay the goddess. Śumbha also went forward, mighty in valour, surrounded with his own troops, to slay Caṇḍikā in his rage, after engaging in battle with the Mothers. Then occurred a desperate combat between the goddess and Śumbha and Niśumbha, who both, like two thunder-clouds, rained a most tempestuous shower of arrows on her. Caṇḍikā with multitudes of arrows quickly split the arrows shot by them, and smote the two Asura lords on their limbs with her numerous weapons.

Niśumbha grasping a sharp scymitar and glittering shield struck the lion, the noble beast that bore the goddess, on the head. When her animal was struck, the goddess quickly clove Niśumbha’s superb sword with a horse-shoe-shaped arrow, and also his shield on which eight moons were pourtrayed. When his shield was cloven and his sword too, the Āsura hurled his spear; and that his missile also, as it came towards her, she split in two with her discus. Then Niśumbha, the Dānava, puffed up with wrath, seized a dart; and that also, when it came, the goddess shattered with a blow of her fist. And then aiming[1] his club he flung it against Caṇḍikā, yet that was shivered by the goddess’ trident and became ashes. As that lordly Daitya then advanced with battle-axe in hand, the goddess struck him with a multitude of arrows and laid him low on the ground. When his brother Niśumbha, who was terrible in prowess, fell to the ground, Śumbha in utmost fury strode forward to slay Ambikā. And he, standing in his chariot, appeared to fill the entire sky with his eight arms, which were lifted far on high grasping his superb weapons.

Beholding him approaching, the goddess sounded her conch, and made her bow also give forth from its string a note which was exceedingly hard to endure. And she filled all regions with the clanging of her bell, which caused the vigour of all the Daitya hosts to die away. Then her lion filled the heaven, the earth and the ten regions of the sky with loud roars, which checked the copious flow of the exudation from the demons’ rutting elephants. Kālī springing upward then struck the heaven and the earth with both her hands; the boom thereof drowned those previous sounds. Śivadūti[2] uttered a loud inauspicious laugh. At those sounds the Asuras trembled;[3] Śumbha gave way to utmost rage. When Ambikā cried out “Stand, O evil-souled! stand!” the gods who had taken their stations in the air then called to her, “Be thou victorious!”

The spear flaming most terribly, which Śumbha approaching hurled, that, gleaming like a mass of fire as it came along, was driven aside by a great fire-brand. The vault between the three worlds reverberated with Śumbha’s lion-like roaring, but the dreadful sound of the slaughter among his soldiers surpassed that, O king. The goddess split the arrows shot by Śumbha, and Śumbha the arrows that she discharged, each with her and his sharp arrows in hundreds and thousands. Caṇḍikā enraged thereat smote him with a dart. Wounded therewith he fell in a faint to the ground.

Thereupon Niśumbha, regaining consciousness, seized his bow again and struck the goddess, and Kālī and the lion with arrows. And the Dānava lord, that son of Diti, putting forth a myriad arms, again covered Caṇḍikā with a myriad discuses.[4] The goddess then enraged, she, Durgā who destroys the afflictions of adversity, split those discuses and those arrows with her own arrows. Then Niśumbha seizing his club rushed impetuously at Caṇḍikā to slay her outright, with the Daitya host surrounding him. As he was just falling upon her, Caṇḍikā swiftly clove his club with her sharp-edged scymitar. And he took hold of a dart. Caṇḍikā with a dart hurled swiftly pierced Niśumbha, the afflicter of the Immortals, in the heart, as he approached with dart in hand. When he was pierced by the dart, out of his heart issued another man of great strength and great valour, exclaiming “Stand!” When he stepped forth, the goddess laughing aloud then struck off his head with her scymitar; thereupon he fell to the ground.

The lion then devoured those Asuras whose necks he had crushed with his savage teeth, and Kālī and Śivadūtī devoured the others. Some great Asuras perished, being pierced through by the spear held by Kumāra’s Energy; others were driven back by the water purified by the spell uttered by Brahmā’s Energy; and others fell, pierced by the trident wielded by Śiva’s Energy; some were pounded to dust on the ground by blows from the snout of Varāha’s Energy; some Dānavas were cut to pieces by the discus hurled by Viṣṇu’s Energy; and others again by the thunderbolt discharged from the fingers of Indra’s Energy. Some Asuras perished outright, some perished by reason of the great battle, and others were devoured by Kālī, Śivadūtī and the lion.

Footnotes and references:


Āvidhya. The Bombay edition reads ādāya, “taking.”


I.e., Caṇḍikā ; see canto lxxxviii, verse 27.


For Asurāstreṣu read Asurās tresuḥ as in the Bombay edition.


For cakrāyudhena read cakrāyutena as in the Bombay edition.

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