The Skanda Purana

by G. V. Tagare | 1950 | 1,763,776 words

This page describes Mahishasura Slain: His Head Stuck to Gauri’s Hand which is chapter 11 of the English translation of the Skanda Purana, the largest of the eighteen Mahapuranas, preserving the ancient Indian society and Hindu traditions in an encyclopedic format, detailling on topics such as dharma (virtous lifestyle), cosmogony (creation of the universe), mythology (itihasa), genealogy (vamsha) etc. This is the eleventh chapter of the Arunacala-khanda (Purvardha) of the Maheshvara-khanda of the Skanda Purana.

Chapter 11 - Mahiṣāsura Slain: His Head Stuck to Gaurī’s Hand

Brahmā said:

1. As Goddess Gaurī seated on a lion shone brilliantly with different kinds of weapons, the infuriated demon (covered) her with a great shower of mountains.

2. With a great volley of arrows She checked it from afar and rived the whole of his body with very sharp weapons.

3. Though he was being split and pierced, the leading Daitya whose body was as hard as a rock, did not get disheartened in the least; (on the contrary) his ferocity of fighting increased.

4. While being split and pierced by sword, discuses, daggers, spears and other weapons, he vanished from the scene.

5. Thereafter, with the terrible form of a lion with sharp curved teeth and sharpened claws, he moved round roaring fiercely again and again.

6. The lion of the Goddess struck the other lion with his paw. With his claws he tore open the chest of that demon-lion.

7. Thereafter, he approached in the form of a great tiger with wide gaping jaws. In order to kill him the Goddess thrust her hand with great force rapidly.

8-9. His tawny-coloured body was covered with long blue stripes. He moved about like a golden mountain full of vehicles lined up on it. The strong (demon) appeared to be like (an animal) sent ahead by the deer and other animals to save (themselves).[1] He appeared to exhibit the blazing fire of his wrath with his flame-like lolling tongue.

10. As he rushed at her with gread speed, the Goddess hit that tiger with her Bhalla type of arrow that had a moon-like refulgence, in the manner with which Īśvara struck at the three cities.[2]

11. That arrow penetrated his mouth, pierced through, his body, came out of it besmeared with blood and entered the sky.

12. That Daitya then became an elephant and rushed quickly at the Goddess. Offering her (as it were) the many animals that had been struck and tom as an oblation, he appeared to strive to please her.

13. On seeing that lordly elephant coming on drenching the surface of the earth with his ichor, the lion of the goddess roared and struck him.

14. Thereupon, a warrior holding the sword and the shield in his hands rose up with a face terrible on account of curved teeth. He moved here and there.

15. With a number of swords and discuses shining in her hands, the Goddess fought with that warrior and broke his head.

16. Again he assumed the form of a buffalo resorting to the demoniacal Māyic power. Without any agitation he began to fight with the Goddess as before.

17. Thereupon, urged by the Devas and leading sages, sage Gautama began to enlighten the Mother of the universe by means of eulogies:

18. “It is accepted that the great Prāṇaśakti (‘vitality’) of the entire universe is (concentrated) in you. The other Śaktis too, viz. Ojaśśakti (‘vigour’), Jñānaśakti (‘knowledge’) and Balaśakti (‘physical strength’) are inferred.

19. Why is this long-drawn fight resorted to by you today to delude (everyone). Let this Daitya be done away with for the protection of the universe.

20. It is by gathering together his bodies that have been broken and split by you that oblations unto you can be had as instructed in the Nigamas. They are the bestowers of boons.

21. Otherwise, why should there be this much of excitement, O Goddess, in slaying this enemy who is as insignificant as a blade of grass, since you have the refulgence of the fire of destruction (of the universe)?

22. (O Goddess) who have assumed a body made of the three guṇas, strengthening and fixing your own Śakti, draw out that Prāṇaśakti (‘vitality’) of the enemy by means of your trident.”

23. On being addressed thus by that (sage) the Goddess attacked Mahiṣāsura with her trident and made him bear (Her) (i.e. sat on him).

24. Unable to bear the weight of the physical body of the Goddess equal to a number of mountains, Mahiṣāsura was distressed.

25. He was crushed and pounded. He rolled this way and that way and screamed. On being assailed, he trembled. The Lord of the Asuras tried to raise his head in order to escape but could not do so.

26. Pierced by the tips of the trident it appeared as though an ocean was formed there by a stream of blood, an ocean with its body (surface) turned red on account of the dusk.

27. Then, the Goddess who tormented Mahiṣa, cut off his head with a sharp-edged sword and stood on his head and danced.

28. Siddhas, Gandharvas and great sages praised Durgā. A great shower of flowers was released by Devas all round. The Lord of Devas bowed down to the Goddess and eulogized her with palms joined in reverence.

Indra said:

29-32. Obeisance to you, to the mother of all the worlds, to the seed-consciousness of all living beings.

O Aṃbikā, you are the devotion, faith and Śakti (‘energy’) of those who worship you. You are the cause, the supreme fame, peace, control, skill and forbearance (incarnate). You are the only one having the universe as your form (i.e. omnipresent) though you are called by different names.

You have employed us in the various offices according to the achievements befitting our Tapas (‘penance’). You have split the enemy. You shone as Śiva, worthy of being known. O Spouse of Śaṃbhu, this wicked demon Mahiṣa has been cut down and killed.

33-38a. His head that has been chopped off appears to be alive.

Let this form of yours be always in our (minds)—the form wherein you overpowered his head that has red eyes, sharp horns and blazing tongue and that shakes (always) and stands (towering above him).

With the weapons of all the deities, viz. discus, horn, bow, arrow, sword, shield, trident, belt, goad, whip, skull, thunderbolt etc. and with the gestures of granting boons and immunity from fear, you have the forms of all the deities. O Mother, you alone permeated them with all the weapons and thereby kill all our enemies. You have thousands of weapons. They consist of your superhuman powers.

All the enemies conquered by you, though they were equipped with different kinds of weapons and vehicles, although they were kings endowed with chariots, elephants and horses and all the armies, shall have all their vitality and power burnt up, if they are devoid of your favour.

38b-44a. One who serves your lotus-like feet attains the lordship of the three worlds, though he might have been without any position or be of meagre prowess. He becomes popular, adorned with fame. Those who always meditate upon and worship this terrible form of yours, need not at all be afraid of enemies. They will be always victorious.

It is your form like this that is bowed to by Devas in all the worlds. Let it always be worshipped by Devas and your servants for the sake of achieving the desired objectives.

Mothers[3] have been created by you and they bestow all desired benefits. Let them be worshipped always along with the Gaṇas, in all places and regions.

This Daitya who has been killed by you has an imprint made on him by your foot. Thanks to your grace, he is always to be worshipped by your devotees, before you.

The Goddess who was praised thus by the Lord of Suras, and was served by all the sages and Suras and was a bestower of boons, said, “So be it” and sent them off to heaven.

44b-48. She herself established there that form of hers wielding different kinds of weapons, along with the Mothers. Thereby she made arrangements for the protection of the holy spot. She assumed her own form, devoid of impurities. Surrounded by her female attendants, she looked at the head of Mahiṣa deformed by the keen edge of the sword. Speaking about his diverse ways of harassment (?) of the worlds, the Young Maiden looked into his throat along with her friends. She saw there a Liṅga. She took it up in order to worship it. Gaurī suddenly grasped the Liṅga that was on his neck.

49. She looked for a long time at the Liṅga which was smeared with blood. That Liṅga got stuck to her palm. She tried to lay it aside but could not do so quickly, as it had stuck to her.[4]

50. With great surprise the Goddess thought thus: ‘What is this?’ She stood in front of the great sages with great distress and dejection.

51. She was overcome with the grief of having killed a devotee of Śiva. She censured much her own foolishness caused by the peculiar feminine nature.

52-57a. Completely filled with remorse at (her) thoughtless commencement of the slaughter of devotees of Śiva. She approached Gautama, the excellent sage. The Young Maiden spoke to him about the rash act committed by herself: “O holy lord conversant with all pious activities and holy rites, O Gautama, O noble leader of sages, a sinful thing has been committed by me thinking it to be a pious and righteous act. In order to protect Devas, I attempted to grant them freedom from fear. Out of ignorance I have crushed the Daitya Mahiṣa, a devotee of Śiva. In the case of those whose intellect is overpowered by rajas, there cannot be accumulation of merit, as it is always disturbed by hundreds of obstacles that spring up but is easy (for accomplishment) with the favour of the preceptor.

Those who resort to Śiva are unassailable. They cannot be easily suppressed even if they are of bad conduct, especially those who wear Liṅgas. Śiva honours them very much.

57b-58a. Formerly the demons who resided in the three Puras (‘cities’) used to wear Liṅgas. Then they could not be conquered by Śaṃbhu. When they abandoned the Liṅgas they were killed.

58b-61a. The Liṅga in his (i.e. Mahiṣa’s) throat does not leave my palm. How can I dispel the sin, the result of slaying a devotee of Śiva? Holding this Liṅga of his (Mahiṣa’s) throat, I shall perform penance and pilgrimage until Śaṃbhu becomes pleased. Thereafter I shall take holy bath in the sacred centres of Śaṃbhu, the chief of which is Kailāsa and most of the other sacred places. Thereby I shall get redemption from sin.”

61b-64. On hearing her weariness and worry due to the suspicion of unrighteousness and sin thus, (the sage) conversant with the tenets of Śiva-cult spoke to her, as she appeared to be terrified:

“Do not be afraid, O Daughter of the Mountain, due to the delusion that a devotee of Śiva has been killed. O Daughter of the Mountain, it is difficult to find persons fully conversant with the subtle meanings of Dharma (Texts).

Twenty-eight crores of Āgamas have been uttered by the five faces of Sadāśiva occupied by Sadyojāta etc. They are to decide (doubtful cases) in the path of Śiva (i.e. Śaiva cult). They are the splendid guides to the devotees of Śiva.

65-67. Even leading sages are unable to comprehend (subtleties) in them. There are five manifestations (sects) of the Śaiva cult, viz. Kālamukha, Kaṅkāla, Śaiva, Pāśupata and Mahāvrata. There are various types and divisions among them, but all are devoted to Śiva. The only Godhead to be achieved or realized by all of them always is the powerful Śiva. All of them are always worthy of being worshipped (respected) by those who closely adhere to their own duties.

68-72a. A devotee of Śiva (is to be worshipped) by the devotees of Śiva devoid of jealousies and the obedient observers of the behests of Śiva.

Śiva is devoutly propitiated by many Vedas and Yajñas. Mahādeva is always the bestower of everything. Violence to living beings shall not be committed particularly by sages. But those who transgress Śiva-dharma (i.e. the tenets of Śiva-cult) should be immediately killed. Neither the sex nor the parentage should be taken into account of a person having the guise (of a devotee of Śiva). One should, without hesitation, kill a transgresser of Śaiva tenets and principles.

When a decline of Śiva-dharma is noticed by many persons conversant with Dharma by means of (their) keen intellect Śakti begins to act immediately.

72b-77. He is fortunate in having this Liṅga endowed with power and prosperity. That was why he could not be conquered by all the Devas.

It was because he had been overwhelmed by the curse of the great sages that he was killed, O Goddess, by you who are worthy of being honoured by Śaṅkara. Because of the support of Śiva, he insulted them (the sages) and acted contrary to their interest. Hence they became angry. They cursed him: ‘Let him become a buffalo, because he has been as wicked as a buffalo.’

Thereupon immediately after their imprecation he became a buffalo. He bowed to them in order to please them. He requested them to grant him release and redemption from the curse. On being propitiated and pacified, they granted him the release along with the ability to assume any form he wished. In spite of being a buffalo he was granted death at the hands of the Goddess at the bidding of Śiva. You should not feel dejected by seeing a part(?) (? i.e. head sticking to your palm along with the Liṅga).

78-82. If Siddhas of the form of Śiva are insulted and dishonoured, whom does not that insult afflict? When he had the form of a buffalo and when all the defects were present, the cessation of the curse brought about by you was secured by him by the favour of the Siddhas.

All the worlds have been saved. This wicked fellow too was saved when he was released from the state of being a buffalo that had resulted from the curse.

O Daughter of the Mountain, the fiery Liṅga named Aruṇācala should be seen by you who are engaged in penance for the delight of Girīśa.

Clearly this (demon) had been a devotee of the Lord of Aruṇādri in the previous birth. In the state of a buffalo he became too arrogant, but was associated with Liṅga. In all the three worlds who is competent enough to kill one who wears a Liṅga with devotion?[5]

83-87a. Formerly in the three cities (even) the three wicked ones were honoured by Śiva.

O lady of excellent face, by his neck (having been) cut off by your sword this has been indicated that a Liṅga handed over without proper initiation etc. does kill. Of course, the Liṅga had been worn by Mahiṣa with great devotion. When it was reviled and defamed by a Jaina mendicant(?) he got enough proof and believed in its efficacy. Due to the contact with (the merit of) the penance of the previous birth he remembered and recollected (ḍhe events of the) previous birth. There is no doubt about this that he became liberated because of the contact and touch of your lotus-like feet. By means of the expiation suggested by me, (your) sins can be destroyed. Visiting the excellent Mountain is considered to be the greatest of all types of atonement.

87b-90. You establish the various followers of Śiva conversant with the principles of Śiva cult. For the sake of dispelling all defects invoke all the Tīrthas (‘holy waters’) and build up a lake. O lady of excellent face, take your bath therein. Repeat the Aghamaṛṣaṇa Mantra[6] and take the holy dip along with the Liṅga. This shall be done three times a day. At the end of the month, during the great festival of the sacrifice of Devas, propitiate Śiva in the form of Aruṇādri rendering all services in the course of the adoration.”

91. On hearing these words of the sage impregnated with Śaiva ideas the Goddess, the Daughter of the Mountain, bowed down to by Devas, the Protectress of the universe, became pleased. She decided to perform this Śaiva holy rite because it was proper to have it in the presence of Śoṇācala. She wanted to wash off her sins. Hence she became inclined to take the holy plunge in the Tīrtha.

Footnotes and references:


The reference is to the famous fable iṇ the Pañcatantra, which tells how all the animals approached the lion and agreed to send one animal per day to him, on condition that he should not harm other animals. Harṣa’s Play Nāgānanda mentions a similar agreement between Garuḍa and Serpents.


This refers to the destruction of the demon city complex Triprua by Śaṅkara (Mbh, Karṇa 33,34).


Mātṛ-devatās, subordinate deities of the Goddess Gaurī.


Like demon Tāraka, Mahiṣa was a devotee of Śiva. Pārvatī, though consort of Śiva, had to atone for killing a devotee of Śiva, though he might be uninitiated and wicked by nature. The greatness of Śiva’s devotion is thus emphasized (vide the following verses).


Throughout the Purāṇa (from Kedārakhaṇḍa to the end of Aruṇācala-Māhātmya) the importance of Liṅga-worship is emphasized.


viz. Āpo hi ṣṭhā mayobhavaḥ etc, ṚV X.9.1; TS, VS 11.50.

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