Puranic encyclopaedia

by Vettam Mani | 1975 | 609,556 words | ISBN-10: 0842608222

This page describes the Story of Devi included the Puranic encyclopaedia by Vettam Mani that was translated into English in 1975. The Puranas have for centuries profoundly influenced Indian life and Culture and are defined by their characteristic features (panca-lakshana, literally, ‘the five characteristics of a Purana’).

Story of Devī

(Mahāmāyā). Though Devī is without a beginning it is told how she became first visible to living beings.


While Mahāviṣṇu was resting on a fig leaf in the assumed form of a child he began thinking as to who he was, who created him and how he should act. And then a celestial voice announced as follows:

Sarvaṃ khalvidamevāham

Nānyadasti sanātanam.

(All that is, I am. There is nothing eternal but me.). This declaration astonished Viṣṇu, but he could not understand who made it. While he was meditating upon it, Devī appeared to him in the following manner. Devī* held in her four sacred hands weapons like the conch, the disc, the club and the lotus flower and was clad in divine clothes and wore divine ornaments and was attended upon by powers** like Rati (the erotic), Bhūti (riches and prosperity), Buddhi (intelligence), Mati (intellect), Kīrti (reputation), Dhṛti (understanding capacity), Smṛti (ability to remember), Śraddhā (attention, concentration), Medhā (intellect), Svadhā, Svāhā, Kṣudhā (thirst), Nidrā (sleep), Dayā (compassion), Gati, (momentum), Tuṣṭi (pleasure, happiness) Puṣṭi (growth, progress), Kṣamā (patience, forberance), Lajjā (sense of shame), Jṛmbhā and Tandrā (laziness).

And, the Devī spoke to Mahāviṣṇu as follows:—After all, what is there to be wondered at. Whenever the world faced the phenomenon of Sṛṣṭisthitilaya (creation, existence and absorption into the primordial force) you too have come up due to the power of Mahāśakti. As for Parāśakti (the ultimate, universal force) it is above and beyond all attributes. We, all of us, possess attributes. From the nābhi (navel) of yourself in whom sattvaguṇa (gentle attributes) predominates will be born Brahmā in whom rajoguṇa (active attributes) will predominate, and from the centre of his brows will be born Rudra with tamoguṇa (black, destructive attributes). Brahmā, by the force of his tapas will earn powers of creation and will with his rajoguṇa create the world blood-red in colour, and you will be the sustainer and guardian of that world. The very same world will be annihilated by Rudra at the end of the Kalpa era. You please do know that I am the sāttvic force which depend on you for the purpose of creation. All creations of worlds have been made according to the suggestions of Devī.

Origin of Devī.

Once King Janamejaya questioned Vyāsa about the birth of Devī to which he replied as follows:—

Even Brahmāviṣṇumaheśvaras (Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva—the Hindu trinity) are not capable of thinking about the origin of Devī. Then, what about me? Yet let me make an attempt. All the forces—everything-which appear in various names and forms are in fact Devī herself, her different manifestations. Just as a master actor appears on the stage in different roles for the delectation of the audience the formless Devī, on behalf of the Devas, assumes many forms and imposes upon herself attributes though in fact she is without any attribute whatsoever. Thus, depending on her various forms, actions etc. she is addressed by different names. (Devī Bhāgavata, Pañcama Skandha).

Five forms of Devī.

When primordial nature (Mūlaprakṛti) incarnated or manifested in the form of Viṣṇu the desire for creation raised its head in him. And, at once the Devī—female—aspects in Viṣṇu manifested in five forms like Durgā, Lakṣmī, Sarasvatī, Sāvitrī and Rādhā. These five forms are designated as the Pañcadevīs. Brief notes on the five Devīs are given below.


Mother of Gaṇeśa bhagavān. (God with the elephant’s head). She is the consort of Śiva. Nārāyaṇī, the Viṣṇumāyā, is none else than Durgā. She is also perfect Brahma, the one and the only one with no second to it. She is worshipped by Devas like Brahmā and by sages and maharṣis. She is the basis, the root and root cause of everything. She is eternal, upholder of dharma, truth itself and the giver and promoter of happiness, reputation, welfare, salvation etc. as also of sorrow, grief, pain etc. She takes great preasure in removing the worries and sorrows of devotees who seek refuge in her. She is all-power, achievements and assets personified. All imaginable permutations and combinations of every attribute comprise in her and she it is who activates the universal soul.


This Devī is the most sublime form of the universal soul, nay, the universal soul itself. She is all wealth and riches personified, and she is the very seat of beauty, compassion, welfare, peace, all goodness etc. Evil traits like anger, avarice, haughtiness etc. are miles away from her. She is all sympathy and kindness towards her devotees. In Vaikuṇṭha, as Mahālakṣmī she is ever engaged in the service of her husband, Viṣṇu. In heaven she is the very glory of it. In houses she appears as the welfare and prosperity of the inmates. She is in fact beauty itself and is the essence of beauty everywhere. She is all-merciful, and worshipped by all.


She is very base and fountain head of and the presiding deity of the word, intellect, knowledge, the arts etc. She also is of the form of the universal soul and liberally grants intellect, poetical skill, reason and logic, understanding capacity etc. to her devotees. The finest music with all its beauties originates from her. Yes, she is the goddess of all learning, fine arts and every branch of knowledge. Like the ice piece, the Jasmine flower etc. she is beautiful in her white cover. She recited the holy names of Śrī Kṛṣṇa. She is of the form of tapas and blesses those who perform it. In fact, she it is who grants all gifts and powers of understanding. She is the goddess of language and learning (Vāṇīmātā) and without her human beings would lose their capacity to speak.


She is mother of the four varṇas (castes, classes) Vedāṅgas, the tāntric science etc. She is of the form of Japa (chanting of holy names and mantras), tapas, the effulgence of Brahman, the very essence of truth and existence and supreme bliss. She is eternal and grants salvation. She forms the very basis and pith and core of the glowing presence of the universal soul. This world is pure, and has been purified by the touch of the sacred feet of this Devī.


Rādhikādevī, fifth of the pañcaprakṛtis is the presiding deity over the five prāṇas and She is of the form of those prāṇas. She is exceptionally beautiful endowed with all fortunes and happiness, sublime and serious, and the consort of Śrī Kṛṣṇa and as eternal and equally endowed with divine attributes as the lord. She is formless also, above and beyond attributes, unattached and detached, and not visible even to the great Devas and munis by the naked eye. Her clothes even Agni would not burn. She was born, in Vārāha Kalpa as the daughter of Vṛṣabhānu, and because her sacred feet trod over this land, Bhārata (India) became holy. Once Brahmā did tapas for 60,000 years to have a glimpse of the Devī’s lotus feet, but could not. People were able to see her only after she, in unbounded compassion for the world, incarnated herself in Vṛndāvana (See Prakṛti).

Aṃśarūpa(s)—partial manifestations of Devī.

The above discussion was concerned with the five forms of the Devī in her full and complete forms. Now, there are six other Devīs, who are partial manifestations or born from certain parts of the Devī.


This Devī who flows in the form of water and washes off men’s sins takes her origin from the body of Mahāviṣṇu. (There is another story which traces Gaṅgā’s origin to the Aṇḍa (egg or seed) of Brahmā). (See Gaṅgā).


She is the lover and also the servant at the feet of Viṣṇu. She also washes off men’s sins and promotes their welfare. (See Tulasī).


Manasādevī, who was born as a daughter of Kaśyapa is another partial incarnation of Mahāmāyā. She is a great tapasvinī, a favourite disciple of Śaṅkara, unique in learning and erudition, sister of Ananta (the king of Serpents), the presiding deity of Mantras, wife of Jaratkāru muni and mother of Āstīka muni. (See Manasādevī).


Since this Devī has been born out of a sixth part of Mahāmāyā she is called Ṣaṣṭhīdevī also. It is this Devī, who gives children to living beings and also protects them. For one year from the birth of a child this Devī should be worshipped. Those who cannot afford it should worship Devī on the 6th or 21st day after a child is born. (See Devasenā).


She is born from the face of Mūlaprakṛti. Anybody who propitiates and pleases her will be the recipient of all good things like sons and grandsons, wealth, reputation, welfare etc. (See Maṅgalacaṇḍikā).


She is the basis for all things, soil for the origin of the vegetable kingdom, the treasure house of all gems and the very incarnation of compassion and sympathy. (See Bhūmidevī).


Another class of devīs who are also partial manifestations of the Supreme Devī. They are born out of the parts of Mahādevī. The following are the Aṃśakalādevīs.


Consort of Agni Bhagavān (Fire God). Svāhā is worshipped in all the worlds. If havis (oblation) is offered without repeating her name the Devas will not accept it.


Wife of Yajñadeva, this Devī is worshipped by all. Without this Devī all Karmans (actions) in the world will become futile.


Wife of Yajñadeva, this Devī is worshipped by all.

"dīyate vimalaṃ jñānam kṣīyate karmavāsanā / tena dīkṣeti sā proktā." The Devī grants pure knowledge.


Wife of the Pitṛs, worshipped by manes and men. Offerings made to the Pitṛs without honouring this Devī will prove to be futile.


Consort of the Vāyu. When offering Dakṣiṇā and making divya-dāna (divine gifts) if 'Svasti' (may good happen) is not uttered the gifts will be of no use.


Wife of Gaṇapati. If this Devī ceased to exist men and women would become feeble, because she is the source of all strength.


Consort of Ananta worshipped by everybody. If the Devī ceased to exist there would be no happiness in the world.

Sampatti devī.

Wife of Īśāna. Worshipped by Devas and men. If the Devī ceased to exist the whole world would become poor and indigent.


Consort of Kapila. Everybody worships her all the time. If the Devī ceased to exist the whole world would become timid and cowardly.


Wife of Satya. Well-wisher of all, this Devī is worshipped by muktas. (people released from worldly attachments). If the Devī ceased to exist there would be no friendship and amity between people.


Wife of Moha. If the Devī ceased to exist the world would become hellish and a fierce battle field.


Wife of Puṇya. In the absence of this Devī, who grants good and happy results to people’s actions the whole world would become as though it were dead.



Both the Devīs, Siddhā and Kīrti are wives of Sukarmā. If they ceased to exist the whole world would be bereft of reputation and become lifeless like a dead body.


Wife of Udyoga. If she ceased to exist the whole world would become inactive and cease to function.


Wife of Adharma. Wayward and characterless people worship this Devī. If the Devī ceased to exist the whole world as evolved by Brahmā would cease to exist. This Devī was not seen anywhere in the world during Kṛtayuga. She began to appear in a subtle form here and there during Tretāyuga. In dvāparayuga she attained more growth and then her limbs and organs became doubly strong. In Kaliyuga she developed to her full stature and growth and goes about everywhere with her brother, Cheat (Kapaṭa).


(see below).


Both the Devīs, Śānti and Lajjā are goodnatured wives. If they ceased to exist the world would become dull and sleepy.

Buddhidevī, Medhādevī

and Dhṛtidevī. These three Devīs are wives of Jñāna. If they ceased to exist the world would become steeped in ignorance and foolishness.


Wife of Dharma. She is very beautiful and effulgent. In her absence the universal soul would become devoid of vitality, helpless and meaningless.


Wife of Mālī. Her absence will make the world lifeless.


Wife of Kālāgni. The Devī, a sage who has attained realisation, affects everybody in the world during night and makes them lose consciousness and plunges them in sleep. In the absence of this Devī the world will become a lunatic asylum.

Rātrī, Sandhyā

and Divasā. These three are the wives of Time (Kāla). In their absence nobody would have any sense of time and none would be able to calculate and fix time.


and Dāham. Viśappu = hunger. Dāham = thirst. These two Devīs are the wives of greed (Lobha). They go about the world affecting people and thus making them worried and miserable.


and Dāhikā devī are the wives of Tejas (Vitality). Without them Īśvara will find it impossible to continue the function of creation.


and Jarā are the consorts of Prakṛṣṭajvara and daughters of Kāla. And, if they cease to exist, Brahmā’s creation would also cease. (For Brahmā’s creation individual souls with the will for action are necessary. He cannot create a soul of his own. So death is a pre-condition of creation, birth. If there is no death there is no birth also. There is a school of thought which maintains that if there is no death but only birth there will not be space on earth for the living, and therefore birth will stop if there is no death.).


and Prīti are the daughters of Nidrā and consorts of Sukha (pleasure, happiness). These Devīs go around the world on the orders of Brahmā.


and Bhakti are the consorts of Vairāgya (aversion to wordly comforts, renunciation) and they give salvation to the souls of the people in the world.

Aditi, mother of the Devas, Diti, mother of the Asuras, Surabhi, mother of cows, Kadrū, mother of serpents and Vinatā, mother of Garuḍas are also involved in the process of creation, and they are born out of parts of Devī.

Idol of Devī.

There are special injunctions for making idols of the Devī for installation in temples. Caṇḍikādevī should have twenty hands. The hands on the right side should hold Śūla, sword, disc, cord, ḍamaru, śakti etc. and the hands on the left side should hold nāgapāśa, flag, club, mirror etc. (There are also idols with slight differences from the above).

Lakṣmīdevī would hold in her right hand the lotus flower and a Kūvala fruit in the left. Sarasvatīdevī will have in her hands books, akṣamālā and vīṇā. Gaṅgādevī rides on a makaramatsya (fish) holding in her hands a pot and lotus flowers. Yamunādevī rides the turtle with a pot in hand and she is blue in colour.

Now, about the saptamātṛs. Tumburu, white in colour, and mounted on an ox rests on a śūla with vīṇā in hand before the Mātṛs. Among the Mātṛs Brāhmī has four faces, wears the akṣamālā and holds the akṣapātra etc. in her left hand. She is seated on a swan. Śāṅkarī (Māheśvarī) is white in colour. She has in her right hand bow and arrows, and the disc and bow in her left hand. The ox is her vehicle. Kaumārī is seated on the peacock. She has two hands in one of which is held Śakti (Vel). Lakṣmī has in her right hand the conch and disc, and the club and the lotus flower in her left hand. Vārāhī rides the buffalo with staff, sword, club and conch in her hands. Indrāṇī is seated on the club, holding diamond in her hands. She has a thousand eyes. Cāmuṇḍī has three eyes and is without flesh in the body. Her hairs are raised above. She holds in her left hand elephant’s skin and śūla in the right hand. At times she is seated on a corpse also.

Now, about the idols of the eight Aṃbās. Rudra Carccikā holds a skull, Śūla and cord in her hands. She wears elephant’s skin, her legs slightly held up. She becomes Rudracāmuṇḍā when she assumes eight hands, and holds the skull and the ḍamaru. And in dancing pose she is called Naṭeśvarī, and with four faces Mahālakṣmī. She is called Siddhacāmuṇḍā when she assumes the form with ten hands and three eyes, and when she eats men, horses and buffaloes. In this form she holds in her right hand the sword, ḍamaru etc. and in her left hand the Triśūla, bell etc. Since the Devī is sarvasiddhipradāyikā (giver of all divine attainments or assets) she is Siddhayogeśvarī also. There is also another Devī in this very form who holds the pāśa and Aṃkuśa in her hand and who is slightly red in colour. She is called Bhairavī. When Bhairavī assumes the form with twelve hands she is called Rūpavidyā. All the above eight Devīs were born in burial grounds and are Raudramūrtis. They are known as the Aṣṭāmbās.

*) "ratir bhūtistathā buddhirmati kīrtiḥ smrtirdhṛtiḥ / sraddhā, medhā, svadhā, svāhā kṣudhā, nidrā, dayā, gatiḥ / tuṣṭiḥ puṣṭiḥ kṣamā lajjā jṛmbhā tandrā ca śaktayaḥ / saṃsthitāḥ sarvataḥ pārśve mahādevyāḥ pṛthak pṛthak. //" (Devī Bhāgavata, Prathama, Skandha).

**) "ratir bhūtistathā buddhirmati kīrtiḥ smrtirdhṛtiḥ / sraddhā, medhā, svadhā, svāhā kṣudhā, nidrā, dayā, gatiḥ / tuṣṭiḥ puṣṭiḥ kṣamā lajjā jṛmbhā tandrā ca śaktayaḥ / saṃsthitāḥ sarvataḥ pārśve mahādevyāḥ pṛthak pṛthak. //" (Devī Bhāgavata, Prathama, Skandha).

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: