Puranic encyclopaedia

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

This page describes the Story of Maya 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 Maya

A Dānava king who served Devas and Asuras as their architect and builder.


Kaśyapa Prajāpati, son of Marīci and grandson of Brahmā married the thirteen daughters of Dakṣa. Among them, the first was Aditi, the second was Diti and the third was Danu. Āditeyas were born to Aditi, Daityas were born to Diti and Dānavas were born to Danu. The chief among the sons of Danu was Maya.

Maya was found to be very proficient in the art of architecture even from his boyhood. He worshipped Brahmā in the Himālayas to gain unrivalled skill in architecture Brahmā was pleased and appeared before him. He blessed Maya to become the unequalled architect of the Devas. Asuras and Dānavas. After that Maya was engaged in building magnificent mansions for Devas and Asuras. He was also anointed King of the Dānavas.

It was a period of friendly co-operation and brotherly relations between Devas and Asuras. Once there was a dancing show in Devaloka. Maya was also invited to see the performance of the women of Devaloka. All the dancers acquitted themselves creditably. But what attracted Maya most, was the dance of Hemā, the Apsarā woman. Maya and Hemā were mutually attracted and fell in love with each other. The Devas who came to know of this, gave Hemā in marriage to Maya. (Uttara Rāmāyaṇa).

Domestic life.

Maya and Hemā went to the valley south of Himavān and built there a city named "Hemapura". While leading a happy life there, two sons, Māyāvī and Dundubhi were born to them. But they had no daughter. So they worshipped Śiva, praying for a daughter.

At about that time, one day, an Apsarā woman, Madhurā, after observing Somavāra Vrata, came to Śiva and did obeisance to him. Pārvatī was not at home at the moment. Fascinated by Madhurā’s charm, Śiva embraced her. Pārvatī who came to know of it, cursed Madhurā and turned her into a frog. But she said that after twelve years, the curse would be lifted and she would become a woman again. It was in a well near the place where Maya and Hemā were performing tapas that Madhurā fell as frog. After twelve years, the frog recovered her former shape as a woman. At that time Maya saw her, and taking her to be the daughter given to him by Śiva, took her with him to his palace. He gave her the name "Mandodarī". It was this "Mandodarī" whom Rāvaṇa married later.

Besides these three children, Maya had some other sons and daughters. In Devī Bhāgavata, 8th Skandha there is a reference to the Dānava named Bala, the son of Maya, living in Atala, a section of Pātāla. In Kathā saritsāgara, Madanamañcukālambaka, 3rd Taraṅga we find that Maya had two daughters named Svayamprabhā and Somaprabhā. Of them, Somaprabhā was married by Nalakūbara, the son of Vaiśravaṇa.

Alliance with Arjuna and construction of Indraprastha.

Once Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna offered Khāṇḍavavana to Agnideva as a feast. (See under the word "Khāṇḍavadāha"). While Agni was furiously feeding upon the forests, the human and animal inhabitants in it began to flee from it. Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna shot them down with arrows. At that time Maya was hiding himself in the disguise of Takṣaka. When the flames of fire approached that place Maya left his shelter and rushed out. Śrī Kṛṣṇa aimed his weapon Cakra at him. Crying aloud with fear, Maya ran to Arjuna praying for protection. Arjuna stopped Agnideva and Śrī Kṛṣṇa and thus saved Maya. (Mahābhārata Ādi Parva, Chapter 240).

From that time, Maya became a loyal follower of Arjuna. After Khāṇḍavadāha, Kṛṣṇa and Arjuna were taking rest when Maya approached them with joined palms and asked Arjuna what he should do in return for saving him from the fury of Kṛṣṇa and the blazing fire. Arjuna replied that he expected no return from Maya for saving his life but wanted only his friendship. Maya was not satisfied. He insisted that Arjuna should accept some service from him as a token of his deep gratitude. On hearing this, Śrī Kṛṣṇa suggested that Maya should build a beautiful palace for the Pāṇḍavas. Accordingly he built a magnificent palace for the Pāṇḍavas at the place called Khāṇḍavaprastha. (Mahābhārata Sabhā Parva, Chapter 1).

Maya settled down in Vindhya.

Once Maya sought shelter from Mahāviṣṇu. Viṣṇu offered shelter to Maya and so he built a mansion called "Sudharmā" for all the Devas. It was a building of inexpressible beauty and rare architectural workmanship. The Asuras who became angry with Maya for his allianee with the Devas made preparations to attack him. Alarmed at it, Maya fled southwards with his family and reached Vindhya. There he built a lovely mansion and settled down in it. (Kathāśaritsāgara, Madanamañcukālambaka, 3rd Taraṅga).

In Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa, Kiṣkindhā kāṇḍa, 50th sarga also there is a reference to this wonderful mansion which Maya built on the Vindhya mountain. In their search for Sītā, Hanūmān and the other monkeys reached the Vindhya mountain. There they combed the forests and caves to find out Sītā. When they caṃe to the peak to the south west of the mountain, they saw a huge dark cave. They entered it and cautiously moved forward. After a long and tedious walk the monkeys were exhausted with hunger and thirst. When they proceeded a little further, they came across a bright place. There they saw a woman sitting alone, dressed in deer skin and barks of trees. She greeted them and in the course of her talk with the monkeys she told them that the cave was made by the magician Maya and that her name was Svayamprabhā. Her mother was Merusāvarṇī and that she (Svayamprabhā) was entrusted with the task guarding the wonderful mansion. Then she gave them fruits and fresh water.

Building of Tripuras.

It was Maya who built three magic dwellings for the three Dānavas, Kamalākṣa, Tārakākṣa and Vidyunmālī. (For details see under the word Pura).

Other details.

(i) Mahābhārata, Ādi Parva, Chapter 227, Verse 41 says that Namuci the Dānava was the brother of Maya.

(ii) Maya had two sons named Sunītha and Sudaṇḍika They became human beings under a curse. (For details see under the word Sūryaprabhā).

(iii) In Kathāsaritsāgara Madanamañcukālambaka, 8th Taraṅga we see that Maya was an incarnation of Viśvakarmā.

(iv) At the time when Mahāviṣṇu as Vāmana took the three worlds from Mahābali, Maya joined with other Dānavas and fought against Vāmana. (Mahābhārata Bhaviṣya Parva, Chapter 55).

(v) Once Maya was relaxing with his friends on the Malaya mountain. Knowing about it Maheśvara sent Indra to that mountain. Indra challenged the Dānavas for a fight. In the battle that followed, Indra killed the Dānava named Pāka. Thus he got the name, "Pākaśāsana". Indra killed Pura, the son of Mahābali also in that battle and so came to be known as "Purandara" The remaining Dānavas under the leadership of Maya fled to Pātāla. (Vāmana Purāṇa, Chapter 71).

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