by Anindita Adhikari | 2019 | 56,368 words
This page relates ‘Mythological aspect of Hayagriva in different Puranas’ of the study on Lord Hayagriva as found in Sanskrit Literature such as the Vedas, Upanishads, Mahabharata, Puranas and Tantras. Hayagriva as an incarnation of Vishnu is worshipped as the supreme Lord of knowledge and wisdom but also symbolizes power and intelligence. His name means “the horse-headed one”.
Amongst the five sectarian groups of the purāṇas such as, the Vaiṣṇava, Śākta, Śaiva, Gānapatya and Saura, three of the major sectarian purāṇas mention Hayagrīva. The central vaiṣṇava myth of Hayagrīva is based on the theme of recovery of the Vedas from the demon(s). However, the Hayagrīva myths are found in different sectarian purāṇas with some variations, but more or less similar in the śaiva and the śākta purāṇas. In the vaiṣṇava purāṇas Hayagrīva is portrayed as an incarnation of Viṣṇu who protects the Vedas for the welfare of the universe. On the contrary, we find the demon(s) slain by Lord Viṣṇu for stealing the Vedas. Elsewhere it is seen that Hayagrīva was slain by Viṣṇu due to personal conflict rather than stealing of the Vedas.
When the entire region was devastated by fire at the great dissolution, I in the form of a Horse took the four vedas with the six vedāṅgas, as well as the purāṇas, the manifold nyāyas, the mīmāṃsās and the dharmaśāstras. Thereafter in the beginning of a new age I assumed the form of matsya immersing myself in the furious water at the time of dissolution of the universe and explained them fully to Brahmā.
2) In the Agnipurāṇa we come across a reference where agni describes the manifestation of Hari in the form of fish for the destruction of the wicked persons and the protection of the pious. Here we see the myth where matsya mentions to Manu about a time when Viṣṇu was manifested as a fish who would save Manu along with the seven sages when the ocean would flood the earth. Thus Manu heard the purāṇa, the destroyer of all sin as narrated by matsya and praised it.
Later, it appears that the demon Hayagrīva while devastating the Vedas, was killed by Viṣṇu who assumed the form of a fish and recovered the Vedas—
The matter of abduction of the Vedas as well as the slaying of the demon Hayagrīva is only indicated in the Matsyapurāṇa, but the myth of slaying of the demons Madhu and Kaiṭabha (madhu-kaiṭabhavadhaṃ) appears in a chapter in this purāṇa.  However, the incident is not directly linked to the revelation of the Vedas, but it is relevant with the incident of Madhu and Kaiṭabha’s annihilation by Lord Viṣṇu. Here it is not clear whether Lord Viṣṇu assumed a horse headed form to kill the demons. But a different version can be found in the same purāṇa, where matsya himself says that while the world was destroyed in a great deluge, He took a horse form to recompile the vedas and vedāṅgas. 
Both Matsyapurāṇa and Mahābhārata consider Vedas are the source of the entire creation, having a similar myth where Viṣṇu is the rescuer of the creation. However, they differently opine Madhu and Kaiṭabha as the obstructers of creation (MP) and they are the abductors of the Vedas (Mahābhārata). So the original Hayaśīra myth appears to be reflected in the great epic Mahābhārata which might be developed in the Matsyapurāṇa subsequently.
3) To have a clear view about the Hayagrīva myth, we may discuss the Bhāgavatapurāṇa’s account which is briefly narrated at the start of the text of the Matsyapurāṇa. In the Matsya Purāṇa the narrative has started with the incident of rescuing of Manu from the flood of dissolution. Here we can find Matsya, as saying to Manu that at the beginning of the re-creation of the universe Matsya shall propagate the Vedic knowledge.
Brown says that—
It may be for the congestion of the myth.
The myth is as follows: Long ago, at the end of a kalpa, a flood of dissolution began. Brahmā had desired to take a rest and went to sleep. From his mouth slipped out the Vedas which was carried away by the demon Hayagrīva. Katre, O’Flaherthy and S.S.Dange noted this curious development. Noticing the act of Hayagrīva Lord Hari assumed the form of a glittering fish. From this point the traditional matsya account starts. This account ends with the reference of matsya’s teaching to the king about the divine anthology of the purāṇa known as ‘Matsyapurāṇa’ while sporting in the ocean of dissolution.
The chapter conclude with these words—
After the asura was slain by Lord Hari, Hayagrīva restored the Vedas to Brahmā who awoke after the end of the dissolution. Karmarkar states that—
“Taking a rather literal historical approach to the flood legend he sees the rescue of Manu and the recovery of the Vedas to be probably being attributed to the fish just after the flood subsided, around the time of the end of the pre-aryan and the beginning of the Vedic civilization. But in the next note, the motif of the veda-stealing demon is clearly a late addition.”
It is interesting to note that in the eighth skandha of Bhāgavatapurāṇa the entire myth is cited, where Matsya-Viṣṇu recovers the Vedas from demon Hayagrīva, but in the previous and later skandhas it is stated that HayaśiraViṣṇu recovered the Vedas from the demons Madhu and Kaiṭabha after killing them. This contradictory and complexing note of the purāṇakāra in the purāṇa is difficult to understand.
Dikshitar thinks that the purpose of the matsya avatāra, was not directly expressed by the Matsyapurāṇa. The purpose is explicit in the Bhāgavatapurāṇa’s description, where slaying of Hayagrīva to recover the Vedas is available. Furthermore, he suggests two possibilities of this account, either the Bhāgavata Purāṇa supplied the motive which was missing in the Matsya Purāṇa, or the Matsya Purāṇa was aware for the detailed version described in the Bhāgavata Purāṇa and did not repeat it. Without taking consensus on date of composition the two purāṇas it is incapable to affirm this account. According to Dikshitar, Matsya Purāṇa is the earliest purāṇa and it took its full form around third century A.D.  The date of composition of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa is probably between the eighth and the tenth century A.D. Moreover, the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s myth mentions that the ‘purāṇic saṃhitā’ is taught by matsya as noted in the text. It is an impartial clear reference by the Matsya Purāṇa pointed out by Prasada, Hohenberger and it is accepted by Śrīdhara also. Hohenberger says that the fish legend of Bhāgavata Purāṇa adds on to the version of Matsya Purāṇa and that the Agni Purāṇa account is dependent on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa’s version. However, Dikshitar accepts that the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, and Agni Purāṇa follow recent tradition and the Matsya Purāṇa abides more by the epic. Nevertheless the version of Bhāgavatapurāṇa is also referred to by other purāṇas. Garuḍapurāṇa tells us that Hari, having assumed the form of a fish, slew the demon Hayagrīva, recovered the Vedas and protected Manu.
Elsewhere this purāṇa speaks of a myth where demon Hayagrīva is in conflict with Viṣṇu. This passage describes Hayagrīva as one who steals the Vedas.
Matsyapurāṇa also mention an account of demon Hayagrīva along with others who were, prepared to fight against Viṣṇu with their armies—
4) Viṣṇupurāṇa also mention demon Hayagrīva along with Muru, Pañcajana etc. Here only the name Hayagrīva is mentioned for the demon but there is no mention of it as having a horse headed form. In the context of the “Narakāsuravadhaḥ” Naraka, the son of earth, who rules over the city of Prāgjyotiṣa, inflicts a great injury upon all creatures. Śakra i.e., Indra, came to visit Sauri i.e., Kṛṣṇa at Dvārakā, and told him, about the tyranny of the asura. Having heard this, the divine Hari smiled, and after getting up from his throne went to Prāgjyotiṣa. The city of Prāgjyotiṣa was barred from entry by nooses built by the demon Muru, having edges as sharp as razors. Hari, flung his sudarṣaṇa cakra and minced them into pieces.
Thus having slain Muru, Hayagrīva and Pañcajana, Hari quickly entered Prāgjyotiṣa—
Thereafter a fierce conflict took place between Hari and demon Naraka and as a result Naraka was slain by him.
We have found the reference of the divine Hayagrīva as an incarnation of Viṣṇu in the previous adhyāya of the Viṣṇupurāṇa as well as the demon Hayagrīva found in the same purāṇa. But both of these divine and demonic Hayagrīva are not related with the revival of the Vedas. Demon Hayagrīva’s connection with Prāgjyotiṣa and Naraka is mentioned in this purāṇa which may lead one to think about the evolution of Hayagrīva in the śākta and tāntrik traditions.
5) Devī-Bhāgavata, a śākta purāṇa, gives a major mythological narrative of Hayagrīva among several purāṇas. It combines both the divine and the demonic Hayagrīva in a single myth. The fifth chapter of the first Skandha, named “Hayagrīvāvatārakathanam” of Devī-Bhāgavatam introduces a number of important themes that developed at a later period. The passage describes two forms under the same name, i.e., Hayagrīva—one divine and another demonic by nature; the demon Hayagrīva who had a boon from Devī that he would be destroyed by the ViṣṇuHayagrīva. In the Devī-Bhāgavatam the myth of Hayagrīva, is somewhat different from those of the myths discussed in the vaiṣṇava purāṇas. The unexpected disaster of Viṣṇu by losing his head is explained by the motive that no action takes place without reason.
6) Brahmāṇḍapurāṇa, another śākta purāṇa, refers Hayagrīva as the incarnation of Viṣṇu. Hayagrīva appear as the revealer of the secret glory of the goddess Lalitā. No reference regarding his origin and victorious achievements has been given. Here Hayagrīva is seen as speaker of the greatness of the mother goddess Lalitā. This is somehow similar to the account of Devī-Bhāgavatam, in the manner that as a form of the tāmasī śakti, Devī plays an important role. It is said that Hayagrīva obtained the secret knowledge from Devī. It is significant to hold Hayagrīva as the lord of knowledge and wisdom. According to Śrīdhara, this occurrence glorifies Devī over the status of Hayagrīva, a typical feature of the purāṇas of its sectarian nature.
7) Like the Devī-Bhāgavatam, the Kālikāpurāṇa tells us the story as to how Hayagrīva-Viṣṇu killed the demon Jvarāsura, who stayed at Maṇikūṭa hill for the welfare of men, gods and demons. Interestingly another story in the same text expresses how Viśvanātha the lord of the world (Jagatpatiḥ) settled at Maṇikūṭa hill after killing the demon Hayagrīva. However, it is not clear whether the Lord of the world is referred to as Lord Viśṇu or Śiva. The context appears to indicate that Śiva is the killer of Hayagrīva. Moreover, Hayagrīva is identified as a famous general of Naraka’s army. Naraka with the help of Hayagrīva defeated the gods thrice and was able to rob of the kuṇḍalas of Aditī. KāP mentions the demon Hayagrīva as the northern door keeper of the city Naraka. In connection with the killing of Hayagrīva, KāP says that Garuḍadhvaja Kṛṣṇa appeared in Prāgjyotiṣpur, killed demon Muru and his six sons together with others. After that Keśava attacked and annihilated the powerful demon Hayagrīva, who had fought with the gods for thousands of years and overthrew the enemies. From the references found in the KāP, Hayagrīva not only appeared as a benevolent god, but also he is described as a malevolent demonic form. KāP refers to several manifestations of Viṣṇu or Mādhava in connection with Hayagrīva who is worshipped on the Maṇikūṭa hill. These references exhort us regarding the Hayagrīva worship in the Kāmarūpa, the important center of northeast India.
8) In the Skandapurāṇa, which is a śaiva purāṇa, a story mentions how and why the great Hari became the horse headed one. The summary of the account regarding Hayagrīva mentioned in the Skandapurāṇa is as follows: Skanda asks Śiva how Hari becomes a horse headed one, who caused the death of the vile demon and made an effort to clarify the meaning of the Vedas. Vyāsa explains, the gods had started a sacrifice chanting the Vedic mantras. All of them went to the milk ocean and asked Bṛhaspati to tell them where Mahāviṣṇu was. After meditating Bṛhaspati found out the existence of Hari’s location. The gods saw Mahāviṣṇu sitting in a meditative poster with a bow. They endeavoured to wake him up and they drew the bow of Hari. Here the ants ate up the string of the bow. As a result one end of the string suddenly hit Hari’s neck and Hari’s head was cut off and went to heaven. Then Brahmā and the other gods asked Viśvakarma to make a new head. They brought the horses head and transplanted it to the trunk of Viṣṇu. Viṣṇu was pleased and give the book to all the residents of heaven. The Brāhmaṇas were delighted to have Hayagrīva and they performed a sacrifice.
This myth portrays Hayagrīva’s form as benevolent and expounds the origin of his horse headed form. But there is no mention of recovering the Vedas from the demons Madhu Kaiṭabha or Hayagrīva. The same legend can be found in the Devībhāgavata, where Hari lost his head by cutting of a cord. The severed head at once went to the heaven. Then the gods requested Viśvakarman to attach a head to the beheaded body of Hari. Viśvakarman demanded a head to the gods for this purpose and also requested to have a share in Yajña for the job, but the gods could not find Viṣṇu’s head. The Devībhāgavata mentions the place where Viṣṇu’s severed head was found, but this account is absent in the Skandapurāṇa. Here, in the Skandapurāṇa we find that Viśvakarman found handy horses of the sun and cut off one of the horse’s head and joined it very well to the neck of Viṣṇu. Thus Viṣṇu became Hayagrīva. The association of Yajña with Viṣṇu is adorned with epithets like ‘Yajñapati’, and as the Yajña was over, Viṣṇu-Hayagrīva went to a holy place called Dharmāraṇya. This purāṇa gives a different reason for the curse on Viṣṇu to lose his head and for becoming the horse-headed god. This is quite different from that of the reason mentioned in the Devībhāgavata.
The legends regarding the details of the origin and purpose of the horseheaded form of Viṣṇu appearing in both of the śākta and śaiva purāṇas namely, Devībhāgavata and Skandapurāṇa, have slight variations, which is as follows—
• In the Devībhāgavata, Devī plays an important role whereas Skandapurāṇa mentions that Śiva plays a part in blessing the Horseheaded Viṣṇu for regaining His original head.
• The word tvaṣṭrā is used for the Viśvakarman in the Devībhāgavata but no such salutation is found in Skanda Purāṇa. In the Devī-Bhāgavatam only a reference of the horse head is given only once. The Skandapurāṇa says that it is the head of one of the sun’s horses that was cut off and fixed into the beheaded trunk of Viṣṇu which appears to have some link with the Vedic legend of pravargya.
• In both the purāṇas termites demanded a share in the sacrifice, whereas in the Skanda Purāṇa we have seen that Viśvakarman also stipulate a share in the sacrifice for the job of fixing the head of Viṣṇu which also reminds us of Vedic god Aśvin brothers.
• The curses of Mahālakṣmi and Brahmā found in the Devī-Bhāgavatam and Skanda Purāṇa respectively are in connection with the origin of the Horse-headed form of Viṣṇu.
• In the Devī-Bhāgavatam Viṣṇu-Hayagrīva serves the purpose of killing the demon Hayagrīva, but there is no mention of demon Hayagrīva in the Skanda Purāṇa.
• In Skanda Purāṇa the purpose of Viṣṇu’s participation in the horse-headed form in the sacrifice is stressed and the legend of Hayagrīva almost ends except for the event of Viṣṇu’s regaining his original head by the grace of Lord Śiva in the Dharmāraṇya.
From the several myths reflected in different purāṇas, a transformation of Hayagrīva through the ages is seen as they adapt from the epic and subsequently change according to the faith of the religious sects. Doniger point out the three phases of the god–demon conflict and claim the similarity between this cycle and the myth of recovery of the Vedas. She discriminates the mythical transformation of Hayagrīva into three phases: a) a divine form, b) a demonic form, and c) a combination of the two.
It is noted that the mythical account of Hayagrīva’s act of recovering the Vedas from the demons Madhu-Kaiṭabha, may be the beginning of Hayagrīva’s history in vaiṣṇava purāṇas. Some vaiṣṇava purāṇas especially the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, relates both the divine and demonic myth of Hayagrīva separately. But the Devī-Bhāgavatam, the śākta purāṇa text, combines both the divine and the demonic Hayagrīva forms in a single myth not describing the role of Hayagrīva as recovering the Vedas. Thus the purāṇic myths of Hayagrīva oftenly undergo some conversion regarding particular context as planned by purāṇakāras.
The nature of the sectarian purāṇas reveals the affiliation between the different religious streams of India and it is important to note down that the purāṇas have different theological and philosophical views. The particular tradition of Hayagrīva myth as shown in the different sectarian purāṇas, can have different theological synthesis and significance. Even though, there may be continuation of certain themes and motifs taken in the myth and discontinuance often reflect a different theological and philosophical mould. For instance, there is a reference of divine Hayagrīva in a vaiṣṇava text named Viṣṇupurāṇa and because of vaiṣṇava tradition it is defined as an incarnation of Viṣṇu. It had been theologically and philosophically impossible for the VP to hold a description of the completely benign form of Viṣṇu as having a demonic connection or even to accept other demonic horse headed figure. It is noted that according to vaiṣṇava theology, Viṣṇu is portrayed as completely benign and absolutely unblemished. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa another vaiṣṇava purāṇa text, which includes the myth of both divine and demonic Hayagrīva, does not combine both myths. Bhāgavata Purāṇa does not stick to the unblemished nature of Viṣṇu as in vaiṣṇava theology. Moreover purāṇakāra simply relates the two different myths without trying a combination. The Bhāgavata Purāṇa has focused on Viṣṇu and his manifestations, for its advaitic orientation. This is why it is not concerned about establishing the unblemished nature of any particular form of Viṣṇu.
On the other hand, śākta and śaiva purāṇa texts portray Viṣṇu and his incarnations as having negligible importance in the understanding of supreme reality. Thus the contrary descriptions of Hayagrīva are adjacent with the converse nature of Śakti and Śiva. The conjunction of divine and demonic form of Hayagrīva found in the Devī-Bhāgavatam and KāP respectively glorify Śakti and Śiva. In addition, the conjunction of divine and demonic form of Hayagrīva mentioned in the later purāṇa text Devī-Bhāgavatam, can justifiably explain the later variation of myth brought into play in order to exhibit sectarian triumph. Bhāgavata Purāṇa takes a midway by relating instead of integrating the two accounts. Equally agni and Matsya purāṇa also give a picture of both divine and demonic form of Hayagrīva. These texts include a variety of non-allied subjects that are concerned about Viṣṇu and his incarnations however, their contexts are different.
Moreover, the account of beheading sacrifice mentioned in the Vedic literature resurfaces in two late purāṇas like Devī-Bhāgavatam and Skanda Purāṇa and explains how Viṣṇu came to be a horse headed one. Even though Dadhyañc account, described in the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, is a footstep towards the origin of Hayagrīva, this is not a remarkable trait of Hayagrīva myth. In fact, the beheading and transplantation of Viṣṇu’s head with the sacrificial horse that re-appear in these two purāṇas is an interpretation for the origin of Hayagrīva. Some scholar believe that significance of the mythical filament of beheading sacrifice that reflected in the Brāhmaṇa texts is sustained in the śākta and śaiva purāṇa texts. The two myths make no reference of the central vaiṣṇava myth of Hayagrīva Viṣṇu, recovering the stolen Vedas from the demon Madhu-Kaiṭabha. It must be emphasised that none of the vaiṣṇava purāṇas examined so far, amalgamate the accounts concerning the origin of Hayagrīva. Similar accounts, regarding the origin of Hayagrīva, are found in the śākta and śaiva purāṇa texts only. Vaiṣṇava tradition would not comprise this trend of explanation about the origin of Hayagrīva. Kamala argues that the origin of Hayagrīva is taken for granted and suggest that in vaiṣṇava tradition Hayagrīva is an incarnation of Viṣṇu who appears to this earth for restoring the righteousness at a particular time and thus Viṣṇu’s incarnations need no interpretation as to how they obtain their animal heads. In this manner the vaiṣṇava myths of Hayagrīva and Nṛsiṃha are related.
The contradiction of Hayagrīva myth in different sectarian texts reflects some important motifs and structural patterns. The structural advancement of Hayagrīva myth is functional in such subtle mythical patterns and cycles.
9) Myths have inconsistency since their outset and pay no attention to their probable versatile development.
10) Assume prologue antecedent back to the Vedas that expound a purely linear comprehending of mythical conversion and ignore other alternatives.
11) Overlook the text context that reveals its theological and philosophical orientation and author’s plan.
The variations of a purāṇic myth in many cases reflect the development and evolution of a religious sect and the variant forms of Hayagrīva resulted from the possible religio-historical significance of the religio-sectarian texts. Several vaiṣṇava purāṇas contain both divine and demonic descriptions of Hayagrīva, yet none combines the two contradictory figures in a single myth as in the śākta purāṇa. In mythology both Matsya and Hayagrīva are associated with the restoration of the Vedas, saving them from the demon Hayagrīva, the composite form of Viṣṇu-Hayagrīva. The śākta sectarian text Devī-Bhāgavatam appears to combine the divine and demonic Hayagrīva figure in a same myth, whereas in the vaiṣṇava purāṇas such contrasting context is absent in the same myth.
From the study of mythology of Hayagrīva found in the different sectarian purāṇas, it is observed that addition or omission of events as in a particular set of myths reveal the specific features of each myth that reflect the viewpoint of the purāṇakāras and their tradition; and the myth transforms as it is written and adapted to a specific sectarian framework. The purāṇic encyclopaedia contains Hayagrīva in several myths as well as the iconographical description of this deity in certain texts. The description of Hayagrīva’ s impersonation in the Mahābhārata might have later developed into the iconographical form.
Footnotes and references:
Matsya Purāṇa, 53.5; Agni Purāṇa, 2.1-17; Bhāgavata Purāṇa, 5.18.1-6, 7.9.37, 8.24.7-57, 11.4.17.
Agni Purāṇa, 2.1-1, Bhāgavata Purāṇa, 8.24.7-57.
Matsya Purāṇa, 53.5.
Agni Purāṇa, 2.3-10.
“Śuśrāva matsyāt pāpagnaṃ saṃstuvan stutibhiśca taṃ/”ibid.,2.16a.
Matsya Purāṇa, 170.1-30.
“Nirdagdheṣu ca lokeṣu vajīrūpeṇa vai mayā/
Angāni caturo vedāḥ purāṇṃ nyāyavistaraṃ//”Matsya Purāṇa, 53.5.
“Evamekārṇave jāte cākṣuṣāntarasaṅkṣaye/
Vedān pravarttayiṣyāmi tatsargādau mahīpate//”Matsya Purāṇa, 2.15.
Brown, C. Mackenzie: The Triumph of the Goddess, p.37.
Brown, C. Mackenzie: Op. cit. p.244.
Brown, C. Mackenzie: Op.cit., ‘loc. cit.’ p.244.
Bhāgavata Purāṇa, 2.7.12 mentions to the new version of the matsya story, mentioning the vedas slipping from Brahmā’s mouth and Matsya’s recovery from them, but without referring to any demon or demons.
Bhāgavata Purāṇa, 5.18.1-6; 7.9.37; 11.4.17.
Dikshitar, V.R. Ramchandra: The Matsya Purāṇa—A Study, p. 54.
Dikshitar, V.R. Ramchandra: ibid., pp.71-72.
Sheridan, Daniel: The Advaitic Theism of the Bhāgavata Purāṇa, pp.111–113.
Brown, C. Mackenzie: Op.cit. p.245.
Brown, C. Mackenzie: ibid., ‘loc. cit.’ p.245.
Dikshitar, V.R. Ramchandra: Op. cit. pp. 5-6.
Bhāgavata Purāṇa, 6.10.19-20.
Matsya Purāṇa, 173.15.
“Bhaumo’yaṃ narako nāmnā prāgjyotiṣapureśvaraḥ/
Devasiddhāsurādīnāṃ nṛpāṇāñca janārddana/
Hṛtvā hi so’suraḥ kanyā rurodha nijamandire//
Chatraṃ yat salilasrāvi tajjahāra pracetasaḥ/
Mandarasya tathā śṛṅgaṃ hṛtavān maṇiparvvataṃ//
Amṛtasrāviṇī divye manmātuḥ kṛṣṇa kuṇḍale/
Jahāra so’surohadityā vāñchatyairāvataṃ gajaṃ//” VP, 5.29.8-11.
Ācitā mauravaiḥ pāśaiḥ kṣurāntairbhūdvijottama//
Tāṃściccheda hariḥ pāśān kṣiptvā cakraṃ sudarśanaṃ/
Tato muruḥ samuttasthau taṃ jaghāna ca keśavaḥ//
Murośca tanayān sapta sahasrāṃstāṃstato hariḥ/
Cakradhārāgninirdagdhāṃścakāra śalabhāniva//” VP, 5.29.16-18.
The word Prāgjyotiṣpura is derived from Sanskrit ‘Prāg’ means former or eastern, and ‘jyotiṣa’ a ‘star’, ‘astrology’, ‘shining,’ ‘pura’ a city thus meaning ‘city of eastern light’ or the ‘city of eastern astrology’. Prāgjyotiṣa was at the centre of Kāmarupa, inhabited by kirātas and a site of the shrines of Devī as Dikkaravisini and Kāmākhyā. Prāgjyotiṣpura the name of the capital city is mentioned for the first time in the Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata in connection with its mythical asura king Naraka. In the Vanaparva of the Mahābhārata, the sage Lomaṣa, pointing to a mount tells the pāṇḍavas, the story of Naraka. The daitya was slain by the supreme lord Kṛṣṇa.
“Deveśvaraṃ tridhā jitvā Hayagrīvasahāyavān/
Adityāḥ kuṇḍalayugaṃ triṣu lokeṣu viśrutaṃ//
Sarvvaratnāmṛtasrāvi duḥkhavighnaharaṃ paraṃ//
Jahāra narako bhaumo nirbhīto muniśāpatoḥ/
Pañcavarṣasahasrāṅi rājyaṃ prāgjyotiṣe’karot//” KāP, 40.13-15.
“Aditeḥ kuṇḍale mohājjahārāmṛtasambhave/
Denānṛṣīn vādhamāno vipraṇāmapriye rataḥ//” ibid.,40.53.
“Tasminnavasare prāpa kṛṣṇaḥ prāgjyotiṣaṃ puraṃ/
Prathamaṃ pścimaṃ dvāramāsādya garuḍadhvaja//
Pāśānāṃ ṣaṭsahasrāṇi kṣurān sañchidya naikadhā/
Jaghāna sa muruṃ daityaṃ sānugañca savāndhavaṃ//
Ṣaṭsahasrā mahāvīrā dānavā dvāri saṃsthitā/
Hatāścakreṇa hariṇā tadaiva guruṇā saha//
Muruṃ hatvā sahasrāṇi putrāṃstasyāparāṃśca ṣaṭ/
Jaghāna cakreṇa tadā khaṇḍaśo’nyāṃśca dānavān//
Sagaṇaṃ sānugañcaiva nisundaṃ samapothayat//
Eko yo yodhayeddevān sahasraṃ vatsarān purā/
Śakrañca samatikramya mahāvīra prākramaḥ//
Taṃ jaghāna Hayagrīvaṃ samatikramya keśava/
Madhye lauhityasaṅgasya bhagavān devakīsutaḥ//” ibid.,40.87.
Skanda Purāṇa, 3.14.1-7.
Hayagrīva: The Many “Histories” of an Indian Deity, p.91.
Hayagrīva: ibid., p.95.
Hayagrīva: ibid., p.97.