Lord Hayagriva in Sanskrit Literature

by Anindita Adhikari | 2019 | 56,368 words

This page relates ‘Chapter 5: Hayagriva in the Devibhagavata’ 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”.

Chapter 5: Hayagrīva in the Devībhāgavata

Devībhāgavata, a purāṇa classified under the śākta[1] variety, considers the goddess Śakti[2] as higher than the highest and the cause of the causes. Everything in the world is under the sway of the great goddess Śakti[3] . She is the primordial creator of the universe and the Brahman, the ultimate truth and reality. Here Devī herself is the power which pervades the whole universe and from which the universe is emanated.

Many purāṇas glorify the supreme power[4] Śakti or māyā, by the grace of which Śiva and Viṣṇu became the supreme gods. Intimate to the purāṇic age veneration to the Śakti was considered to be more benign than the devotion to its dwellers. This change appears to be due to the growth of tāntrik order. The earliest reference to Śakti is in the Vāgambhṛṇī Sūkta of the Ṛgveda.[5] Here we find the earliest glimpse of the omnipotent female deity called ‘vāk’. Around the Śakti numerous mythologies grew up resulting in the emergence of the purāṇa designated as Devī-Bhāgavatam. Devī also called as Bhagavatī, adapted the Vedic concept of Bhaga, representing energy and another aspect of ṛta.[6]

Certain features of the Śākta purāṇa[7] have been reflected in the major myth of Hayagrīva which are not available elsewhere. Moreover, the sectarian features of the Śākta purāṇa have been well represented in the mythological narrative. This accords special treatment to this purāṇa so much so as to consider it as a chapter separated from the other purāṇas. Śākta is a sectarian branch of Hinduism based on worship of the supreme principle as a female force Śakti or Devī. The theosophy of Devī-Bhāgavatam is a combination of the doctrine of bhakti and tantra linked by religion and philosophy and depicted as a mix of mythology, metaphysics and bhakti. Like other purāṇas this myth signifies conflict between gods and demons and the victory of good over evil.

Lord Viṣṇu a prominent, independent deity in the purāṇic age is eulogized in the Bhāgavata and also in the Devī-Bhāgavatam purāṇa. Hayagrīva , a combination of human and animal, incarnation of Lord Viṣṇu, is known by mythological narratives in the Mahābhārata and the purāṇas that are valuable in regard to the origin and extent of the Hayagrīva concept and cult in ancient India. In the Devī-Bhāgavatam, the story of Viṣṇu-Hayagrīva is the major mythological narrative about the purāṇic god. The narrative includes the details of Viṣṇu obtaining a horse head based on the later Vedic myths of Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa[8] and the divine and demonic descriptions of two Hayagrīvas —one the malevolent demon Hayagrīva and the other benevolent Viṣṇu-Hayagrīva. The fifth chapter of the first skandha named “Hayagrīvāvatārakathanam” of the Devībhāgavata mentions important theme of the story which is further developed throughout the purāṇa.

Before entering in the major myth of Hayagrīva in the fifth chapter of the first skandha of the Devī-Bhāgavatam, we find some important themes regarding our study in connection with the excellence of Devī from the previous chapter of the same skandha. Here Nārada told Sūta that Lord Brahmā had earlier mentioned to him that Viṣṇu himself is the embodiment of the universe and it was from him that Brahmā and Rudra took their origin. Yet Lord Viṣṇu had revealed the central importance of the divine Śakti who has been the driving force of divine Brahma’s work of creation, Viṣṇu’s work of sustenance and Rudra’s destruction of the universe. Viṣṇu restates that he is subservient to Devī-Bhagavatī and is always in her meditation, but at the same time enjoys freedom to possess the company of goddess Lakṣmī, to slay the demons Madhu-Kaiṭabha, to incarnate himself in various forms and features some times as Daśāvatāra, sometimes as Mohinī and so on. But his activities are always remote controlled and oriented to protect the virtues and punish the evil. Thus Viṣṇu is indeed the highest representative of Devī with full freedom to enact his own within the frame work of her supreme control.[9]

Moreover, Brahmā quotes that Viṣṇus speech—

Purā purastehaja śiro madīyaṃ, gataṃ dhanurjyāskhalanāt kva cāpi/
Tvayā tadā vājīśiro gṛhītvā, saṃyojitaṃ, śilpivareṇa bhūyaḥ//
Hayānano’haṃ parikīrttitaśca, pratyakṣametattava lokakarttaḥ/
Viḍrmvaneyaṃ kila lokamadhye, kathaṃ bhavedātmaparo yadi syāṃ//
Tasmānnāhaṃ svatantrosmi śktyadhīno’smi sarvvathā/
Tāmeva śktiṃ satataṃ dhyāyāmi ca nirantaraṃ//
Nātaḥ parataraṃ kiñcijjānāmi kamalo Devī-Bhāgavatama va//”[10]

Long ago my head was cut off when the bowstring suddenly gave way; and then you, brought a horse's head and by the help of Viśvakarmā, affixed that on my headless body. O Brahmā! Since then I am known amongst men by the name of “Hayagrīva”. Therefore I am not independent. I am in every way under that Śakti. O Lotus-born! I always meditate on that Śakti; and I do not know any other thing than this Śakti.

The fifth chapter of the first skandha named “Hayagrīvāvatārakathanam” begins with the source of slaying the demons Madhu-Kaiṭabha by Viṣṇu and also gives detailed description of how the beheading of Viṣṇu took place and he assumed form of a horse headed one and the reason behind it as mentioned in the previous chapter.

The preface of the account of omnipotent Mādhava’s severed head, surfacing in the fourth chapter of the first skandha was developed in the fifth chapter.

The chapter begins with these words—

“Sūtāsmākaṃ manaḥ kāmaṃ magnaṃ saṃśayasāgare/
Yathoktaṃ mahadāścaryaḥ jagadvismayakārakaṃ//
Yanmūrddhā mādhavasyāpi gato dehat punaḥ paraṃ/
Hayagrīvostato jāto sarvvakartā janārddanaḥ//
Vede’pi stauti yaṃ devaṃ devāḥ sarvve yadāśrayāḥ/
Ādidevo jagannāthaḥ sarvvakāraṇakāraṇaḥ//
Tasyāpi vadanaṃ chinnaṃ divayogāt kathaṃ tadā/
Taṃ sarvam kathayāśu tvaṃ viatareṇa mahāmate//”[11]

The sages were feeling suspicion and they became curious to know the weirdest occurrence of the severed head of Janārdana Mādhava. Then sūta narrates the important myth about Hayagrīva. The legend begins as to how, after a prolonged fight for thousands of years with the demons, Mahāviṣṇu desired to take rest and due to his weariness caused by the influence of fate, he got addicted to excessive slumber, ‘atinidritāḥ’—

“Kadāciddāruṇaṃ yuddhaṃ kṛtvā devaḥ sanātanaḥ/
Daśavarṣasahasrāṇi pariśrānto janārddanaḥ//
Same deśeśubhe sthāne kṛtvā padmāsanaṃ vibhuḥ/
Avalambya dhanuḥ sajyaṃ kaṇṭhadeśe dharāsthitaṃ//
Dattvā bhāraṃ dhanuṣkoṭyāṃ nidrāmāpa ramāpatiḥ/
Śrāntatvāddaivayogācca jātastatrātinidritaḥ//”[12]

That was the time when gods were preparing to perform a sacrifice, and as Mahāviṣṇu was -‘makhānāmadhipaṃ prabhum’,[13] Brahmā and others went to vaikuṇṭha to invite him. But they failed to find him and discovered Viṣṇu completely under the control of yoganidrā, unconscious, and paralyzed in sleep.[14] The gods were worried. Then Brahmā had a plan. Accordingly he created termites and ordered them to eat off the ends of a drawn bow that would cause the bow to spring open with a tremendous noise to wake up Viṣṇu. The termites (vaṃrī) argued that the benefit of awakening Lord Viṣṇu from deep sleep would go only to the gods, while the sin of awakening a sleeping person would fall upon them.[15]

The vaṃrī initially refused and listed waking up someone from deep sleep as the sin was equating to Brahmahatyā

“Nidrābhaṃgaḥ kathācchedo dāmpatyoḥ prītibhedanam/
Śiśumātṛvibhedaśca bramhahatyāsamaṃ smṛtam//
Taṃ kathaṃ deva devasy a karomi sukhanāśanaṃ/
Kiṃ phalaṃ bhakṣanāddeva yena pāpaṃ karomyahaṃ//”[16]

Thus through the medium of vaṃrī we are taught some ethics. According to them, four acts of arousing one from deep sleep, interrupting ones speech, severing the love between a couple and separating a child from its mother are considered equal to Brahmahatyā.

Yet the vaṃrī were ready to incur the sin in return of some personal benefit.[17]

Brahmā promised that a part of the benefit of the sacrifice (makha) shall go to the termite—

“Tava bhāgaṃ kariṣyāmo makhamadhye yathā śṛṇu/
Tena tvaṃ kuru kāryyaṃ no viṣṇuṃ bodhaya mā ciraṃ//
Homakarmmaṇi pārśve ca havirddānāt patiṣyati/
Taṃ te bhāgaṃ vijānīhi kuru kāryyaṃ tvarāṇvitā//”[18]

The promise of Brahmā pleased the termites and they did their entrusted job, they at once chewed through the bow tip of Viṣṇu, the upper arm of the bow rose up with a tremendous sound. The explosion terrified the gods, the universe was shocked, the earth trembled, the oceans overflowed with waves and the marine animals became shocked, wind blew drastically, the mountains quaked, fell ominous meteorites. The quarters assumed terrific gesture; the sun went down the horizon, devas became anxious what evil might come down.

Then by the stroke of the sharp end of the bowstring the head of Viṣṇu cut off the trunk and it rose high up into the sky—

“Ityuktā brahmaṇā vamrī dhanuṣo’graṃ tvarāṇvitā
Cakhāda saṃsthitaṃ bhūmau vimuktā jyā tadābhavat//
Pratyañcāyāṃ vimuktāyāṃ muktā koṭistathottarā/
Śabdaḥ samabhavadghorastena trastāḥ surāstadā//
Brahmāṇḍaṃ kṣubhitaṃ sarvvaṃ vasudhā kampitā tadā/
Samudrāśca samudvignāstresuśca jalajantavaḥ//
Bavurvvātāstathā cogrāḥ parvvatāśca cakampire/
Ulkāpātā mahotpātā vabhurvurduḥkhaśaṃsinaḥ//
Diśo ghoratarāścāsan sūryyo’pyastaṃgato’abhavat/
Cintāmāpuḥ surāḥ sarvve kiṃ bhaviṣyati durddine//
Evaṃ cintayatāṃ teṣāṃ mūrddhā viṣṇoḥ sakuṇḍalaḥ/
Gataḥ samukuṭaḥ kvāpi deva devasy a tāpasāḥ//”[19]

To the story of Viṣṇu’s beheading when the awful darkness subsided, Brahmā and Śiva made out the disfiguring body of Viṣṇu. Astonished at the unexpected outcome, the gods wondered—“Māyeyaṃ kasya devasya yayā te’adya śiro hṛtam.”[20] Māyā is personified as a goddess who is under the control of Viṣṇu. Viṣṇu is repeatedly mentioned to as māyeśa, but in the description of Devībhāgavata’s Māyā set up as the goddess ultimately responsible for the dreadful occurrence i.e., the decapitation of the supreme Lord. Moreover, she also knows how to restore Viṣṇu’s head.

Seeing the beheaded kabandha, the gods were surprised and wondering, overwhelmed with grief and began to weep loudly—

“Andhakāre tadā ghore śānte brahmaharau tadā/
Śirohīnaṃ śarīrantu dadṛśāte vilakṣaṇaṃ//
Dṛṣṭvā kabandhaṃ viṣṇoste vismitāḥ surasattamāḥ/
Cintāsāgaramagnāśca ruruduḥ śokakarṣitāḥ//
nātha kiṃ prabho jātamatya [DBh?] u tamamānuṣaṃ/
Vaiśasaṃ sarvadevānāṃ devadeva sanātana//
Māyeyaṃ kasya devasy a yayā tehadya śiro hṛtam/
Acchedyastvamabhedhyo’si apradāhyo’si sarvadā//”[21]

Devas got afflicted as they realized themselves responsible for the beheading of the Lord.[22] It seems as grim and strange, yet has been introduced in a dramatic presentation. According to Nātyaśāstra, rasa is a synthetic phenomenon and also the aim of any form of creative activity art, rhetoric, imagery or literature. Wallace Dace translates rasa in accordance with its explanation in ancient text “a relish that of an elemental human emotion like love, pity, fear, heroism or mystery, which forms the dominant note of a dramatic piece; this dominant emotion, as tasted by the audience, has a different quality from that which is aroused in real life; rasa may be said to be the original emotion transfigured by aesthetic delight.”[23]

Here we can see that the incident of Lord Viṣṇu’s beheading was conducting the sentiment of pathos and weird and gods were submerged in it. Then Bṛhaspati enlightened Indra, Brahmā and Śiva, encourage them to overcome this critical condition.[24]

They quickly evolved into a debate over the relative strength of fate versus human efforts.[25] Bṛhaspati advised devas with these words—

Daivaṃ puruṣakāraśca deveśa sadṛśāvubhau/
Upāyaśca vidhātavyo daivāt phalati sarvathā//”[26]

Fate, one’s own effort and intelligence are equivalent. If one does not get success through Fate, then success can be obtained through one’s efforts and merit. Indra, despised effort and intellect upon apprehending the miserable incident of Viṣṇu’s severed head.

He opined the supremacy of Fate—

“Daivameva paraṃ manye dhik pauruṣamanarthakaṃ/
Viṣṇorapi śiraśchinnaṃ surāṇāñcaiva paśyatāṃ//”[27]

To side with the fate, Brahmā then argued that every embodied being must experience pain and pleasure, and also gave some examples of physical calamity that had concerned even gods themselves. His own head, through the force of time, was once cut off by Śiva; Śiva’s penis fell off through a curse; and Indra’s body had had a thousand vulvas imprinted on it. Similarly, now Viṣṇu’s head fall into the salt ocean—

“Avaśyameva bhoktavyaṃ kālenāpāditañca yat/
Śubhaṃ vāpyaśubhaṃ vāpi daivaṃ ko’tikramet punaḥ//
Dehavān sukhaduḥkhānāṃ bhoktā naivātra saṃśayaḥ/
Yathā kālavaśāt kṛttaṃ śiro me śambhunā purā//
Tathaiva liṅgapātaśca mahā devasy a śāpataḥ/
Tataivādya harermūrddhā patito labaṇāmbhasi//
Sahasrabhagasamprāptirduḥkhañcaiva śacīpateḥ/
Svargā [DBh?] r aṃśastathā vāsaḥ kamale mānase sare//
Ete duḥkhasya bhoktāraḥ kena duḥkhaṃ na bhujyate/
Saṃsāre’smin mahābhāgāstasmācchokaṃ tyajantu vai//”[28]

Interestingly this theme regarding fate or daivaṃ and prowess or puruṣakāra may have developed in the third skandha of the Devībhāgavata where it is mentioned—

“the whole world movable and unmovable, is under the control of fate ‘daivadhīnamidaṃ’... everyone is under the effect of one’s own deeds.... karma is of three kinds, accumulated, present and prārabdha. This whole world is in action due to kāla, karma, and svabhāva.”

Devī-Bhāgavatam purāṇa has a tendency to use certain terms loosely and interchangeably.[29] It’s a matter of interest that in the fifth chapter of the first skandha where the sages enquire to sūta as to how Viṣṇu lost his head through the power of fate or daivayogāt, a phrase commented by Nīlakaṇṭha as through the power of prārabdha karma or prārabdhayogat.

The fidelity of human efforts over fate has been stated several times in the purāṇas and itihāsas. The conception and conviction in fate is a later notion of Indian ethos. Fate is not mentioned in the Samhitās, the Āraṇyakas, the Brāhmaṇas and the Upaniṣads. In the Ṛgveda, benevolent gods were eulogised passionately for the grant of prosperity in material gains like wealth, crop and cattle and to be favoured with many sons. However, the concept of fate and fatalism had eminence quite late during the epics and the purāṇas.

There are sermons that accept the domina of fate as one which could not be gripped by reflection, as one that cannot be destroyed.”[30] There are also greatly accounts appreciating brave human efforts or puruṣakāra or puruṣaprayatna that criticize subjectivity of fate as ‘false-games that people play and delude themselves,’ when one fails to lead a graceful life depending on fate and ends in a hapless condition.[31] It also appears that lower men engrossed in worldly pleasures blame the fate for their wicked deeds.’[32] According to Mahābhārata, an enterprising man must perform every action fearlessly, however, its success is based upon fate.[33] As a lamp burns bleak as the oil falls short, so the fate becomes feeble when fruit of action is worn out.[34]

The purāṇas were primarily composed to venerate the authority, magnificence and superiority of their major gods and goddesses. They persuade the devotees to submit to the will and sympathy of the deities. But, at the same time they insist men not to abandon their hard work: “Some wise men call fate as the false hope that weak adhere to. For the powerful men no fate is ever noticed. The heroic and the feeble take recourse to effort and fate respectively.”[35] The wise belief that ability is foremost, even a hostile destiny can be prevailed over by the ability of unfailing dedication and upright action.[36]

After the controversial debate regarding the relative strength of fate versus human effort, Brahmā then ordered the Vedas to eulogise Devī in the form of Mahāmāyā for solving this problem;[37] the Devī, whom Brahmā refers to as Brahmavidyā. Then the Vedas made an intense appeal to Mahādevī Bhagavatī, the eternal cause of causes, the very central power, the vital force of entire creation, the vindu of praṇava, the sourcing fountain of knowledge and above all, the embodiment of beneficence and forgiveness—

Brahmavidyāṃ jagaddhātrīṃ sarveṣāṃ jananīṃ tathā/
Yayā sarvvamidaṃ vyāptaṃ trailokaṃ sacarācaraṃ//”[38]

The nirguṇa maheśvarī devī-mahāmāyā became gratified on being eulogized by the Vedas with sāmagāna. Devī later on told devas about the reason behind Viṣṇu’s beheading.

Because nothing in this world take place without any cause—

“Śṛnvantu kāraṇañcādya yadgataṃ vadanaṃ hareḥ/
Akāraṇaṃ kathaṃ kāryyaṃ saṃsāre’tra bhaviṣyati//”[39]

Regarding the beheading of Lord Viṣṇu, Devī provides two basic reasons. The first one concerns the curse given by Mahālakṣmī as the cause for the event.

Once Viṣṇu was looking at her beautiful face and smiled without reason. Mahālakṣmī thought that Viṣṇu had chosen another fair-complexioned woman to be a co-wife. She got angry and cursed Viṣṇu that his head should be severed from his body—‘Idaṃ patatu te śiraḥ’.[40] Brown thinks that this curse of Mahālakṣmi to Viṣṇu introduces one leitmotif in underrate of his incarnations.[41] In this context he mentioned the curse of sage Bhṛgu to Viṣṇu that was predicted here. This story, found in the twelfth chapter of the forth skandha of the Devī-Bhāgavatam, narrates the account of Bhṛgu’s curse to Viṣṇu.

When Viṣṇu killed Bhṛgu’s wife, he became angry and imprecated Viṣṇu—

“Avatārā mṛtyuloke santu macchāpasambhavāḥ/
Prāyo garbhabavaṃ duḥkhaṃ bhukṣva pāpājjanārrdana//”[42]

O Janārdana! by my curse, you may undergo incarnations in the world of mortals. You may experience abundant sufferings arising from birth in the womb on account of your sin.

Brown suggests this tradition to demean Viṣṇu clearly established in the Devī-Bhāgavatam, can unhesitatingly elaborate the old themes or to develop new or parallel versions.[43]

This curse symbolically explained the immediate cause of the curse to be due to the tāmasī śakti’s entry into Mahālakṣmī.[44] The tāmasī-śakti is a manifestation of the Devī considered as other elemental causes. These are kāla or time, karma or action and s vabhāva or innate nature.[45] Here the term svabhāva specifically refers to women’s nature.[46] The term strī-svabhāva is individualized by Devī as reckless, naivety, intolerance; covetousness, inchastity, and austerity the innate virtues of women. Thus due to the curse of the enraged Devī, Vāsudeva’s head fell into the salty ocean.[47] According to this myth, the women’s nature of wickedness may be put for good use, as there is even a highest power intending fate itself. Mahālakṣmī might have cursed unwittingly because of the influence of Devī and also for serving a universal divine purpose[48] of the destruction of the demon Hayagrīva .

The second major reason behind Viṣṇu’s beheading motif is the account of demon Hayagrīva . In the past a demon called Hayagrīva, received a boon from Devī after a strong penance on the banks of the river Sarasvatī.

He meditated on Devī as tāmasī-śakti with the bīja mantra

“Purā daityo mahāvāhurhayagrīvo’tiviśrutaḥ/
Tapaścakre sarasvatyāstīre paramadāruṇaṃ//
Japannekākṣaraṃ mantraṃ māyāvījātmakaṃ mama/
Nirāhāro jitātmā ca sarvvabhogavivarjjitaḥ//
Dhyāyanmāṃ tāmasīṃ śaktiṃ sarvvabhūṣaṇabhūṣitāṃ/
Evaṃ varṣasahasrañca tapaścakre’tidāruṇaṃ//”[49]

Eventually Devī appeared before him, pleased with his meditation and was ready to grant him a boon—

“Tadāhaṃ tāmasaṃ rūpaṃ kṛtvā tatra samāgatā/
Darśane puratastasya dhyātaṃ tattena yādṛśaṃ//
Siṃhoparisthitā tatra tamavocaṃ dayānvitā/
Varaṃ vrūhi mahābhāga dadāmi tava suvrata//”[50]

He then overwhelmed with joy bowed Devī with tears in his eyes,[51] bestowed a short eulogy[52] and requested to grant the boon of immortality.[53]

But Devī refused and asked Hayagrīva to request for other boon—

“Jātasya hi dhrubo mṛtyurdhruvaṃ janma mṛtasya ca/
Maryyādā cedṛśī loke bhavecca kathamanyathā//
Evaṃ taṃ niścayaṃ kṛtvā maraṇe rākṣasottama/
Varaṃ varaya ceṣṭaṃ te vicāryya manasā kila//”[54]

Then Hayagrīva requested Devī for the boon that he be killed only by Hayagrīva.[55] It is to be noted here that the boon received by Hayagrīva, was to some extent similar to that of the boon received by Hiraṇyakaśipu.[56] There is no further information about the demon Hayagrīva as a horse-headed one; he is merely known by the name Hayagrīva . In the continuation of the story, Devī described how the demon Hayagrīva tormented the gods and the sages. Surprisingly here she characterized Hayagrīva as duṣṭātmā[57] or demonic in nature in spite of his previous devotion. By the grace of the boon granted by Devī no one was capable in the world to slay the demon Hayagrīva and thus Devī instructed the gods to revitalize beheaded Viṣṇu.

For revitalization of Viṣṇu’s severed head, Devī ordered Tvaṣṭā to fix a horse’s head on his beheaded body so that he could kill the demon for the welfare of the gods —

“Tasmācchīryaṃ hayasyāsya samuddhṛtya manoharaṃ/
Dehe’tra viśiro viṣṇostvaṣṭā saṃyojayiṣyati//
Hayagrīvo’tha bhagavān haniṣyati tamāsuraṃ/
Pāpiṣṭhaṃ dānavaṃ kruraṃ devānāṃ hitakāmyayā//”[58]

Devī Bhagavatī remained silent; the devas became very glad and told tvaṣṭā to fix Viṣṇu’s severed head. Tvaṣṭā quickly cut off the head of a horse, brought it and transplanted it to the headless body of Viṣṇu. Since the Lord Viṣṇu was known as Hayagrīva . Thereafter Lord Hayagrīva forcibly killed the demon Hayagrīva in a battle—

“Iti śrutvā vacasteṣāṃ tvaṣṭā cātitarāṇvitaḥ/
Vājīśīrṣaṃ cakarttāśu khaḍgena surasannidhau//
Viṣṇoḥ śarīre tenāśu yojitaṃ vājimastakaṃ/
Hayagrīvo harirjāto mahāmāyā prasādataḥ//
Kiyatā tena kālena dānavo madadarpitaḥ/
Nihatastarasā saṃkhye devānāṃ ripurojasā//”[59]

The Devī-Bhāgavatam concludes that Hari became Hayagrīva through the grace of Mahāmāyā—‘Hayagrīvo harirjāto mahāmāyā prasādataḥ.’[60] To hear or read this excellent upākhyāna and the sacred nature of Devī, one can be freed from all sorts of difficulties and gain all kinds of wealth.[61]

Let us now analyse the myth considering a number of points.

> The Devī-Bhāgavatam combined the two Hayagrīva in a single myth and frequently referred to Viṣṇu as Hayagrīva and also the same name for the demon.

R.H.Van Gulik mentions about synthesizing the account of Devī bhāgavata as—

“One of those paradoxical combinations, much beloved by Indians: Hayagrīva kills Hayagrīva.”[62]

In this context he also refers to the ancient story of so called Rāma-Rāma battle or Rāmarāmavivāda . The Rāma-Rāma battle involves the two forms of divinity, while the Hayagrīva -H ayagrīva battle concerns the divine and the demonic. It is a general perspective of the Devībhāgavata. Hayagrīva Viṣṇu, of the two Hayagrīvas is divine by nature and the other is demonic in nature.

> The demon Hayagrīva, who is tāmasik by nature, acts in sāttvik manner and worships Devī, whereas Lord Viṣṇu, sāttvik by nature often engages in tāmasik activity. Such a conflicting theme developed in the later purāṇas with an intention to emphasize Viṣṇu’s complication in the material qualities or guṇas of the world. The two Hayagrīvas suggest a parallelism between intermingled and paradoxical combinations.[63]

> The Devī-Bhāgavatam’s account of Viṣṇu’s beheading is based upon the story of Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, [64] wherein Viṣṇu is identified with ‘makha’, or sacrifice. Once the gods performed a sacrifice (satra) to attain excellence and glory (Yaśaṣkāma) with an agreement to share the benefits of the performance amongst themselves. Among the gods Yajña-Viṣṇu or Makha-Viṣṇu first received the fame; he violated the agreement and carried away the entire credit of the sacrifice. As he stood resting his head at the end of his bow, the gods made the tightened string of the bow bitten off by termites, in order to penalize Makha-Viṣṇu. Immediately the ends of the bow sprung asunder to cut off Viṣṇu’s head. It fell with the sound ghrin[65] and on falling it became the yonder sun. This myth explains the origin of the ancient ceremony, pravargya. The gods then divided the headless Makha-Viṣṇu among themselves and continued headless sacrifice.

But the Devī-Bhāgavatam assimilates this myth with a number of modifications.

1. The most explicit variation is the intention behind the story telling. The Devī-Bhāgavatam does not explain the origin or a detail of a vedic rite rather abases Viṣṇu regarding the treatment with his body. In this context Shulman has quoted an interesting version of this myth where Viṣṇu puffed with pride at finishing the sacrifice, entered in the Śaktipura, the city of the goddess and lost his strength. He fell asleep with his head resting on the bow of Śiva. After inevitable beheading of Viṣṇu, Śiva informs the gods about how to restore his headless body. Shulman also notes the central role played by Devī in both accounts.[66] The Devī-Bhāgavatam describes this account of Viṣṇu’s beheading as an inauspicious or unusual misery, whereas Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa uses the beheading body to explain the name pravargya.

Here it is to be noted that the reference of the headless body, kabandha hints at various kabandhas of many demons beheaded by Devī as represented in the Devīmāhātmya. [67] Interestingly Bhāgavata Purāṇa gives another reference of kabandha in the story of Dakṣa’s sacrifice. After the ruinous yajña had been restored by Śiva, the assembly of the Brāhmaṇas worshipped Viṣṇu for the successful continuation of the rites. Dakṣa’s wife praised Viṣṇu with these words: O supreme Lord, having all its parts without you, the head of sacrifice or makha, does not look beautiful, like a man or puruṣa who is headless, a mere kabandha. [68]

Svāgataṃ te prasīdeśa tubhyaṃ namaḥ/
Śrīnivāsa śriyā kāntayā trāhi naḥ/
Tvāmṛte’dhīśa nāṅgairmakhaḥ śobhate/
Śīrṣahīnaḥ kabandha yathā puruṣaḥ//”[69]

This praise clearly resonates the theme of ancient Brāhmaṇic myth which is also mentioned in the Devī-Bhāgavatam with new modulations.

2. Second alteration is the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa’s myth of sacrificial context. In the myth of the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, Viṣṇu along with other gods once performed a sacrifice to attain the excellence and glory. In the Devī-Bhāgavatam, Viṣṇu does not participate in such execution, but is introduced as a desirable theme where he is under the control of yoganidrā. [70]

Moreover, the Devī-Bhāgavatam adapts the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa myth by introducing the concept of māyā. In the Devī-Bhāgavatam, the gods think the beheading must be an illusion “māyeyaṃ kasya devasya yayā te’dya śiro hṛtam”. Here māyā was responsible for the dreadful occurrence, since Lord Viṣṇu himself is identified as māyeśa.

Nīlakaṇṭha, the commentator adds an interesting note—

“Māyā never deludes Viṣṇu, the Lord of māyā. Even today this is believed by some who recognize the ‘māyā mastery’ of Viṣṇu but fail to accept the power of Bhagavatī, the governess of all. This beheading was due to the absence of māyā mastery on Viṣṇu, rather on the account of the maya mastery belonging just to Devī.”[71]

Thus Devī-Bhāgavatam might be using the epithet ‘māyeśa’ ironically that he who is called ‘māyā master’, actually his master is māyā.

3. In the Devī-Bhāgavatam’s story the discussion of māyā set up the goddess herself who is ultimately responsible for the dreadful occurrence i.e., the beheading of the supreme Lord. Moreover, of the same consideration she knows how to restore Viṣṇu’s head. This account lead us back to the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa where we discover that in the result of beheading sacrifice, when the gods were continuing fruitless endeavour with the makha, there was the sage Dadhyañc who knew how to restore its head. The secret knowledge revealed by the horse-headed sage Dadhyañc to the Aśvins and played the part of fixing the head to beheaded Makha-Viṣṇu. This esoteric teaching of Dadhyañc came to be widely known as Madhuvidyā or Brahmavidyā, [72] mystical knowledge of supreme Brahman. It is not a mere coincidence in the Devībhāgavata, when Brahmā asks the Vedas to praise Devī by this very name.

4. Dadhyañc’s traditional role as revealer of the mystic knowledge with a horse headed appearance has been divided in the Devī-Bhāgavatam. His act as revealer of the mystic knowledge has been imposed on Devī, whereas his equine countenance appears in the form of Viṣṇu. Thus the accordance between Dadhyañc and Viṣṇu could be their severed head and equine aspect has been noted by Bosch.[73] Weber noted this significant parallel between Puruṣa Nārāyaṇa and sage Dadhyañc as proclaiming sacred wisdom by means of a horse head.[74] Sāyaṇa in his commentary noted that Dadhyañc’s head fell down in the lake svarṇāvat from where Indra regained it and used it in fight against the demons.[75] In the Devī-Bhāgavatam Brahmā informs that Viṣṇu’s head was found in the salt ocean. This reminds us about the ancient submarine horse head lurking in the ocean and waiting for Viṣṇu’s adoption as his own equine head.[76]

5. Devī replaces Dadhyañc as a discloser of the secret Madhuvidyā or Brahmavidyā. Devī not only takes the role of Dadhyañc as revealer of the secret knowledge Brahmavidyā, but becomes known as the Brahmavidyā itself. [See notes regarding brahmavidyā] Yet she is fully discrete from his horse headed appearance. She presents herself before the gods as an abstract voice that safely distances her from the kind of physical calamity that happened with the horse headed Dadhyañc. This shows the likeness of her identification with Brahmavidyā and eventually with the supreme Brahman of the Upaniṣad.[77]

6. Another interesting twist is the role of the Vedas in the Hayagrīva episode. Here we have seen that Lord Viṣṇu is traditionally associated with the Vedas as their revealer and protector. But in Devī-Bhāgavatam we find this role upturned. Here the Vedas take the role to rescue Lord Viṣṇu with appeal to Devī for reviving the Lord.

Emphasis on the divine goddess in Devī-Bhāgavatam purāṇa is evident from the curse given to Lord Viṣṇu and in the mythological narrative of Viṣṇu-Hayagrīva. The significance of Viṣṇu in the horse-headed form is confirmed by purāṇic explanation of the puzzling situation of a curse given to Lord Viṣṇu and as nothing in this world happens without a cause, so is this appearance caused by a curse given to Viṣṇu. This not only fulfils the purpose of Mahālakṣmi’s curse but also serves beneficent for the world due to the killing of the demon Hayagrīva who bagged a boon from Devī only to be killed by Hayagrīva . The myth reveals many of the basic strategies of the Devī-Bhāgavatam in its abasement of Viṣṇu. The beheading concept continued from the early Vedic myth followed by Brāhmaṇic myth (Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa) and then purāṇic myth, specifically in “The Devībhāgavata” and expanded with typical reasoning and fantasy, to include the stories relating to the curse of Mahālakṣmī and the promise of a boon given to Devī’s worshipper, the demon Hayagrīva. Aspects of divinity and iniquity in nature, cause, event and consequence of both mortals and immortals appear as unavoidable complexities designed for good and reform.

Footnotes and references:


The follower of Śaktism, the worshipper of Śakti is called Śākta.


The word Śakti means the ‘power’ both dormant and manifested. When personilised it means the Devī of power, she is Deva. The Śakti is the power of the supreme spirit. The expression Śaktisam is derived from the word Śakti. The doctrines of Śaktism are contained in a special branch of the Holy Scriptures called Tantra śāstra, which acknowledges the authority of the Veda. Kapoor, Subodh: Short Introduction to Śākta Philosophy. p.3.


“Ekārṇavasya salilaṃ rasarūpameva, pātraṃ vinā na hi rasasthitirasti kaccit/
Yā sarvvabhūtaviṣaye kila śaktirūpā, tāṃ sarvvabhūtajananīṃ śaraṇaṃ gato’smi//” Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.2.8.


Today the western science considers energy as the physical ultimate of all forms of matter. So has it been for ages to the śāktas, the worshippers of Śakti. But they add that such energy is only a limited manifestation as mind and matter of becoming in that (Tat), which is unitary being (Sat) itself. Woodroffe, Sir John: Śakti and Śākta; Essays and Addresses in the Śāktatantraśāstra. Ulthar: Celephais Press, 2009. p.25.


“Ahaṃ rudrebhīrvasu̍ bhiścarāmyahamādityairuta viśvadevaiḥ/
Ahaṃ mitrāvarunobhā bibharmyahami̍ndrāgnī ahamaśvinobhā//
Ahaṃ somamāhanasaṃ bibharmyahaṃ tvaṣṭāramuta pūṣaṇaṃ bhagaṃ/
Ahaṃ dadhāmi draviṇaṃ haviṣmate suprāvye3 Yajamānāya sunvante//
Ahaṃ rāṣṭī saṅgamanī vasudhā cikituṣī prthamā yajñiyānāṃ/
Taṃ mā devā vyadadhuḥ purutrā bhūristhātrāṃ bhūryaviśayantīṃ//
Mayā so annamatti yo vipaśyati yaḥ prāṇiti yo iṃ śṛṇotyuktaṃ/
Amamtavo māṃ tau pa kṣiyanti śrudhi śruta śraddhivaṃ te vadāmi//
Ahameva svayamidaṃ vadāmi juṣṭaṃ devabhiḥ uta mānuṣebhiḥ/
Yaṃ kāmaye taṃ taṃ ugraṃ kṛṇomi taṃ brahmāṇaṃ taṃ ṛṣiṃ taṃ sumedhāṃ//
Ahaṃ rudrāya dhanurātanomi brahmadviṣe śarave hantavā/
Ahaṃ janāya samadaṃ kṛnomyahaṃ dyāvā pṛthivī ā viveśa//
Ahaṃ suve pitaramasyaṃ mūrdhaṃ mama yonirapsva1ntaḥ samudre/
Tato vī tiṣṭhe bhīvanānu viśvotāmūṃ dyāṃ varṣmaṇopa spṛśāmi//
Ahameva vātaiva pra vāmyarabhamāṇā bhūvanāni viśvā/
Paro divā paro enā pṛthivaitāvatī mahinā saṃ babhūva//” Ṛgveda, 10.125.1-8.


The word ṛta convays the the meaning of a cosmic order or regulating principle. P.V. Kane says that the word ṛta has got three meanings in the Ṛgveda: a) The regular and general order in the cosmos. b) The correct and ordered way to cult of the God. c) Moral conduct of the men. Kane, P.V: History of Dharmaśāstra, Vol V, Part 2, p.988.


Bhattāchārya, Viman Chandra: Saṃskṛta Sāhityer rūparekhā, pp.56-57.


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa,


“Tacchrutvā vacanaṃ tasya harirāha prajāpatiṃ/
Śṛṇuṣvaikamanā brahmaṃstvāṃ brabīmi manogataṃ//
Yadyapi tvāṃ śivaṃ māñca sthitisṛṣṭantakāraṇāṃ/
Te jānanti janāḥ sarvve sadevāsuramānuṣā//
Sraṣṭā tvaṃ pālakaścāhaṃ haraḥ saṃhārakārakaḥ/
Kṛtāḥ śaktyeti santarkaḥ kriyate vedapāragaiḥ//
Jagat sañjanane śaktistvayi tiṣṭhati rājasī/
Sātvikī mayi rudre ca tāmasī parikīrttitā//
Tayā virahitastvaṃ na tat karmmakaraṇe prabhuḥ/
Nāhaṃ pālayituṃ śaktaḥ saṃharttuṃ nāpi śaṅkaraḥ//
Tadadhīnā vayaṃ sarvve varttāmaḥ satataṃ bibhoḥ/
pratyakṣe ca parokṣe ca dṛṣṭāntaṃ śṛṇu subrata//
Śeṣe svapimi paryyaṅke paratantro na saṃśayaḥ/
Tadadhīnaḥ sadottiṣṭe kāle kālavaśaṃ gataḥ//
Tapaśarāmi satataṃ tadadhīno’hasmyahaṃ sadā/
Kadācit saha lakṣmyā ca viharāmi yathāsukhaṃ//
Kadāciddānavaiḥ sārddhaṃ saṃgrāmaṃ prakaromyahaṃ/
Dāruṇaṃ dehadamanaṃ sarvvalokabhayaṅkaraṃ//
Pratykṣaṃ tava dharmajña tasminnekārṇave purā/
Pañcavarṣasahasrāṇi vāhuyuddhaṃ mayā kṛtaṃ//
Tau karṇamalajau duṣṭau dānavau madagarvvitau/
Devadevyāḥ prasāden nihatau madhukaiṭabhau//
Tadā tvayā na kiṃ jñātaṃ kāraṇastu parātparaṃ/
Śaktirūpaṃ mahābhāga kiṃ pṛcchasi punaḥ punaḥ//
Yadicchā puruṣo bhūtvā vicarāmi mahāhave/
Kacchapaḥ kolasiṃhasya vāmanaśca yuge yuge//
Na kasyāpi priyo loke tiryyagyoniṣu sambhavaḥ/
Nābhavat svecchayā vāmavarāhādiṣu yoniṣu//” Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.4.44-57.


Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.4.59-61.


Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.5.1-4.


Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.5.6-8.


Viṣṇu is identified with Makha or Yajña—‘Yajña vai Viṣṇu’. In different Vedic texts we come across a story regarding the loss of Yajña-Viṣṇu’s head and its replacement done by Aśvin.


“Tadā kālena kiyatā devāḥ sarvve savāsavāḥ/
Brahmeśasahitāḥ sarvve yajñaṃ karttuṃ samudyatāḥ//
Gatāḥ sarvve’tha vaikuṇṭhaṃ draṣṭuṃ devaṃ janārddanaṃ/
Devakāryyārthsiddhārthaṃ makhānāmadhipaṃ prabhuṃ//
Adṛṣṭvā taṃ tadā tatra jñāna dṛṣṭyā vilokya te/
Yatrāste bhagavān viṣṇurjagmustatra tadā surāḥ//
Dadṛśuste tadeśānāṃ yoganidrāvaśaṃ gataṃ/
Vicetanaṃ vibhuṃ viṣṇuṃ tatrāsāñcakrire surāḥ//” Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.5.12.


“Sthiteṣu sarvvadeveṣu nidrāsupte jagatpatau/
Cintāmāpuḥ surāḥ sarvve brahmarudrapurogamāḥ//
Tānuvāca tataḥ śkraḥ kiṃ kartavyaṃ surottamāḥ/
nidrābhaṅgaḥ kathaṃ kāryyaścintayantu surottamāḥ//
Tamuvāca tadā śambhurnidrābhaṅge’sti dūṣaṇaṃ/
Kāyyañcaiva prakarttavyaṃ yajñasya surasattamāḥ//
Utpāditā tadā vamrī brahmaṇā parameṣṭhinā/
Tayā bhakṣayituṃ tatra dhanuṣo’graṃ dharāsthitaṃ//
Bhakṣite’gre tadā nimnaṃ gamiṣyati śarāsanaṃ/
Tadā nidrāvimukto’sau devadevo bhaviṣyati//
Devakāryyaṃ tadā sarvvaṃ bhaviṣyati na saṃśayaḥ/
Sa varmīṃ sandideśātha devadevaḥ sanātanaḥ//
Tamuvāca tadā vamrī deva devasy a māpateḥ/
Nidrābhaṅgaḥ kathaṃ kāryyo devasy a jagatāṃ guroḥ//” ibid.,1.5.13-19.




“Sarvvaṃ svārthavaśo lokaḥ kurute pātakaṃ kila/
Tasmādahaṃ kariṣyāmi svārthameva prabhakṣaṇaṃ//” ibid.,1.5.22.






Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.5.34.


ibid., 1.5.31-34.


“Evaṃ gate tvayi vibho mariṣyanti ca devatāḥ/
Kīdṛśastvayi naḥ snehaḥ svārthenaiva rudāmahe//
Nāyaṃ vidhnaḥ kṛto daityairna yakṣairna ca rākṣasaiḥ/
Devaireva krth kasya dusananca ramapate//
Parādhīnāḥ surāḥ sarvve kiṃ kurmmaḥ kva vrajāma ca/
Śaraṇaṃ naiva deveśa surāṇāṃ mūḍhacetasām//
Na caiṣā sāttvikī māyā rājasī na ca tāmasī/
Yayā chinnaṃ śiraste’dya māyeśasya jagadguruḥ//” ibid.,1.5.35-38.


Perrett, Roy W: Theory of Value: Indian Philosophy, p.155.


“Ruditena mahābhāgāḥ kranditena tathāpi kiṃ/
Upāyaścātra karttavyaḥ sarvvathā buddhigocaraḥ//” Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.5.40.


Brown. C. Mackenzie: TheTriumph of the Goddess, p.41.


Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.5.41.




Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.5.43-47.


Brown. C. Mackenzie: Op. Cit., p.249.


Rām, 2.20.20.


Mbh, 8.6.20.








Devī-Bhāgavatam. 5.12.28-30.


“Stuvantu paramāṃ devīṃ brahmavidyāṃ sanātanīṃ/
Gūḍhāṅgīñca mahāmāyāṃ sarvvakāryyārthasādhanīṃ//” Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.5.51.


ibid, 1.5.49.




ibid. 1.5.80.


Brown. C. Mackenzie: Op. Cit., pp. 45-46.


Devī-Bhāgavatam, 4.12.8.


Brown. C. Mackenzie: ‘loc.cit.’p.46.


“Udadhestanayāṃ viṣṇuṃ saṃsthitāmantike priyāṃ/
Jahāsa vadanaṃ vīkṣya tasyāstatra manoramaṃ//
Tayā jñātaṃ harirnūnaṃ kathaṃ māṃ hasati prabhuḥ/
Virūpaṃ hariṇā dṛṣṭaṃ mukhaṃ me kena hetunā//”
Vināpi kāraṇenādya kathaṃ hāsyasya sambhavaḥ/
Sapatnīkṛtā tena manye’nyā varavarṇinī//
Tataḥ kopayutā jātā mahālakṣmistamoguṇo/
Tāmasī tu tadā śaktistasyā dehe’atidāruṇā//
Tāmasyāviṣṭadehā sā cukopātiśayaṃ tadā/
Śanakai samuvācedamidaṃ patatu te śiraḥ//” Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.5.75-80.


“Svavaśo’yaṃ na jīvo’sti svakarmmavaśagaḥ sadā/
Tat karma trividhaṃ proktaṃ vidva[Dbh?]istattvadarśibhiḥ//
Sañcitaṃ vartamānañca prārabdhañca tṛtīyakaṃ/
Kālakarmmasvabhāvaiśca tataṃ sarvamidaṃ jagat//” ibid.,3.20.36-37.


Strī svabhāvācca bhāvitvāt kālayogagādvinirgataḥ/
Avicāryya tadā dattaḥ śāpaḥ svasukhanāśanaḥ//
Sapatnīsambhavaṃ duḥkhaṃ vaidhavyādadhikantviti/
Vicintya manasetyuktaṃ tāmasīśaktiyogataḥ//” ibid.,1.5.81-82.


Anṛtaṃ sāhasaṃ māyā mūrkhatvaṃ atilobhatā/
Aśaucaṃ nirddayañca strīṇāṃ doṣāḥ svabhāvajāḥ//
Saśīrṣaṃ vāsudevaṃ taṃ karomyadya yathā purā/
Śiro’sya śāpayogena nimagnaṃ lavaṇāmbudhau//” ibid.,1.5.83-84.








“Dṛṣṭvā rūpaṃ madīyaṃ sa premotphullavilocanaḥ/
Harṣāśrupūrṇanayanastuṣṭāva sa ca māṃ tadā//” ibid.,1.5.92.


“Namo devai mahāmāye sṛṣṭisthityantakāriṇi/
Bhaktānugrahacature kāmade mokṣade śive//
Dharāmbutejaḥpavana-khapañcānāñca kāraṇaṃ/
Tvaṃ gandharasarūpāṇāṃ kāraṇaṃ sparśaśavdayoḥ//
Ghrānañca rasanā cakṣustvakśrotramindriyāṇi ca/
Karmendriyāṇi cāsyāni tvattaḥ sarvvaṃ maheśvari//” ibid.,1.5.93-95.


“Yathā me maraṇaṃ mātarna bhavet tattathā kuru/
Bhaveyamamaro yogī tathājeyaḥ surāsuraiḥ//” ibid.,1.5.97.




“Hayagrīvācca me mṛtyurnānyasmājjagadamvike/
Iti me vāñchitaṃ kāmaṃ pūrayasva manogataṃ//” Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.5.100.


R.H. Van Gulik: Hayagriva: The Mantrayanic Aspect of Horse Cult in China and Japan. p.18.


“Sa pīḍayati duṣṭātmā munīn devāṃśca sarvvaśaḥ/
Na ko’pi vidyate tasya hantādya bhuvanatraye//” Devī-Bhāgavatam, 1.5.103.








“Ya idaṃ śubhamākhyānaṃ śṛṇvanti bhuvi mānavāḥ/
Sarvvaduḥkhavinirmuktāste bhavanti na saṃśayaḥ//
Mahāmāyācaritrañca pvitraṃ pāpanāśanaṃ/
Pathatāṃ śṛṇvatāñcaiva sarvvasampattikārakaṃ//” ibid.,1.5.111-112.


R.H. Van Gulik: Op. Cit., p-19.


Brown. C. Mackenzie. Op. Cit., pp.47-48.


Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa, XVI.1.1.1 ff.


From the sound ghrin, gharma took its name. Gharma refers to the milk boiled in the pravargya ceremony, also the cauldron or pot used to heat the milk, and to the pravargya itself. Since the body of Yajña Viṣṇu was stretched out, it took the name pravargya.


Brown, C. Mackenzie: Op.Cit., p.246.


DM, 2.62-64.


Brown, C. Mackenzie: Op.Cit., p.42.


Bhāgavata Purāṇa, 4.7.36.


Serving a story of introduction the story of yoganidrā in the slaying of Madhu-Kaiṭabha that narrated in the following chapters. Brown, C. Mackenzie: Op.Cit., p.42.


Brown, C. Mackenzie: ibid.,43.


In the Madhukāṇḍa of the Bṛhadāraṇyak Upaniṣad (II.5.16-19) identified with Dadhyañc’s sweet teaching. Śaṅkara, in his commentary (II.5.17) divides Dadhyañc’s teachings into two parts. One deals with Pravargya ceremony and the other with Brahmavidyā, the knowledge of supreme Brahman. Śrīdhara explicitly following Śaṅkara refers Dadhyañc as “proficient in the pravargya and the Brahmavidyā” in his commentary on Bhāgavata Purāṇa V.9.52. Brown, C. Mackenzie: ibid., p.247.


Bosch, F.D.K. The God with Horses Head. In Selected Studies in Indonesian Archaeology. p.144.


Senart followed weber in seeing the inseparability o the Nārāyaṇa Puruṣa and Dadhyañc legends and highlight the parallel between the thunderous yet melodic speech of the two promulgators of divine wisdom. Bosch points out further similarities including their furious destroying roles and their ancient identification with the cosmic sacrificial Puruṣa or Prajāpati. Brown, C. Mackenzie: Op. Cit.,p.248.


As for Lord Viṣṇu, the reference found in the śānti parva of Mahābhārata where in the Madhu- Kaiṭabha myth, after restored the Vedas to Brahmā, Viṣṇu placed his horse head in the northeast ocean. Elsewhere in the same epic reflects a connection within the horse headed Viṣṇu known as Vaḍavāmukha and the salt ocean. Brown, C. Mackenzie: Op. Cit.,p. 45.


Brown, C. Mackenzie: ibid., ‘loc. Cit.’ p. 45.


The famous Kena Upaniṣad reflects the story of the humbling of Agni, Vāyu, and Indra, the goddess Umā Haimavatī appears in the sky as a mediator between the supreme and the gods, also as revealer of Brahman. The story goes to how the gods having obtained a conquest through Brahman, begin to take credit for the conquest themselves. Brahman disabuse them, appeared before them in the form of Yakṣa or spirit. Firstly Agni and then Vāyu tried to discover who or what the exposition was. The two gods move towards the spirit, introduced themselves by boasting of their powers to burn and blow away anything. Then the Yakṣa challenged them to burn and blow away a slab of grass he placed before them. Subsequently, on their failure to find out the exposition they returned to other gods. Next Indra went to the Yakṣa but the spirit disappeared on his approach. Indra then faced a glorious woman, the beautiful Umā Haimavatī. Then she revealed the identity of Yakṣa as Brahman, the source of all power including the same behind their conquest.

Śaṅkara in his commentary argues that the above story is meant to eulogize Brahmavidyā, by which Indra, Agni, and other gods attained excellence. He specifically equates Umā with vidyā or Brahmavidyā. Sāyaṇa also identifies her with Brahmavidyā. Brown, C. Mackenzie. Op.cit., p.44.

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