The Markandeya Purana (Study)

by Chandamita Bhattacharya | 2021 | 67,501 words

This page relates ‘Description Devi’s Function’ of the study on the Markandeya Purana, one of the oldest of the eigtheen Mahapuranas preserving the history, civilisation, culture and traditions of ancient India. The Markandeyapurana commences with the questions raised by Rishi Jaimini (a pupil of Vyasa), who approaches the sage Markandeya with doubts related to the Mahabharata. This study examines various social topics such as the status of women, modes of worship, yoga, etc.

7. Description Devi’s Function

The Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa describes various functions of Devī-mahāmāyā very beautifully and briefly. In the Devī-mahātmyā section, Devī occupies a unique place. She is described as having her hands, feet, eyes, head, mouth, ears and nose.[1] She is also described as Akhilātmakā (78.63), Jaganmayī (78.57), Jagamūrti (78.47), Viśvātmikā (88.33) etc. Whenever the gods become disturbed by the evil demons, then gods worship her and she would incarnate in the various forms and destroy the demons.

There are some epithets which refer to her various weapons. Such as—

  1. Khaḍginī,
  2. Śūlinī,
  3. Gadinī,
  4. Cakriṇī,
  5. Śaṅkhinī,
  6. Cāpinī,
  7. Bāṇā,
  8. Bhuśuṇḍī,
  9. Parighāyudhā.[2]

Her work and function show clearly how she preserves the world and destroys the evil demons in her various forms. The table below lists out the different avatārs of Devī slaying demons as a result of prayers offered by different gods.

Devī’s forms Prayers by god Slain of Demon
Viṣṇu’s Yoganidrā Brahmā Madhu Kaitabha
Ambikā Indra and other gods Mahiṣāsura
Kauśikī Indra and other gods Dhūmralocana
Kalī or Cāmuṇḍā Indra and other gods Caṇḍa, Muṇḍa
Caṇḍika śakti Indra and other gods Raktabīja
Caṇḍika śakti Indra and other gods Niśumbha
Caṇḍika śakti Indra and other gods Śumbha

This list clearly shows how Devīmahāmāya destroyed the evil demons and saved the gods in the universe. In the various stories included in this portion of the Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa, Devī is shown to incarnate in her real forms and to show her own power. She promised that whenever the demons would create trouble she would destroy the demons and would save the gods.[3] When she is invoked, she bestows knowledge and when gratified, she bestows prosperity.[4] She acquires the epithets like Muktihetu (81.9), Bhuktimuktipradāyinī (88.6), Svargāpavargadā (88.7), Bhogasvargāpavargadā (90.3) etc. as she bestows enjoyment, heaven, final emancipation to her devotees. Further, she bestows riches, fame, devoted children, wife and servants. Also when one remembers her with devoted mind and heart, she bestows an extremely bright mind and removes poverty, pain and fear. She accomplishes every petition and provides refuge.[5] She is also said to be the supreme way for the salvation of those who seek refuge of the woe-begone and of the afflicted.[6] Elsewhere when she becomes propitious, she destroys all sickness from men but, when she becomes wrathful, she destroys all desires.[7]

Like the other important gods of Hindu society, the goddess Mahāmāya has also various names and epithets according to her function, nature, form, worship, myths, future incarnation etc. It is also mentioned that all vidyās are her portions. So, that the whole world has been filled by her.[8] Hence, she is called as-Mahāmohā (78.58), Mahāvidyā (78.58; 88.21), Paramā vidyā (81.9) etc. She has certain ritualistic attributes, viz. Svadhā (78.54;81.8;88.21), Svāhā (78.54;81.8), Vasaṭkārā (78.54). She is also called, Svarātmika, Sudhā, Tridhāmātrātmikā (78.54), Anuccāryā (78.55), Śabdātmikā, Trayī (81.10). Moreover, Devī, the repository of Ṛk, Yajus and Sāman hymns is considered as responsible for the existence and production of all the universe.[9]

Footnotes and references:


sarvataḥ pāṇipādānte sarvatokṣiśromukhe /
sarvataḥśravaṇagrāṇe nārāyaṇi namo’stute // Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa, 88.23


Ibid., 78.61


Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa, 88.51


Ibid., 89.34


sarvārthasadhikā, śaraṇyā, Ibid., 88.9


Ibid., 88.11


Ibid., 88.29


vidyāḥ samastāstava devi bhedāḥ, striyaḥ samastaḥ sakalaṃ jagacca /
tvayaikayā pūritamambayaitat, kā te stutiḥ stavyaparā paroktiḥ // Mārkaṇḍeyapurāṇa, 88.5


śabdātmikā suvimalargyajuṣāṃ nidhānamudgītharamyapadapāṭhavatāṃ ca sāmnām /
devī trayī bhagavatī bhavabhāvanāya vārtāsi sarvajagatāṃ paramārtihantrī // Ibid., 81.10

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