Angampora is a Sri Lankan martial art that is a mix of hand-to-hand fighting techniques and the use of indigenous weapons such as knives and swords. Did you know that Ravana is said to have been a master in all forms of this martial art and is the most feared Angam warrior of all time?
One of Angampora’s unique features is paralysing opponents by attacking certain pressure points on their bodies. There are several medical writings credited to Ravana the scholar, that make references to these points and healing through them. To this day, Angam gurus light a lamp in his honour before training commences.
Vishnu is often depicted holding a mace in his lower right hand. This divine weapon is known as the Kaumodaki gada.
The name Kaumodaki is derived from the word ‘Kumuda‘ meaning ‘water lily’. The mace has always been associated with Vishnu. In the Mahabharata, Varuna, the god of the sky, is said to have given this mace to Krishna, before the burning of the Khandava forest.
Power and design
Its body is sometimes depicted with etchings of flutes and peacock feathers on it. The Kaumodaki has a thunder-like roar and the ability to kill all the Daityas, a clan of Asura along with the Danavas. The mace represents the power of knowledge, time and intellect.
The mace is sometimes personified as a goddess called Gadadevi or Gadanari. In this form, the mace is held by the goddess with Vishnu blessing her.
Ganesha is revered all over the country not only during Ganesh Chaturthi but before every puja or ritual of worship. But did you know that, according to the Mudgala Purana, Ganesha took eight avatars or incarnations to save the world from demons who personified a dosha or shortcoming in human nature? These doshas are also present in gods and it is through them that the demons were born. Ganesha has an elephant head and trunk in every avatar but he trades his mouse-y vahana Mooshik for other animals in some of his incarnations. Let’s get to know the stories behind each avatar.
Ganesha’s first incarnation was as Vakratunda meaning curved trunk. According to the legend, Lord Indra’s pramaada (heedlessness) gave birth to the demon Matsarasura. Matsara means jealousy and selfishness. After severe penance, Matsarasura received the boon of fearlessness from Shiva. He along with his two sons Sundarpriya and Vishaypriya, conquered the three worlds and created havoc everywhere. All the gods approached Shiva for help but bound by his own boon, Shiva could not do much. Finally, Lord Dattatreya came to the rescue. He gave all the gods the secret of the monosyllabic mantra, Gam, and asked them to call upon Lord Vakratunda. Seated on his vehicle, the lion, Vakratunda arrived and killed both sons of Matsara. Looking at the mighty god, the demon surrendered and asked for forgiveness. The Lord forgave him and restored the three worlds.
Ganesha, in his Vakratunda avatar, shows the world that however powerful or rich you are, wisdom lies in knowing and understanding your limits.
The asura, Chyavana, had a son, Mada, who was fond of madira or alcohol. Mada was schooled by his uncle Shukracharya, Chyavana’s brother as well as the guru of the asuras. Madasura told Shukracharya that he wanted to rule the world. Pleased by his nephew’s ambition, Shukracharya gave him the Shakti Mantra ‘Hrim’. Madasura performed penance for a thousand years invoking the goddess and received special powers from her. Armed with these new powers, and high on alcohol and arrogance, Madasura started conquering the three worlds. The gods turned to the sage, Sanat Kumara, for help. Sanat Kumara asked them to invoke Ekadanta. Seated on Mooshika, Ekadanta came to wage war against the demon. However, Madasura lost his courage in front of the mighty god and surrendered, earning Ekadanta’s forgiveness. Ganesha in Ekadanta avatar shows us that intoxication can fill one with pride beyond control.
The story of Ganesha’s third avatar, Mahodara, has two versions. The first version talks of the main antagonist, Mohasura, who came to be known as Daitya Raj or the king of the asuras, because of his devotion to Surya, the sun god. In the second version, once when Shiva was in deep meditation and the gods needed him, they asked Parvati to help break his trance. Parvati took an alluring form and distracted Shiva. When Shiva came out of his meditative state, Parvati discarded her alluring form. This discarded energy took the form of Mohasura, the embodiment of delusion, who then went on a rampage against all three worlds.
Both stories conclude similarly. The terrified gods went to Surya for help. Surya advised them to pray to Mahodara. Pleased by the prayers, Mahodara arrives on Mooshika to wage war against Mohasura. At this point, Vishnu appears, advising Mohasura to surrender, as all would be forgiven. Mohasura pays heed to Lord Vishnu’s advice and surrenders himself to Mahodara, becoming his devotee forever.
Kubera, the treasurer of the heavens, once visited Kailasa, the abode of Lord Shiva. He looked at goddess Parvati with lustful eyes, which made the goddess angry. Kubera started shivering with fear. This fearful energy got manifested into Lobha. Lobhasura went on to study under Shukracharya, using the mantra ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ to perform penance, and eventually gain enough power to conquer the three realms. Troubled, the gods approached sage Raibhya who told them to pray to Lord Gajanana. The sheer presence of Gajanana was enough to fill Lobhasura with guilt, who begs for forgiveness. This avatar shows the world that lust is self-indulgent and self-centred and unknowingly leads to the destruction of the soul.
During the episode of the celestial churning of the ocean, Vishnu took the form of the beautiful and charming Mohini to trick the asuras. However, he did not see Shiva becoming enchanted by this avatar of his. When he realises this, Vishnu immediately reverts to his original form. This made Shiva sad and angry and this anger manifested into a terrible demon named Krodhasura. Krodhasura became Shukracharya’s student, venerating the Sun god and performed penance, becoming powerful enough to – you guessed it – wreak havoc on the three worlds. To stop Krodhasura’s rampage, Ganesha took the form of Lambodara and appeared with a potbelly large enough to accommodate the anger of the demon Krodhasura! Lambodara manages to subdue Krodhasura and peace is restored.
Kamasura was born of Vishnu and Vrinda, the wife of the demon Jalandhara. He embodied trickery, lust and the consequences of lust. Kamasura took refuge with Shukracharya, the guru of the asuras and was told to observe severe penance and meditate on Shiva. Kamasura then received a boon by which he conquered the three worlds and created trouble for all the gods. On the sage Mudgala’s advice, the gods begin to chant ‘Om’ in a place called Mayuresa Kshetra, thus summoning Ganesha in the avatar of Vikata, atop a peacock. In his Vikata avatar, Ganesha is able to easily defeat Kamasura. This avatar shows the world that desire has no end. Satisfaction and happiness are not the outcomes of any achievement but a state of being that comes from within.
Once, goddess Parvati was relaxing in the company of her friends in a forest when her burst of laughter manifested into a handsome boy. Surprised by her creation and swayed by her ego which resulted in attachment, she named him ‘Mama’ which in Sanskrit means ‘Mine’. She told him to always follow the right path and pray to Lord Ganesha. Mama decides to retire to the forests to meditate on Lord Ganesha but meets the demon Sambara on the way. Sambara lures him into the world of the asuras and slowly, the good-natured Mama becomes the demon Mamasura. He marries Mohini, the daughter of an asura chief, and starts his campaign to rule all three worlds. Defeated and thrown out of Swarklok, the gods turn to Ganesha for help. So he takes on the avatar of Vighnaraja – the remover of obstacles. Riding on the great serpent, Sheshnaag, Vighnaraja tames the demon of attachment and restores peace. Vignhnaraja was a symbol that showed the world that there is no pleasure in worldly attachments. The soul seeks truth and divinity, everything else is an illusion.
This was the last avatar of Ganesha’s. Once Brahma gave the right to rule over the ‘world of action’ to his grandson, the sun god Surya. Surya grew proud and thought to himself that since the entire world is governed by karma or action, he had become the lord of the whole world.
As this thought passed his mind, he happened to sneeze and from his sneeze manifested a demon. The demon went to Shukracharya who gave him the name Ahamkarasura, as he was born from the sun’s ego. Shukracharya also asked him to do penance and meditate on Ganesha. Terrified by Ahamkaura’s growing power, the gods look to Ganesha for help. Ganesha obliges, taking on the form of Dhumravarna, arriving on Mooshika and defeating the proud demon. This episode reminds us that ‘ahamkar’ or ego is the root cause of self-destruction.
When we immerse Ganesha’s likeness in the sea at the end of Ganesh Chaturthi, we also immerse all our negative traits, be it pride, arrogance, desire, delusion, greed, anger, jealousy or self-love. Ganesha’s potbelly is large enough to take away all our flaws and sufferings. May he grant us strength and fill our lives with happiness and love.
In the town of Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, is a Shiva temple dedicated to Thaayumaanavar or ‘He who became the mother’. Here is the legend behind the temple
Ratnavathi, a young woman, was pregnant with her first child. As per the custom, her mother was to come and be with her till the baby was born. Between the two towns flowed the river Cauvery. On the day the mother was to arrive, there were heavy rains and the river began to flood.
Ratnavathi prayed to Shiva, asking him to help her mother cross the river safely. As she waited anxiously, her mother appeared at the door. Ratnavathi was relieved to see her. Soon, she went into labour and gave birth to the baby. The rain continued and Ratnavathi was looked after by her mother. The days passed and, when the river water had finally abated, there was a knock on the door. To Ratnavathi’s surprise, a woman who looked just like her mother stood there. She said,
“I am so sorry, daughter. I was not able to cross the river and be with you on time.”
Ratnavathi turned to look at the woman who had been caring for her all along and, in a flash, realised she was Shiva himself. He had taken on the guise of her mother to come and look after her! Shiva then revealed his true form, blessed the two women and vanished.
From then on, he came to be known as ‘Thaayumaanavar’ or ‘He who became the mother’.
Read more stories of Shiva on the ACK Comics app, including our latest release, ‘Mahadeva – Stories from the Shiva Purana’
The Puranas are religious texts composed in Sanskrit, orally narrated for centuries before being written down from the 2nd century CE onwards. They are part of the sacred literature of the Hindu faith that also comprise of the Vedas, Brahmanas, Aryayankas, Upanishads, and the great epics.
The earliest form of Hindu worship was concentrated around the rite
of yagna or Vedic sacrifice. The gods of the Vedic age were linked to natural phenomena. such as Indra (god of thunder and rain), Vayu (god of wind), Agni (god of fire), Surya (sun god), Chandra (moon god), and so on. The Vedic myth of creation speaks of vast cosmic oceans energised into life by a combination of heat, light, air, and the power of thought or desire. Brahma, the Creator, was seen as a powerful creative force, who materialised the world and living things from his physical body or just with his mind.
Over the centuries, numerous ideas, local traditions and folklore across the land were assimilated into Hindu practice. Gradually, a religious feeling came to focus on supreme deities such as Shiva, Vishnu and the Devi, and the worship of their images in temples and homes. A large pantheon of gods come into being, an interlinked mythology of sorts, which was described in detail in the two epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, and in the Puranas.
There are 18 mahapuranas (major puranas), and 18 upapuranas (minor puranas). They commonly contain stories of the origin of the specific purana, myths and legends of the key divinities, methods of worship, the stories of the pilgrimage places, and a listing of the genealogies of gods, sages and kings. The Puranas were also very useful for rulers who sought to link their dynasties to celestial or divine origin.
Each purana is said to have been narrated to groups of sages by a suta or storyteller, who claimed to have heard it from the ancient rishi Vyasa, who in turn claimed to have heard it directly from one of the gods.
Most of the major puranas focus on a central deity, for example, the Bhagavata Purana talks about the life and stories of Vishnu, while the principal deity of the Shiva Purana is Shiva. Within the Shiva Purana, different sections narrate stories that explain the nature and origin of Shiva, the legend of the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, and the birth of their children, Ganesha and Kartikeya. Also told are all the stories of the major shrines associated with Shivabhakti, or devotion to Shiva.
In puranic tales, the Vedic gods such as Indra, Vayu and Surya are all subservient to the triad of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Over the centuries, Brahma also lost his position as the supreme creator, as can be seen by the power tussles in many myths, between Brahma and either Shiva or Vishnu.
It is important to remember that mythology reflects the ideas of society at the time that the stories were composed. What we see in the Puranas is the journey of Hindu thought across the sub-continent, gathering ideas and absorbing practices from many communities in towns, villages and forests.
Everyone knows Bheema was the strongest of the Pandavas but did you know his immense strength was gifted to him?
Back when they were kids, Bheema’s cousin Duryodhana, who was jealous of him, poisoned his food in a bid to get rid of him. Unaware, Bheema ate the food and fell unconscious. Duryodhana then tied him up with a rope and threw him into the waters of the Ganga. Bheema sank down to the river bed and reached the kingdom of the Nagas.
Seeing the boy, the Nagas immediately attacked him. Thankfully for Bheema, their poison acted as an antidote, waking him up and giving him the energy to repel their attack. Flummoxed by the young Pandava beating back his armies, the Naga king, Vasuki, decided to end Bheema once and for all. Thankfully, Kunti’s grandfather, Aryaka, who served in Vasuki’s army, recognized his great grandson and stopped Vasuki from finishing him off. On learning Bheema’s parentage, Vasuki blessed him with the strength of a thousand elephants.
Read the full story in ‘The Pandava Princes’, now available on the ACK Comics app as well as all major e-tail platforms.
Kartik Purnima is not the Diwali of the mortals but of the gods. That’s why it’s also called Deva-Deepawali. Here’s the story of the origin of this festival.
The sons of Tarakasura undertook severe penance to please Brahma. When Brahma appeared before them, they asked for immortality. But as Brahma could not grant such a boon, the trio instead asked for divine kingdoms for each of them, heavenly cities that could be destroyed only by a single arrow. So the celestial architect, Maya, was called, and he built three cities made of iron, silver and gold for the brothers.
The three brothers soon became consumed with pride with their near-indestructible strongholds and felt unstoppable. Slowly, they started causing havoc in the heavens. Finally, Shiva agreed to help the devas kill the asuras. With the Earth as his chariot, Mount Meru as the bow, the serpent king Vasuki as the bowstring, and Vishnu himself as the arrow, Shiva waited for the three space cities to align in a straight line. At the opportune moment, he let loose his arrow and Tripura was destroyed in a flash. Overjoyed, the devas declared the day as Deva-Deepawali, the Diwali of the gods!
On Kartik Purnima, we also celebrate the birthdays of Vishnu’s Matsya avatar, the personification of the tulsi plant, Vrinda, and Shiva’s warrior son, Kartikeya.
Yoga has been an integral part of Indian tradition, insomuch that many asanas have their names attributed to characters from the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Puranas. Let’s take a look at the Indian mythology’s yoga connections.
The Natarajasana is named after Nataraja or Shiva, the god of dance. The lifting of the leg in this asana emulates one of Nataraja’s stances in his divine dance.
Marichyasana is named after Sage Marichi. As the story goes, Marichi returned from the forest one day and his wife Dharmavrata began to wash his feet. Just then, his father Brahma arrived and Dharmavrata turned to greet him. Enraged by her action, Marichi cursed her to turn into stone.
Virabhadrasana is named after Virabhadra who rose from a lock of Shiva’s hair. Shiva was furious when he heard of Sati’s death. He created Virabhadra and Bhadrakali to destroy Daksha’s yagna and teach him a lesson for his pride.
Posture 1: Symbolises Virabhadra coming up from the Yagna with a sword in hand. Posture 2: Symbolises Virabhadra ready to strike with his sword. Posture 3: Symbolises Virabhadra lifting his sword and using it to behead Daksha.
Since antiquity, oceans have been an integral part of our stories. From the epic tales of Rama and Vishnu to the legends of Saraswati and Hanuman, oceans have played a major part in our Puranas. Here are some such stories and incidents.
Saraswati deposits Vadavagni into the ocean
A long time ago, a war was waged between the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas of the world. The destruction resulted in the birth of Vadavagni, an all-consuming fire that lay waste to everything in its way. Troubled by the havoc wreaked on earth, the gods turned to Lord Shiva for help. Shiva decided it would be best to request goddess Saraswati to deposit the Vadavagni in the vast ocean. When he approached Saraswati, the goddess replied she wouldn’t be able to accomplish this in her current form. So Shiva asked her to take the form of a river. Just like Ganga originated from Shiva’s hair, she originated from the Plaksha, the sacred fig tree. She flowed north towards Pushkar and then turned west where she came to be known as Nanda. Then she turned north again and flowed into the ocean and released the fire, saving the earth from turning into ashes.
Read Amar Chitra Katha’s Saraswati to find out why she was called Nanda. It is available on the ACK Comics app, and on major e-tail platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and others.
The Churning of the Ocean
The timeless tale of the churning of the ocean is very famous. The story goes like this. Lord Indra insults sage Durvasa, an incarnation of Shiva. Durvasa curses him for his folly, causing all the gods to slowly start losing their power. The asuras take advantage of this and attack the gods, who seek refuge in Lord Brahma, who in turn calls upon Vishnu for help. Vishnu asks the gods to make peace with the demons and invite them to extract the nectar of immortality from the ocean. Agreeing to the gods’ proposal, the gods and demons start churning the ocean milk together. They take the assistance from mount Mandara, which acts as a rod, and Vasuki, the king of snakes, who acts as a rope. Slowly, the elixir is obtained, along with a lethal byproduct, an intoxicant that is consumed by Lord Shiva. However, with the nectar now up for grabs, the gods and demons get into a terrible fight, with the demons getting their hands on the nectar through their relatively increased strength.. Unfortunately for the asuras, Vishnu shows up, disguised as Mohini, the most beautiful woman in the three worlds, and tempts them into giving away the amrita. He then serves it to the gods, restoring their power and making them immortal.
Read the entire story in Amar Chitra Katha’s The Churning Of The Ocean. It is available on the ACK Comics app, and on major e-tail platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and others.
Hanuman Flies Across The Ocean
In the Ramayana, when Sita is kidnapped by Ravana, the king of Lanka, Rama’s army sets on the mission to find Sita. Hanuman, Angada, and Jambavaan head south until they reach the ocean. The come across the vulture king, Sampati, who tells them that if they are to reach Sita, they will have to leap across the ocean to Lanka. Only Hanuman was capable of covering such distance in a single bound. However, before Hanuman can make the jump, a huge mountain called Mainaka appears and blocks his path, asking him to wait for a while. Hanuman politely refuses and leaps towards Lanka. As he sails across the sky, a horrible sea monster called Surasa surfaces, with her jaws wide open. Surasa was actually a goddess in disguise, sent by the gods to test Hanuman. She tells Hanuman that if he can only pass through her mouth, if he can escape her powerful jaws. Hanuman counters, saying he doesn’t think her jaws will beagle to contain him. Then, Hanuman starts to make himself bigger and bigger. Accordingly, Surasa also keeps stretching her jaws wider and wider. Then, in a flash, before Surasa can react, Hanuman makes himself tiny, and crosses through her widespread jaws in a flash!
Our ACK Junior title ‘Hanuman’s Leap to Lanka’ is the perfect way to retell this story to kids between ages 3 and 6. It is available on the ACK Comics app, and on major e-tail platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and others.
Rama Requests The Ocean For Help
During the beginning of Yuddha Kand, when Rama and his army begin their journey to Lanka, they find themselves in a fix, because of the lack of access across the ocean to the island kingdom. Rama decides to make a plea to Sagara, the god of the oceans, to help them, and meditates and prays for three days. However, Sagara doesn’t respond. When Rama’s patience reaches its peak, he starts to attack the ocean itself, shooting flaming arrows into it. He then starts to mount his Brahmastra on his bow, prepared to shoot. A terrified Sagara appears before Rama and tells him that water can’t turn solid for them to pass as it is bound by the laws of nature and cannot change for anybody. The ocean god, however, provides an alternate solution. He tells the Ayodhya prince that if Rama’s army were to build a bridge across the ocean with stones that bore Rama’s name, Sagara would ensure the stones would float and he would personally bear the weight of Rama’s entire army, allowing them to cross the ocean.
If you haven’t read Valmiki’s Ramayana, you can read all six volumes together, either through our ACK Comics app, or via print editions available on major e-tail platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and others.