Hanuman Humbles Narada

Illustration and Design: ACK Art Team

Narada was very proud of his devotion to Vishnu. Once, during a music recital in Vaikuntha, Narada presented one of his most impressive songs in praise of Vishnu. He was sure that Vishnu would declare him the best. To his surprise, Vishnu beckoned to Hanuman who was sitting at the back and asked him to sing. Narada was appalled. Vishnu was asking a monkey to sing! To top it, he even asked Narada to lend Hanuman his veena. Hanuman sang of Rama and as he sang he was lost in his love for him. When the song was over, Narada angrily went to retrieve his veena but to his surprise, it was stuck to the floor. He pulled and pulled but to no avail. Vishnu smiled and asked Hanuman to sing again. Hanuman did and Narada could lift up his veena. The floor itself had melted on hearing Hanuman’s devotion and the veena had got embedded in it. When Hanuman sang again, the floor melted once more and Narada could pick up his veena.

Ashamed of his arrogance, Narada asked Hanuman to forgive him which the large-hearted vanara did willingly.

Maitra

The word ‘Maitra’ has many references in the Puranic texts. Here are some of them.

  1. A muhurta, or auspicious time. In the Mahabharata, Krishna started his journey towards Hastinapura at Maitramuhurta
  2. Name of a tribe of demons. Sage Lomasha had once asked Yudhishthira to attack this tribe.
  3. Name of a constellation, or nakshatra. It was on the day of Maitra nakshatra that Kritavarma joined the Kaurava side of the army.

Gandaberunda

Illustration: Adarsh Achari

Gandaberunda, the two-headed bird of unimaginable strength, sits majestically as the official emblem of the Government of Karnataka. Before the Karnataka government adopted Gandaberunda, the mighty bird was the royal insignia of the Wodeyars, a dynasty that ruled the kingdom of Mysore from 1399 to 1947. Images of this mythical bird have been found carved on the walls of the Chennakeshava temple in Belur, and on coins belonging to the Vijayanagara empire. Gandaberunda is often depicted holding an elephant in each of its talons and is said to signify royalty and power.

According to the Puranas, when Vishnu descended to earth as Narasimha to destroy the evil king, Hiranyakashapu, the taste of his blood made Narasimha crave for some more. He lost sight of his true purpose and started to wreak havoc on earth, even the gods feared him. They turned to Shiva for help. Shiva took the form of Sharabha, a half-bird and half-lion being. Sharabha approached Narashima and tried to calm him under his wings but instead, Narasimha got furious. From his body emerged a celestial being even more powerful than Sharabha, Gandaberdunda. The two divine beings fought a fierce battle that lasted for eighteen days destroying everything in its wake.

At the end of the eighteenth day, Gandaberunda stopped to look around. It dawned upon him that their battle had caused enormous devastation. He spilt into two and Vishnu emerged from the centre of the fearsome beast. Shiva too resumed his form. The two returned to the heavenly abode and peace was restored.

In another version of the story, it was Sharabha, and not Gandaberunda who lost sight of his true mission and started destroying everything in his wake. Narasimha was then forced to take the form of Gandaberunda to curb the chaos Sharabha was causing.

Read the story of the majestic celestial creatures in our title Divine Beings. Now available on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Amazon, Flipkart, and other major e-tailers. 

Ananta

By Sanjana Kapur and Aparna Kapur 

Illustration: Adarsh Achari and Ritoparna Hazra

Kashyapa, one of Brahma’s prajapatis, had two wives, Vinata and Kadru. Vinata gave birth to Garuda, and Kadru became the mother of all snakes or Nagas, including Takshaka, Vasuki and Ananta. One day, an argument broke out between Vinata and Kadru over the colour of Airavata’s tail. While Vinata insisted that Airavata’s tail was pure white, Kadru said that the tail had a few black hairs. (Another version says the argument took place regarding Uchhaisravas’ tail.) A wager was placed between Vinata and Kadru to determine the truth. The loser would become the slave of the other for the rest of her life.

Kadru did not want to lose. She went to her serpent sons and told them to suspend themselves from Airavata’s tail so it would look like the elephant had black hair. Ananta and a few others refused to be part of this dishonest act. Enraged at the disobedience of her sons, Kadru cursed them. She said that they would die in King Janmejeya’s snake sacrifice. Perturbed by his mother’s curse, Ananta sought help from Brahma. Brahma told him to go to the netherworld and support Mother Earth on his hood. Ananta readily agreed.

The mighty snake carries the entire world on his hood, maintaining its balance! Ananta is also known as Sheshnag. Vishnu is said to rest on his mighty coils.

Read the stories of celestial creatures of Indian mythology in our title Divine Beings, now available on the ACK Comics app, Kindle, Amazon, and other major e-tailers. 

The Legends Behind Lakes Rakshastal and Manasarovar

By Komal Narwani

Two of the most iconic sights of Manasarovar, Lake Rakshastal and Lake Manasarovar, have some mysterious legends associated with their origins. The two enigmatic water bodies of Mount Kailasha are always compared to each other because of their contrasting shapes and stories. 

Illustration: Narendra Pardhi
Lake Manasarovar 

Located at 4590m above mean sea level, Lake Manasarovar is a freshwater lake. It is believed to be created in the mind of Brahma first and then manifested on earth. Hence, the name Manasarovar, in Sanskrit, ‘Manasa’ means ‘mind’ and ‘sarovaram’ means ‘lake’. The lake is round-shaped and is considered to be a symbol of light or brightness. It is a personification of purity and the fortunate pilgrims who drink the water of this lake are believed to have been cleansed of their sins. 

Illustration: Souren Roy

The divinity of Lake Manasarovar is not bound to Hinduism. Many religions cite the holiness of this pristine lake in various virtuous texts and events. The Jain scriptures say that the first Tirthankara, Rishabha, attained nirvana here. The Buddhists equate this lake with lake Anavatapta, which in Sanskrit means ‘the unheated’. Anavatapta is believed to be the lake lying at the centre of the world, which also happens to be the place where Maya conceived Gautama Buddha, the enlightened one. The lake is regarded holy in the Bon religion too. Legends say that when Tonapa Shenrab, the founder of the Bon religion, visited Tibet for the first time, he took a bath in this holy lake. 

Five Buddhist monasteries adorn the shore of the holy Manasarovar. Those who have been smitten by the beauty of this lake describe the lake to be as serene as the meditative mind and as pristine as heaven’s snowy flake. The lake is also the birthplace of four great rivers – Karnali, Brahmaputra, Sindhu and Sutlej.

Lake Rakshastal 

Lying to the west of Lake Manasarovar is Lake Rakshastal, which in Sanskrit translates to ‘lake of the demon’ because Ravana once took a dip in this river. The Tibetans call it lake Lagngar Cho or Lhanag Tso, which means ‘the dark lake of poison’. They also refer to it as ‘the Ghost Lake’. Though the lake is pristine blue, it lacks vegetation and wildlife due to its high salt content. This saline lake has four islands – Dola, Lachato, Topserma, and Dosharba.

Illustration: Pulak Biswas

Legends say this is the place where the king of Lanka, Ravana, performed intense penance to please the god of destruction, Shiva. Alternatively, some stories say that the lake was created by the demon god. Upon one of the islands’ bank, Ravana made an offering by sacrificing one of his ten heads to Shiva every day. Pleased with his austerity, Shiva appeared before him on the tenth day to grant him a boon. 

Legend also has it that when Ravana was on his way to visit Shiva on Kailasha, he halted and took a dip in Lake Rakshastal. He proceeded further and spotted Parvati, near Gauri Kund, for the first time. He was smitten by her beauty and he lost his virtue. This is the reason people never take a dip in this lake. Gauri Kund is the place where Parvati created Ganesha from the saffron paste of her body. People do not take a dip in this water body either. Pilgrims believe that Parvati still visits this place every year for some solitude. Thus, her personal space is to be left untouched.

Just like the extreme sides of Shiva, meditative and destructive, his icy abode encompasses the round Lake Manasarovar, an embodiment of brightness and the crescent-shaped Lake Rakshastal, that symbolizes darkness. Each of them have unique traits and tales, which interests the visitors and enriches their experience of the mighty mountain.  

Vriddhakshatra’s Curse 

By Aditya Sen

The battle of Mahabharata is regarded as the greatest war. The strategies that were adopted to win the war changed the way they were fought forever. One of these indigenous battle strategies was the ‘Chakrayvuha’. This was a wheel-shaped labyrinth designed in such a complex way that only one with knowledge of the formation could break in and break out of it. On the thirteenth day of battle, Drona, as the commander, called for the formation of the Chakravyuha.

The only ones with the knowledge of penetrating the formation were Krishna, Arjuna, Pradyumna and Abhimanyu. With Arjuna and Krishna away responding to a challenge to combat, and Pradyumna not participating in the war, Abhimanyu, Arjuna’s son, was the only one present in the Pandava camp who could enter the Chakravyuha. However, he only knew how to penetrate the formation and not how to find a way out. Having no choice, Yudhishthira promised Abhimanyu that the bravest Pandava warriors would follow his lead and break in with him, and would ensure his safe exit. 

Illustration: Dilip Kadam

Convinced, Abhimanyu entered the Chakravyuha and tried to lead the Pandavas through it. But that day, Jayadratha, the king of Sindhu, invoked a boon he had received from Lord Shiva. This boon gave him the power to oppose the Pandavas in warfare, thus he was able to hold them off from entering the Chakravyuha. Meanwhile, Abhimanyu was trapped inside the Chakravyuha and with no backup, he was killed after fighting the unfair attack from all sides.

Arjuna was devastated when he learnt of his son’s death. He blamed Jayadratha for this and vowed that he would kill him before the next day’s sunset.  If he failed to do so, he vowed to give up his life by jumping into a burning pyre. However, when Jayadratha was born, a sage had approached his father, King Vriddhakshatra. The sage had predicted that Jayadratha would be killed in a great war. Saddened by hearing this, Vriddhakshatra uttered a curse saying,

“Whoever is responsible for my son’s head to touch the ground, will instantly be blown to pieces.”   

Illustration: Dilip Kadam

The next day, after learning Arjuna’s intentions, Dronacharya had three military formations in place to protect Jayadratha from Arjuna. But Bheema and Arjuna annihilated all three military formations. They seemed to be on a demonic rampage, driven completely by revenge. However, when dusk was nearing, the warriors stationed to protect Jaydratha had still not been defeated. To get Jaydratha exposed from their protection, Krishna used his yogic powers to create an illusion that the sun was about to set. Immediately, the Kauravas started to rejoice, knowing Arjuna’s oath. Just then, Jayadratha came out of hiding, and upon seeing him, Krishna dispelled the illusion. The sun rays again fell on the battlefield and Krishna pointed at Jayadratha. Rage took over Arjuna as he furiously readied his arrow, but Krishna advised Arjuna.

“Severe his head and make it land on his father’s lap.”

Arjuna nodded and took aim. He left an arrow that went whirling towards Jayadratha at lightning speed. 

Illustration: Dilip Kadam

Vriddhakshatra was meditating and offering his evening prayers in the woods nearby when suddenly his son’s head came shooting from the sky and fell on his lap. Unaware of this, when he got up after his prayers, the head fell from his lap and onto the ground. In that instant, Vriddhakshatra was blown to pieces, as he fell victim to his own curse.   

Read our special collection Mahabharata – 3 vol set, now available on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Amazon, Flipkart, and other major e-tailers. 

Parashurama’s curse on Karna

By Aditya Sen

With misty eyes, Kunti saw her firstborn son float away. She stood there, feet dug into the ground as she watched her child flow away with the mighty Ganga. Meanwhile, a charioteer and carpenter named Adiratha saw a tiny basket being carried by the waves. Curious, he went near the basket and to his shock, found a small child in it. He looked around frantically, hoping to find the child’s parents. However, no one came to claim the child. He decided to take the child home. He showed the child to his wife, Radha, who lovingly took the child in her embrace. Once he explained the situation to Radha, they decided to adopt the child. They named the child Karna.

Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

On Karna’s sixteenth birthday, Adiratha offered him a new chariot and a horse. Karna saw the chariot and smiled. However, Karna was not very happy. Adhiratha noticed this and asked his son what was bothering him. Karna stared at the ground and said, 

“Father, it feels like I was never meant to be a charioteer. I do not feel any desire to drive a chariot. My only desire in life is to hold a bow and arrow. I cannot think of anything else.” 

Karna didn’t dare to look at his father, afraid that he had offended him. Suddenly, Karna felt a warm hand fall gently on his shoulder. Karna looked up and was shocked to see his father smiling.

“Karna, your mother and I have something we need to tell you. We knew this day would come, we are prepared.”

Adhiratha called out to his wife and told her what had just happened. Together, they explained to Karna about his past and how they had found him. Karna was in disbelief. Things were slowly starting to explain themselves. Karna found a new desire, a desire to find out who he really was.

“Mother, father, I would like to learn archery in the great city of Hastinapura. For this, I request your permission.”

His parents agreed and blessed him on his journey. 

Karna’s goal was to learn archery and find out his true identity. He approached the famed teacher, Dronacharya. But Dronacharya was reluctant to teach a son of a charioteer. Dejected, Karna decided to find another master. He approached the great master, Parashurama. However this time, he decided that he would not return empty-handed. As Karna approached Parashurama’s hut, he saw a man who was chiselled by the gods, whose eyes burned with the flame of intensity. Awe-struck, Karna fell to his feet and pleaded with him to be his teacher. The great Parashurama only asked Karna one question:

“Are you a Kshatriya?”

With a straight face, Karna lied to Parashurama and told him that he was a Brahmin. 

Illustration: Ram Waeerkar | Script: Kamala Chandrakant

Hearing this, Parashurama took Karna in. Karna was a brilliant student, and he seemed to have an inborn talent for archery. Parashurama was extremely pleased with Karna and taught him everything he knew, including how to use the devastating Brahmastra. 

One afternoon, Parashurama was laying on the ground. He asked Karna to get him some deerskin to use as a pillow. To this, Karna replied,

“ My lord, please use my lap as a pillow”.

Parashurama put his head on Karna’s lap and fell into a deep sleep. Just then, Karna saw a scorpion approach them. However, Karna did not move as he didn’t want to wake his teacher up. He didn’t even flinch when the scorpion stung him. Karna did not move an inch. 

Illustration: Ram Waeerkar | Script: Kamala Chandrakant

When Parashurama woke up, he noticed Karna’s leg was covered in blood. He immediately asked Karna what happened. Karna told him how a scorpion had stung him while Parashurama was sleeping on his lap. He looked at Karna and asked him,

“Are you telling me that you could sit through the pain of the scorpion sting?”

 

To this Karna replied, “It hurt initially, but I could not dream of waking you up.”

Suspiciously, Parashurama looked at Karna.

“You are telling me you, a brahmin, was able to withstand a scorpion bite without saying a word.”

Karna began to stutter but Parashurama’s eyes began to fill up with rage.

“Who are you? Only a Kshatriya can stand the pain of a scorpion!”

Parashurama’s anger knew no bounds and he accused Karna of being a liar.

Illustration: Ram Waeerkar | Script: Kamala Chandrakant

Karna fell to  Parashurama’s feet and began weeping,

“I have lied to you, my lord. I am neither a Brahmin nor am I Kshatriya. I am the son of the charioteer, Adhiratha. I only lied to you because I really wanted to be your student.”

But Parashurama was furious, and in his extreme rage, he uttered a curse.

“Just like you have betrayed my trust, when you would be in desperate need of an astra, your memory will betray you.”

Parashurama then left and went back to his ashrama, leaving Karna in tears.

Read the story of Karna in our title Karna on the ACK Comics App and Kindle. It is also available on Amazon, Flipkart and other major e-tailers. 

How Yama Lost His Good Looks

By Komal Narwani

A deity with fiery eyes, dark skin, and a huge moustache. The description involuntarily creates the image of the god of death in the minds of most readers. Yama, also referred to as Kala, is the guardian of the south, which is the region of death. Although he has a frightening appearance now, he wasn’t always like this. The Vedas describe him as a cheerful and handsome deity, but the Puranas show him as a fearsome god riding a buffalo and carrying a mace and a noose. There is an interesting legend behind Yama’s makeover. 

In the beginning, Yama had very attractive physical features. He was so handsome that even the apsaras contended for his attention. He was too proud of his good looks and admired himself all day. He was responsible to free the souls from mortal bodies and escort them to heaven or hell. Haughty Yama got too busy idolising himself and ignored his duties as the god of death. 

The people on earth were overjoyed when they realised that they could live happily for eternity. But soon, things started getting difficult. People grew in number and the basic resources started depleting. There was not enough food and water for all. The burden on mother earth increased, causing havoc and chaos. The situation troubled Shiva as he was responsible for the cycle of life. Enraged with Yama’s arrogance and disregard for his work, Shiva decided to teach him a lesson.  

Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

Shiva summoned Yama to his icy abode, Kailash. When Yama reached Kailash, Shiva smiled and gave him a warm welcome, quite opposite to Yama’s expectations. Yama got suspicious but Shiva asked him to take a seat. After exchanging greetings with him, Shiva requested,

“Yama, could you please get me some water from the nearby pond?”

Yama obliged. As he bent over the pond to fetch water in a pot, he was startled. He saw a demon-like creature in the pond. Terrified of the demon’s appearance, he started trembling. He quickly ran towards Shiva.

“Mahadeva, there is a daunting demon in the pond! It has fearsome red eyes, an unusually huge moustache and two large, curved horns on his head.”

Smiling at Yama’s dismay, Shiva said,

“Touch your head, Yama. What you saw in the pond was your own reflection.”

Yama immediately touched his head and panicked.

“No, this cannot happen!” he thought to himself.

He pleaded with Shiva to fix his appearance. In response, Shiva closed his eyes and went back to his meditative state. 

Yama realised that Shiva was in no mood for mercy. He turned to Brahma for help but when he reached Brahma’s abode, Brahmaloka, he found the lord engrossed in scripting a manuscript. Disheartened, Yama now headed to seek aid from Vishnu and Lakshmi. The celestial couple were in a deep discussion about some cosmic issue and Yama could not talk to them. Giving up all hope, Yama decided to do severe penance to please Vishnu and get his attention. 

After years, his prayers were finally answered when Vishnu appeared in front of him and asked,

“What do you wish for, Yama?”

Bowing before Vishnu, Yama said,

“O Lord, please make me as handsome as I was.”

Vishnu shook his head and replied,

“I cannot do that, Yama. You would become lax and futile once again.”

Yama begged for forgiveness. Vishnu took pity,

“I can remove your horns and transfer them to an animal who will serve you as your vehicle.”

Realising that Vishnu was right, Yama accepted his fate. 

Illustration: Ram Waeerkar

Yama looked glumly at the buffalo, his new vehicle, standing right next to him. Shiva had finally made him look like the fearsome god of death. 

Before Yama left, he requested Vishnu to reside beside him at Azhagar Kovil near Tiruchirappalli so that people would appease him. Vishnu willingly resided there. Later, Lakshmi came in search of Vishnu and Yama appealed to her to stay with Vishnu. Lakshmi agreed. The place where the divine deities reside is known as the Kallazhagar temple. As Vishnu is considered to be very beautiful he is also called Sunderraja Perumal. It is believed that every year Yama visits this temple to offer prayers to the beloved deity.

Lesser-Known Goddesses of Indian Mythology

By Aditi Pasumarthy and Niranjana Sivaram

Our Puranas are filled with some of the most intriguing gods and goddesses. Many know the stories of popular gods and goddesses such as Krishna, Ganesha, Durga, and others. However, there are many goddesses who have fascinating stories but are not known by many. Let’s take a look at some of the lesser-known goddesses of Indian mythology.

Ushas 

Ushas, the goddess of dawn, brings life and light into the world every day. She is praised for driving away oppressive darkness and evil demons. As dawn breaks Ushas. representing the cosmic order, dispels darkness and chaos each morning.

Illustration: Sanjhiya Mayekar and Ritoparna Hazra
Ratri 

Ratri, Ushas’ sister, is the goddess of night. Some praise her for her countless stars, which provide light in the dark, and for protecting people from the dangers of the night. However, she is sometimes associated with those very dangers which nighttime brings.

Vac

The goddess of speech, Vac, makes creation possible by naming things. She is essential in the ritual mantras of priests and the insightful vision of the sages. Vac is also the reason that people can see and recognise friends, and communicate with each other.

Illustration: Sanjhiya Mayekar and Ritoparna Hazra
Karni

When goddess Karni asked Yama. the god of death, to bring a woman’s son back to life, Yama refused. Karni then vowed that her devotees would never die, but would instead be reborn as mice in her temple in Rajasthan. The mice would again be reborn as her devotees.

Kotravai

Kotravai is the goddess of war and victory. She is a fierce, wild and vicious goddess who haunts battlefields, granting victory to her favourites. She is worshipped in South India.

Illustration: Sanjhiya Mayekar and Ritoparna Hazra
Mariamman

Mariamman is a very popular village goddess of Tamil Nadu. She is the goddess of rain to whom the people pray every year for a good monsoon. Her devotees like keeping her happy. as her anger was thought to cause epidemics like smallpox.

Illustration: Sanjhiya Mayekar and Ritoparna Hazra
Alakshmi 

Alakshmi is the goddess of misfortune and the inauspicious. She is the sister of Lakshmi and also her opposite. She can never be in the same place as Lakshmi, who represents harmony and abundance. This is why people first pray to Alakshmi to go away from their homes, taking all the negativity with her.

Aranyani 

Aranyani is the goddess of the forest. She cannot be seen but can be heard in the sounds of the forest, like the shout of a man calling his cattle, or the sound of a tree in a storm, or a screech of an owl in the night. She stays away from villages but is usually kind and offers nuts and berries to those who come close to her.

Illustration: Sanjhiya Mayekar and Ritoparna Hazra
Manasa

Manasa, the goddess of snakes, protects her devotees from snake bites. She also provides them with prosperity and fertility. She is mainly worshipped in Bengal, especially in the rainy season which is when the snakes come out.

Illustration: Sanjhiya Mayekar and Ritoparna Hazra
Sarama 

Sarama is an attendant goddess known as the mother of all dogs. She is the messenger of Indra and protects his herds. Sarama once punished the minor deify Panis for stealing some cows.

Read stories of other Indian goddesses in our title Shakti. Now available on the ACK Comics App, Kindle, Amazon, Flipkart, and other major e-tailers. 

Durga’s Weapons Of War

By Shivam Pathania

Shakti is the universal mother goddess who is the source of energy for everything; living and nonliving, divine and non-divine. She manifests in numerous forms like Parvati, Kali, Saraswati, and Lakshmi. She is loving, caring, nourishing, yet at the same time can be ferocious, menacing and destructive. Just like how energy has the potential to either create or destroy.

Durga is one such ferocious form of the mother goddess who is renowned for her battle prowess. The half buffalo and half asura, Mahishasura who was the king of asuras, easily defeated the devas due to a boon from Brahma. The boon granted the asura partial immortality as only a woman could slay the asura. The defeated devas asked the Trimurti of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva for help. The three supreme Gods, with their combined powers, summoned a pillar of brilliant light from which Shakti, in the form of Durga, the ten-armed Goddess of war, appeared. The ten arms symbolise how the Goddess protects her devotees in all 10 directions; the 4 cardinal directions, the 4 ordinal directions and also above and below the living realm. The gods who witnessed the creation of Durga, offered their powerful weapons and adorned the ten arms of the divine mother with the power to destroy the tyrant asura.

Shiva’s Trishul
Illustration: Souren Roy | Script: Subba Rao

Shiva, the God of Destruction, gifted Durga with his trishul or trident. The three prongs of the weapon symbolize multiple important trinities in the Hindu myth and philosophy. The most common interpretations being the three Gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas), Time periods (past, present and future) and the universal cycles (creation, preservation and destruction) and the wielder of the Trishul is considered to be the master of all such trinities. During the battle, the Goddess used the weapon to land the finishing blow on Mahishasura.

Vishnu’s Sudarshan Chakra

The God of preservation, Vishnu, offered his divine discus, the Sudarshan chakra, to the Goddess. The discus, with more than a million sharp spikes, has the power to decapitate the enemy beyond resurrection. According to Linga Purana, Vishnu obtained the chakra from Shiva and since then has used this weapon to defeat countless asuras and rakshasas in his various avatars. The imagery of the disc spinning around Durga’s finger is a symbolic representation of how the energy provided by the goddess sets the universe in motion.

Brahma’s Kamandala

Brahma, as the God of creation, does not carry any weapons. Instead, he offered his Kamandala, a water pot, to the Goddess. The pot containing holy water symbolises purity, wisdom and life and Brahma uses it to create various life forms by chanting different mantras. Durga’s possession of the Kamandala, which plays a crucial role in the creation of the universe, explains the importance of the existence of Shakti in the universe.

Indra’s Vajra

Vajra, the thunderbolt, is Indra’s signature weapon and he offered this mighty weapon to Durga. The weapon was specifically made by Vishwakarma out of Sage Dadichi’s bones so that Indra could defeat Vritra, an asura who is an embodiment of droughts in the Rig Veda. The Vajra is used to punish sinners. In Sanskrit, the word vajra also means a diamond, which is the hardest material found in nature, to symbolise the weapon’s strength and indestructibility.

Illustration: Souren Roy | Script: Subba Rao
Vayu’s Bow and Quiver of Infinite Arrows

The god of wind, Vayu provided the Goddess with a bow and a quiver with unlimited arrows. The weapon set is a great representation of how Goddess Shakti exists as different forms of energy. The bow and the arrow represent potential and kinetic energy respectively. Before the arrow is launched from the bow, it contains potential energy, but the moment it gets launched towards the target, the potential energy is converted to kinetic energy. And thus, the goddess being an adept archer is a symbolism of how the universe functions due to the conversion of one form of energy to the other. 

Varuna’s Conch

Varuna, befitting his role as the god of water bodies and marine life, offered his auspicious conch to the Goddess. When blown inside a conch, it produces the sound of ‘Aum’, which in Hinduism is the primordial sound of creation. Water and creation have close ties with each other, as according to modern science, life on Earth started in the oceans. The conch was also used as a trumpet during the start of a war or to declare victory at the end, which is appropriate for Durga as she is the Goddess of war. 

Agni’s Burning Spear

Agni, the god of fire and a deity associated with sacred yagnas, offered his spear with a burning head to Durga. The projectile weapon with a sharp-pointed head and enveloped in scorching flames, can impale the target with complete accuracy when launched. The weapon is a symbol of power, valour and courage. The burning flames of the spear signify the role of Shakti as the ultimate source of energy. 

Yama’s Sword

Yama, the god of death and justice, gave his sword to the warrior goddess. The sword is an embodiment of both aspects of death and justice. The weapon is utilized by the god to punish the sinners and bring justice to the world. A sword symbolizes bravery, authority and power.

Vishwakarma’s Axe

Brahma’s son, Vishwakarma, who was the engineer and carpenter of gods, was responsible for constructing numerous divine weapons. He gifted the goddess an axe, which symbolizes the creative and destructive aspects of energy. An axe used to bring down a tree represents destruction, but using the same axe to chop wood to construct a house represents creation. Thus, symbolizing the dual nature of Shakti in the universe.

Surya’s Sunrays

The radiant Surya, the celestial Sun God and the ruler of the Navgraha, bestowed his blinding sun rays to the goddess. The blinding radiance of the goddess signifies her duty as the goddess of war to banish evil and darkness in all ten directions. Since every living creature is dependent on sunlight for survival, the light emanating from Durga can also be a representation of her nurturing and nourishing nature as a mother goddess. It also symbolises her role as the universal source of energy.

Illustration: C.M. Vitankar

After obtaining offerings in the form of divine weapons and other divine objects from the Trimurti and the devas, the king of mountains, Himavan offered Durga a vahana, the lion. With her ten arms equipped with the power offered by different gods, Durga, who was, as radiant as the sun, rode on her lion and arrived on the battlefield. She challenged the buffalo asura and after a fierce battle that lasted for nine days, Durga defeated Mahishasura, restoring peace in all three realms.

Read the full story of the goddess of war in the title Tales of Durga. It is now available on the ACK Comics app, Kindle, Flipkart, Amazon, and other major e-tailers.