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Goddess Manasa: The Goddess of Snakes

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 11:57 PM
Goddess Manasa is a Hindu folk goddess of snakes, worshipped mainly in Bengal and other parts of northeastern India, chiefly for the prevention and cure of snakebite and also for fertility and prosperity. Goddess Manasa is said to be the daughter of sage Kashyapa and Kadru and sister of the serpent king Shesha; alternatively she is said to be the daughter of Lord Shiva and a mortal woman. She is very powerful and worshipped in different forms and with different names throughout India. She is worshipped mainly during the rainy season, when the snakes are most active. There is a belief that Manasa protects the people from snake bite. Goddess Manasa enjoys a widespread cult as a deity, mostly in Bengal, where she is invoked for protection against snake bites and bringer of wealth. She is also linked with fertility and worshipped for the revival and protection from several incurable diseases.

The Puranas described that sage Kashyapa married goddess Manasa to sage Jaratkaru, who agreed to marry her on the condition that he would leave her if she disobeyed him. Once, when Jaratkaru was awakened by Manasa, he became upset with her because she awakened him too late for worship, and so he deserted her. On the request of the great Hindu gods, Jaratkaru returned to Manasa and she gave birth to Astika.

 Legend of Goddess Manasa

Goddess Manasa was the daughter of Lord Shiva by a beautiful mortal woman. She was not liked by her step-mother, Parvati; so she took up her abode on earth with another daughter of Lord Shiva, named Neta. The daughter of Lord Shiva liked to be worshipped by human beings as other gods and goddesses and she knew that her desire would be fulfilled if she could once secure the devotion of a very prosperous and powerful merchant-prince of Champaka Nagar, by the name of Chand Saudagar. He was a widower and had six sons. She tried for long to persuade Chand to worship her, but he was a stout devotee of Lord Shiva and he would not desert his Lord for a goddess of the snakes. So, goddess Manasa destroyed Chand’s beautiful garden. Many times she destroyed his garden and every time Chand used to restore the beauty to his garden by the help of his magic power, which he received from Lord Shiva.

Then Manasa appeared to Chand in the form of a beautiful girl. He fell madly in love with her, but she would not hear a word till he promised to bestow his magic power upon her; and when he did so, she appeared in the sky in her own form and told to Chand to worship her. But Chand did not obey her instructions. Then she destroyed the garden again and his six sons were killed by snake bites with the instructions of Manasa. Chand remarried and got a son and named him Lakshmindara. Lakshmindara grew up to be a handsome boy and Chand selected a beautiful girl Behula to be married with him. The couple was engaged and wedding date was fixed. It was predicted that Lakshmidhara would die of a snake bite on his wedding night. In those years Manasa did not give up her hope and appeared again with her resolve to subdue Chand by killing Lakshmidhara. Goddess Manasa killed Lakshmidhara and at last, due to the love and devotion of Behula Lakshmidhara was brought back to life and Behula convinced her father-in-law to worship the Goddess Manasa and thus Chand agreed and promised to worship Manasa by using his left hand to perform the rites. This was accepted by Manasa and Chand worshipped Manasa with all his devotion. She was satisfied, and bestowed on him wealth and prosperity and happiness.

Goddess Manasa is depicted as a graceful woman covered with snakes, sitting on a lotus or standing upon a snake. She is sheltered by the canopy of the hoods of the seven cobras. Sometime she is also depicted with a child on her lap.All paintings are courtesy of Art of Legend India.

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