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God Vishnu Defeats the Demons

Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 3:03 AM

Vishnu leading Indra, king of the gods, towards the heavens after defeating the demons. Wrath of the Demons 


After defeating the demons, the devas, led by Indra, claimed every treasure that had emerged from the cosmic sea. Rising up to the heavens, Swarga, they became rulers of the cosmos. They warmed the earth, ushered in light and rain, made the tides rise, the moon wax and day dawn.

The asuras meanwhile sulked in Patala, the murky realm under the earth and sea. Angry and bitter, they took an oath, "We will oppose the gods in every way we can: what they generate, we will destroy. If they spread light, we will extend darkness. If they support life, we will stifle it."

They began attacking the gods every day, every month, every year, every aeon, their victory causing winter to arrive, the tides to fall, the moon to wane and the sun to set.

The gods fought back.

The unending battles of devas and asuras, the successes followed by failures, gave Nature its cyclical rhythm.

Vishnu riding into battle on Garuda, the celestial bird Pahari painting.

Madhu and Kaitabha


Two demons, Madhu and Kaitabha, decided to attack Brahma and arrest the creative process.

They climbed up the lotus stalk that emerged from Vishnu's navel and made their way to the seat of the creator. But Vishnu divined their intentioned. He grabbed them, placed them on his thighs, crushed them to death, and smeared their fat over earth, making it rich and fertile.

Namuchi and Vritra


When Namuchi, the demon of darkness, locked away light in his fortress, and Vritra, the demon of drought, locked away moisture, the earth became dry, dark and barren plants withered, animals died.

Indra, king of the gods, tried subduing the two demons but failed. "These demons can only be killed by weapons that are neither solid nor liquid," disclosed Brahma.

Vishnu immediately collected the foam of the sea that is neither solid nor liquid and fashioned out of it the vajra, a weapon as powerful as a bolt of thunder.

Indra used this magnificent weapon first to kill Namuchi and then Vritra. He razed their fortresses to the ground, bringing light and moisture back into the world.

Grateful for Vishnu's timely help, Indra called him Upendra, his brother, friend and guide.

Death of Mura

 

Madhusudana-Kaithabjit: Vishnu defending Brahma from the demons Madhu and Kaitabha. Mura, the asura, had acquired the power to kill anyone by his mere touch. So he stood before the gates of Amravati, city of the gods, and challenged Indra to a duel.

"I cannot fight him. If he touches me, I will die," said Indra, trembling with fear.

"I will fight him then," said Vishnu, striding out to face the demon. Looking straight into Mura's eyes,Vishnu smiled and said, "Why are you so scared? I won't bite."

"I am not scared," growled Mura, piqued by Vishnu's words.

"Then why are you perspiring so much?" asked Vishnu.

"I am not perspiring at all." "Yes, you are."

"No, I am not." So saying Mura rubbed his forehead to prove there was not a drop of sweat on his body. As soon as Mura touched himself, he choked and died.

Narasintha killing Hiranyakashipu.

Hiranyakashipu's Immortality

 
Hiranyakashipu decided to get a boon that would make it impossible for anyone, even Vishnu, to kill him.

He appeased Brahma who declared, "No man or beast can kill Hiranyakashipu in daylight or in the dark, within or without a house."

Secured by this boon, the demon-king launched an attack on the heavens, defeated the gods and wrested control of the cosmos, plunging it into darkness.

Narasintha Rescues Prahlada

 
Hiranyakashipu forbade the very mention of Vishnu's name in his realm. But he could not stop his own son Prahlada from chanting, "Narayana-Narayana."

Torture had no effect on Prahlada devotion.

Exasperated, Hiranyakashipu screeched, "Where can I find Vishnu? I shall kill him and end your obsession once and for all."

Prahlada said, "He is everywhere, even in the pillars of your palace."

Hiranyakashipu smote a pillar. From within emerged a magnificent monster that was neither man nor beast. It was Vishnu in the form of Narasimha the ferocious man-lion!

Roaring lustily, Narasimha pounced upon Hiranyakashipu, dragged him to the palace threshold that is neither inside a dwelling nor outside. There, at twilight, which is neither day nor night; he ripped open the demon's belly, pulled out his heart and drank his blood.

Thus did Vishnu outwit the demon who tried outwitting death.

Vishnu Beheaded

 
Vishnu resting his head on his bow 26 while the gods cut the bowstring.
The strength and guile of Vishnu made him famous in the three worlds. The gods loved him, the sages respected him, the demons admired him, though grudgingly.

Once, the seven cosmic seers, the sapta-rishis, keepers of sacred wisdom, visited Amravati and found Vishnu sitting beside Indra.

Saluting Vishnu, they said, "Without your support the gods are powerless against the demons. You are greater than the gods."

This comment of the sages upset the devas. Jealous of Vishnu's prowess and rising fame, they decided to kill him.

They found Vishnu deep in thought resting his chin on his bow. Turning into termites, they chewed the taut bowstring until it snapped. The bowshaft straightened with such force that it slashed Vishnu's head off.

Hayagriva: the horse-headed Vishnu, guardian of the Vedas.

Horse-headed Vishnu

 
Without Vishnu, there was no one to stop the demons from stealing the sacred Vedas and mutilating its verses.

Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, cursed the gods who had harmed Vishnu. Ashamed of their conduct, consumed by guilt, the devas decided to resurrect their benefactor.

They found Vishnu's body but not his head.

Vishnu's head had, unknown to them, become one with the sun, his long hair turning into rays of light. "Find another head," said Indra.

The devas placed the head of a horse on Vishnu's body and brought him back to life.

The horse-headed Vishnu, Hayagriva, defeated the demons and restored the Vedas to Saraswati who chose Vishnu as her eternal guardian.

Alms from Bali

 
Saraswati, goddess of knowledge, who accepted Vishnu as her guardian.
Indra, proud of his many victories, once became so complacent that he refused to acknowledge the grace of Vishnu. Weakened by vanity, he was driven out of the heavens by the demon-king Bali.

Everyone loved, respected and obeyed Bali. In time, however, the adoration of his subjects and his absolute power inflated his ego. "I am lord of the three worlds. I can give anyone anything they want," he declared pompously.

"If you are so rich, can you give me three paces of land?" asked Vishnu, approaching Bali as Vamana, the dwarf.

"Is that all you want? Take it," said Bali.

Vamana Blinds Shukra

 
Shukra, the one-eyed guru of the demons
Something about Vamana made Shukra, guru of the asuras, very suspicious. "This dwarf could be sent by the gods. Don't give him anything," he warned Bali.

"What harm could this little one do?" argued Bali, picking up his kamandalu to pour water into Vamana's hand.

Once Bali poured water into Vamana's hand, Bali could not, by law, go back on his word. Knowing this, Shukra reduced himself in size, entered Bali's water-pot and blocked its snout with his head.

When water did not come out of the pot, Vamana divined Shukra's intentions. "There must be a choke in the snout," said Vamana to Bali, "Let me remove it."

Vamana pushed a blade of grass into the water-pot and gouged out one of Shukra's eyes. The demon-priest leapt out of the kamandalu howling in agony.

Water then poured freely into Vamana's hand and he obtained from Bali full rights over all the land he could cover in three strides.

Two Steps of Vamana

 
Vamana, Vishnu's dwarf incarnation.
In the blink of an eye, Vamana turned into the giant Urugaya. His legs stretched beyond the abyss and his head rose above the clouds.

With one step Vamana claimed the heavens striding with ease across all the stars and planets of the astral realm.
The gods washed the lord's feet with the waters of Ganga, the celestial river, which was brought down to the world of man when Vamana took his second step to claim the earth.

Bali was overwhelmed by humility when he saw the lord's foot stretching across every horizon, overshadowing tall hills and vast plains.

Third Step of Vamana

 
Trivikrama: Vishnu-Vamana taking three steps to stride across three worlds.
"Where shall I place my third step?" asked Vamana. Bowing his head, Bali said, "Place it on my pompous head that did not recognise Vishnu." Vamana shoved Bali back into the netherworld, where he belonged.

Vishnu's foot on Bali's head had crushed his ego, granted him salvation and transformed him into a divine demon.

Mankind mourned Bali i though a demon, his reign marked a period of peace and prosperity. For the benefit of mankind, Vishnu declared, "Once a year, after the rains, Bali shall rise from Patala. With him will rise the bounty of earth?" This temporary ascent of Bali during harvest-time is a time of festivity and joy, celebrated as Onam in Kerala and as Diwali in the rest of India.

Vishnu, the God of Gods
 
Vishnu had done the impossible. He had conquered the cosmos not by war, but by taking three steps! This conqueror of the three worlds, Trivikrama, was no ordinary god: he was god of gods, master of the universe- Jagannatha.

Gods, demons and humans saluted this great divinity.

Vaikuntha, the highest heaven that stands above Swarga became Vishnu's abode, whence he oversaw the welfare of the world, descending from time to time in various forms to battle forces that threatened harmony and order.

Writer – Devdutt Pattanaik
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