Saturday, June 18, 2011

In Hinduism, Andhaka is a malevolent demon

In Hinduism, Andhaka is a malevolent demon.

The demon Andhaka was born from a drop of Lord Siva's sweat. Andhaka conceived an unnatural lust for his mother, Parvati, which accounts for Shiva's ferocious antagonism against him.

Andhaka is usually shown either impaled on Shiva's trident, or in skeletal form as Bhringi after submitting to Shiva, who drained his blood during the conflict.

"On Mount Mandara, Paravati covered Shiva’s eyes from behind with her two hands. Shiva could not see and everything seemed to be dark to him. Parvati’s hands sweated from the exertion and the sweat fell down on the ground. From this sweat, a dark and fierce creature was born and started to roar. Since the creature was born in darkness, Shiva and Parvati named their son Andhaka.

Andhaka was born blind, as Shiva was effectively blind when Andhaka was born. There was another asura named Hiranyaksha (also called Hiranyanetra), who had no sons. He prayed to Shiva, who offered him Andhaka to raise as his own son. Andhaka was later crowned king in Hiranyaksha's kingdom.

Andhaka’s cousins wanted to take over the kingdom Andhaka was hurt by this. He went away to the forest to perform tapasya, praying to Lord Brahma. For millions of years he stood on one leg, with his arms raised high, and prayed. He did not eat or drink, and chopping off parts of his body, offered it to the sacrificial fire. When there was no more meat left on his body, Lord Brahma appeared before him and offered a boon.

Andhaka asked Brahma for a boon that would enable him to see, and that he would not be killed by gods, demons, or humans, or even by the great Vishnu himself. Brahma was in a fix. Earlier, many demons had asked for similar boons, but they had generaly not mentioned Vishnu. So that, when the need arose, Vishnu had been able to kill them. But here was an asura who asking for the boon that even Vishnu would not be able to kill him. This would make him virtually immortal.
Halebid (India) hoysalesvara temple Lord Shiva killing Andhaka.

Everything that you have asked for is possible, replied Brahma. But all beings have to die. Indicate the circumstances under which you will die and the boons will be granted.

Since I have to die, said Andhaka, let it be under the following conditions. If I ever wish to marry a beautiful woman who is like a mother unto me, let that be the hour appointed for my death.

This condition was better than nothing at all and Brahma granted Andhaka the boons. Andhaka returned to his kingdom. When Andhaka's cousins learnt that Andhaka had become so powerful because of the boons, they not only returned to him his kingdom, but theirs as well.

The first thing that Andhaka did was to invade heaven. He defeated Indra and the other gods and made them pay taxes to the demons. Next he defeated the snakes (nagas), the gandharvas, the rakshasas, the yakshas (companions of Kubera) and the humans. Thus he began to rule over all the three worlds. For millions of years Andhaka ruled in this fashion. The religion of the Vedas suffered during this period, since Andhaka paid no attention to it.

Once Andhaka went to visit Mount Mandara. The place was so beautiful that he made up his mind to live there. Three of Andhaka’s generals were named Duryodhana, Vighasa and Hasti.

These three were exploring the environment of Mount Mandara when they came upon a cave. An ascetic was meditating inside the cave. He was dressed in the skin of a tiger, wore a garland of skulls, his hair was matted and he wore a crescent moon on his forehead. There was a beautiful woman near the ascetic. She was more beautiful than any other woman in the three worlds. The three generals concluded that this was the right wife for Andhaka. When the generals came back to Andhaka and reported on what they had seen, the asura king said, What are you waiting for? Go to the ascestic and ask him for the woman.

Duryodhana, Vighasa and Hasti went back to the ascetic. You are only an ascetic, they said. You don’t deserve such a pretty wife. Our master is the lord of everything and he is immensely rich. He is also handsome because of a boon received from Brahma. Give us this woman so that our master Andhaka may marry her.

Ask your master to come and take the woman himself, replied Shiva, for the ascetic, as you have already guessed, was none other than Shiva, and the beautiful woman was Parvati.

As soon as he heard this, Andhaka grasped his sword and came to fight with Shiva. The door to the cave was guarded by Nandi, and Andhaka first had to fight with him. Nandi easily defeated the asura and also defeated the asura soldiers who had accompanied their king. But Andhaka returned and again a fight raged with Nandi for five hundred years. Brahma, Vishnu, Indra and the other gods also came to help in the fight with the demons.

The general Vighasa was a very strong warrior. He opened his mouth wide and swallowed up all the gods, including Vishnu. So far, Shiva himself had not played any part in the fighting. But hearing what Vighasa had done, he ascended his bull and came out to fight. He killed Vighasa and rescued the gods from the asura’s stomach. The asuras had a preceptor named Shukracharya who knew the art of bringing back dead beings to life. So Shukracharya moved around the battlefield, brining back to life any demons that were killed. This was not helping the cause of the gods at all. Shiva’s companions (gangas) captured Shukracharya and brought him to Shiva. Shiva promptly swallowed up Shukracharya.

Soon all the demons were taken care of, with the exception of Andhaka. He continued to fight. Vishnu’s mace could do him no harm and he only laughed at Indra’s arrows. Some of the arrows did pierce the asura’s body. But whenever drops of blood from his body onto the ground, asuras who were exactly like him in appearance were created from this blood. As a result, the battlefield was soon populated with thousands and thousands of Andhakas.

Shiva created a goddess known as Devi from his own body. Devi was appointed the task of drinking up the blood of the asuras before it could spill onto the ground. Thus aided by Devi, Shiva started to tackle the demons and soon there was only the original Andhaka left. Shiva flung a trident at him. The trident struck Andhaka on the chest and the asura king fell down dead.

When the war was over, Shukracharya prayed to Shiva and was released from Shiva’s stomach."

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