TALADHVAJA – A king and the husband of a sage

The story of Taladhvaja was retold to solve a variety of problems—above all, how a sage could remain an ascetic when he had changed genders to marry a king. The solution in the Devi Purana was a kind of popular use of Advaitan phi­losophy in a myth: using a popular understanding that life is maya, an illusion or dream. King Taladhvaja’s story was nested in one about the sage who made the most appearances in other people’s stories—the great sage Narada. In order for Narada to experience the relative value … Continue reading

SITA – A wife of SrT Rama; an incarnation of the goddess Lakshmi

Sita was born from the earth when it was ploughed. Thus the earth, Bhu Devi, was her mother. Sita was brought up by King Janaka as his daughter. According to many Puranas, Sita was the incarnation of Lakshmi, wife of Vishnu. Rama wed Sita after winning the marriage contest—lifting and shooting an arrow from the divine bow of Siva. Sita was a devoted wife and always followed the footsteps and words of Rama. In spite of his warning, she even followed Rama to the forest when he was banished. One … Continue reading

SAVITRI – (1) Holy verse in the Vedas; (2) Wife of Satyavan

The Savitri is also called the Gayatri. It is recited each morning and evening by millions of Hindus. The Savitri is addressed to Savitri (the generator) who in the earliest Vedic lore may have been one of the attributes of the great sun god, Surya. The Savitri was also personified in the later Vedas as the goddess Savitri, wife of Brahma, and mother of the Vedas. Savitri was a princess, born to King Asvapati of Madra and his wife Malati. When Savitri reached the right age for marriage, she and … Continue reading

RUKMINI – The most important wife of SrT Krishna

Rukmini was the wife of the more mortal version of Krishna. She and Krishna were in love, but her brother Rukmi opposed the marriage. He hated Krishna and arranged a marriage of his sister to King Sisupala. All the kings of the region came to the wedding celebration, including Krishna, who had been told through a messenger by Rukmini that she loved him and wanted him to come and take her away. Krishna secretly left his army some distance from the city, came to the wedding alone, and promptly stole … Continue reading

PARVATI – A dev? (goddess), daughter of Himalaya, wife of Siva

Parvati, goddess of the mountain, Himalaya, primary wife of Siva, mother of at least two of Siva’s sons, is by far the most complicated of Hindu goddesses. She is given differing and often contradictory natures by the three main perspectives of later mythology—Saktas (those who worship the divine mother), Saivas (those who worship Siva as the Supreme), and Vaishnavas (those who worship Vishnu as the Supreme). Scholars often classify Parvati as a “cool,” or orthodox, mani­festation of Devi, yet she also has her own “hot” aspects. Parvati is complex even … Continue reading

MAHISHA, MAHISHASURA – An asura (demon)

At the beginning of this creation, Kasiyapa-prajapati and Danu had two power­ful sons who competed with the devas (gods), Rambha and Karambha. They practiced austerities (tapas) in order to defeat the gods, but in spite of this Karambha was killed by Indra. Rambha chose to use Brahma’s boon for his ascetic practice to gain a son who would not be defeated by devas or asuras. The boon was granted, and the son was born to his wife, a mahishi (she- buffalo) of great charm. Some versions stated that Rambha lost … Continue reading

KAMA, KAMADEVA – The god (deva) of love

There are two versions of Kama’s birth. According to the Mahabharata, Kama is the son of Dharma, who was born from the right breast of Brahma. Dharma had three sons: Kama, Sama, and Harsha. All were very handsome like their father. According to Kalika Purana, Kama was born from the mind of Brahma. Brahma created ten Prajapatis (progenitors) first and then an exceptional woman called Sandhya. When Sandhya was born, Brahma and the ten Prajapatis were very much attracted by her beauty. At that moment of excitement a handsome youth … Continue reading

KAKSHIVAN, KAKSHIVAT – A sage mentioned in the Rigveda

The story of Kakshivan is quite fragmentary, with some pieces quite ancient mixed with pieces from later mythology. Kakshivan was born according to a custom by which a priest would be requested to give the king a child by his childless queen. King Kalinga was with­out an heir. He consulted the sage Dirghatamas and requested that he give him a son by his queen. But the queen did not want to sleep with the old, and prob­ably smelly, sage. So she sent her maid Ushi instead. Kakshivan was born of … Continue reading

GHATOTKACA Son of Bhima by his rakshasa wife Hidumbhi

In the Ramayana the tale is told that soon after the Pandava brothers began their forest exile, a rakshasa chief sent his sister, Hidumbhi, to capture them for his dinner. However, Hidumbhi fell in love with Bhima, the strongest and most phys­ical of the brothers. The rakshasa chief came to collect his dinner himself but was promptly killed. Hidumbhi begged Kunti, mother of the Pandavas, to inter­cede for her with Bhima. So the clan allowed their marriage with the condition, that it would only be valid in the forest and … Continue reading

GANDIVA – The bow of Arjuna

The distance between gods and heroes in Puranic mythology was not very great. Divine weapons, like the Gandiva, the great bow of Brahma, could be given to mere mortals, since the mortals were so often partial divine incarnations or from mixed marriages between gods and mortal women. Such was the case with Arjuna who did not have a human father, as he was born of Indra (god of war) and Kunti. The Gandiva was made by Brahma. He kept the Gandiva for 1,000 years and then passed it on to … Continue reading