Andhakasur Vadha is one of the most popular sculptures you will find in the Hindu temples. The first sculpture is from the 28th cave named Sita-Ki-Nhani, from the world-famous Ellora caves. As you enter the cave, you meet with a gigantic sculpture on your left. As you face this awe-inspiring sculpture carved in the 8th century, you realize that this is a larger-than-life portrayal of the whole episode of Andhakasur Vadha and Neelasur Vadha combined.
Mahadev has a crown made out of his dreadlocks over his head. He is wearing various ornaments like Rundamala (garland made up of skulls), Udarbandha (belt), Manimala (neckless), and Keyur. They all are showing a swift motion.
Pashupatinath is holding his mighty trident in his front two hands. He has lifted the Andhakasura beyond the skies by impaling him with the mighty trident. As mentioned in Shiva-Mahapurana, the demon has reached the higher skies, which has been carved rather splendidly by the sculptor in the form of clouds. Despite being in agonizing pain, Andhakasura is saluting the Mahadev with a faint smile on his face.
Speaking of the faces, eight-handed Bholenath is an absolute reflection of pure and raw aggression. You might mistake him for a demon if you don’t know the story behind it. His teeth are coming out, eyes bulging, eyebrows twisted, and third eye-popping to open. His stance shows a swift motion in which he has pierced the demon. As per Murti Shastra, he is standing in the pose called Alidhasana. Every blood drop of Andhakasur falling on earth gave birth to Andha-Gana. To prevent that, Bholenath held a bowl to collect his blood.
On the upper two hands, he is holding the skin of Neelasura, or Gajasura, the demon who took the form of an elephant to kill Shiva. Gajasur swallowed Mahadev during a war, and then Mahadev came out of the demon’s stomach by tearing it. You can see the head of the elephant on the right side of Mahadev, depicting the war scene.
Mahadev is holding another demon in one of his right hands, probably an Andhak-Gana, and tossing him around effortlessly like it’s not a big deal. How Mahadev holds his double-edged sword shows that it is right in the eye of the battlefield. Parvati is sitting beside Mahadev, holding one hand on her heart. She has a calm smile, showing love, affection, and relief. She is a proud wife, and sculpture has shown this emotion with the magic of his chisel.
While the first sculpture astonishes us with its grandeur, the second one amazes us with its intricacy and attention to detail.
The second masterpiece is from the outer walls of Hoysaleshwara temple, Halebeedu, Karnataka. In the previous sculpture, you have seen the angry Mahadev. But here, you will encounter a peaceful one. Just take a look at his face. Half closed eyes, a faint smile on face, and bow-like relaxed eyebrows indicate the effortlessness of this God.
Fourteen-handed Mahadev holds various weapons like Khatvanga, arrow, spear, bow, sword, and trident in his hands. Besides those weapons, Mahadev is holding his famous Damru (drum), and a Rudraksha rosary. In his uppermost left hand, you will see the Vedas. In his lower left hand, he holds a Panapatra (bowl) to collect the blood drops oozing from Andhakasur.
His rings, armbands, and wristbands are simply marvelous and very hard to describe in words. Intricately carved crown adorns his head. You can see a small Keertimukha on his gorgeous Udarabandha (belt). Coming over his left shoulder and reaching below his knee, you can see the Vanamala of Mahadev, swinging as per his body movement. Bells besides the Vanamala are swinging, and if you spend some more time in front of the sculpture, you might hear them ringing.
In the upper right corner, you will see Andhakasura. He is holding a sword in his right and a shield in his left hand. The sculpture is so intricate that you can see the smooth fingernails of Mahadev. It is so fine that at the point of contact, where the trident of Almighty Shiva is piercing the demon, you will see the demon’s skin is about to come loose.
Mahadev is dancing on another demon. The imagination of the sculpture is so vivid; you can clearly see the eyes of the demon below bulging out due to the unimaginable weight of God. At the bottom left corner, you can see Nandi looking at the demon with anger as the veins on his face pulsate. You can feel the wrath of Nandi by his wide eyes, curved eyebrows, and mouth wide open. If you look close enough, you can even see the teeth of that faithful vehicle of Mahadev.
But, in order to enjoy these sculptures to the fullest, one must understand what, why, and when all this happened. Let’s take a look at the story of Andhakasura.
In our Puranas, if you take a look, very few demons have been birthed under normal circumstances. Almost all of them have an interesting or unfortunate story behind their existence. The way they behave later on has roots in the circumstances under which they came to this world0. Let’s take an example of a mighty demon Andhakasura. He, too, was a victim of an accident, born without any reason.
This story is straight out of Shiva Mahapuran. Thousands of years ago, Mahadev, and Parvati, along with their millions of Ganas, descended from Kailas and formed a kingdom in Kashi. After appointing Bhairav as the protector of the Kashi, Mahadev, Parvati, along with their Ganas, started living there in peace.
On one fine day, while Mahadev and Parvati were spending some alone time together, Parvati approached Mahadev from the back and covered his eyes with her hands playfully. But due to the unbearable heat of Shiva’s third eye, Parvati’s hands started to perspire. And then, two drops fell down on the land and,
गर्भो बभुवाथ करालवक्त्रो भयंकर: क्रोधपर: कृतघ्न:।
अन्धो विरूपी जटिलश्च कृष्णो नरेतरो वैकृतिक: सुरोमा ।।
Then a child was born, who was just horrible, with a terrible mouth, angry, ungrateful, with long dreadlocks, dark, ugly, very different than what humans look like, the one with many holes on his body, and he was the blind as well.
Immediately after being born, he started singing, laughing, crying, screaming, salivating, and rolling his tongue all over his face. Looking at this creepy fellow, Parvati started looking at the face of Mahadev with many questions in her mind.
Smiling with closed eyes, Mahadev explained, Oh dear divine one, why are you worrying? This has happened just because of you, closing my eyes. Listening to the reply of Mahadev, smiling, Parvati let go of her husband’s eyes. As Mahadev opened his eyes, the light fell on that baby, and he mutated into an even more terrible form, horrible than the darkness itself.
Mahadev said, Oh Ambika, when you closed my eyes, the darkness accumulated, and when my fire met with your perspiration, this demon is born. You are the mother of this infant, and his name shall be Andhakasur. So, with love in your heart, protect this child with the help of your friends. Parvati started doing so.
Many years went by, and it was time for Satya Yuga. Hiranyakashipu and Hiranyaksha, two demon brothers, were ready to conquer the world with the mighty Rakshas army. Along with Bhakta Pralhad, Hiranyakashipu had four sons. Being married, demon Hiranyaksha had no kids of his own. In search of an heir to his kingdom, he decided to perform Tapasya.
Hiranyaksha went to the jungle and started meditating, chanting the name of Lord Mahadev. Pleased with his devotion, Bholenath Mahadev appeared before the demon and asked what he was seeking. Hiranyaksha replied, Oh almighty one, as you know, my brother has five mighty sons who are there to carry his name. Unfortunately, I don’t have a progeny to carry my name into the future. Who will control this demon army after me? Please bless me with the progeny. Mahadev said,
ममात्मजं त्वन्धकनामधेयं त्वत्तुल्यवीर्यम त्वपराजितं च।
वृणीश्व पुत्रं सकलं विहाय दुःखं प्रतीच्छस्व सुतं त्वमेव ।।
Adopt my son, Andhak, who is as powerful and invisible as you. Forget everything, and accept him as your own son.
Saying this, Mahadev, along with Parvati, gave away their son to Hirankyaksha. After receiving an heir to the throne, Hiranyaksha did not stop there. He continued his Tapasya for a few more years, receiving different boons from Brahma. Defeating the gods, he conquered all the worlds and started his demonic rule. In the form of Varaha, Vishnu killed him and freed earth from his demonic claws. To avenge his brother, Hiranyakashipu did the same and met his fate when Vishnu took the form of Lord Narasimha and tore his stomach.
Now, it was the time of Andhakasura.
As a young boy, Andhakasur played with his cousins, and all of them teased him, being ugly, weird, wicked, and blind. They used to say, how can you be an heir to the throne of Rakshas if you can’t even see? We are the real heir to our brave uncle.
One night, Andhakasur woke up in the middle of the night and went to the jungle, leaving his kingdom and all the comforts of the kingdom behind. There, lifting his both hands in the air, just consuming the air, he started the austerity, chanting a mantra.
प्रज्वाल्य वन्हिं स्म जुहोति गात्र मासं सरक्तम खलु वर्षमात्रम।
तिक्श्णेन शस्त्रेण निकृत्य देहात समन्त्रकं प्रत्यहमेव हुत्वा।।
A few thousand years later, he ignited the sacred fire and started putting pieces of his flesh and blood in that home to please the gods. He continued this for over a year. No one in the history of the universe has done this kind of Tapasya. When he was left with just the bones and his nervous system, he decided to throw himself in the Homa. Seeing this, Lord Brahma appeared before him and asked what he wished for.
“Oh Lord, Pralhad and his brothers have abolished me from my family and kingdom. I want them to surrender and follow me. I want a powerful gift of vision, and all the gods, and Indra should pay me a tribute and taxes. Like my father and my uncle, I desperately seek immortality”.
Listening to his demands, Brahma said, “Oh pious demon, I can grant you anything you seek, but the boon of immortality, which goes against the rule of nature. So, please ask a boon that will stay well within the boundary of nature”.
Andhakasur said, “Dear world creator, grant me such a boon, if and when I will be attracted towards my mother with lust, it shall be the beginning of my downfall.” Surprised, Brahma granted the boon to the demon and touched his head gently. With the pious touch of Brahma, the demon’s body was healed, and he gained a powerful vision and a physical strength one demon king should possess. Saluting Brahma, he appeared in his kingdom. Looking at his might, all the demon princes, along with Pralhad, surrendered to him and crowned him as the King of Rakshasa.
Soon, with the help of his boons, Andhakasur won over all three worlds and started extracting taxes from all the gods and demigods staying in heaven. Marrying tens of thousands of women, he started romancing them. He spent much of his time in his harem, surrounded by countless beautiful women. Just like the Sultans of India (Muhammad Ghori, Ahmad Shah Abdali, and the list goes on), his servants roam around, and if they saw any beautiful woman, they used to abduct her, adding her to the harem of the demon king.
Thousands of years passed by, and the cycle of debauchery went on. His minions were spread across the earth, finding good-looking women for their King. While roaming the earth, his advisers Duryodhan, Vaidhas and Hasti saw an extremely beautiful woman roaming around on Mandar mountain, near a huge cave.
Just outside the mouth of the cave, there was a Rishi sitting with her, with a blue throat, dreadlocks, snake around the neck, covered in an animal skin, meditating.
Without losing time, those three came running to their King, describing the most beautiful woman they had ever seen. Listening to this, burning with lust, Andhakasur sent thousands of Rakshas worriers to bring Parvati for him.
When the Rakshasas reached the mouth of the cave, they saw Lord Shiva sitting beside the door and a doorkeeper named Veerak guarding the entrance. As the Rakshas tried entering the cave, Veerak started cutting them one by one. Seeing this, all the demons attacked that doorkeeper with all of their might. The war broke down between a single gatekeeper and a large demon army. When the dust settled, Veerak was standing tall, and all the demons were dead on the spot.
Mahadev was in deep meditation. He got disturbed by all the war noises. Seeing Veerak had killed the demons, he called Parvati and told her that he was in the middle of Pashupat Vrat. The Vrat must be completed; hence, he must go away to complete his Tapasya in isolation and peace. Mighty Veerak shall protect the cave from Demons. Saying this, he disappeared. Worried, Parvati went inside the cave, going into her Antahpura (queen’s chamber, where no male is allowed).
The second wave came and broke on the cave mouth. This time, the Rakshas army, Andhakasur, Pralhad, and all of his brothers arrived at the Mandar mountain. Already tired, Veerak was mortally wounded. With a fatal blow from one of the powerful demons, he fell down on earth, unconscious.
It was a critical time. With Veerak unconscious and Lord Mahadev nowhere to be found, Parvati and her friends summoned gods for help. No male except Shiva was allowed to enter the cave. Realizing this, all the gods sent their powers to aid Parvati.
ब्रह्मा तया संस्मृतमात्र एव स्त्री रुपधारी भगवांश्च विष्णु:।
इंन्द्रैश्च सर्वै: सह सैन्यकैश्च स्त्री रुपमास्थाय समागतास्ते ।।
भूत्वा स्त्रीयस्ते विविशुस्तदानीं मुनींद्र संघाश्च महानुभावा:।
सिद्धाश्च नागास्त्वथ गुह्यकाश्च गुहान्तरं पर्वतराजपुत्र्या:।।
At the moment of her summoning, Brahma, Vishnu, Indra, and all the soldiers arrived in a female form. Being in a woman form, those gods, sages, great souls, ascetics, and Nagas appeared within the cave of the daughter of Himalaya Parvat.
These thousands of fearless goddesses started blowing their Conch, and with that accumulated noise, clouds started to shatter. Veerak woke up and took a stance to fight. Who were there among these fearless worriers? There was Danda (batten) wielding Brahmhi, furious Gauri. Narayani, carrying Conch, mace, disc, and lotus. Besides her, there was Danda wielding Vyomalaka, along with Vaishvanari with thousands of eyes and horrible faces. Ferocious Yamya was carrying the baton of Yama, and carrying a sword and destructive bow, Nirruti joined her.
Carrying the noose of Lord Varuna, Toyalika started poncing on the demons on her Makara. Looking forward to quenching her battle thirst, arrived Yaksheshawri, with her sharp nails, teeth, and poison. She was not alone.
She was accompanied by the goad-wielding power of Vayudev and mace-carrying Shakti of Kuber. With permission from Parvati, these women made Veerak their commander, and they fell down on the demon army. After a terrible fight, the Rakshasas started running with fear, retreating.
And at that moment, Bhagwan Vishnu and Bhagwan Mahadev completing his Pashupat Vrata appeared on the battleground. He thanked the Matrikas with all his heart, and then, Matrikas disappeared.
Now, it was the time for the last attack. Blowing his Conch, Devadhidev Mahadev gathered all of his violent Ganas along with all the other celestial forces of the universe. Leading from the front, both Mahadev and Andhakasur controlled the battle formations. Despite the powerful righteous forces on the side of Mahadev, the battle went on for years. Why?
Gods realized that despite them killing the Asuras, they were coming back, thanks to the Chiranjivi Vidya of Shukracharya. With this power, Shukracharya could bring any demon who was dying on that battlefield.
तदा बद्ध्वाSSनीत: पशुरिव गणैर्भूतपतये।
निगिर्णस्तेनासौ त्रिपुररीपुणा दानवगुरू:।।
And the Ganas tied up Shukracharya like an animal and threw him on the ground in front of Mahadev. And then, Tripurari Shiv swallowed the Danav Guru.
Now, there was no one to resurrect the demons, and thus, without wasting any time, the celestial forces of the gods completely annihilated the demonic armies. Being in the battle, now Andhakasur was standing in front of Vishnu. With his mace, Vishnu started beating the Andhakasur, and the demon started losing blood quickly. When each drop of his blood started touching the floor, new warriors called Andhaka Gana began to emerge. This created absolute havoc in the god armies.
Now, Bhagavan Bholenath came forward to control the situation. Like Lord Vishnu, he started piercing Andhasura’s body with his mighty Trishul (trident). But new Andhaka-Ganas continued to emerge. Seeing this,
तदा विष्णुयोर्गात्प्रमथपतिमाहूय मतिमान्। चकारोग्रं रूपं विकृतवदनं स्त्रैणमजितम्।।
करालं संशुष्कं बहुभुजलताक्रांतकुपितो। विनिष्क्रांत कर्णाद्गणशिरसि शंभोश्च भगवान्।।
Lord Vishnu, the one with great intelligence, summoned Mahadev and, with his Yogic powers, turned himself into a woman. That horrible woman was with a warped mouth, extremely violent, insuperable, formidable dried up body with many hands, and emerged from the ear of Lord Mahadev. And then,
क्षुधार्ता तत्सैन्यं दितिजनिसृतं तच्च रुधीरं। पपौ सात्युष्णं तद्रणशिरसि सृक्कर्दममलम्।।
Born from Mahadev, restless with thirst, standing amidst the warzone overflowing with the mud of blood, that goddess started drinking every drop of warm blood from the King of the demons.
But the credit must be given to the demon, who kept fighting, even without a single drop of blood in his body. He faced Mahadev with fists, nails, arms, and his head. This angered Lord Shiva, who is well known for his calmness. Mahadev impelled the demon in the heart with his mighty trident and lifted him up in the skies.
Due to the extreme heat in the space, his body would dry up, thunderstorms would make him wet again, to feel the agony of the trident in the heart. Hanging there, he started apologizing and praying to Lord. Seeing this, Bholenath forgave him and gave place among his Ganas, naming him Bhrungeesh or Bhrugiriti.
So what does all this represents? Andhakasura is not just a blind demon. He represents the darkness and ignorance caused due to the lack of knowledge. Andhakasura performed a tough Tapasya, and he got his vision in the form of a boon. This represents how knowledge could help us.
After Andhakasur acquired his vision and Kingdom with Tapasya, he stopped there and got distracted, enjoying himself, engaging in depravity and corruption. Without gaining the full knowledge, he became satisfied with his current knowledge. This shows why half-knowledge leads to your downfall. As his blood touched the ground, a new demon was created on the battlefield from every drop. This shows how easy it is to influence others with half-knowledge.
And lastly, let’s talk about how Mahadev pierced the heart of Andhakasur and lifted him into the air. This represents what happens when you spend some time with a knowledgeable person. As Mahadev extracted every drop of blood from the body of the demon, when you come in contact with a truly knowledgeable person, he removes all the misconceptions enrooted deep within you. As Lord Shiva lifted the demon in the air with his mighty trident, knowledgeable people uplifted the ignorant to the higher consciousness with their knowledge.
- Shree Shiva Mahauran, Part 1, Fifth Edition, Geeta Press Gorakhpur, Uttarpradesh, India.
- Bharatiya Murtishastra, N. P. Joshi, Prasad Prakashan Pune, Maharashtra, India.
- Shivamurtaye Namah, G.B. Deglurkar, Snehal Prakashan, Pune, Maharashtra, India