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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For the clan, see Andhak.Hindu mythology, Andhaka (अंधक) often refers to a malevolent asura who is killed by Shiva for trying to abduct Parvati. His story finds mention in various Hindu texts, including Matsya Purana, Kurma Purana, Linga Purana and Shiva Purana.
StoryIn the Shiva Purana, when Shiva was meditating on Mandara mountain, Parvati who was in a playful mood covered Shiva's eyes due to which the whole universe was covered in darkness. The sweat that oozed out of Parvati's hands due to touching Shiva fell to the ground and created a horrible looking and blind boy. Parvati was terrified on seeing him however Shiva said that since he was born due to their physical contact he was their child. When the demon king Hiranyaksha who was childless performed penance to please Shiva in order to beget a child Shiva gifted the child to him and named him Andhaka due to his blindness. After Hiranaykasha's death Andhaka became the king however he was not regarded as an Asura since he was a divine product. Disowned by majority of his clan he performed a severe penance to please Brahma. Brahma thus appeared to him and offered him a boon. Andhaka demanded Brahma to make him invincible and to repair his vision. Brahma granted these wishes however warned him that he can be killed by Shiva. Andhaka went back to his kingdom and subdued all his opponents and even the Devas.
One day he asked his minister whether there was anyone who could match his strength, majesty and riches. The minister informed him that he did not have the company of a beautiful woman. He informed him that the world's most beautiful woman belonged to a matted ascetic who lived on Kailash and if he wished to be truly matchless he should possess her. He sent a messenger and told Shiva to hand his wife to him. Andhaka thus attacked Shiva with his greatest warriors however they were defeated by Shiva's army. One day when Shiva and his ganas were away Andhaka found Parvati alone. She fought with Andhaka but when she found him to be too overwhelming requested the gods to aid her. The battle went on for many years and when Shiva found out about this he declared a truce. Many attempts were made for a peaceful resolution however Andhaka insisted on acquiring Parvati. He renewed the assault. His trusted general Bali single handedly defeated all the gods and swallowed them . Shiva fired such powerful weapons at Bali which forced him to disgorge all the gods. Siva in revenge swallowed Shukra, the preceptor of Asuras. Andhra the started attacking Indra. Shiva intervened to save Indra and began to attack the demon with his trident. However whenever his blood fell on the ground a copy of him was created. Then Lord Vishnu created Matrikas who licked the blood of the demon everytime he was hurt and prevented another copy of him was created. Shiva thus finally killed him by hacking his head off. However, since he had chanted Shiva's name before dying he was made a gana-chief by Shiva.
In another version of the Purana, his birth story and being disowned by his clan remains same. His kingdom was taken over by his cousins including Prahlada when he went to the forest to perform a penance to Brahma. During his penance he didn't take water or food and also started chopping off his limbs to please Brahma in desperation. Pleased, Brahma appeared before him and offered him a boon of his choice. Andhaka then asked Brahma to repair his vision and also asked him to make him invincible. Brahma however told him that he could not make him immortal since all that take birth must die however he could choose the condition of his death. Andhaka then asked him that he could be killed only if he lusts after a woman who is like a mother unto him. Brahma agreed and granted all his boons. When he returned to his kingdom his cousins out of fear not only handed his kingdom back but also theirs to his empire. After becoming the lord of all Asuras, Andhaka fought with the Devas along with his army and conquered heaven. He the proceeded to conquer the Nagas, Gandharvas, Rakshasas, Yakshas and the humans. He thus became the lord of all the three worlds. He was a cruel ruler and disrespected the Vedas, the Brahmins and the Devas. Once while travelling, Andhaka happened to visit the mountain Mandara. Charmed by the beauty of the mountain he decided to stay there and ordered his three generals Duryodhana, Vighasa and Hasti to search a place suitable to stay. While searching his generals found a cave in which a hermit was meditating and also saw a very beautiful woman along with him. They told their master about this who ordered them to bring the woman to him. When they told the ascetic to hand over the woman to their master Shiva refused saying if their master wanted her he should himself come and take him. When his generals informed him about this matter, Andhaka became furious and went to fight with the hermit. Andhaka along with his army fought Nandi and the ganas of Shiva. He and his army were however defeated and were forced to flee. Andhaka however soon returned to fight again which lasted or five hundred years. Vishnu, Brahma and the Devas too joined the battle against Andhaka and his army. Andhaka's general Vighasa and swallowed all the gods including Vishnu. Hearing of this, Shiva riding upon his bull attacked him and killed the demon. Shukracharya the preceptor of demosn kept bringing back the dead Asuras back to life by using his medicinal art of Mrit-Sanjivan. Shiva then ordered his ganas to catch hold of Shukrachurya. When they brought him to Shiva, he swallowed the demon-guru. Shiva then attacked Andhaka with his trident, however whenever a drop of his blood fell to the ground another demon like him was created. Shiva then ordered the goddess Chandi to drink the blood while he killed the demons created by Andhaka's blood. After killing them Shiva impaled Andhka with his trident and lifted him upon his trident where he remained upon for a very long time. Ultimately, realising his mistake Andhaka apologised to Shiva and started eulogising him. Pleased Shiva forgave him and made him the lord of all ganas.
In the Vamana Purana, the story of Andhaka's birth remains same. Andhaka was the son of Hiranyaksha and cousin of Prahlada. Andhaka and Prahlad along with their army defeated the Devas and their army making Prahlada the king of the three worlds. Sometime later, Prahlada battles Vishnu due to the curse the sages gave him and he loses the battle. Upon his loss, he appoints Andhaka as the king and goes to apologise to Vishnu who forgives him. Upon returning, Andhaka tries to make him the king again however he refuses. Sometime after Mahishasura and Tarakasur were defeated and killed by the gods a feat which he thought was impossible. Sometime later after this incident, he desired a beautiful wife and was told of Parvati who was the most beautiful woman in the world. Andhaka did know about the story of Parvati but did not know that she was his mother. He went to Shiva's abode and tried to abduct Parvati however she assumed a hundred forms and knocked him unconscious during the battle. He then flees back to Patala however still wants to acquire Parvati. Prahlada tried to dissuade him and also told him the story of his birth that he was born from the sweat of Shiva when Parvati covered his eyes. He was however unsuccessful in persuading Andhaka who along with his army attacked Shiva, his army and the deities. Most of his army was destroyed in the battle. Upon seeing this he took the disguise of Shiva to fool Parvati and abduct her. She however recognised him and hid behind bushes along with her servants. Unable to locate her he returned to the battle. Kartikeya and Ganesha accompanied by the ganas destroyed his chariot. Shiva battled him and pierced him in the heart. He was however able to recoup and strike Shiva with his mace. The blood that fell on the ground from the wound in turn gave rise to the eight forms of Bhairava. Shiva lifted the impaled Andhaka on his Trishula. The sweat emanating from Shiva gave rise to a girl and a boy who was the colour of charcoal who consumed the blood of Andhaka before it fell on the ground. Shiva named the girl and the boy Charchika and Mangala and held Andhaka impaled on his trident for thousands of years which reduced his body to a mere skeleton-like. He begged for forgiveness and started praising Shiva upon which Shiva said he would only agree if he accepted parvati as his mother. Andhaka did so and also accepted Shiva as his father. He was forgiven and made a gana-chief. Shiva took him to the Mandara mountain where Parvati also blessed the same boon to him and he later became famous by the name of Bhringi.
In the Kurma Purana too, Andhaka is the natural son of Hirankyasha and becomes the king of the Asuras after the death of Prahlada. Like other variants he lusts after Parvati and goes to Madara to abduct her when Shiva is away. Shiva had entrusted Nandi for guarding his household and the gods including Vishnu to attend to and protect Parvati. When Andhaka arrives Nandi battles with him and pierces him with a trident and upon falling of his blood to the ground a thousand more demons like him are created who defeat Nadi and the Devas. He then prays to Vishnu for aid. When Vishnu arrives he creates many mother goddesses (The Matrikas) who vanquish the demons. When Shiva returns Andhaka returns to try to abduct Parvati again. Shiva and Vishnu battle Andhaka and his army. Vishnu tells Shiva to kill the demon. Shiva impales him on his trident and begins to dance. But by his mere touch, Andhaka's sins were burnt away and he begged him for forgiveness and made a gana-chief. Shiva then made Andhaka a handsome man who then bowed to Parvati for forgiveness who accepted him as her son.
In the Matsya Purana, Andhaka the son of Hirankyasha tries to abduct Parvati from Shiva. A battle ensues in the Mahakala forest and that blood that flows him in turn gives rise a thousand more demons like Andhaka. Shiva creates numerous divine mothers, the Maitrikas who drink the blood of the demons every time they werw attacked. Upon them becoming satiated, he requests Vishnu's aid who creates the goddess Suska-Revati who drinks the blood of all the demons and kills them. When Shiva is about to strike the killing blow, Andhaka surrenders and begs for forgiveness by praying to him. Pleased by his devotion, Shiva makes him a gana.
According to the Harivamsa Purana, Andhaka was a daitya and the son of Diti and the sage Kashyapa. After the defeat of Daityas by Vishnu, Diti made a plea to Kashyapa to give her such a son who couldn't be defeated by the gods. Kashyapa granted her boon and told her that except Shiva no one would be able to kill his son since he had no supremacy over Shiva. Kashyapa then touched her belly and a child was born with a thousand eyes and limbs. He wasn't blind but since he walked like a blind person he was called Andhaka. Overtime Andhaka became arrogant since he could not be harmed by anyone. Once when Andhaka went to the court of Indra he tried to take the hold of all the nymphs and defeated all the gods in the fight. He began hindering the performance of yajnas by the gods who feeling tormented, approached Narada for assistance. Narada wore a garland of Mandara flowers which had a very sweet fragrance and upon smelling them when Narada came to see him, Andhaka enquired the source of the flowers. Narada told him that the flowers were available in the Mandara forest which was protected by Shiva's guards and no one could enter the forest without his permission. Andhaka arrived, telling the mount Mandara of his invulnerability and asked him where the forest was. The mountain refused to oblige him and disappeared. Andhaka in anger uprooted the whole mountain and with the help of his Asura army started grinding the mountain which destroyed all it's natural beauty. Shiva upon knowing this blessed the mountain with a boon which restored it to its original splendor. The summits of the mountain started killing the Asuras who had attempted to destroy them. Upon seeing this, Andhaka calls out the owner of the mountain He wanted to burn the whole Mandara mountain. Shiva upon seeing this became angry and thus killed Andhaka. In response, Shiva carrying a mace and mounted on his bull arrived there for killing Andhaka. When Shiva released his spear, it struck the demon on his chest and immediately reduced him to ashes.
In the Linga Purana, Andhaka's story is related as a variation of accounts of Harvamsa and Kurma Purana. Andhaka was the son of Hiranyaksha and was given immunity from death by Brahma after he performed a severe penance. He traversed the three worlds and conquered the heavens. The Devas retreated to Mandara mountain where the demon followed them. Shiva on the request of the Devas challenged Andhaka. He destroyed his army and impales him on his trident. However the divine sight of Shiva had burnt away all of Andhaka's sins and he started eulogizing him. Shiva pleased with his devotion forgave him and made him the chief of all his ganas.
In the Ramayana and MahabharataIn the Ramayana, the story of Shiva killing Andhaka is briefly noted in Chapter 30 of the Aranya Kanda, during the moment when Khara, the younger brother of Ravana is killed by Rama. The scripture tells that Andhaka was killed by Shiva's third eye in the forest of the sage Sveta. In the Mahabharata, Andhaka is killed By Shiva however not by his third eye as in the Ramayana.
A Tale of Ancient India
Retold by Aaron ShepardPublished as a picture book by Albert Whitman, Morton Grove, Illinois, 1992
For more treats and resources, visit Aaron Shepard at
Copyright © 1992, 2005 Aaron Shepard. May not be published or posted without permission.
PREVIEW: The princess Savitri must use all her wit and will to save her husband from the god of death.
GENRE: Myths, folktales, legends
CULTURE: Asian Indian (ancient), Hindu
THEME: Heroines, determination
AGES: 7 and up
LENGTH: 1300 words
All special features are at www.aaronshep.com/extras.
In India, in the time of legend, there lived a king with many wives but not one child. Morning and evening for eighteen years, he faced the fire on the sacred altar and prayed for the gift of children.
Finally, a shining goddess rose from the flames.
“I am Savitri, child of the Sun. By your prayers, you have won a daughter.”
Within a year, a daughter came to the king and his favorite wife. He named her Savitri, after the goddess.
Beauty and intelligence were the princess Savitri’s, and eyes that shone like the sun. So splendid was she, people thought she herself was a goddess. Yet, when the time came for her to marry, no man asked for her.
Her father told her, “Weak men turn away from radiance like yours. Go out and find a man worthy of you. Then I will arrange the marriage.”
In the company of servants and councilors, Savitri traveled from place to place. After many days, she came upon a hermitage by a river crossing. Here lived many who had left the towns and cities for a life of prayer and study.
Savitri entered the hall of worship and bowed to the eldest teacher. As they spoke, a young man with shining eyes came into the hall. He guided another man, old and blind.
“Who is that young man?” asked Savitri softly.
“That is Prince Satyavan,” said the teacher, with a smile. “He guides his father, a king whose realm was conquered. It is well that Satyavan’s name means ‘Son of Truth,’ for no man is richer in virtue.”
When Savitri returned home, she found her father sitting with the holy seer named Narada.
“Daughter,” said the king, “have you found a man you wish to marry?”
“Yes, father. His name is Satyavan.”
Narada gasped. “Not Satyavan! Princess, no man could be more worthy, but you must not marry him! I know the future. Satyavan will die, one year from today.”
The king said, “Do you hear, daughter? Choose a different husband!”
Savitri trembled but said, “I have chosen Satyavan, and I will not choose another. However long or short his life, I wish to share it.”
Soon the king rode with Savitri to arrange the marriage.
Satyavan was overjoyed to be offered such a bride. But his father, the blind king, asked Savitri, “Can you bear the hard life of the hermitage? Will you wear our simple robe and our coat of matted bark? Will you eat only fruit and plants of the wild?”
Savitri said, “I care nothing about comfort or hardship. In palace or in hermitage, I am content.”
That very day, Savitri and Satyavan walked hand in hand around the sacred fire in the hall of worship. In front of all the priests and hermits, they became husband and wife.
* * *
For a year, they lived happily. But Savitri could never forget that Satyavan’s death drew closer.
Finally, only three days remained. Savitri entered the hall of worship and faced the sacred fire. There she prayed for three days and nights, not eating or sleeping.
“My love,” said Satyavan, “prayer and fasting are good. But why be this hard on yourself?”
Savitri gave no answer.
The sun was just rising when Savitri at last left the hall. She saw Satyavan heading for the forest, an ax on his shoulder.
Savitri rushed to his side. “I will come with you.”
“Stay here, my love,” said Satyavan. “You should eat and rest.”
But Savitri said, “My heart is set on going.”
Hand in hand, Savitri and Satyavan walked over wooded hills. They smelled the blossoms on flowering trees and paused beside clear streams. The cries of peacocks echoed through the woods.
While Savitri rested, Satyavan chopped firewood from a fallen tree. Suddenly, he dropped his ax.
“My head aches.”
Savitri rushed to him. She laid him down in the shade of a tree, his head on her lap.
“My body is burning! What is wrong with me?”
Satyavan’s eyes closed. His breathing slowed.
Savitri looked up. Coming through the woods to meet them was a princely man. He shone, though his skin was darker than the darkest night. His eyes and his robe were the red of blood.
Trembling, Savitri asked, “Who are you?”
A deep, gentle voice replied. “Princess, you see me only by the power of your prayer and fasting. I am Yama, god of death. Now is the time I must take the spirit of Satyavan.”
Yama took a small noose and passed it through Satyavan’s breast, as if through air. He drew out a tiny likeness of Satyavan, no bigger than a thumb.
Satyavan’s breathing stopped.
Yama placed the likeness inside his robe. “Happiness awaits your husband in my kingdom. Satyavan is a man of great virtue.”
Then Yama turned and headed south, back to his domain.
Savitri rose and started after him.
Yama strode smoothly and swiftly through the woods, while Savitri struggled to keep up. At last, he stopped to face her.
“Savitri! You cannot follow to the land of the dead!”
“Lord Yama, I know your duty is to take my husband. But my duty as his wife is to stay beside him.”
“Princess, that duty is at an end. Still, I admire your loyalty. I will grant you a favor—anything but the life of your husband.”
Savitri said, “Please restore my father-in-law’s kingdom and his sight.”
“His sight and his kingdom shall be restored.”
Yama again headed south. Savitri followed.
Along a river bank, thorns and tall sharp grass let Yama pass untouched. But they tore at Savitri’s clothes and skin.
“Savitri! You have come far enough!”
“Lord Yama, I know my husband will find happiness in your kingdom. But you carry away the happiness that is mine!”
“Princess, even love must bend to fate. Still, I admire your devotion. I will grant you another favor—anything but the life of your husband.”
Savitri said, “Grant many more children to my father.”
“Your father shall have many more children.”
Yama once more turned south. Again, Savitri followed.
Up a steep hill Yama glided, while Savitri clambered after him. At the top, he halted.
“Savitri! I forbid you to come farther!”
“Lord Yama, you are respected and revered by all. Yet, no matter what may come, I will remain by Satyavan!”
“Princess, I tell you for the last time, you will not! Still, I can only admire your courage and your firmness. I will grant you one last favor—anything but the life of your husband.”
“Then grant many children to me. And let them be children of Satyavan!”
Yama’s eyes grew wide as he stared at Savitri. “You did not ask for your husband’s life, yet I cannot grant your wish without releasing him. Princess! Your wit is as strong as your will.”
Yama took out the spirit of Satyavan and removed the noose. The spirit flew north, quickly vanishing from sight.
“Return, Savitri. You have won your husband’s life.”
The sun was just setting when Savitri again laid Satyavan’s head in her lap.
His chest rose and fell. His eyes opened.
“Is the day already gone? I have slept long. But what is wrong, my love? You smile and cry at the same time!”
“My love,” said Savitri, “let us return home.”
* * *
Yama was true to all he had promised. Savitri’s father became father to many more. Satyavan’s father regained both sight and kingdom.
In time, Satyavan became king, and Savitri his queen. They lived long and happily, blessed with many children. So they had no fear or tears when Yama came again to carry them to his kingdom.
About the Story
The story of the princess Savitri is one of the best-known and best-loved tales of India. It appears within The Mahabharata, India’s great national epic, which is much like an Old Testament to the Hindus.This epic, written down at around the time of Christ, had already been passed on orally for centuries. It arises from a time when legends were born—an age of walled cities, of sun and fire worship, and of women far more independent than later Indian culture al