<span>("Mahishasur-Vadh" or 'The Killing of Mahishasura'-episode from the book):</span>
All the gods, headed by Lord Brahma, came over to Kailasha (a peak in the Himalayas), where Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva were busy in divine conversations. They narrated the whole story of how the demon-king Mahishasura dethroned Indra from the heaven. They added that, the demon is severely putting an end to the devotees of Vishnu and Shiva, by killing them cruelly. The Asura (demon) wants all in the universe to worship him as god, and not anyone else. First, There's no yajna (worship through divine fire in the altar) for long, and the gods of heaven are leading a life in disguise in the mountain caves, away from the clasp of Mahishasura. Hearing the story, the faces of Vishnu and Shiva turned red in wrath. Their faces glowed up. A sudden effulgent, fiery glow came out of their faces, and at a single point, the energy, the 'jyoti' (divine glow and aura), of all the gods coalesced and formed a gigantic mountain of fire. Soon, this 'jyotipunjah' (heap of 'jyoti') took the form of a young woman. She had the complexion of molten gold, and her 'jyoti' touched the heavens high above. Her face was from the light of Shiva. Her ten arms were from Lord Vishnu. Her legs were from Lord Brahma. Where as, her hair from Yama, her hips from the force of the goddess Earth, her breasts from the Moon-god, and so on. The dispossessed gods were drawn to Durga. They praised her and gave to her their divine gifts: Pinakadhrik (Shiva) gave her a trident - "Trishula". Lord Vishnu gave her a disc - "Chakra". Varuna, the god of water, gave her a conch - "Shankha", and the god of fire gave her a missile. From the wind, Vayu, she received arrows. The king of gods, Indra, gave her a thunder-bolt, and the gift of Indra's white-skinned elephant Airavata was a bell, or "ghanta". From Yama, the god of death, Durga received a rod - "Kaaldanda", and from the Ruler of Waters she was given a noose - "Paash". Durga received many other precious and magical treasures -- gifts of jewels, new clothing, and a garland of immortal lotuses for her head and breasts. Heaven's architect Vishwakarma gave her a bright axe and magic armor. God of the Himalayas, Himavat, gave her jewels and a magnificent lion to ride into battle as her mount ("vahan"). Now equipped with the fearsome weaponry of the gods and dressed in golden armor and jewels she set off, seated gracefully upon that lion. His thunderous roars shook the three worlds. Oceans boiled and surf poured overland. Continents were torn at their granite foundations as whole new chains of mountains rose, while older ranges crumbled, cracked, and gave way to dust in a thousand landslides. Seeing these cataclysms rippling in waves through all the three worlds, Mahishasura and his demon allies found their attention drawn from heaven to Earth. Though confident of their power and control in heaven, even the conquering demon host could not help being awestruck.</span><span>
The demons had little time to admire the radiant visage of their new adversary, for soon she engaged them on the battlefield. First the army of Chikasura and then that of Chamara, Mahishasura's chief commanders were met. They were destroyed in a great battle. At first, confident of his overwhelming power, Mahishasura held in reserve his personal demon army. But seeing the setbacks being dealt his commander's troops on every side, it soon became obvious to Mahishasura that even his personal guard must be completely committed or he would surely be cast out of heaven. Or worse. Onto the battlefield swarmed that most elite and despised assemblage, with its gruesome hordes of infantry gleefully wielding their unearthly collection of dark iron axes and halberds, gorey bludgeoneers side by side with squadrons of demon-archers. Leading this evil array in its mad and desperate charge were thousands of charioteers and cavalry of horses and elephants. Surrounded by chants of praise, the blowing of horns the beating of drums and songs of worship Durga roamed the battlefield on her mighty lion. From her divine breath her army was constantly replenished with new warriors, each able, brave and resolute. With her bell she confused the demons, and many were dragged away bound and chained. With her divine sword she cut them to bits. So many demons and elephants and horses died that a river of blood flowed across the battlefield. The ground was left littered with the broken limbs and body parts of the defeated demon army. Durga was then attacked by the demon commanders, who were all killed immediately, and without mercy.
Mahisha, the king of the demons and usurper of the throne of heaven, was shocked and enraged by the disastrous events on the battlefield. He reverted to his own form, a buffalo, and charged about on the battlefield. He ran wildly at Durga's divine soldiers goring many, biting others and all the while thrashing with his long, whip-like tail. Durga's lion, angered by the presence of the demon-buffalo, attacked him. While he was thus engaged, Durga threw her noose around his neck. To escape this trap, Mahishasura discarded the buffalo and assumed the form of a lion. Durga beheaded the lion, and the demon escaped in the form of a man. Without hesitation, Durga dispatched the man with a flight of sharp arrows. Mahishasura and Lion Yet again the demon escaped, and this time took the formidable shape of a huge elephant, which battered Durga's lion with a tusk. With her sword Durga hacked at the tusk until it too was broken. Weakened, the demon reverted once more to his own form the wild buffalo. He retreated into the mountains where he hurled boulders at Durga with his horns. The Mother of the Universe drank the divine wine, gift of Kuvera. She said:
"Garja garja Kshanam moorha, madhu yavat pivamyaham | Mayaa twayi hatehtraiva, garjishyantyashu devatah ||"
--- Take thou time to squall and scream as long as I don't finish up my divine wine, o, foolish Mahishasura! I will soon slain you (after I finish my drink), and the gods of heaven would burst in the joy of victory.
Immediately after this, the goddess jumped onto Mahishasura, pushing him to the ground with her left leg. She grasped his head in one hand, pierced him with her sharp spear held in another, and with yet another of her ten hands she wielded her bright sword, beheading him. At last he fell dead, and the scattered surviving remnants of his once invincible army fled in terror. The gods returned to heaven, and along with the sages of the earth, they sang praises to the Goddess Durga. Henceforth, and to this day, the Goddess Durga is worshipped by all the gods in heaven, and all human beings on earth. As he requested, Mahishasura is there too--frozen in his moment of final defeat, impaled by Durga's spear and prostrate beneath her left foot.
Glory of the Goddess
Once in the land of the gods, a huge and terrible battle raged for hundreds of years. The gods were finally defeated, kicked from their celestial abode by the terrible leader of the demons, Mahishasura. The gods, who had fought the battle and lost, appeared before the greatness of Brahma, Vishnu and Siva, explaining their defeat. The major gods became furious, and from their faces ''came forth a great fiery splendor, and also from the...bodies of all the gods, Indra and others...and it congealed into a single form''.
Quote Thomas Coburn' translation of the Devi-Mahatmya at this point will give a feel for the power of the tale of Durga' appearance: A stupendously fiery mass like a flaming mountain the gods saw there filling the firmament with flames. That matchless splendor, born from the bodies of all the gods, came together in a single place, pervading all the worlds with its lustre, and it became a woman...Devi bellowed aloud with laughter over and over again. The entire atmosphere was filled with her terrible noise, and from that deafening, ear-shattering noise a great echo arose. All the worlds quaked, and the oceans shook. The earth trembled, and the mountains tottered. The gods, utterly delighted, cried, "Victory!" to the one who rides on a lion.