The First Battle and the Beginning of Time
Who is this devi you call Mahamaya? asks the merchant. We wish to know, O knowing one.
So listen then, says the wise sage. I will tell you…
A kalpa ( a cycle of creations, destructions and re-creations) had ended, dissolved into nothingness and nothing existed anymore, no universes not even time nor space.
Vishnu, manifested from the all pervading Narayana lay in deep slumber on Adi Sesha, the primal serpent of Time which stretched without end upon the silent cosmic waters. Shakti, the Goddess Mahamaya with her powers of delusion had induced this mystic sleep (yoganidra) upon the Great God.
And so he lay there, the Great Vishnu lost in Time, oblivious to everything. He knew nothing of Brahma, the Creator who had sprung forth from his navel nor of the two demons Madhu and Kaitabh who had emerged from his ear wax. The demons sought to vanquish Brahma who was preparing to create the next cycle of the universe.
Seeing the demons, Brahma who was seated on a lotus at Vishnu’s navel sang to Devi Mahamaya. He pleaded her to withdraw from Vishnu so he may awaken and slay the two demons. Hearing the Brhamastuti*, the Goddess withdrew from every part of Vishnu’s body and mind and appeared before Brahma.
(*Brahmastuti – The song sung by Brahma praising the Goddess is the first of the fours hymns in the text.)
Vishnu now freed from the influence of Maya, woke up and saw the mighty demons threatening all creation. For five thousand years Vishnu fought the demons using his arms as weapons. Now frenzied and blinded by their might Madhu – Kaitabh exclaimed, Vishnu we are pleased by the fight you put up. Ask us for a boon! Such was their delusion caused by power and might.
Seeing the Goddess’s play, Vishnu replied, I ask that you may be slain by me. The demons caught in their own trap and bewitched by the Devi looked around to see only an ocean stretching endlessly.
Slay us then at the spot where the world is not flooded with water, they said to Vishnu who lifted them on to his lap suspended above the waters and slayed them with his discus.
The Goddess, so praised by Brahma had come to his rescue and restored order to the Cosmos.
Here ends the first tale of the Devi Mahatmyam as recounted rishi Medhas.
Vishnu slaying demons Madhu and Kaitabh
The Inner Meaning of the Madhu -Kaitabha Myth
In this tale the Goddess as the primal Shakti is central to the creation myth.
According to the Vedic philosophy there are three traits (gunas) in Nature and in all living things – tamas (darkness, destruction, chaos), rajas( action,passion, confusion) and sattva(positivity, purity, harmony).
All the three states(gunas) are born simultaneously before the beginning of a Kalpa. A Kalpa happens by the sankalpa, will or resolve of the Supreme Being.
Just as Brahma springs forth form Vishnus’s navel, Madhu and Kaithabh emerge from the wax in Vishnu’s ears. The ears are symbolic of the sound or Sabda that marks the start of the cosmogenesis.
The first tale reveals the primordial Mother in her dark, deluding aspect of tamas that ensnares humankind. The psychological afflictions of ignorance and attachment are the influence of tamas.
Maha Vishnu has to awaken from his primal sleep in order to overcome the original demonic forces of tamas and rajas.
The asuras Madhu – Kaitabh declare, ‘by us is all this covered in tamas and rajas.’ They try to overcome Brahma, the creative and sattvic force.
However Brahma calls to the Goddess and she rescuses him.
The message to the King and the merchant here is that we need discretion and dispassion to see through the veil, the play of the Goddess. Only then will we break the bonds of attachment and delusion.
And this can only happen through Divine Grace, through the grace of a guru or by attaining merit through many lives.
(Edited from Chandi -The Inner Meaning by Dr. Satya Prakash Choudhary. www.karmicrhythms.com )