How a buck/stag could have become a lion!

Vidyasankar Sundaresan vidya at
Thu Jul 3 04:36:53 UTC 1997

Let me add to the confusion regarding vAhanas of durgA. In the popular
imagination, the chief myth of durgA (riding a lion) is the killing of the
bull-demon mahisha. However, according to the devI mAhAtmya (mArkaNDeya
purANa), the lion-riding Goddess who kills mahisha is not Siva's consort,
but mahAlakshmI. In his guptavatI commentary, bhAskararAya quotes some
other texts, including the lakshmI-tantra from the pancarAtra literature,
and holds that caNDikA is primarily mahAlakshmI. Even today, mUkAmbikA in
Kollur (generally seen as a "tAntric" form of lakshmI), and mAhAlakshmI 
in Kolhapur, partake of this ferocious aspect of lakshmI. 

This raises the possibility that at least some sculptural instances of a
lion-riding Goddess, even if she is ferocious, could signify mahAlakshmI,
and not durgA, who is generally associated with mahAkAlI. Granted, the
mahAlakshmI of the devI mAhAtmya is far from the docile wife of Vishnu,
but we must allow for a wide variety of aspects for any Goddess in India.


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