Having invoked Nidra Devi, the goddess of sleep, residing in the eyes of Mahavishnu, Brahmaji began to sing paeans in praise of the creator, sustainer and destroyer of the universe endowed with all righteousness, lordship, fame, wealth, wisdom and dispassion. “You are Swaha who gives boons to the gods and Swadha who blesses the ancestors. Your form is made of the notes of music. You are the nectar of immortality and you are that undying syllable of Om which is formed of three letters of A, U and M. You are the goddess Savitri and you are the supreme mother of all the gods.”
When this goddess of inertia was praised by Brahma, she manifested from the eyes, face, nose, hands, chest and heart of Vishnu. She manifested in form before Brahmaji. Nidra Devi walked out of Mahavishnu so that he may wake up to put an end to the atrocities of the two demons, Madhu and Kaitabha. Mahavishnu saw the two asuras, red in their eyes, waiting to finish off Brahma.
When Mahavishnu got up and was ready to fight, there was a battle with the two demons, shoulder to shoulder, for a period of 5,000 years. Deluded by the great Mahamaya, who makes people lose their sense of reasoning, the two arrogant fools even had the audacity to ask Mahavishnu, for any boons that they may bestow on him. Mahavishnu was indeed intelligent. He did not argue with them as to how they had the cheek to give him a boon. He did ask them for one. That was, “Anymore, there is no need for weapons. Please give me the boon that you two will be killed by me.” So they too gave Mahavishnu the boon he asked, after realising that they have indeed been outsmarted.
“Kill us if you may in a place on earth where there is no water.” Mahavishnu seized the opportunity, placed their heads on his thighs and beheaded them with his chakra ayudha or the sharp discus that is meant to kill the evil-minded ones. These deaths and killings in the puranas are not some gory antics of the gods, but symbolic stories to narrate how god ends our negative tendencies, with a stroke of his weapon of discrimination in the most inescapable manner. This is the first chapter of the Devi Mahatmyam in the Markandeya Purana, which describles the killing of the demons, Madhu and Kaitabha.
The presence of Maha Nidra in this story shows how evil powers thrive when we are lost in a mind of inertia, sloth, slumber and laziness. In such a mind, the negative qualities, which turn powerful and evil like Madhu and Kaitabha, begin to threaten our divine nature as represented by Brahmaji who is trying to create great things in the Universe. When Brahmaji turns to the goddess for help and praises her, she leaves Mahavishnu and he regains his consciousness to rise to the occasion and quell the agents of evil—Madhu and Kaitabha. The two represent the human craving for sense pleasures.
The author is Acharya, Chinmaya Mission, Tiruchi; firstname.lastname@example.org