Sikh Research and Education Center
Sikh Research and Education Center
655 Old River woods Lane,
MO 63017
Sikh Research and Education Center

Sikh Research and Education Center: Articles on Sri Dasam Granth Sahib:

Goddess Chandi - The Mythical Story in the Markandaya Puran - Its Significance

Goddess Chandi

Who is Goddess Chandi? Guru Gobind Singh in the Introduction to the description of 'Twenty Four Avtars of Vedic conception'(which were translated from the Purans), states:
"God is the Father of this Universe, in that all activity of creatures (both visible and invisible) is verily His Potential. The Energy or Light that emanated from Him is called the Primeval Force (Bhavani, or Chandi,Kallka, Bhagauti or Durga or Jagdumbay, etc). This Energy is instrumental in the creation of the Universes."
"pritham kal sab jag ko tata, tahan tai bhio tej bikhiata.
so hi bhavani nam kahai, jin sagri yeh sarist upahi."
Many spurious stories of worship of goddess Chandi have been coined by ignorant writers, who did not understand what this goddess Chandi stands for. We give below one of the story appearing in the book, "A History of the Sikh People" by Dr. Gopal Singh:
"One day, a Brahmin of great repute, Kesho Das by name, came from Banares to visit the Guru. He claimed that if he were helped with the wherewithals for a 'homa' (sacrificial fire), he would make visible the goddess of power, Chandi or Durga, also known as Kali. He said it was through extreme austerities and tapas that the goddess would appear, and only if a man like him were to be the master of ceremonies. He harangued the followers of the Guru also on the great blessings that the goddess would bestow on whosoever could invoke her grace. Such a one could never be defeated in war. He attributed the successes of ancient Hindu heroes like Bhim and Arjun to their being the votaries of Durga.

The Sikhs were much impressed with his talk and supported his request to the Guru. The Guru replied: "Even gods and goddesses are subject to the Will and the Authority of One God, Who is supreme over all creation. He, it is from Whom we should seek all boons and benedictions. He gives man the power to make and unmake his destiny if man surrenders himself to Him and fights only for his causes." But, it appears ever though the devout Sikhs were convinced with these arguments, not so the hillfolk in whose midst the Guru now lived and who were only grudgingly being drawn towards his instruction, which were wholly opposed to their age-old traditional beliefs. So, as Dr. Gokal Chand Narang rightly points out (Transformation of Sikhism, pages 85- 86), in order to convince them of the futility of their beliefs, "the Guru ordered a great sacrifice (homa) to be performed with the ostensible object of making the goddess appear. The ceremony is said to have lasted for a year. At the end of that time, when Duga Ashatmi came round again, the Guru asked the presiding priest when the goddess would make her appearance. The Pandit said that the goddess would reveal herself only if a pure and holy man of noble lineage sacrificed himself at the altar, and had his head flung into the fire. The Guru was apparently pleased, and said to the Pandit with a smile of sarcasm on his lips, 'Where shall we find, revered sir, a holier man than yourself whose head could form a fitting offering to the goddess.' The Pandit was struck dumb and decamped on a false pretext. The Guru flung all the remaining material into the fire and came out from behind the screens with a drawn sword flashing in his hand. The large quantity of the homa material thrown in a lump into the fire blazed forth in a large flame which being on a lofty hill was seen for miles around, and was taken as a sign of the propitiation and appearance of the goddess.

The Guru then, walked down the hill of the Nainadevi, a drawn sword in his hand, and said to the crowd waiting breathlessly for his vision: "This is the true manifestation of the goddess of Power, the shining steel with which evil is punished and virtue protected and rewarded. He, who is willing to taste its baptism for a righteous cause invokes indeed the blessings of God."

The "Purans", Hindu religious books are the mythical stories. The events in the stories are described in the Symbolic Language, and cannot be taken literally. The 'Purans" are 18 in number, and Markandya Puran, which contains the story of Goddess Chandi, is one of them. Guru Gobind Singh made three translations of this Puran with certain modifications. He made two translations in Brij Bhasha (Sanskritized Hindi) called "Chandi Chritras", and one in Punjabi Language, called "Chandi Ki Var". The word "Chritra" means description or illustration. At the end of the first Chandi Chritra, the Guru states the objective of his making translation of the Puran. The Guru says: "I have merely narrated the story, which is the human drama. This has been completed and whosoever reads it will obtain the objective."

The phenomenon of life is dependent on the existence of the Vital Energy in an organism. The main phases of life are growth toward maturation and finally decline toward death. During life the Vital Energy in us makes it possible to further incorporate the energy from the environments the energy we take in the form of food, the substances are partly retained and partly eliminated. In the young ones more environmental energy taken in is retained than eliminated, hence the young ones grow. When the necessary growth is attained, a new phenomenon appears - tendency to reproduce with a psychological orientation to love other in the mature sense. The surplus energies, which can no longer be used for growth, create a tension, which is resolved in the form of reproduction. The display of this energy in its various forms has been described as "Goddess Chandi" - God's Light or the Vital Energy or the Life Principle.

The Vital Force in us manifests Itself through our nervous system. Brain is the main controlling center, while spinal column (back bone) is the center of all our reflex actions. All actions, which are performed as a matter of course, without any thinking, as a result of our habits, are effected through the back bone. Goddess Chandi has been described as the daughter of Himalayan Mountains, that is, the Spinal Column or the Back Bone. In this connection reference is also invited to the thesis of Professor Vasudeva S. Agarwala of Banares Hindu University, Varanasi, U.P., India.

The Guru first salutes God as the Creator of all and every thing in the Universe. He created living beings and endowed them with the instinctual drives, thus creating eternal conflicts in them and also with other fellow beings. This has given rise to major conflicts in the world between good and evil and the causes of enmity. He alone is the Author of all this, but He keeps Himself aloof from all these conflicts and witnesses all these conflicts. His Light manifests Itself in His creation, It shines, glares and glitters in annihilation of the evil. "O God, Thou art the Savior of the people and Destroyer of the demons. Thou art the Creator of Shiva, Brahma, Lakshmi, the Daughter of the Himalayan Mountains (Chandi) and that Thou art All Preserving" - "taran lok udharan bhoomai, daint sangharan chand tu hihai. karam eis kala kamla har adhar suta jeh dekho chi hai". Chandi is only His Light, the Creative and the Destructive Power of God, verily God Himself.

In all cultures the symbolic meaning of Sword is Tongue, which signifies Speech, Intellect, Wisdom, Reason, etc. The Speech (Vak or Shabad) represents thought, idea, reason, etc. Speech has the direct bearing on Vital Energy (Heat or Agni), which represents all the Five Elements constituting our body. This is the Creative Power of God. Chandi, therefore, represents the metaphysical principle of God, for sustaining all life, both in Vedas and the Purans. In Vedas it is described as the Universal Power called, the VAK or Shabad or Speech. In Rig Veda this Power of God is called the "The Great Mother". She is the mother of gods identified as "Aditi", Universal Nature or Infinity (Rig Veda). "Speech is Thouself. O The Indestructible and the Eternal One. Thou art the Immortal, A-U-M in eternal Akasha, Braham." (Markandaya Puran 1.54).

The Conflicts in Man between the Divine Powers of Truth, Light and Immortality on the one hand and the instinctual drives leading to darkness, untruth and death, on the other, is the theme of Chandi Chritra. The Victory of the Divine element over the irrational impulses has been glorified. The demons represent the lower part of the mind, the gods Vishnu, Indra, etc. represent the real self in man. We learn from this treatise that the Animal in Man is Very Powerful, and the Animal Power has to be Reckoned With. The Animal Forces invariably vanquish the gods (our real self), who in turn looks to the Supreme Power for help in restoration of the lost authority. In most of the Hindu mythical stories, severe conflict is depicted between the beast in man and his real self, and the latter not being equal in strength loses the battle and the supplication for the Divine Support, is made, and then the animal forces are eliminated restoring the right place of the real self in man. These three layers in man's thinking are accepted in the Sikh Teachings. Sikhs daily make supplication to God to establish the Spiritual and mental harmony in them so that they may subordinate their instinctual desires to the dictates of the intellect, which in turn be guided by the Divine Power. One must know his real Self, must seek enlightenment through knowledge, integrity and activity by identifying with the highest ethical values. The Sikhs daily pray - sikhan da mun nivan, mat oochi, mat pat ka rakha akal purkh Wahiguru.

The story of Goddess Chandi has been divided into the following three parts:

  1. Conflict with Madh and Kitab
  2. Conflict with Mahkhasar
  3. Conflict with Sumbh and Nisumb and the following subsidiary demons:
We may study each of the above mentioned Conflicts in brief.

(1) Conflict of Madh and Kitab

The Myth is given below:
"When there was no creation, God alone was there and lying asleep (latent state) on the cushion of Hydra Serpent in a vast frightful ocean. God first created Brahma (the Creative Power in the Universe) from His navel. He then created the demons from His ear wax. He named the two demons (one man and one woman) as Madh and Kitab. The demons developed their bodies in huge dimensions. Brahma was terrified on seeing them and prayed for the help of the Divine Mother (Chandi or God's Light). God was then awakened from sleep and hastened to make the war preparations in order that the demons could be eliminated and the rule of gods (righteousness) be established. God then engaged Himself in fighting battle with the two demons but could not do away with them, as they were very powerful. (judh kio tin so bhagwant na mar sakain aat daint balie hai). In this way, they went on fighting for five thousand years and none of them felt tired. The demons were greatly power intoxicated and told their Creator to ask for a boon from them. God asked for their heads. He then cut their heads with the Disc Wheel by placing them on His knees and thighs, and incorporated their light within Himself. In this way, God established the rule of gods by killing the demons, and handed over the Kingdom of the Earth to gods, and Himself took the way to homeward in Heaven. (devan thapio raj, Madh Kitab ko mar kai, dino sakal samaj, baikunth gami har bhai.)"

According to the myth, the Universe was in the state of dissolution, or in a state of rest. God alone was there. His Powers of Creation were in the latent state or in the form of seed, away from the soil. God then lay Himself in the Cosmic Womb. He then brought into Being His Inner most Self, the Immaculate Lotus of Pure Consciousness from which is born all Wisdom and Knowledge. In Vedic literature, God is said to have created from His navel, the thousand petalled Lotus Flower, depicting this Universe, and Brahma (the Creative Power of God was at the center of all existence.) Brahma, the part of the Creative Power of God felt that the instinctual powers in man were too great and had apprehensions of that it may not lead to his total destruction. Brahma is said to have prayed to "Chandi", the Light of God or the Life Force, to annihilate the forces of darkness, which hindered the creative process. This Vital Energy or the Creative Force or Chandi is identified with God. It is God's Light and is God, just as there is no difference between the qualities of the Sun and its rays of light. It is God, Who came to the rescue of man and harnessed the Creative Energy from the Animal Power in man. The Beast in Man is indeed very Powerful (aat daint balie hai). God in order to control the wildness of Man directed his surplus energies toward the process of procreation. He is said to have caused the killing of Madh and Kitab. In other words He engaged them in sexual inter-course. In Symbolic Language, the Killing signifies involvement in a sexual inter-course of man and woman in all cultures. Placing of a person on thighs is universally accepted symbolism of coitus. God thus removed the chaos in Man, which was shattering his peace. He harnessed man's surplus energies into creative channels and evolved something sublime out of this slush perpetuating the creative process in him. Guru Arjun in one of his verses said that "countless Brahmas are being engaged in the creation of this Universe." (kehi kot brahmain jag sajan lagai), There is the Brahma in every living being - God's Creative Force. The sex potential in humans is the Divine endowment. Its sacredness or its offensive and sinful nature leading to destruction, entirely depends upon observance of the Laws of God.

It is of great importance to note that in this myth, the Supreme Creative Power, the Light of God or the Vital Force, called Goddess Chandi and God are completely identified. In Sikh Scriptures God's Light in Man is completely identified with Him and is called "Sat Guru", verily God Himself. It is quite clear to us that Chandi, God's Light is Sat Guru, Who is being defined in this myth.

Return to the top of the page.

(2) Conflict with Mahkhasar

Mahkhasar means a buffalo-headed. In the first part, the fight is between the sex instinct in Man and his Real Self (Devas), in which the latter are completely routed. In Vedic Symbolism, white bull represents "Sun" (Heat) identified with God, while buffalo symbolizes dark regions of 'Varuna' or the water element. The Bull loves Heat and the Buffalo loves water. The Heat in Buffalo is to be extinguished or consumed by the water, which means a craving for sex desire. The vanquished gods or devas (Real Self) seek the support of Shiva or God for Moral Strength. The Self surrenders to the Divine Power in us (God's Light in us) and tries to live upto His dictates, and thus gains strength. According to the Markandya Puran, "from the forces of God, Brahma and Shiva sprang forth Fierce Heat, and from the bodies of other devas also, headed by Indra issued forth a resplendent luster. All this light became unified into one. The devas saw in front of them a pile of light blazing like a mountain whose flame filled the whole space. Then that matchless light born from the bodies of all gods gathered into a single corpus and turned into a woman enveloping the three worlds by her luster." (Small wonders, the originators of the fallacious story that Guru Gobind Singh performed the yajna and poured into the fire pit all the combustible material in one lot thus causing a pile of light blazing like a mountain, must have got the inspiration from the above account given in the Markandya Puran. Needless to say that the Sikh history has been written by half wits, totally biased persons, who had no sense whatsoever what they were writing about. They could not decipher the myth, but gave the literal meaning of the myth only.)

Chandi then appeared on Kailash Mountain, the Abode of Shiva to whom she was wedded. Shiva is considered to be the Supreme mythical god of Justice. Chandi was seen by the vanquished gods, while she was going for a bath. The devas worshipped the goddess and told her of their woeful story of their defeat from demon Mahkhasar. On hearing this account she became full of anger, departed toward the battlefield to kill the demons. She directed the devas (Real Self) to stay on at Kailash Mountain with Shiva (God). Chandi then got possession of a conch (war bugle), a lion to ride and various types of weapons including Sword. The Guru has described in great detail how this battle was fought by Chandi with demon Mahkhasar, his numerous commanders and men. Be it remembered this Life Force has been personified as Chandi, and the powerful sex instinct as Mahkhasar and his men. As a result of the fierce fighting by the men of Mahkhasar with Chandi, the former were defeated. A man then rushed to report to Mahkhasar about the complete devastation of his army by Chandi. Mahkhasar was then greatly enraged and came to fight with Chandi. Mahkhasar was then killed along with all of his men. The devas (Real Self) then again became supreme in their region and began to praise the Goddess in all humility.

Mahkhasar stands for sex instinct, Chandi is God's Light or the Life Force. Taking bath, fighting and killing, means channelling the sex instinct in a socially acceptable way based on ethical principles. This is how man attains victory over his Self (instincts or the animal forces within him) in union with God. This is the way how character is build up.

Return to the top of the page.

(3) Conflict with Sumbh and Nisumbh

Thereafter two more most powerful demons appeared. They were called Sumbh (Pride) and Nisumbh (Anger). They both made a most powerful invasion on the territory of Indra (Conscious Self). The devas led by Indra gave a stiff resistance to the titans but to no avail. The devas were expelled from their territory and the demons took possession of all the three regions. Devas (Real Self) again went to the domain of Shiva for restoration of their Kingdom. Chandi again heard the story of the Devas and promised to help them. She then engaged herself in a war with the demons. All of a sudden Chandi's fore-head burst open and from there another goddess, black in color, sprang up, who was named Kali or Kalika. She is the symbolic of Wisdom coming out of head of Chandi (Life Force). According to the Greek Mythology, goddess Athene (Wisdom) was born from the head of god Zeus. On Chandi's direction, the daughter goddess Kali incorporated herself back into her mother's body.

Chandi appeared full of youth and beauty, climbing down the hill. A brother to Sumbh (Pride) happened to go that side and saw her. On seeing Chandi, the demon became unconscious, and on regaining consciousness told her that he was a brother to the great King Sumbh, who was then the Supreme Sovereign of three worlds and that she should marry him. Chandi replied that she would marry Sumbh, provided the demon defeated her in a battle. The demon, on hearing this, went to Sumbh and told him that there was a surprisingly beautiful woman, a jewel among women, whom he should marry as he had everything in his house except a wife. Sumbh was greatly allured and became impassioned to conquer her. The brother described the beauty of Chandi to Sumbh as an exceptionally beautiful woman.

Sumbh despatched his brother "Dhoomar Lochan" (Cloudy Vision) toward Chandi. Dhoomar Lochan was to persuade Chandi to accept the proposal and to bring her to him. If Chandi were to resist and insist on a fight, then she should be captured forcibly and brought to him. Dhoomar Lochan advanced toward Chandi with his army, and on reaching at the foot of the mountains shouted at her to either marry Sumbh or to fight with him. On hearing this, Chandi climbed down, rode on her tiger and rushed toward Dhoomar Lochan. After a long fight, the demon was killed along with his army.

Sumbh on hearing this sad news of the death of Dhoomar Lochan, sent forth Chand (Greed) and Mund (Attachment) to fight with the goddess. Chand and Mund have also been described as "wavering mind and infatuation respectively". After a good deal of fighting these demons were also killed.

Sumbh and Nisumbh became greatly concerned over the losses and decided to send demon "Rakat Bij" (rumors and also hearing ill of others) along with selected army to fight with Chandi. Guru Gobind Singh has further elucidated "Rakat Bij" by describing the demon as "Sarnvat Bij". The word "Sarnvat" means, hearing.

Sarnvat Bij along with his army fought heroically with Chandi and her army. The demon's most of the army was killed and the remaining took to flight. The demon again assembled his men and brought them back to the field.

A dreadful battle was then fought. Sarnvat Bij felt unconscious but again stood up on regaining the consciousness and resumed fighting. There was now an unusual phenomenon, which was that on falling of blood drops of Sarnvat Bij on the ground a number of demons began to rise up to fight with the goddess. As the demons began to multiply in this way, they all the more felt more proud of their might. This refers to the auto-plastic action of the human mind to fabricate stories, imagine things and spread rumors. Rumor is a queer belief which is passed along from person to person without any evidence of the happening whatsoever. The rumors spread on account of importance of the thing and their ambiguity. At each stage the rumors are fabricated on the basis of one's prejudices. The rumors create wrong beliefs and more often unnecessary conflicts. The weakness can be overcome by acquiring knowledge and wisdom. Chandi then again from her fore-head produced Black goddess Kali (Wisdom) carrying skull topped staff. Now Chandi began to kill the demons and Kali began to drink their blood and did not allow any drop of blood to fall on the ground. In this way Sarnvat Bij and his army was routed. Those who could save their lives went to Sumbh and told him of their fate.

Sumbh and Nisumbh were then filled with exceeding rage. Giving vent to their indignation they rushed forward with their army to fight with Chandi and Kali. The fighting was most dreadful. God then considered of providing more strength to Chandi, hence all other powers were merged in her. The demon forces were at last repulsed. Sumbh then told Nisumbh to go forth with his army and fight with the goddess. Chandi thrust her thunder-bolt into the head of Nisumbh, which he removed and threw it back on her; thus enraged Chandi again attacked Nisumbh with her Sword and severed his head from the body.

On hearing the death of Nisumbh (Anger), Sumbh (Pride) came to the battlefield with his army in great rage. This was the most devastating battle ever fought. Chandi at the end thrust her Sword on Sumbh, who was seriously injured and weakened. She sprang forward, seized him, lifted him up and threw him down with great force. Sumbh then like a bird went high up in the sky and Chandi followed him there and fought with him. The goddess with the lightening stroke of her Sword cut Sumbh into twain and the parts of his body fell on the ground. Sumbh, the Pride hath its fall.

Thus after attaining Victory over all the demons, she blew her conch (war bugle). The remaining demon forces took to their heels. Then all the gods assembled there and worshipped the goddess. Indra thus fully regained his lost Kingdom.

The third phase of the battle of Chandi, with Sumbh, Nisumbh, Dhoomar Lochan, Chand and Mund and Sarnvat Bij represent the psychological complex of confusion, muddled thinking and delusion. Dhoomar Lochan beheld the beautiful goddess with lustful eyes, Sumbh (Pride) heard the account of the woman from his brother and was greatly attracted and wanted to have possession of her and sent Chand and Mund to capture her. Sumbh (Pride) and Nisumbh (Anger) are the root causes of the human sickness.

The story is an excellent exposition of the unending strife in man between his instincts on one hand and social acceptability and morality on the other. Man in respect of his body and psychological functions, belong to the Animal Kingdom. The functioning of the Animal is determined by his instincts. Self awareness, reason and imagination make him to transcend his animal nature and make him a rational being. There is always the conflict between the Animal in Man and his reason, which disrupts the internal harmony. In this story the instinct versus the Self and the instincts versus Morality Conflicts have been represented as the conflicts between two persons, or a struggle, a battle, a quarrel. Man is required to solve the problem of his existence - to evolve a rational use of his Animal Power in relation to fellow men and himself. This in nutshell is the purport of the story.

The story could not have remained unnoticed by Guru Gobind Singh, who evolved a system for the creation of Guilt Free Conscience in Man. The Guru appears to have made some modifications to this story from the Markandya Puran. At places the Guru elucidated the symbolic meaning of certain characters, for example, he clarified the character of Rakat Bij by using the word Sarnvat Bij. In Markandya Puran, Rakat Bij is only used for rumor mongering. The Guru has purposely ignored the portions of the Markandya Puran dealing with offering of sacrifices to the goddess. It is most unfortunate that a very insignificant number of people who have the true knowledge of the Real Meaning of this Story of Goddess Chandi, and drive inspiration from it. Hindus blindly worship the goddess, offer human and animal sacrifices to the images of the goddess for performance of magical rites, etc.

The Guru at the end of the story gives his famous Swaiya praying to God to bless us to ever remember Him and thus keep us ever engaged in the incessant fight with the Animal in us for character building, which is the purport of the story and also the aim of the Guru. The Guru prays:

"O God, grant me this boon, that I may never be deterred from doing good deeds. I should harbor no fear in my mind when I have to go to fight a battle, and have the firm faith in my victory. I should train my mind in such a way that I should ever feel greedy of singing Thy praises. And when the time comes for me to leave this World, I should die fighting in the thick of action for the righteous cause."
The Guru's above Composition is the summum bonum of the mythical story of Chandi.

Return to the top of the page.

Copyright (©)2003 by Dalip Singh and Amarpreet Singh Munde.
All Rights Reserved.