It is not uncommon to hear about the further uncommon ways of generating offsprings in the folklore and our religious texts. Lord Ganesh was born when Goddess Parvati breathed into turmeric paste prior to her bath. Similarly, we now embark upon one such story of Andhakasura.
According to Shiva Purana, Parvati is said to have covered Shiva’s eyes from behind with her two hands. Shiva could not see and everything seemed to be dark to him. Parvati’s hands perspired from the exertion and the sweat fell down on the ground. From this sweat, a dark and fierce creature was born and started to roar. Since the creature was born in darkness, Shiva and Parvati named their son Andhaka.
Andhaka was born blind, as Shiva was effectively blind when Andhaka was born. There was another asura named Hiranyaksha (also called Hiranyanetra), who had no sons. He prayed to Shiva, who offered him Andhaka to raise as his own son. Andhaka was later crowned king in Hiranyaksha’s kingdom. He was not regarded as an Asura since he was a divine product.
Andhaka and Brahma and the Boon
Disowned by the majority of his clan he performed a severe penance to please Brahma. For many years he stood on one leg, with his arms raised high, and prayed. He did not eat or drink, and chopping off parts of his body, offered it to the sacrificial fire. When there was no more meat left on his body, Lord Brahma appeared before him and offered a boon. Andhaka needed Brahma to make him invincible and to repair his vision.
Andhaka asked Brahma for a boon that would enable him to see, and that he would not be killed by gods, demons, or humans, or even by the great Vishnu himself. Brahma was in a fix. Earlier, many demons had asked for similar boons, but they had generally not mentioned Vishnu. So that, when the need arose, Vishnu had been able to kill them. But here was an asura who asking for the boon that even Vishnu would not be able to kill him. This would make him virtually immortal.
Everything that you have asked for is possible, replied Brahma. But all beings have to die. Indicate the circumstances under which you will die and the boons will be granted.
“Since I have to die”, said Andhaka, let it be under the following conditions.” If I ever wish to marry a beautiful woman who is like a mother to me, let that be the hour chosen for my death.”
Thinking this condition was better than nothing at all and Brahma granted Andhaka the boon.
Andhaka returned to his kingdom. When Andhaka’s cousins learned that Andhaka had become so powerful because of the boons, they not only returned to him his kingdom but theirs as well.
Andhaka and Parvati – the War
The first thing that Andhaka did was to invade heaven. He defeated Indra and the other gods and made them pay taxes to the asuras. Next, he defeated the snakes (nagas), the Gandharvas, the rakshasas, the yakshas (companions of Kubera) and the humans. Thus he began to rule over all the three worlds.
Once Andhaka went to visit Mount Mandara. The place was so beautiful that he made up his mind to live there. Three of Andhaka’s generals were named Duryodhana, Vighasa, and Hasti.
These three were exploring the environment of Mount Mandara when they came upon a cave. An ascetic was meditating inside the cave. He was dressed in the skin of a tiger, wore a garland of skulls, his hair was matted and he wore a crescent moon on his forehead. There was a beautiful woman near the ascetic. She was more beautiful than any other woman in the three worlds. The three generals concluded that this was the right wife for Andhaka. When the generals came back to Andhaka and reported on what they had seen, the asura king said, “What are you waiting for? Go to the ascetic and ask him for the woman.”
They went back to the ascetic. You are only an ascetic, they asked for the wife. The ascetic was Shiva and his wife, Parvati.
“Ask your master to come and take the woman himself”, replied Shiva.
As soon as he heard this, Andhaka grasped his sword and came to fight with Shiva. The door to the cave was guarded by Nandi, and Andhaka first had to fight with him. Nandi easily defeated the asura and also defeated the asura soldiers who had accompanied their king. A war ensued.
The general Vighasa was a very strong warrior. He opened his mouth wide and swallowed up all the gods, including Vishnu. So far, Shiva himself had not played any part in the fighting. But hearing what Vighasa had done, he ascended his bull and came out to fight. He killed Vighasa and rescued the gods from the asura’s stomach. The asuras had a preceptor named Shukracharya who knew the art of bringing back dead beings to life. So Shukracharya moved around the battlefield, bringing back to life any demons that were killed. This was not helping the cause of the gods at all. Shiva’s companions captured Shukracharya and brought him to Shiva. Shiva promptly swallowed up Shukracharya.
Soon all the demons were taken care of, with the exception of Andhaka. He continued to fight. Vishnu’s mace could do him no harm and he only laughed at Indra’s arrows. Some of the arrows did pierce the asura’s body. But whenever drops of blood from his body onto the ground, asuras who were exactly like him in appearance were created from this blood. As a result, the battlefield was soon populated with thousands and thousands of Andhakas.
Shiva created a Matrikas from his own body. Devi was appointed the task of drinking up the blood of the asuras before it could spill onto the ground. Thus aided by Devi, Shiva started to tackle the demons and soon there was only the original Andhaka left. Shiva flung a trident at him. The trident struck Andhaka on the chest and the asura king fell down dead.
In the Kurma Purana too, Andhaka is the natural son of Hiranyaksha and becomes the king of the Asuras after the death of Prahlada. Like other variants, he lusts after Parvati and goes to Mandara to abduct her when Shiva is away. Shiva had entrusted Nandi for guarding his household and the gods including Vishnu to attend to and protect Parvati.
When Andhaka arrives Nandi battles with him and pierces him with a trident and upon falling of his blood to the ground a thousand more demons like him are created who defeat Nadi and the Devas. He then prays to Vishnu for aid. When Vishnu arrives he creates many mother goddesses (The Matrikas) who vanquish the demons.
When Shiva returns Andhaka returns to abduct Parvati again. Shiva and Vishnu battle Andhaka and his army. Vishnu tells Shiva to kill the demon. Shiva impales him on his trident and begins to dance. But by his mere touch, Andhaka’s sins were burnt away and he begged him for forgiveness and made a gana-chief. Shiva then made Andhaka a handsome man who then bowed to Parvati for forgiveness who accepted him as her son.
In the Matsya Purana, Andhaka the son of Hirankyasha tries to abduct Parvati from Shiva. A battle ensues in the Mahakala forest and that blood that flows him, in turn, gives rise a thousand more demons like Andhaka. Shiva creates numerous divine mothers, the Maitrikas who drink the blood of the demons every time they were attacked. Upon them becoming satiated, he requests Vishnu’s aid who creates the goddess Suska-Revati who drinks the blood of all the demons and kills them. When Shiva is about to strike the killing blow, Andhaka surrenders and begs for forgiveness by praying to him. Pleased by his devotion, Shiva makes him a gana-chief.
According to the Harivamsa Purana, Andhaka was a daitya and the son of Diti and the sage Kashyapa. After the defeat of Daityas by Vishnu, Diti made a plea to Kashyapa to give her such a son who couldn’t be defeated by the gods. Kashyapa granted her boon and told her that except Shiva no one would be able to kill his son since he had no supremacy over Shiva. Kashyapa then touched her belly and a child was born with a thousand eyes and limbs. He wasn’t blind but since he walked like a blind person he was called Andhaka. Overtime Andhaka became arrogant since he could not be harmed by anyone. Once when Andhaka went to the court of Indra he tried to take the hold of all the nymphs and defeated all the gods in the fight. He began hindering the performance of yajnas by the gods who feeling tormented, approached Narada for assistance.
Narada wore a garland of Mandara flowers which had a very sweet fragrance and upon smelling them when Narada came to see him, Andhaka enquired the source of the flowers. Narada told him that the flowers were available in the Mandara forest which was protected by Shiva’s guards and no one could enter the forest without his permission. Andhaka arrived, telling the mount Mandara of his invulnerability and asked him where the forest was. The mountain refused to oblige him and disappeared. Andhaka in anger uprooted the whole mountain and with the help of his Asura army started grinding the mountain which destroyed all its natural beauty.
Shiva upon knowing this blessed the mountain with a boon which restored it to its original splendor. The summits of the mountain started killing the Asuras who had attempted to destroy them. Upon seeing this, Andhaka calls out the owner of the mountain He wanted to burn the whole Mandara mountain. In response, Shiva carrying a mace and mounted on his bull arrived there for killing Andhaka. When Shiva released his spear, it struck the demon on his chest and immediately reduced him to ashes.