The 10-day Durga Puja festival marks the victory of goddess Durga over the demon Mahisasura. Know the legend of Mahisasur Mardini - the Destroyer of Mahisasura. (Illustrations: Rajkamal Aich/News18)
Mahisasura was the son of Rambha - the King of asuras - and Princess Shyamala - a demon who was cursed to be a water buffalo.
Mahisasura possessed the ability to change forms at will - a power he used when frequently attacking the devas in heaven.
But the devas were victorious every time.
His fights with the devas continued for many years. But he was unable to conquer heaven. Mahisasura then started meditating.
Years later, Lord Brahma appeared and granted him a boon. Mahisasura wanted immortality. But Brahma wasn't willing.
The sly Mahisasura asked for a boon that would shield him form any male-god, human, demon or any other being. He believed no woman could kill him.
Brahma agreed. Mahisasura was fearless now and started his conquests - the underworld was first and then earth.
And finally, having overcome the devas in heaven, he ruled all three worlds.
Mahisasura and his asura army had become too powerful. The devas were no match.
And the devas were soon driven out of heaven. But even as they took shelter - on earth - they were not spared.
There was no stopping Mahisasura, as he unleashed a reign of terror.
"No deities will be worshipped! I am the only god." Mahisasura thundered...
...not even Brahma, the supreme creator, who had granted Mahisasura his boon.
The devas turned to Brahma and sought his help to win back heaven. But he was helpless.
Maybe Vishnu, the preserver, could help Brahma and the other devas.
Or even Shiva, the destroyer?
And help they did. A light shone from the angry faces of the trinity, and that was joined by light from the faces of the devas...
...and lo! From that combined pool of light emerged Durga.
Each of Durga's 10 arms held a weapon presented by the gods - including VIshnu's chakra, Shiva's trident and Brahma's kamandalu. A lion, the king of the beasts, would be her steed.
A woman? Mahisasura thought victory was surely his.
A fierce battle raged. Mahisasura first sent powerful asuras like Chand, Munda and Raktabeej, to take on Durga.
But they failed. Mahisasura then joined the battle himself. He changed forms - buffalo, lion, handsome man or elephant - but Durga triumphed every time.
Durga struck the final blow when Mahisasura was emerging from his buffalo form.
The king of asuras was no more. And the gods were delighted that Ma Durga had restored order in the three worlds.
She was now Mahisasura Mardini or the Destroyer of Mahisasura. (Illustrations: Rajkamal Aich/News18)