Shumbha and Nishumbha executed by Maha Devi

The immortal Story of the killing of Shumbha Nishumbha Demon brothers as was told by Mahatma Markandeya. The most infamous Danava brothers, from the notorious lineage of the Hiranyakasipu, attacked Indra the King of Devas; diverted the ‘havis’ or the uncooked offerings to Agni at Yagnas meant for Devas to themselves; performed the tasks of Surya, Chandra, Kubera, Varuna, Vayu and other Devatas and turned all the Devas from Swarga, who became wanderers and as refugees in forests. They remembered the assurance given by Devi Vishnu Maya, when they celebrated Her victory at the devastation of Mahishasura and his followers; at that time She said: ‘As and when You remember me when faced with a hardship, I will demolish your difficulties at once!.

As Devas extolled Maha Devi, Devi Parvati was bathing in the pure water of Ganga and realizing that Devas were dislodged from the Swaraloka, appeared before them as Ambika whose popular name was Kaushiki or Kalika of dark skin but of unprecedented charm and beauty. Devas realised that Devi Kaushiki decided to reside at the top of Himalayas. Two Danavas named Chanda and Munda, the followers of their Masters Shumbha and Nishumbha of the lineage of Hiranyakasipu, happened to vision Kaushiki Devi on the Himalayas and were completely taken aback at her extraordinary magnificence.They hurried up to their Masters and conveyed to them of their greatest discovery of Devi Kausiki. They said that their Masters had no doubt achieved the most precious possessions of the Universe like the Iravata Elephant, Ucchaiswa Horse, Parijata Tree, Hamsa (Swan) Viman, Maha Padma Nidhi of Kubera, Kinjilkini called Kamal from Samudra Deva, Kanchanashraavi named Umbrella from Varuna Deva, the most valuable Ratha or Chariot from the Foremost Prajapati, Maranaprada Shakti of Lord Yama, the most potent ‘Pasha’ of Varuna Deva, all the richest ‘Ratnas’ or jewels of Samudra Deva and the ‘Uttariya and Vastra’ (clothes) sanctified by ‘Vahni’ (Flames) of Agni Deva; But without possessing the Rarest ‘Stree Rathna’ or the Most Invaluable Jewel of a Woman was visioned by Chanda and Munda would pale into insignificance before that prized possession! When Chanda and Munda described so much about the ‘Stree Ratna’, Shumbha and Nishumbha sent an able emissary called Sugreeva to Devi Kausiki to convince her about their unique qualities of proven bravery and capability.Devi replied: What ever had been said was indeed correct, since the two great brothers were the mightiest warriors in the Trilokas, but she had a ‘Pratigna’ or Vow viz.: Whosoever could win me over in a battle, crush my pride and equalise my Shakti would be my Master; now, let either Shumbh or Nishumbh try their luck and take on me in the duel and why delay further? As the emissary told Devi in great anger that let alone Shumbha or Nishumbha but even he could take her by hair and present her before his Masters, as Devi replied coolly that it was not proper to harm an emissary and as such he would better convey what she had said to his Masters.

Enraged by this arrogance of Devi, Shumbh instructed Dhumralochan to bring her by hook or crook. The latter ran up to Devi Ambika with a view to humble her, but by her mere ‘Hunkaar’ sound, the Demon got turned into ash; his huge army of soldiers came to action as they shot arrows, a variety of objects like Shulas and Shaktis and despatched horses, elephants and chariots. The Carrier of Ambika, named Kesari (Lion) got provoked with anger and with an earth-shaking roar, jumped out in lakhs of Forms and tore the bodies of soldiers apart into pieces. Shumbha went into white rage with biting lips as Dhumralochana was turned into ash and his large army of front ranking soldiers was destroyed; he ordered Chanda and Munda to march a huge army and drag ‘that woman’ tied up by her long hairs and present her before him. When Chanda Mundas led an ocean-like ‘Chaturanga Bala’ or the Four Divisioned army comprising Charioteers, Elephants, Horses and Foot Soldiers adept in offensive warfare with high skills of military power, they all witnessed a grand and lonely female figure sporting a mischievous smile on the mountain top.From the smile of Devi’s face, there was a sudden transformation of her skin to black, her eyes became red, her teeth got protrusive and her tongue was elongated. This appalling figure of Devi jumped from the mountain top along with the roaring Lion, creating lakhs of such figures all over, and playing one elephant against another, one horse against another and one chariot against another, breaking heads, and turning the battle field into streams of blood and disfigured bodies without heads of many, limbs of several and carcasses of lakhs of dead animals. As the ocean-like army of committed soldiers was massacred, both Mundasura and Chandasura rushed towards Ambika Devi, one raining away strings of ‘Astras’ and another flinging sharp weapons at mighty speed simultaneously, She threw around illusionary meshes which placed both of them into straight-jackets and with  powerful blows smashed their heads; the ferocious Devi took the broken heads of the Asura brothers into her hands and laughed so violently that thundered the Earth and Sky, thus attaining the memorable epithet of Chamundi.

The desperate Shumbha and Nikumbha ordered that the entire reserve army be marched with Udhayudh leading eighty six core Group of Commanders, Kambu Daitya with eighty four, Kotiveerya with fifty, Dhumravamsajat with hundred Group Commanders, each of them being equal to the combined efforts of Devas who ran away once before as they could hardly defend Indra’s Chair. Noticing the desperate effort of the Danava brothers, Parama Devas including Brahma, Shiva, Vishnu, Kartikeya and Indra collected their respective Shaktis; Brahma flew by his Hamsa Vahana (Swan) along with his Brahmani Shakti, Vishnu by Garuda as also Varaha Shakti, Narasimha Shakti etc. Devi Chandika asked Shiva to warn the Shumbha and Nishumbha brothers to end up the war even at this stage and make a retreat to Patala and leaving Swarga. But the highly arrogant brothers heckled at Maheswara and there was no way but to return to the battle field. Brahma utilised Brahmani Shakti to pour forceful waterfalls from his Kamanadalu; Maheswari Shakti through Tri-Shulas, Vaishnavi Shakti through innumerable ‘Chakras’, Kaumari Shakti through Shulas, Indra by Vajra, Varahi Shakti by Damshras, Naarasimha Shakti by the help of sharp nails etc. The highly notorious core Group commanders were thus destroyed without trace.

Raktabija, the sister’s son of Shubha and Nishumbha Brothers had the boon of creating as many Raktabija Danavas as the blood drops of each new body. Devi Ambika desired Chamundi to lap up the blood even before fresh Raktabijas were born. But there was a mismatch in the blood drops and the instant creation of further Danavas and hence Devi decided to extend her tongue so farther that finally blood drops dried up and Raktabija met his termination.Both Devas and Munis witnessed this strange happening and were mesmerised as to how Devi Ambika tackled the tricky situation!

When even the invincible Raktabija got killed despite his crafty tricks, Shumbha and Nishumbha came face to face against Devi. Both the brothers rained arrows on her while she poured heavy waterfall-like Astras from the clouds and kept the brothers at dismay. Suddenly, Nishumbh hit the head of Devi’s lion on his head. Devi retaliated like a lightning and used an ‘Astra’ named ‘Kshurapra’, and destroyed his sword; he used a Shakti while Devi despatched a double Shakti. He threw a ‘Shula’ against her but she shielded it with her ‘Mushtighaath’ (grasp of her grip). He threw at Devi his mace and she responded it with her Trishul. Losing further patience, Devi Ambika finally felled Nishumbha on the ground with a torrential knock of her arrows. As Nishumbh fell down, Shumbha expanded his body all over the sky assuming eight hands with a variety of potent arms and approached her like a flash. That was the time when Ambika sounded her conchshell as though the ultimate time had arrived to script the end of Shumbha. In the most ferocious form of Kaali, Devi Ambika jumped up sky high and as she came down with a thud and as Shumbhasura released his final Astra called ‘Ugradeepti’ emitting flames and heat which was controllled by her ‘Maholka’ Astra. Then Devi said: ‘you ‘Duratma’, you have still not realised my Power. This is all my Creation; I am the Cause, I am the Doer and I am the Act; you are a part of my scheme; never think high of you; your time of death is ticking!’

As she was saying this, Shumbhasura reached to her like a flash and tried to jump at her but she slapped him so hard that he tumbled down. She pierced her Shula right into his heart and he fell on to earth with a thud as there was a quake and Rivers and Oceans overflowed and mountains quivered momentarily. But soon there was a clear sky, good omens appeared, there were pleasant rains of flowers, Apsaras danced to their glory, Gandharvas sang melliflous hymns in praise of Devi, Trimurthis exclaimed that truth was vindicated, Devas led by Indra fell into raptures with joyful tears in their eyes and Maharshis and Yogis predicted the arrival of a propitious era here again.

Extremely gratified by the eulogies of Devas, Maha Devi assured unremitting support to Devas as and when there would be a need besides saving the virtuous and punishing the guilty as an integral part of Her scheme of activities. She stated that in the course of Vivaswata Manvantara, She would be born again as Vindhyachalavasini and kill Vaipachitta named Danavas; while She would eat the Rakshasas at that time, She would be known as ‘Raktadantika’ as Her teeth would look like blood-red ‘Dadimi Kusuma’. Some hundred years hence, Munis would make Group Prayers for her as there would be severe drought and famine of water and Munis could percieve her by her red eyes alone as ‘Shataakshi’ since She woud be ‘Ayoni janita’ or born on Her own. As there would be no rains for long time, She utilised Her own Physique and generated food grains and vegetables to sustain humanity to be acclaimed as ‘Shakambhari’ and assuming a frightful form at Himalayas killed a very treacherous Demon called Durgama. When Muniganas would pacify her with their prayers, She would be popular as Bhima Devi.When another ‘Mahasura’, called Aruna would torment Trilokas some time later, She would assume the form of Six-legged ‘Bhramaras’ (Bees) in countless numbers and annihilate the Asura and his companions.

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager, India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India The author can be contacted at