Manasa, called as daughter of Shiva in some scriptures is a goddess of snakes, worshipped mainly in Bengal, Jharkhand and other parts of northeastern India, chiefly for the prevention and cure of snakebite. Manasa is the sister of Vasuki, king of Nāgas (snakes).

Manasa
Leader of snakes
Manasa-popular.JPG
Devanagariमनसा
Sanskrit transliterationManasā
Bengali / Hajongমনসা / কাণি দেউও (Kānī Dīyāʊ)
AffiliationRakshasi, Nāga
WeaponSnakes
MountSnake
Personal information
ParentsKadru and Kasyapa
SiblingsVasuki
ConsortJaratkaru (in Mahabharata)

She takes a part of poison from her father Shiva's neck. She is also known by another name, Jartkaru; coincidentally, her husband's name is also Jartkaru. Her son's name is Astika, who was known for stopping Maharaj Janamejaya's Sarpayaga. People worship her for the attainment of Nirvana, fertility, marriage. e.t.c.

OriginsEdit

As per McDaniel, Manasa was originally an Adivasi (tribal) goddess. She was accepted in the pantheon worshipped by Hindu lower caste groups. [1]Bhattacharya and Sen suggest that Manasa originated in South India as a non-Vedic and non-Aryan goddess and is related to the Kannada folk snake-goddess Manchamma.[2] Dimock suggests that though snake worship is found in the Vedas (the earliest Hindu scriptures), Manasa - a human goddess of snakes - has "little basis" in early Hinduism.[3] Bhattacharya suggests another influence on Manasa being the Mahayana Buddhist goddess of poison-cure Janguli. Janguli shares her snake vehicle and her poison-destroyer epithet with Manasa. Manasa is also known as Jaguli. A theory suggests that Janguli may have influenced by the Kirata-giri ("the conqueror of all posions") of the Atharvaveda.[4]

According to Tate, Manasa as Jaratkaru was initially recognized as a daughter of snake Kashyapa and Kadru, the mother of all Nāgas in the Hindu epic Mahabharata.[5][6] According to Bhattacharya, the Jaratkaru of the Mahabharata is not the Manasa popular as snake and for sometime she lived with shiva as his daughter, but was thrown out by him when he recognised her evil nature and came to know that she is not born to him but someone else and her mother a female snake had fooled him to cause harm to him.

IconographyEdit

 
Manasa with Astika on her lap, 10th century Pala bronze from modern-day Bihar.

Manasa is depicted as a woman covered with snakes, sitting on a lotus or standing upon a snake. She is sheltered by the canopy of the hoods of seven cobras. Sometimes, she is depicted with a child on her lap. The child is assumed to be her son, Astika.[7][8]

LegendsEdit

MahabharataEdit

The Mahabharata tells the story of Manasa's marriage. Snake Jagatkāru practised severe austerities and had decided to abstain from marriage. Once he came across a group of men hanging from a tree upside down. These men were his ancestors, who were doomed to misery as their children had not performed their last rites. So they advised Jagatkāru to marry and have a son who could free them of those miseries by performing the ceremonies. snake Vasuki offered his sister Manasa's hand to Jagatkāru. Manasa gave birth to a son, Astīka, who freed his ancestors. Astika also helped in saving the Nāga race from destruction when King Janamejaya decided to exterminate them by sacrificing them in his Yajna, fire offering.[9]

PuranasEdit

 
The goddess Manasā in a dense jungle landscape with snakes.

The Puranas are the first scriptures to speak about her birth. They declare that snake Kashyapa is her father, not Shiva as described in the later Mangalkavyas. Once, when serpents and reptiles had created chaos on the Earth, Kashyapa created the female snake Manasa from his mind (mana) and his sperm. The creator god Brahma made her the presiding deity of snakes and reptiles. Manasa gained control over the earth reptiles, by the power of snake mantras she chanted. Manasa then propitiated the god Shiva, who told her to please the god Krishna she tries hard but Krishna rejects her.[10]

Kashyapa married Manasa to sage Jaratkaru, who agreed to marry her on the condition that he would leave her if she disobeyed him. Once, when Jaratkaru was awakened by Manasa, he became upset with her because she awakened him too late , and so he left her temporarily. On the request of the snake leaders, Jaratkaru returned to Manasa and she gave birth to astika, their son, before deserting his wife again as he suspects her to be an adultress.[10]

Manasa Was DevilEdit

According to Manasa Vijaya, Manasa was born when a statue of girl that had been sculpted by Vasuki's mother was touched by Shiva's seed. Vasuki accepted Manasa as his sister, and granted her charge of the poison that was produced when King Prithu milked the Earth as a cow. When Shiva saw Manasa, she couldn't prove to him that he was her father but still Shiva took Manasa to his home where his wife, Chandi, suspected Manasa of being Shiva's concubine or Mistress, and insulted Manasa. On one occasion, Manasa rendered chandi senseless with a glance of her poison eye. Finally, tired of quarrels between Manasa and Chandi, Shiva deserted Manasa under a tree, and left her with her paramour Neto. [11]

Later, the sage Jaratkaru married Manasa, but her friend chandra ruined Manasa's wedding night. Chandra advised Manasa to wear snake ornaments and then threw a frog in the bridal chamber which caused the snakes to run around the chamber. As a consequence, the terrified Jaratkaru ran away from the house.[12]

 
A scene from Manasa Mangal.

Accompanied by her adviser, Neto, Manasa descended to earth to see human devotees. She was initially mocked by the people but then Manasa forced them to worship her by raining calamity on those who denied her power. She managed to convert people from different walks of life, including the Muslim ruler Khan, but failed to convert Chand Sadagar. Manasa wanted to become a goddess like Lakshmi or Saraswati. To get there, she had to achieve the worship of Chand Sadagar who was extremely adamant and took oath not to look at Manasa. Thus to gain his fear and insecurity, Manasa one by one killed his six sons.

At last Manasa conspired against two dancers of Indra s Court who loved each other, Anirudha and Usha. Anirudh had to take birth as Lakhinder, Chand and Sanaka's seventh son. Usha took birth as Behula and married him. Manasa killed him but Behula floated on water for nine months with the dead body of her husband and finally brought back the lives of the seven sons and the lost prosperity of Chand. At last, he yielded by offering a flower to her with his left hand without even looking at her. This gesture made Manasa so happy that she resurrected all of Chand's sons and restored his fame and fortunes.

WorshipEdit

Generally, Manasa is worshiped with an image of a poinsionous snake. A branch of a cactus plant, a bathroom pot or an earthen snake image is worshiped as her,[7] though images of Manasa in the snake form are worshipped by a small section of people. She is worshiped for protection from and cure of snake bites.

The following of Manasa is in Bengal, where she is ritually worshiped in some temples. The female snake is widely worshiped in the rainy season, when the snakes are most active. Manasa is also a very important fertility devil, especially among the lower castes. She is usually worshiped and mentioned along with a snake called Neto.

In North Bengal, among the Rajbanshis and among the lower-caste Hindus of East Bengal (present-day Bangladesh)too, she is worshiped with great pomp.

Manasa is ceremonially worshiped on Nag Panchami - a festival of snake worship in the Hindu month of Shravan (July–August). Bengali women observe a fast (vrata) on this day and offer milk at snake holes.[13]

Notable templesEdit

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ McDaniel p.148
  2. ^ Dimock 1962, pp. 315-6.
  3. ^ Dimock 1962, pp. 312-3.
  4. ^ Dimock 1962, p. 316-7.
  5. ^ Dimock 1962, pp. 313-4.
  6. ^ Tate, Karen (2005). Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations. CCC Publishing. p. 194. ISBN 1888729112.
  7. ^ a b Wilkins p.395
  8. ^ Chaplin, Dorothea (2007). Mythlogical Bonds Between East and West. READ BOOKS. p. 28. ISBN 9781406739862.
  9. ^ Wilkins p.396
  10. ^ a b Sharma, Mahesh (2005). Tales from the Puranas. Diamond Pocket Books (P) Ltd. pp. 38–40. ISBN 81-288-1040-5.
  11. ^ McLean p. 66
  12. ^ McDaniel p. 149-51
  13. ^ McDaniel (2002) p.55-57
  14. ^ Mukkamala, West Godavari district

ReferencesEdit

  • McDaniel, June (2004). Offering Flowers, Feeding Skulls: Popular Goddess Worship in West Benegal. Oxford University Press, US. p. 368. ISBN 0-19-516790-2.
  • Wilkins, W. J. (2004). Hindu Mythology, Vedic and Puranic (First published: 1882 ed.). Kessinger Publishing. p. 428. ISBN 0-7661-8881-7.
  • McDaniel, June (2002). Making Virtuous Daughters and Wives: An Introduction to Women's Brata Rituals in Bengali Folk Religion. SUNY Press. p. 144. ISBN 0-7914-5565-3.
  • Dimock, Edward C. (1962). "The Goddess of Snakes in Medieval Bengali Literature". History of Religions. 1 (2): 307–321. doi:10.1086/462451. JSTOR 1062059. S2CID 162313578.