Indian Mythology (by ApamNapat)

Birth of the Maruts

Tales of Indra


This tale is from [Bh.P.6.18].

One evening, Diti, the mother of the Daityas, was absorbed in her thoughts. As she recollected the many instances in which Indra and the Devas had killed her sons, by means fair and foul, she was filled with indignation.

Her husband Kashyapa returned from his daily rituals and found his wife in an angry mood. She asked him, "How is it that despite producing powerful sons, who undergo many penances and obtain boons to increase their might, they are ultimately slain by the Devas? How is it that they are able to succeed, led as they are by the weak minded Indra, who delights in lowly pleasures?"

"It is no mystery," said Kashyapa, "Indra and the Devas are victorious, because they are dear to Naryana. He always comes to their aid, and your sons cannot do anything as long as their half-brothers have the friendship of Lord Vishnu."

"It is true that Vishnu always aids the Devas. However, the power of penance is stronger. If you truly love me, grant me a son who shall be the slayer of Indra. I shall know no peace as long as that evil-minded leader of the Adityas is living!", pleaded Diti.

Kashyapa was in a quandary. While he had no great love for Indra, who was not exactly the model of virtue and rectitude, he fancied the sons of Diti even less. The order of the universe would be preserved only if the Devas were victorious, and for that to happen Indra must not die.

"You shall certainly have that boon. However you must observe a holy ritual while you are carrying this child. If you fulfill the conditions of this ritual, you will bear a mighty son who shall be the slayer of Indra," said Kashyapa.

"What is this ritual?", enquired Diti. "No matter how difficult the conditions for this penance, I shall observe them diligently. The desire for revenge shall provide me with the strength to complete this undertaking".

"Listen carefully," said her husband. "You must perform this ritual for a whole year. During this time, you must not harm any creature. You may not curse anyone, or tell a lie. You must not trim either your nails or hair. You must not touch anything that is unclean. You must not bathe by immersing yourself in water. Anger should also be under complete control. You must not speak to unworthy persons. You must always wear clean clothes, and you should eat anything that has previously been eaten by someone else. Eating meat is entirely forbidden. You must not drink water by taking it up in your hand. You must not go out at dawn or dusk, or without your hair being dressed properly.

"You must not sleep with your head to either north or west. You may not sleep without washing your legs, nor are you allowed to sleep with wet legs. You must always sleep alone, and must not sleep at either dawn or dusk.

"You must worship the household cow, Brahmanas, and the Goddess Laxmi before you eat in the morning. You must also worship those women whose husbands are still alive. You must also worship me, your husband.

"If you observe this Vrata (ritual/fast/penance), known as Pumsvana for a whole year, the son born then shall be the slayer of Indra, and lead his brothers to victory."

Diti began observing the ritual starting from the same day. She obeyed her husband's directions diligently and in due course of time, she conceived the child that she wanted.

Meanwhile, Indra came to know of the plan of his step-mother. He disguised himself as a Brahmana boy, and became a servant in Diti's household. He patiently waited for an opportunity to disrupt her penance.

As fate would have it, Diti found herself excessively tired one evening. Without remembering the conditions specified by her husband, she fell asleep at dusk, without washing her legs and ritually cleaning herself.

With the help of his tantric power, Indra shrunk himself to a tiny size and entered her womb. With the help of his weapon Vajra, he began slicing up the golden-hued embryo being nourished there. As he sliced it up into seven pieces, all the pieces started crying in pain. He then called out, "Ma-Ruda!" (lit. "Don't cry!"), and sliced up each piece into seven pieces each.

By the grace of Vishnu, despite being split into forty nine pieces, the embryo did not die. When the time came, Diti was delivered of forty-nine children called the Maruts.

As Diti had failed to observe the Pumsvana ritual correctly, they did not kill Indra, and in a perverse turn of events (at least from Diti's perspective), they became the followers of Indra. Typically they are said to be fifty in number (for Indra is also included in the count).

The ritual known as Pumsvana, is to be observed by all women who desire powerful and virtuous offspring.


Last Modified At: Sun Jul 31 03:38:37 2005