This Is How Mahishasura’s Fasting Costed The God
Image Credit: Mahishasura fasting, Image Source:

The festival of Durga Puja narrates the victory of good over evil, i.e., Goddess Durga over the demon king Mahishasura. Before the final battlefield was open to both, there were several backstories with fascinating anecdotes. As we gear up to welcome one of the biggest Hindu festivals, it's time to refresh our memories about Mahishasura. We all have seen the demon king being worshipped alongside the goddess. Many of us might have pondered why he is getting treated with veneration. While searching for similar answers, I came across the chronicle narrating how Mahishasura's fasting cost the gods almost their lives. 

In Hindu Puranas, Mahishasura or Mahishan is a demon. Goddess Shakti adopted the Durga form, among many others, to combat and slay him. But behind his such unconquerable might, lied a painstaking penance which included fasting for years. There are several narratives which tell us how fasting has been used as a means and tools to gain control over mind, body and soul and manifest superpowers as divine boons. 

The Vamana Purana, Devi Bhagavatam, and Skanda Purana all tell the tale of Mahishasura's birth. The reason for the demon's moniker, Mahishasura, is that the monster had a head of buffalo, and Mahisha is the word for buffalo (male). Asura means demon. Often, he is referred to as the 'shape-shifting' demon. He was Rambha and demon princess Shyamala's son. 

The genesis of power hunger

Mahishasura's ambition to rule all creation as the most powerful entity started in his childhood. He fostered animosity toward the Devas and desired to overthrow them. He often fantasised about becoming mightier than the gods. He tried vanquishing the gods but couldn't withstand their united strength.  

Setting on a tough Tapasya with unyielding fasting

The demon king realised the way to make his wish into a reality he has to appease Lord Brahma, the granter of boons. Thus, he set on a formidable Tapasya or penance. What started with meditation slowly grew into strict fasting. There came the point when he stopped eating and drinking anything. And he kept praying to appease Brahma. 

He started a protracted penance by standing under a tree on one foot. After many years, Mahishasura developed incredible power that swept all over the realms. It was so strong that Lord Brahma could feel it, and he was moved by his ardent devotion. He arrived where the Asura was fasting.

Meditation, Image Source:

Fasting triggered devastation  

Mahishasura opened his eyes, sensing the Lord's presence. Invoking blessing, Brahma gestured for the Asura to ask anything he desired. "I want to become immortal," Mahishasura retorted. Brahma disagreed, reminding him that everything is born to die, and thus it is impossible. The sly Mahishasura tweaked his immortality boon and requested Lord Brahma that he should be immune to death by man, demons, gods or any other beings. No woman could ever kill him; he was sure of it. Lord Brahma remarked: "So it will be."

Thanking Lord Brahma for this boon and armed with such enormous abilities at his disposal, the buffalo-headed demon unleashed wraths on heaven and earth. He became invincible, and no god, beast or man could kill or stop him. He started slaying gods one by one. 

Performing penance by abstaining from food and drinks can generate immense energy for the practitioner. The power of fasting is clearly mentioned in our Puranas, mythologies, and ancient scriptures. It pleases the ultimate divine or almighty and grants boons by them. 

That is how Mahisasura got the boon of immortality, and the rest is history.