Manasa Devi-The Mother Of Serpents
Manasa Devi is a Hindu goddess and the mother of all species of serpents. In some places of the Indian sub-continent she is also known as the goddess of fertility and affluence. She is mainly worshipped in eastern and western India and Bangladesh. In the past, Manasa was a traditional goddess but she was identified as a scriptural goddess later. As she is the one who controls all the snakes on Earth and she can take away the venoms of snakes, she is called ‘Vishahari’ by many of her devotees.
Appearance Of Manasa
According to Manasa myth, she has four hands and a fair complexion. So, she is called Jagadgouri. Her face is beautiful and pleasant like the moon. She wears clothes having red colour of the morning sun. She has golden ornaments. Her mount is a swan. There are eight snakes around her hands, her crown and her feet
Different Names Of Manasa
As per the Sanatan Hindu texts, she has twelve names. These are Jaratkaru, Jaratkarupriya, Jagadgouri, Manasa, Siddhayogini, Vaishnavi, Nagbhagini, Shaivi, Nageshwari, Astikmata, Vishahari and Mahajnanayuta. So the devotees of Goddess Manasa chant the following sloka to protect themselves from snakes –
Jaratkaaru jagat gowri maanasaa sidda yogini |
vaishnavi naaga bhagini shaivi naageshwari tadhaa ||
Jaratkaaru priyaastheeka maataa visha hareeti cha |
mahaajnaanaa yuthaachaiva saa devii vishwapoojitaa ||
dwadasaithani naamaani poojaa kaallethu yah pateth |
tasya naagabhayam naasthi tasya vamsotbhavasya cha ||
Idam stotram patitvathu muchyathe nathra samsayah |
nagabhithe cha sayane nagagrasthe cha mandire ||
Nagakshate nagadurge naga veshtitha vigrahe |
nityam pateth yatundhrustava nagavargah palayate ||
Nagaushadham bhushanah krutva na bhaveth garuda vahanah |
nagasano nagathalpo mahasiddho bhavennarah ||
जरात्कारू जगत्गौरी मानसा सिद्ध योगिनी |
वैष्णवी नागा भगिनी शैवी नागेश्वरी ताधा ||
जरात्कारू प्रियास्तिका माता विषा हरीति छा |
महाज्ञाना युथाचैव सादेवी विश्वपूजिटा ||
द्वाड़सैयतानी नामानी पूजा कालेतु यह पाटेत |
तस्या नागभयं नास्ति तस्या वंसोतभावस्या छा ||
इदं स्तोत्रम पटीत्वातु मूच्यते नत्रा सँसयाः |
नगभीते छा सायने नाग ग्रस्थे च मन्धिरे ||
नागक्षाते नाग धुर्गे नगा वेष्टिता विग्रहे |
नित्यं पाटेत यतुम द्रुस्त्वा नागवार्गाह फलायते ||
नागौशधाम भूषणः कृत्व न भवेत गरूडा वाहानः |
नागासनो नगतल्पो महासिद्धो भवेनरह ||
Manasa In Devi Bhagavata Purana
The appearance and divine play of goddess Manasa are found in Devi Bhagavata Purana, Mahabharata, Brahma Vaivarta Purana etc Hindu scriptures. But the most authentic stories of Manasa are found in Devi Bhagavata Purana. According to this purana, Manasa is the mind born daughter of Rishi (sage) Kashyapa. It is said that Prajapati Brahma ordered Rishi Kashyapa to initiate a mantra or trick to protect the human beings from snakes. When Rishi began to think about it, a golden-coloured goddess emerged from his mind. As she was born in the ‘Man’ (mind), she was named ‘Manasa’ and ‘Kamrupa.’ In Devi Bhagavata Purana, we get the following sloka-
sa cha kanya bhagavati kashyapasya cha manasi|
tenaiba manasa devi manasa ba cha divyati||
सा चा कन्या भगवती कश्यपश्य चा मानसी|
तेनाबा मनसा देवी मनसा बा चा दिव्यति ||
It is also learnt from Devi Bhagavata Purana that Devi Manasa pleased Lord Krishna with her prayer and she was bestowed with such a boon that she would ever be worshipped by all. It is also said that Lord Krishna worshipped her first. Then Rishi Kashyap worshipped her following Lord Krishna and then all other Rishis (Sages), Nagas, Gandharvas and human beings began to worship her.
Manasa Devi In Brahma Vaivarta Purana
The Brahma Vaivarta Purana narrates that Jaratkaru overslept and missed the time of his morning prayer. The agitated sage threatened to banish Manasa, his wife to the hell for her disobedience. The Sun god interfered in the matter and pacified the sage, praising him as a powerful sage, but Jaratkaru had made up his mind to abandon his wife. Lord Brahma intervened and stated that it would be inappropriate to abandon her, unless he granted her a child. So, Jaratkaru touched Manasa’s abdomen and impregnated her. Then he departed foretelling that Manasa would give birth to a renowned sage.
Manasa Devi In Shaivite Literature
The story of Manasa’s birth in Shaivite literature is quite interesting. Sage Kadru once presented a beautiful idol to Lord Shiva. Seeing the idol, Lord Shiva ejaculated. While the semen touched the idol, a beautiful woman appeared. In fact, that beautiful woman was Manasa Devi. Manasa saw Lord Shiva and wanted to get him as her husband. Then Lord Shiva explained to her that he was her father and the idol was her mother.
Manasa Devi In Mahabharata
In Mahabharata, Manasa is described as a married goddess. Her husband’s name is Jaratkaru. The name of the son of Manasa and Jaratkaru is Astik. When Manasa along with Lord Shiva reached Kailasha (the abode of Lord Shiva), Devi Parvati became agitated and made her (Manasa) blind. Since then Manasa is known as blind goddess.
Manasa in Mangal Kavya
According to Mangal Kavya, Manasa Devi is the mind born daughter of Lord Shiva and the sister of Nagraja (serpent king), Vasuki. As she was born on a Padma (lotus) leaf, she is also called Padmavati. Manasa got the divine knowledge and Samveda from her father, Shiva. So, she was named ‘Shaivi’. As Lord Shiva is both her father and teacher, she learned the Vaishnava mantra ‘’Om Shreem Hreem Kleem Sri Krishnaya Swaha’ and went to the holy place of Puskara to pray to Almighty. Then she was named ‘Vaishnavi’. In Manasa Mangal or Padma Purana, the character of Manasa arouses fear and surprise in our mind.
Poets Of Manasa Mangal Kavya
In Bengali literature, many poets described the character of Manasa in their poetry. The name of Kanahari Dutta, Kshemananda, Vijay Gupta etc. poets can be mentioned here. The characters of Manasa written in Manasa Mangal or Padma Purana are very popular in Bengal. Famous scholar and poet, Kaiser Haq wrote a book in English titled The Triumph of the Snake Goddess combining the conventional Mangalkavyas. The book was published in 2015 from Harvard University Press.
Story Of Chand Sadagar
Chand Sadagar(merchant), one of the prominent characters in the story, refused to offer his obeisance to goddess Manasa. Vishahar, a sage and devotee of Manasa killed six sons of Chand on their wedding night with snake bites. When Lakhindar, the seventh son of Chand, had married Behula, Vishwakarma (the divine architect) made the bride chamber. He made the bride chamber with concrete so that no insect could enter the chamber let alone snake. Inspite of this security, Kaal Nagin (a poisonous serpent) entered Behula Lakhindar’s bride chamber. Lakhindar was bitten by Kaal Nagin and he died. But his (Lakhindar) devoted wife, Behula did not give up hope. To get back her husband’s life from the gods in the Heaven, Behula sailed with her dead husband in a raft. By the grace of gods She reached Heaven and brought her husband back to life. She promised Manasa that she would make her father-in-law offer obeisance to her (Manasa) and she (Behula) kept her promise.
Relics Of Behula- Lakshindar’s Vasar
Relics of Behula-Lakhindar’s Vasar Ghar (Bride Chamber) or Gokul Medh at the village Gokul, 11 kms off Bogura town, Bangladesh still appears to be an archeological site of great importance to the visitors. The researchers say that the archeological structure was built around the 8th century to the 12th century.
Worship Of Manasa Devi
Since the ancient time goddess Manasa is worshipped in Bengal on the Shravan Sankranti (the last day of the Bengali month, Shravan) or Ashari Panchami (the fifth day of the fortnight in Bengali month Ashar) of rainy season. In fact, snakes and other poisonous insects are largely seen in this season. In the past, when the medical science was not developed, snakebite treatment mainly depended on the four ways of mantra, herbals, kriya and daiva. All these treatments were dependent on the grace of goddess Manasa. So, the devotees began to worship goddess Manasa so that they could avoid snake bite. Again in many places Ananta, Vasuki, Padma, Mahapadma, Takshak, Kulir, Karkat and Shankha – these Ashtanagas are also worshipped as the symbols of goddess Manasa.
Manasa Devi In Bengal’s Folk Culture
Manasa Devi is also associated with Bengali folk culture through palagan (Bengali music form which is based on an ancient story or mythology), pattachitra (picture on a canvas), putul nach (puppet show), lokoj mela (folk fair) etc. Many palagans have been composed on the stories related to Devi Manasa. ‘Manasar Bhasan’ is such a palagan which is staged in different places of Bengal during the worship of Manasa. The biggest fair on the occasion of Manasa Puja is arranged at Palashpole of Satkhira, Bangladesh. It is a hundred year old Bengal traditional fair.
Manasa Devi Temple
There are some notable Manasa Devi temples in the Indian sub-continent. In Bangladesh, Goila Manasa Temple (Bijoy Gupter Manasa Mandir), Agoiljhara, Barishal and Manasa Devi Temple, Abhaynagar, Jashore are very famous. In India, the famous Manasa temples are Manasa Devi Temple, Haridwar, Mata Manasa Devi Mandir, Panchkula near Chandigarh, Manasa Devi Temple, Kandra, Jharkhand, Mansa Devi Temple, Mukkamala, West Godavari, Andhra Pradesh, Mansa Devi Temple, Naidupeta, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh Mansa Devi Temple, Tilaru, Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh, Mansa Devi Temple, Dornipadu, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, Mansa Devi Temple, Kanumalapalle, kadapa , Andhra Pradesh, Mansa Devi Temple, Chinadugam, Srikakulam, Andhra Pradesh, Mansa Devi Temple, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, Mansa Devi Temple, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, Mansa Devi Temple, Thurpu Rompidodla, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh, Mansa Devi Temple, Vadluru, West Godavari , Andhra Pradesh etc.
Manasa Puja Vidhi
The worship of Devi Manasa is held in Manasa temples or in family temples. Normal puja (worship) procedures or steps are followed to worship the goddess. The devotees follow the steps of taking Sankalpa (mental preparation) before the worship starts, placing the idol of goddess Manasa on the altar, achmana (rinse of palm and lips with water) Chakshudan or invocation of the deity, visarjan (immersion) etc.
Devotion To Manasa Devi
Through the worship of Manasa Hindu devotees come to know about different types of serpents. Different steps can be taken to avoid the case of snake bites. Hindus believe that the worship of goddess Manasa is one of these steps. The learning of this worship is the master of art of winning serpents. Through this art we can maintain peace in society and bring back the enemy to goodness. So, we should chant a Manasa mantra –
astikasya munermata bhagini-vasukeshtatha|
jaratkarumuneh patni manasadevi namoastute||
अस्तिकास्य मुनेरमाता भगिनी-वसुकेष्ठथा|
जरत्कारमुनेह पत्नी मनसादेवी नमोस्तुते ||
[I bow to goddess Manasa who is the mother of sage Astik, sister of Vasuki, the king of serpents and the wife of sage Jaratkaru.]
By Krishna Das.