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KAIṬABHA(कैटभ)


  • 1) General information.
    Kaiṭabha was the brother of Madhu, an Asura (demon). These two brothers are known in the Purāṇas as Madhu-Kaiṭabhas.
    2) Origin.
    In the Purāṇas, two stories slightly different from each other, occur about the birth of Madhu and Kaiṭabha. One story occurs in [Devī Bhāgavata, Skandha 10] and the other in [Mahābhārata, Śānti Parva]. In [Devī Purāṇa, Chapter 1], it is stated as follows:-- In the beginning there was no earth or any other planet. There was only water. Mahāviṣṇu slept on the surface of the water. From the navel of Mahāviṣṇu the stalk of a lotus grew up and there was a lotus flower at the end of the stalk. Brahmā was born in the lotus flower. Brahmā stayed in the flower in deep meditation reciting the Vedas. Ear-wax flowed out from both the ears of Mahāviṣṇu. From the ear-wax two Asuras Madhu and Kaiṭabha were born. The following occurs in the [Mahābhārata, Śānti Parva, Chapter 348] about the birth of Madhu- Kaiṭabhas. A lotus flower grew up from the navel of Mahāviṣṇu and Brahmā was born in the flower. In the flower there were two drops of water created by Mahāviṣṇu. One drop was as sweet as honey and from that drop was born the Asura Madhu with the attributes of tamas (darkness). The other drop was hard and from it Kaiṭabha was born with the attribute of Rajas (activity).
    3) Madhu-Kaiṭabhas’ acquiring boons.
    Madhu-Kaiṭabhas were born in water, grew up in water and walked on the surface of water, haughty and arrogant. They began to think about how the big flood of water came into existence. Then Devī appeared before them and taught them the mantra or incantation of Vāgbīja (origin of logos). Reciting this mantra, Madhu and Kaiṭabha worshipped Devī for thousand years. Devī appeared and asked them what they wished. They wanted the boon that death should befall them only as they desired. Devī granted them the boon. After this they became haughtier because of the boon, and lived in the water playing with the creatures in water having nobody to confront them [Devī Bhāgavata, Skandha 1].
    4) The theft of the Vedas.
    Madhu Kaiṭabhas saw Brahmā lying in the lotus flower reciting the four Vedas which he had created. They caught hold of all the Vedas and went to Pātāla, (the nether world) and hid themselves there. Brahmā grew sad at the loss of the Vedas and followed Madhu-Kaiṭabhas, who began to attack Brahmā. At this Brahmā became terribly afraid of the Asuras and ran to Mahāviṣṇu who was lying in a deep sleep of contemplation. Brahmā praised him. Mahāviṣṇu woke up. [Devī Bhāgavata, Skandha 10].
    5) The death of Madhu and Kaiṭabha.
    According to the request of Brahmā, Mahāviṣṇu confronted Madhu and Kaiṭabha. Madhu engaged Viṣṇu in fighting while Kaiṭabha took rest and when Madhu became tired, Kaiṭabha engaged Viṣṇu in fighting. Thus the fight went on for a long time and Viṣṇu became tired of continuous fight. Viṣṇu understood that owing to the boon given by Devī the Asuras would die only if they wished for death, and that no body could kill them. So Viṣṇu began to meditate on Devī, who said “It would never be possible for you to kill Madhu and Kaiṭabha because of my boon. They could be killed only by deceit. So you may kill them deceitfully”. Hearing these words Mahāviṣṇu approached the Asuras and said to them. “I am much pleased with you. So you may ask for any boon.” Hearing this they laughed and said that they were more powerful than Viṣṇu and that he might ask of them any boon. Taking that opportunity Mahāviṣṇu said “Oh ! powerful persons. I ask you to grant me this boon. Give me the boon to kill you.” This request shook them. They were willing to be killed at any place except water. They thought that Viṣṇu would not be powerful enough to kill them. Mahāviṣṇu instantly raised his thighs which were enlarged to a great extent over the water as solid earth seeing which the Asuras enlarged their bodies to the extent of a thousand yojanas. But Mahāviṣṇu enlarged his thighs further, caught hold of Madhu and Kaiṭabha, laid them on his thighs and cut off their heads with his discus. All the surface of the sea was covered with the medas (fat) of these Asuras. This medas of Madhu and Kaiṭabha collected itself into a lump and became the earth. So the earth got the name ‘Medinī’. As the earth was the fat of the Asuras it was not fit for food. [Devī Bhāgavata, Skandha 1].
    6) The so of Madhu-Kaiṭabhas.
    A horrible son named Dhundhu was born to Madhu-Kaiṭabhas. He lived under the sand in a wilderness called Ujjālakam. A King of the Ikṣvāku family named Kuvalayāśva killed Dhundhu. So Kuvalayāśva got the name Dhundhumāra. See under Dhundhu. [Mahābhārata, Vana Parva, Chapter 202]. (Khara and Atikāya are the rebirths of Madhu and Kaiṭabha. See under Atikāya).
     
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