Kanyakumari: The Cult of the Virgin [2005]

Devi Bhakta

Kanyakumari has a lovely legend, which I thought I'd share in case any members are interested. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the geography of India, Kanyakumari is the southernmost tip of the subcontinent, and this form of Devi is its personification:

A beautiful young maiden goddess, Punyakshi, lived in a village on that southern tip of India. She wanted to be Shiva's bride, but the gods were opposed to her wishes, because only as a virgin did she possess the power (shakti) to defeat the demons who were plaguing the Earth.

So the gods set a series of impossible hurdles -- Shiva could only marry her if he paid the bridal price of a piece of sugarcane without rings, a betel leaf without veins and a mango without a seed. However, Punyakshi's desire for union with Shiva was very strong, and by her fervent prayer, Shiva was able to conjure up the impossible gifts and win her hand.

So the gods laid down a further condition, telling Punyakshi, "If Shiva wants to marry you, he must leave his abode [the Himalayas, in far northern India] when the sun sets and reach your village [in southernmost India] before the sun rises.

So Shiva mounted his bull at sunset, and went galloping toward the South, making incredible time. Seeing that he was going to easily meet their condition, the gods played a trick on Shiva -- they made all of the roosters in India crow in the middle of the night, when Shiva was only halfway to Punyakshi. Believing that dawn was breaking, Shiva thought he'd failed the condition, turned around heartbroken, and went home.

When Punyakshi learned of the divine deception, her fury knew no bounds. She kicked over the pots of food prepared for her wedding celebration -- and they turned into the colored sands found on the southern shores of India to this day. Several demons offered to marry her instead and satisfy her longings, but she became enraged at their audacity and tore out their hearts.

She then stood on the seashore beside her village, facing the sea, and vowed not to move until she was reunited with her Shiva at the end of time. This is how she is portrayed in the image I've posted -- and in all depictions of her as Kanyakumari, the Divine Maiden.

The scholar Devdutt Patatnaik observes, "The cult of the virgin is popular in many parts of India. It is believed that when a woman does not enjoy the company of husband and children, her creative energy bottles up inside her and becomes destructive. This bottled energy is feared and hence worshiped."

Well -- that's not very politically correct, is it? Anyone care to comment? Discuss?


I asked one of our senior member, his remark is : you find out about the kumari. I came upon sutra 13 of Siva Sutra which reads : IcchA Saktir umA KumAri.

Commentary given: The eternal state is his whose mind has ascended by Yoga the Supreme BhairavatA [an aspect of Siva]. To that Yogin the energy of desire comes by degrees, that energy is called ParAbhattArikA {Supreme Queen]. She is known as the 'unmarried' [Kumari]. As Sport, she creates the universe from SadAsiva to the earth [36 tattvas]; hence she is kumAri.

or she destroys [mArayate] the ground [ku] of the great illusion [hence she is kumAri]. KumAri is enjoyer of everything. KumAri is not to be enjoyed by the Yogin who is the Bhairava himself, who can enjoy everything [except kumAri] as she is one with the enjoyer. KumAri is umA, she who has renouncedd all attachment and is chiefly devoted to the Lord. Such is the IcchAsakti in Yogins; this is the easy path discovered by the great teachers [anuttaradesikas]"

IcchA Saktir umA KumAri.
1] as in Siva Sutra [KsemarAja] : The will power of the yogi who is in communion with Siva is UmA [splendour of Siva] who is KumAri.

2] In BhAskararAya's Commentary :The energy of desire is UmA, the Unmarried.

Related topics :Kumari Pooja

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