Last time we read about a Greek fertility goddess with multiple breasts. We conclude our series of “Goddesses with difference” today with a similar goddess from India, who has nothing to do with fertility as is the popular connotations with similar gods, seen earlier.
According to a legend, King Malayadhwaja of Madurai and her consort Kanchanmala were unable to have children. Once while they were conducting a Putra-kameshti yagna to appease the gods, a three year old child came out of the flames and sat on the lap of Kanchanmala. The girl was actually Goddess Parvati who was answering Kanchanmala’s prayers of a similar boon she had sought in her last birth. The child had three breasts, seeing which the King was a bit disappointed.
|Statue inside the Temple
When the King was feeling sad for having such a daughter, they heard a divine voice which advised them to bring up the daughter like a prince and give her all the training due to a prince, and as and when she casts her eyes on the man, she would marry; the third breast would disappear. The voice also advised them to name the child Tadatagai, meaning, one with irresistible valour. Since the child had fish-like eyes, she was also called Meenakshi. She grew up to be a beautiful woman and a brave warrior. On the death of the King Malayadhwaja, she was appointed the ruler of the Kingdom. After winning many a war, around her region, she embarked on to Mount Kailash, the abode of Lord Shiva. There she managed to vanquish all opposition, till she came face to face with Lord Shiva and as prophesied, she fell in love with him and her third breast was absorbed.
A beautifully carved idol of the goddess can be seen in the Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple close to the modern day Madurai, in Tamil Nadu, Chennai.
Shiva then directed Meenakshi to return home and that he would join her in eight days, when both were married off by Lord Vishnu. According to Sthala Purana, both Shiva and Meenakshi ruled over Madurai for many years as mortals.
The reference to the Meenakshi Amman, the goddess is not depicted as a fertility goddess. This goes on to show that the genesis of this story lies elsewhere. Was it some sort of a deformity on the child born to the King and thus weaving such an elaborate myth around it? Or was it taking a more sympathetic view on children who were born freak? Or was it just something that the sculptor was trying to say to the mortals of future?
Ancient wisdom had its own manifestation, which might seem awkward to a sanitised and scientific mind of the 21st century. But way back, when gods did play an important role in child-birth, the matter was viewed as a divine blessing and not to be cast aside at an orphanage or used as a part of a freak-show for amassing wealth. The myths have their own message and when seen straight, the message is so obvious.
One doesn’t always need a prism to see the seven colours, once you know the existence of it. Or do we?
If anybody has come across any such deity from other cultures, please free to send in the details.
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