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Mohini

the female avatar of Vishnu
The divine femme fatale of Hindu mythology, Mohini is described to have enchanted gods, demons and sages alike.

Mohini (Sanskrit: मोहिनी, Mohinī) is the only female avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu. She is portrayed as a femme fatale, an enchantress, who maddens lovers, sometimes leading them to their doom. Mohini is introduced into the Hindu mythology in the narrative epic of the Mahabharata. Here, she appears as a form of Vishnu, acquires the pot of Amrita (an elixir of immortality) from thieving asuras (demons), and gives it back to the devas (gods), helping them retain their immortality.

QuotesEdit

 
...Mohini angrily demanded the head of his son. Rukmangada's son readily agreed to keep the word of his father and put his head on the block. In the nick of time Vishnu appeared and saved Rukmangada's son. He blessed the king and all the inhabitants of his kingdom. - Maithily Jagannathan
  • The king [Rukmangada] forgot his responsibilities as a ruler and spent his time with Mohini. He obeyed her wishes in all respects except one, and that was in breaking the Ekadashi fast. Mohini forced him repeatedly, in desperation the king agreed to grant any wish of hers except the breaking of his fast. Mohini angrily demanded the head of his son. Rukmangada's son readily agreed to keep the word of his father and put his head on the block. In the nick of time Vishnu appeared and saved Rukmangada's son. He blessed the king and all the inhabitants of his kingdom.
    • Maithily Jagannathan in: "South Indian Hindu Festivals and Traditions", p. 57.

Seven secrets of VishnuEdit

 
Mohini is the female form of Vishnu. She is an enchantress, an alluring damsel, a temptress. But she is not a nymph, or Apsara, such as Menaka, Rambha and Urvashi, renowned in Hindu mythology for their ability to seduce sages and demons....
 
Aiyanar - ...From that union of Shiva and Mohini is born Hari-Hara Suta, the son of Vishnu and Shiva, a child who possesses the ascetic qualities of Shiva , hence refuses to marry, as well as the warrior qualities of Vishnu, hence is ever willing to defend the society. In Tamil Nadu this warrior is called Aiyanar.
 
Vishnu takes the form of Mohini and appears before the Devas and the Asuras. She is so beautiful that everyone is overwhelmed with desire. It is said that Shiva, having consumed Halahal, was about to retreat to his mountains abode when he sees Mohini...

Devdutt Pattanaik in: Seven secrets of Vishnu, Westland, 2011

  • Mohini's clothes and hairstyle are of a woman though the image is identified as Vishnu, the male householder form of God. The parrot and lotus flower in his hand indicates his close association with Kama, the god of love. Mohini is the female form of Vishnu.
    • in: p. 2.
  • Mohini is the female form of Vishnu. She is an enchantress, an alluring damsel, a temptress. But she is not a nymph, or Apsara, such as Menaka, Rambha and Urvashi, renowned in Hindu mythology for their ability to seduce sages and demons. Mohini stands apart because she is identified as Vishnu and Vishnu is conventionally visualized as a male. Mohini is his female form.
    • In: p. 3.
  • A fundamental theme in Indian metaphysics is the existence of two realities: material reality and spiritual reality. Material reality is tangible reality that can be perceived through the senses. An Apsara enchants to distract humanity from spiritual reality and entrap all in material reality. Mohini enchants ...
    • In: p. 3.
  • Material reality is represented using female form while spiritual reality is represented using male form. Mohini is female in form but male in essence, unlike Apsaras who are totally female. Both enchant, but their intentions are different.
    • in: p. 3.
  • Shiva needs to open his eyes to material reality. He needs to be seduced And so, Vishnu takes the form of an enchantress. He becomes Mohini and dances before Shiva. Shiva is compelled to open his eyes and look at Mohini. He recognises Mohini is Vishnu. She is spiritual reality cloaked in material reality. She is Vishnu playing with Prakriti and Maya. She is Vishnu in full control of time and space and subjective realities. Immersed in Brahman, she is inviting spiritual reality to enter her playground, rangabhoomi, and join the game of material reality, theleela.
    • in: p. 35.
  • Vishnu takes the form of Mohini and appears before the Devas and the Asuras. She is so beautiful that everyone is overwhelmed with desire. It is said that Shiva, having consumed Halahal, was about to retreat to his mountains abode when he sees Mohini. From that union of Shiva and Mohini is born Hari-Hara Suta, the son of Vishnu and Shiva, a child who possesses the ascetic qualities of Shiva , hence refuses to marry, as well as the warrior qualities of Vishnu, hence is ever willing to defend the society. In Tamil Nadu this warrior is called Aiyanar.
    • in: p. 79.
  • At first glance, this story of how Mohini tricks the Asuras and gives the Amrita to the Devas seems like a trickster story. The demons are duped by a damsel. Since the Asuras are villains, one is told, they deserve being cheated so. But this is a simplistic and incorrect understanding of the tale. One must remember that the Devas and Asuras are half brothers, children of Brahma who, like Vishnu, is a form of God.
    • in: p. 83.
  • Devas are afraid losing what they have. Asuras are afraid of not having what Devas possess. Mohini chooses to give Amrita [nectar] only to the distracted Devas not because they are more worthy but to show how even taking away the fear of death of losing what they have does not take away fear of losing material things.
    • in: p. 84.
  • Conflict between two forces [Devas and Asuras] is a recurring theme in Hindu mythology. One conflict is that between material and spiritual reality, between the hermit and the nymph between Shiva and Mohini. The other is within material reality, between the Devas and the Asuras.
    • in: p. 85.

Tales From Indian ClassicsEdit

 
Bhasmasura looked at Mohini. She was so beautiful that he fell in love with her immediately.
 
That is not swearing. Take the solemn oath, touching your head with your right hand. Then I will marry you. - **Mohini to Bhasmasura.

Hindu mythology tale in: Tales From Indian Classics, Children's Book Trust, 1990, p. 51 to 56

  • Bhasmasura was a wicked and greedy person. He wanted to be a powerful king. But he was neither strong nor brave. He knew he could not wage wars or defeat other kings. Bhasmasura, therefore, wished to obtain some magic powers. He decided to worship Lord Shiva and ask for such powers. Bhasmasura went to a dense jungle. There, he selected a quiet place under a huge tree and settled down to worship Shiva. His prayer lasted a long time. At last, Lord Shiva appeared before Bhasmasura.
  • My Lord, you must now allow me to test the power you have given me.
  • So Shiva ran for his life. Bhasmasura ran after Shiva. Shiva ran over hills and mountains, crossed rivers and passed through thick jungles. But Bhasmasura was close behind him, with his right hand raised ready to touch Shiva and reduce him to ashes. Shiva needed help....Shiva prayed to Lord Vishnu to save his life. Vishnu appeared before him.
  • Did you see Shiva running this way? He was just in front of me. But then he somehow suddenly disappeared Where did he go?
  • My Lord, you look tired. Take a little rest before you start chasing Shiva again. Sit her in the cool shade. I shall fan you. Then you will feel better.
    • Mohini, looking with her lovely eyes intently to Bhasmasura
  • Who are you?How did you come here?
  • I am Mohini. I live in this jungle with my parents. We always help those who pass this way You look hungry. Can I go and bring some fruits for you?
  • No, don’t go away from me. Your presence is the best food for me. I love you Mohini. Will you marry me?
  • How can I marry You may have a number of wives already.
  • All right then please swear that you will not take another wife.
  • I swear that I will not take another wife, if you marry me.
  • Bhasmasura rose up and touched his head with his right hand.
    • In. p. 54.
  • The moment Bhasmasura touched his head, he was reduced to ashes. Bhasmasura was no more. Shiva came out of his hiding place and looked at Mohini. He was grateful to her and embraced her. In a flash, Mohini vanished, smiling at Shiva, and in her place stood Lord Vishnu.
    • In: p. 56.

The Man Who Was a Woman and Other Queer Tales from Hindu LoreEdit

 
Together they [Devas and Asuras] set up a giant churn, using Meru, king of the mountains, as the spindle and Vasuki, king of the serpents, as the churning rope. Garuda, king of the birds and Vishnu's mount carried the churn to the ocean. It would have sunk but at the crucial moment, Akupara, king of the turtles and an incarnation of Vishnu, came to the rescue. He held the churn on his mighty back. The Daityas then caught the head end of the serpent king while the Adityas caught the neck end of the serpent king and began churning.
 
Various scenes from the churning episode - churning went on for eons. Finally, the milky ocean coagulated .and revealed its secrets...at long lost emerged a pot containing the elixir of immortality – Amrita. The Daityas grabbed the pot and ran away. The Adityas appealed to Vishnu, who took the form of the celestial enchantress.
 
A group of sages performed rituals in the forest and believed themselves to be as powerful as the gods. To humble them, Shiva and Vishnu entered this forest in the guise of a handsome beggar called Bhikshatan and a beautiful maid called Mohini. The sages and their wives saw the couple and were overwhelmed with desire. The men ran after Mohini while the women chased Bhikshatan....
 
When Vishnu transformed into Mohini, the celestial enchantress, Shiva was so overwhelmed with desire that he abandoned his consort Parvati and ran after Mohini until he had shed his seed. From this seed was born the mighty monkey god Hanuman, who the gods decreed would vanquish demons and even death. As foretold Hanuman helped Rama rescue his wife Sita from the clutches of the Rakshasa king Ravana.

John Dececco, Devdutt Pattanaik in: The Man Who Was a Woman and Other Queer Tales from Hindu Lore, Routledge, 9 January 2014

  • At no point do Devas forget that Mohini is Vishnu. The word Mohini, meaning delusion personified, comes from the root ‘moha'—“enchantment”. A weak and unenlightened mind, embodied in the Daitya, fails to discover the truth of Vishnu and is seduced by Mohini. Thus another attribute of Hindu demons in their inability to recognize the divine. This the scriptures, state. Their subterranean abode is even farther away- when compared to the world of humans – from the celestial realms of knowledge and truth.
    • In: p. 119.
  • Together they [Devas and Asuras] set up a giant churn, using Meru, king of the mountains, as the spindle and Vasuki, king of the serpents, as the churning rope. Garuda, king of the birds and Vishnu's mount carried the churn to the ocean. It would have sunk but at the crucial moment, Akupara, king of the turtles and an incarnation of Vishnu, came to the rescue. He held the churn on his mighty back. The Daityas then caught the head end of the serpent king while the Adityas caught the neck end of the serpent king and began churning.
    • In: p. 119.
  • The churning went on for eons. Finally, the milky ocean coagulated .and revealed its secrets...at long lost emerged a pot containing the elixir of immortality – Amrita. The Daityas grabbed the pot and ran away. The Adityas appealed to Vishnu, who took the form of the celestial enchantress.
    • In: p. 119.
  • Mohini and approached the Daityas, titillating them with her sensuous walk. “May I serve the divine liquid,” she asked flirtatiously. The Asuras, bewitched by beauty, could not refuse. They gave her the pot. So besotted were they by her sultry smile and her voluptuous figure that they failed to notice she was distributing the Amrita amongst the Adityas. The Daitya Rahu suspected the intentions of this damsel and sat amongst the Adityas as one of them. Just as he was about to take a sip of the elixir, the sun and the moon recognized him and alerted Mohini.
    • In: p. 119.
  • She hurled a discus, cut Rahu's throat, and prevented the divine liquid from entering the Daitya's body. The other Daityas realized Vishnu had duped them. They declared war on the Adityas. Led by Vishnu, the Adityas drove the Daityas to the nether realms. The laying claim over all the treasures that emerged from the ocean of milk, the Adityas rose to the celestial realm where they set up their city, Amravati, the city of the immortals.
    • In: p. 120.
  • A group of sages performed rituals in the forest and believed themselves to be as powerful as the gods. To humble them, Shiva and Vishnu entered this forest in the guise of a handsome beggar called Bhikshatan and a beautiful maid called Mohini. The sages and their wives saw the couple and were overwhelmed with desire. The men ran after Mohini while the women chased Bhikshatan. Some time later, they regained control of their senses and held Bhikshatan and Mohini responsible for the momentary lapse in their reason. Using their magic powers, they drew out of fire, a serpent, a lion, an elephant, and a goblin. Shiva picked up the serpent and wound it round his neck. He flayed the lion and the elephant and wrapped their skins round his body. He then jumped on the goblins' back and began to dance, displaying his divine splendor. The sages watched and realized their folly.
    • In: p. 120-21.
  • When Vishnu transformed into Mohini, the celestial enchantress, Shiva was so overwhelmed with desire that he abandoned his consort Parvati and ran after Mohini until he had shed his seed. From this seed was born the mighty monkey god Hanuman, who the gods decreed would vanquish demons and even death. As foretold Hanuman helped Rama rescue his wife Sita from the clutches of the Rakshasa king Ravana.
    • In: p. 121-22
  • During the Brahmotsavam festivities, when Vishnu's image is bedecked as Mohini, the devotee is presented with the female form of the lord, the incarnation that enchants and deludes the greedy power hungry Asuras and the egotistical sages. The devotee is exhorted to look beyond the appearances that delude (Mohini) into the reality that liberates (Vishnu).
    • In: p. 121.

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