Mani and Malla
Long ago there lived two powerful demons named Mani and Malla. They had acquired
power through penance. And power made them proud. They were brothers and both
gathered a large army of demons. They subjugated other kings and became emperors
of the devil's kingdom. They tyrannized the people, they harassed the gods and
persecuted the holy men. They even threatened Indra, the king of the gods in
heaven. They troubled the rishis and munis whenever they were performing their
sacrifices, and these had to be discontinued. Religion was in danger of total
The question in everybody's mind was, Who will liberate us from these demons?
The rishis decided to appeal to god Vishnu. But Vishnu knew that this was
Shankar's job. So Vishnu took the rishis along to Shankar's Kailas mountain.
Vishnu pleaded with Shankar, "Mahadeva, you must be knowing Mani and Malla, the
two brother demons who after performing austerities had come to get your
blessing. Now they can only be destroyed by you."
"Yes, it's true," said Shankar. "But why such a hurry."
"Lord," Vishnu went on, "They have made life miserable."
Shankar is compassionate by nature. So he had pity on the rishis. He reassured
the rishis, "Do not worry. I shall destroy the demons and re-establish
religion." Shankar dashed his matted hair, and from it a female demon was
created. Her name was Ghritamari (Ghrita = butter, ghee). Shankar entrusted her
with the job of destroying Mani and Malla. She was of great help to Shankar in
the fight. Ganpati was a leading general of the army.
Bhairav and Mhalsa
Sharikar took the form of Bhairav (= terrific, formidable). Parvati became
Shakti (= power), and was named Mhalsa. The divine splendour dwelt in the heart
of Bhairav. The moon became his horse of bright white. Shankar held in his hands
the trisul (trident), the "damaru" (drum shaped like an hour-glass), and a huge
"khanda" (two edged sword).
On pratipada day of the bright half of Margashirsh, Mani came to fight with a
huge army of demons. The battle went on for six days uninterruptedly. At the end
Mani was wounded and fell unconscious. When he recovered consciousness he felt
sorry and began to praise Bhairav who was standing before him. He prayed, "Save
me!" Bhairav told him to ask for a boon, Mani said, "Now let your foot remain on
my head, and let me remain for ever near you." Shankar generously granted this
request and Mani died. Then all the Demons lost courage and fled.
The gods tried to win the friendship of Mani's brother, Malla. But Malla did not
listen to the gods. Instead he stood ready to fight a second war. At the end
Malla too was defeated and like his brother he too begged Shankar for
liberation, and Shankar granted him liberation. After the death of Malla his
five sons also attacked Bhairav. Their names were Kumbh, Suchil, Devgandharva,
Lohargala, and Mahabahu. The day when the war ended was the sixth day of the
bright half of Margashirsh, which became later known as Champashashti.
Shankar gave Mani the privilege of remaining always standing in his presence,
and Malla got "moksha" from his hand. Shankar for ever joined Malla's name with
his own. Thus joining "Malla" and "an" (enemy) became "Mallani" (The enemy of
Malla), which later became "Malhari" (the vanquisher of Malla).
The temple of Khandoba at Jejuri, about 65 kms from Pune, stands in memory of
this battle. Khandoba is the family deity of many people in Maharashtra and
Karnataka. Khandoba had two wives, Mhalsa (hence his name Mhalsakant) and Banai.
The servants of Khandoba are known as "Vaghya". They carry a leather bag tied on
their waist and in the bag they keep "bhandar" or "halad" (turmeric powder)
which they distribute as "angara" or holy ash.