Mohini, the enchantress
Mohini Avatar of Lord Vishnu
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Most people are familiar with the ten famous avatars of Lord Vishnu, but there is one more interesting incarnation – Mohini the seductive enchantress – an intoxicating beautiful woman who could blind the senses of men, devas, asuras and even the great Lord Mahadev Shiva himself. Lord Vishnu takes this form of Mohini whenever it is needed to restore tranquility and justice in a confused state of affairs. It is said she is a femme fatale, leading those that covet her with lust to their doom.
The devas (demi-gods) made a pact with the asuras to churning the ocean of milk (samudra mandhan) to obtain amrita (the nectar of immortality). The devas agreed to do so under the orders of Lord Vishnu, who knew they would need amrita in order to win the battle over asuras. But when questioned what to do when the asuras come to claim their share of amrita as they were also involved in the churning process, Lord Vishnu said that he would take care of it and assured the devas not to worry.
The churning of samudra manthan Source: Wikipedia
The devas took possession of all the good things that were given out during the churning of the ocean of milk. Lord Shiva consumed the Halahala poison that was given out during the churning to protect those who were involved in the process. When finally the churning was over and all the amrita was collected in a pot, there came a fierce demand for it from the asuras as they were also a part of the tedious churning.
Lord Vishnu then took the form of Mohini, the seductive enchantress and appeared in front of the devas and asuras. None could escape or resist the mind numbing beauty and appeal of the enchantress Mohini. Mohini took possession of the amrita and assured both the devas and asuras that she would equally distribute the nectar of immortality between them.
Mohini serving amrita to devas and asuras
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Mohini asks the devas and asuras form lines of queues side by side and that she would provide them amrita taking turns from each side of the line. As Lord Vishnu is the great intellect that battles trickery with trickery, his incarnate Mohini provided amrita only to the devas and when it was the turn to serve an asura, she magically turned the content of the pot to water and served it to asuras. An asura named Rahu, got suspicious of Mohini’s activity. So he disguised himself as one of the devas and waited in the line of devas. He received a drop of amrita from Mohini. The sun god Surya and the moon god Chandra understood the trickery of Rahu and intimated this to Mohini. Mohini, in order to stop an asura from having amrita, at once regained the original form of Lord Vishnu. Before the drop of amrita passed through Rahu’s throat, Vishnu severed his head using the sudharsana chakra.
A depiction of Vishnu as Mohini severing Rahu’s head
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This head of Rahu, which had tasted amrita, became an immortal wandering celestial body and since he was ratted out by Sun god Surya and Moon god Chandra, as a revenge, he would devour the sun and moon causing the respective solar and lunar eclipse according to mythology.
Mohini, thus saved the day for the devas by delivering the amrita only to them, with which they had an upper hand over the asuras in battle and won them over.
Mohini saves Lord Shiva
Once a demon (asura) named Bhasmasura did a great penance towards Lord Shiva. Ocean of sympathy as He was, Lord Shiva was pleased with the asura and came forward to grant him whatever boon he wished for. Bhasmasura asked that those whomever he touches with his hands to turn into ashes (bhasma).
Bhasmasura, being the wicked demon as he was, wanted to try his boon on Lord Shiva himself and tried to touch His head. A panicked Lord Shiva had to run away from Bhasmasura and approached Lord Vishnu to help him.
Lord Shiva running from Bhasmasura
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Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini the seductive enchantress and appeared in front of Bhasmasura. The latter, upon laying his eyes on Mohini forgets about every other thing including Lord Shiva and wanted only that Mohini be with him. Mohini said that he must replicate all her dance steps before he could have her. A love maddened Bhasmasura agreed.
Bhasmasur touching his own head following Mohini – Source: upload.wikimedia.org
In the dance duel that ensued, Bhasmasura did every dance move that Mohini performed. Mohini, after making sure the asura was totally lost of his senses in lust for her, touched her own head as a part of the dance. Bhasmasura following the move touched his own head. At once he turned himself to ashes as per the boon he obtained from Shiva.
From this episode, we could understand that Lord Vishnu incarnates into Mohini to seduce and allure the wicked ones and annihilate them to save the righteous ones and to restore order and justice.
Birth of Lord Ayyappa
Legend goes that after having saved from Bhasmasura, Lord Shiva along with his consort Parvati visited Lord Vishnu as a token of gratitude. Upon request from Lord Shiva, Vishnu took the form of Mohini and danced for him. Lord Shiva just could not control his desire for Mohini upon seeing her and indulged in union with her while Parvati lamented.
Lord Shiva chasing Mohini in lust
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As a result of this union was born Lord Ayyappa who was also known as Hariharaputra – son of Hari (Vishnu) and Hara (Shiva). For those who raise brows on this strange copulation and birth, it was premeditated for that an offspring of Shiva and Vishnu only can put an end to Mahishi a demon woman, sister to demon Mahishasura. Lord Brahma granted Mahishi her wish that none except a child born to Lord Vishnu and Shiva must be able to slain her. She asked for this wish as she thought there would not be a possibility of an offspring between two male deities and that by asking this cunning boon, she would be indestructible by anyone. Thus to put an end to Mahishi’s reign of terror on earth, this strange union had to happen resulting in the birth of Lord Ayyappa.
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