An Illustration to the Devi Mahatmya: Ambika Reduces the Demon Dhumralochana to Ashes
Mandi, circa 1825
Opaque watercolor heightened with gold on paper
Dark blue inner borders with pink-flecked outer borders and ruled lines
Folio: 10 1/8 x 13 in. (25.7 x 33 cm.)
Image: 7 7/8 x 10 3/4 in. (20 x 27.3 cm.)
Mandi Royal Collection, 1969.
Private European Collection.
Inscribed verso: Twelve lines of black and red text in Devanagari script
Drawn from the part of the Markandeya Purana called the Devi Mahatmya, this painting depicts the victory of Ambika over Dhumralochana and his army, who were sent by the asura Shumbha. The gods became weary of two demons named Shumbha and Nishumbha, who had undergone great penance to receive a boon that prevents any male, human or not, from killing them. The gods resultantly prayed to the Goddess (Devi) to rid them of these evil creatures, and she came forth from Parvati as Ambika, a form of Devi. Upon learning of this beautiful lady, Shumbha sent Sugriva as a messenger to her with a proposition of marriage.
She replied by telling Sugriva to relay this message to his master Shumbha: “He who conquers me in battle, removes my pride and is my match in strength shall be my husband. So let Shumbha come here then, or Nishumbha the great asura. Vanquishing me here, let him soon take my hand in marriage. Why delay?”
Sugriva retorted: “O Devi, you are haughty. Talk not so before me. Which man in the three worlds will stand before Shumbha and Nishumbha? All the Devas verily cannot stand face to face with even the other asuras in battle. Why mention you, o Devi, a single woman? Indra and all the other Devas could not stand in battle against Shumbha and other demons, how will you, a woman, face them? On my word itself, you go to Shumbha and Nishumbha. Let it not be that you go to them with your dignity lost by being dragged by your hair.”
Devi said: “Shumbha is strong and so is Nishumbha exceedingly heroic! What can I do since there stands my ill-considered vow taken long ago? Go back, and tell the Lord of Asuras carefully all this that I have said; let him do whatever he considers proper.” (Chapter 5, verses 120-127).
So Sugriva relayed the message to his master Shumbha, who was outraged at being so disregarded that he sent Dhumralochana and his army to retrieve Amibka by pulling her hair. When Dhumralochana advanced on Ambika, she smote him and he became nothing but a pile of ashes. The demon’s army of 60,000 asuras was likewise vanquished by the lion of Devi, once again instituting the power of the goddess. Dhumralochana can be seen in the present image advancing up a hill towards Ambika, then consumed by flames right before he reaches her. In the bottom register, Dhumralochana’s army are destroyed by the mighty lion of Devi.