Manasā, also Mansā Devi, is an Indian folk goddess of snakes,
worshipped mainly in
Bengal and other parts of North and northeastern
India, chiefly for the prevention and cure of snakebite and also for
fertility and prosperity.
Manasa is the mother of Astika, sister of
Vasuki, king of Nāgas (snakes) and wife of sage Jagatkāru
(Jaratkāru). She is also known as Vishahara (the destroyer of
poison), Nityā (eternal) and Padmavati.
In the Puranas, sage
Kashyapa is her father, Lord Shiva is a father
figure to her.
Manasa is depicted as being kind to her devotees, but
harsh to people who refused to worship her. Denied full godhead by
her mixed parentage, Manasa's aim was to fully establish her authority
as a goddess and to acquire steadfast human devotees.
5 Notable temples
6 See also
Originally worshipped by
Adivasi people,she is now
regarded as a Hindu goddess rather than a tribal one. She is the
daughter of sage
Kashyapa and Kadru, the mother of all Nāgas. Manasa
is identified as the goddess of fertility and marriage rites and was
assimilated into the
Shaiva pantheon as a relative of Lord Shiva, as
she had a brother-sister bond with Lord Ganesha.She is also worshipped
in south India.
Astika on her lap, 10th century Pala bronze from
Manasa is depicted as a woman covered with snakes, sitting on a lotus
or standing upon a snake. She is sheltered by the canopy of the hoods
of seven cobras. Sometimes, she is depicted with a child on her lap.
The child is assumed to be her son, Astika. She is often called
"the one-eyed goddess" and among the Hajong tribe of northeastern
India she is called Kānī Dīyāʊ (Blind Goddess)
Mahabharata tells the story of Manasa's marriage. Sage Jagatkāru
practised severe austerities and had decided to abstain from marriage.
Once he came across a group of men hanging from a tree upside down.
These men were his ancestors, who were doomed to misery as their
children had not performed their last rites. So they advised
Jagatkāru to marry and have a son who could free them of those
miseries by performing the ceremonies.
Vasuki offered his sister
Manasa's hand to Jagatkāru.
Manasa gave birth to a son, Astīka, who
freed his ancestors.
Astika also helped in saving the
Nāga race from
destruction when King Janamejaya decided to exterminate them by
sacrificing them in his Yajna, fire offering.
The goddess Manasā in a dense jungle landscape with snakes.
Puranas are the first scriptures to speak about her birth. They
declare that sage
Kashyapa is her father, not Shiva as assumed by
many. Once, when serpents and reptiles had created chaos on the Earth,
Kashyapa created goddess
Manasa from his mind (mana). The creator
Brahma made her the presiding deity of snakes and reptiles. Manasa
gained control over the earth, by the power of mantras she chanted.
Manasa then propitiated the god, Shiva, who told her to please
Krishna. Upon being pleased,
Krishna granted her divine
and ritually worshiped her, making her an established goddess.
Manasa to sage Jaratkaru, who agreed to marry her on
the condition that he would leave her if she disobeyed him. Once, when
Jaratkaru was awakened by Manasa, he became upset with her because she
awakened him too late for worship, and so he left her temporarily. On
the request of the great Hindu gods,
Jaratkaru returned to
she gave birth to Astika, their son.
Mud idol of
Manasa in the Sundarbans, West Bengal, India.
The Mangalkavyas were devotional paeans to local deities such as
Manasa, composed in
Bengal between the 13th and the 18th centuries.
Mangalkavya by Bijay Gupta and
Manasa Vijaya (1495) by
Bipradas Pipilai trace the origin and myths of the goddess. However
these stray further from Puranaic references probably die to creative
Later, the sage
Jaratkaru married Manasa, but Chandi ruined Manasa's
wedding night. Chandi advised
Manasa to wear snake ornaments and then
threw a frog in the bridal chamber which caused the snakes to run
around the chamber. As a consequence, the terrified
Jaratkaru ran away
from the house. After few days, he returned and Astika, their son, was
A scene from
Accompanied by her adviser, Neto,
Manasa descended to earth to see
human devotees. She was initially mocked by the people but then Manasa
forced them to worship her by raining calamity on those who denied her
power. She managed to convert people from different walks of life,
Muslim ruler Hasan, but failed to convert Chand Sadagar
Manasa wanted to become a goddess like
Lakshmi or Saraswati. To get
there she had to achieve the worship of
Chand Sadagar who was
extremely adamant and took oath not to worship Manasa. Thus to gain
his fear and insecurity,
Manasa one by one killed his six sons . At
Manasa conspired against two dancers of Indras Court who loved
each other, Anirudha and Usha . Anirudh had to take birth as
Lakhinder, Chand and Sanaka's seventh son. Usha took birth as behula
and married him.
Manasa killed him but Behula floated on water for
nine months with the dead body of her husband and finally brought back
the lives of the seven sons and the lost prosperity of Chand. At last,
he yielded by offering a flower to the goddess with his left hand
without even looking at her. This gesture made
Manasa so happy that
she resurrected all of Chand's sons and restored his fame and
fortunes. The Mangal kavyas say that after this, the worship of Manasa
was popular forever.
Mangalkavya attributes Manasa's difficulty in attracting
devotees to an unjust curse she gave to Chand in his previous life.
Chand then retaliated with a counter-curse that worshiping her would
not be popular on earth unless he worshiped her also.
In many renditions of the myth,
Manasa is depicted as being quite
dependent on Neta (traditionally imagined as a washerwoman) for ideas
and moral support. In fact, of the two,
Manasa is often the stupider
one - a curious instance of anthropomorphism.
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy
Ananda K. Coomaraswamy and
Sister Nivedita say, "[The] legend of
Chand Sadagar and] Manasā Devī, [...] who must be as old as the
Mykenean stratum in Asiatic society, reflects the conflict between the
religion of Shiva and that of female local deities in Bengal.
Afterwards Manasā or Padmā was recognized as a form of Shakti, [...]
and her worship accepted by Shaivas. She is a phase of the
mother-divinity who for so many worshipers is nearer and dearer than
the far-off and impersonal Shiva...".
Manasa is worshiped without an image. A branch of a tree,
an earthen pot or an earthen snake image is worshiped as the
goddess, though images of
Manasa are worshipped too. She is
worshiped for protection from and cure of snake bites and infectious
diseases like smallpox and chicken pox.
The cult of
Manasa is most widespread in Bengal, where she is ritually
worshiped in temples. The goddess is widely worshiped in the rainy
season, when the snakes are most active.
Manasa is also a very
important fertility deity, especially among the lower castes, and her
blessings are invoked during marriage or for childlessness. She is
usually worshiped and mentioned along with Neto, who is called Neta,
Netidhopani, Netalasundori, etc. in various parts of Bengal.
In North Bengal, among the Rajbanshis,
Manasa (called Bishohora,
Bishohori or Padmavati) is one of the most important goddesses, and
her thaan (shrine) may be found in the courtyard of almost every
agrarian household. Among the lower-caste Hindus of East Bengal
(present-day Bangladesh)too, she is worshiped with great pomp.
Manasa is an especially important deity in
Bengal for the mercantile
castes. This is because Chando of the Manasamangal was the first to
initiate her worship, and Behula, the heroine of the Manasamangal was
a daughter of the Saha clan (a powerful trading community).
Manasa is also worshiped extensively in Assam, and a kind of Oja-Pali
(musical folk theatre) is dedicated entirely to her myth.
Manasa is ceremonially worshiped on
Nag Panchami - a festival of snake
worship in the Hindu month of
Shravan (July–August). Bengali women
observe a fast (vrata) on this day and offer milk at snake holes.
India people started recently worshipping Goddess Manasa
Devi Temple in Mukkamala located in West Godavari, Andhra Pradesh.
Manasa, Prehistoric & Archeological Gallery, Chittagong University
Devi Temple, Haridwar
Devi Mandir, Panchkula, near Chandigarh.
Devi Temple, Kandra, Jharkhand
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Manasa.
^ a b c Wilkins p.395
^ Dowson, John (2003). Classical Dictionary of Hindu Mythologyand
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^ McDaniel p.148
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