A Simple Guide to Help Understand Hindu Gods
Demons, Ogres and Asuras ("antigods")


Gods and demons are not considered irreconcilable opposites (such as good and evil) but complementary forces. In the eternal cycle of creation and destruction, both are necessary aspects of Ultimate Reality. In the Vedas devas (gods) and asuras (antigods) were both children of Brahma, sharing the same origin and nature. Only at the churning of the Great Milk Ocean were the asuras deceived and denied access to the divine Soma; so the division between gods and demons is not so much good and evil as who won and who lost.

Some texts describe both gods (devas) and asuras (antigods) as being assigned to castes. In the battle between Indra and Vritra, the demon had through great asceticism become a brahmin demon, so Indra committed the great sin of brahminicide by killing Vritra. In one sense a demon warrior (ksatriya) who kills men is only fulfilling his particular dharma or social duty, and is not thought of as evil.

Rakshasa (a demon and man-eating ogre) is one of many antigods (asuras), with powers older than the gods that distract men from the true path thus preventing spiritual progress. In the Mahabharata they include Nagas (serpent spirits), daityas (genii), and danavas (giants); actually these terms are often interchangeable.

Man eating Ogre

Taraka The Demon

Taraka is the name of a powerful demon who threatened to subjugate the world.

When Taraka was born there were many terrible omens which indicated he would cause a lot of trouble to the world. The whole earth trembled. A storm arose. The oceans were disturbed and the very mouintains shook. Wild beasts made terrible sounds. The bad omens plunged all good men into grief. Taraka grew up and he was very courageous and strong.

Taraka was determined to control the world but first he had to conquer the Devas (gods). It was not going to be an easy task. It was very difficult even for an extraordinarily strong person like Taraka. So he resolved to please Brahma to get a promise that he would not die and then he could challenge the Devas. So he began his penance in the Madhuvana forest. For some days he only took water as food. Later only the air was his sustenance. He continued his vigorous meditation in different ways. He stood in water. He stood only on the big toe of his foot. Later he supported himself on his hands on the ground and continued the penance with his feet upwards. The longer the delay in Brahma's appearance the more rigorous was Taraka's penance. Finally Brahma relented and told Taraka that he would made more powerful than all the gods with the exception that Shiva's son.

Taraka accepted this condition, knowing that Sati, Shiva's wife had immulated herself in the sacrificial fire and therefoe Shiva had no son. He was proud that there was none to restrain him and the gods continued to be troubled by him, and countinued to live in fear. Taraka, now emboldened with promise immortlity continued his wickedness, enlisted an army and he attacked heaven.

Demons can easily be identified because they are depicted with a green face and body.

Taraka the demon
The supreme demon Taraka

The Battle between Kartikeya and Taraka
for Control of the Heavens

Taraka had been able to grow so powerful because he had worshipped Lord Brahma to such an extent that Brahma promised Taraka would became more powerful than all the gods. Fearing his power, the gods went to Shiva, imploring him to help them against this terrible threat. Shiva and create a champion. Thus Kartikeya was born. A huge army of the gods was formed under the command of Kartikeya and they marched off to eliminate Taraka. Taraka heard the war cries of the aremy of gods and saw a huge army marching on him with elephants, chariots, calvalry and infantry.

Taraka knew it was the son of Shiva coming to confront him and remembered the promise he extracted from Brahma and he was shaken. The Gods and the Demons went to war with their spears and swords, bows and arrows, clubs, axes and rope-slings. The armys fought at close quarters and there was a terrific battle. It seemed to be an unending fight between equals. Brahma was watching the terrible fight and seeing the defeat and distress of the gods, he told Kartikeya, "O son of Shiva, Taraka cannot be killed by any but you. You must at once dispatch him"

Kartikeya marched on Taraka who, when seeing the boy, said, "You cowards! You have brought this tender boy to face me. Are you not ashamed?" He then turned to Kartikeya and said, "look here boy, you are still so young. If you want the pleasure of a fight, get it from your friends in a game or by wrestling. Go back and send your father to fight me."

(This is now sounding like the story of David and Galieth isn't it?)

The fight began and the air was stilled, the sun became dull and the earth had tremors. Kartikeye lifted his trident and hit Taraka on the chest. Blood spread out like a stream with the demon's chest split open. The gods regained their courage and attacked the demons, many of whom were killed, some fled and others, begged to be spared.

Taraka goes to battle
to control the heavens

Battle with Kartikeya
Demons and Ogres

(Editor's note, March 12, 2010: This page is now being construction so come back again.)

Taraka is also the name of a female Rakshasa whom Rama kills with his bow in his epic the Ramayana. At first he is reluctant to slay a woman, and just shoots off her arms. But then she becomes invisible. Using her magic, she hurls rocks and boulders at Rama and his companions, and they are hard-pressed to ward off her attack. Finally Rama closes his eyes and aims by sound only. He lets his arrow fly, and pierces the evil spirit through the heart.

More about this later.

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