Bhumi
Personification of the Earth[1]
Bronze-alloy sculpture of Bhumi from Tamil Nadu
Other namesBhudevi, Vasundhara, Prithvi, Bhumata, Dharati, Varahi, Puhumi, Vasumati
AffiliationVaishnavism
Lakshmi
AbodeBhuloka and Dyuloka
PlanetEarth
MantraOm Bhumaya Namaha
MountElephant
Personal information
ConsortVaraha (Vishnu)
ChildrenNarakasura, Mangala, Sita
Equivalents
Greek equivalentGaia
Roman equivalentTerra
Indo-European equivalentDʰéǵʰōm
Chinese equivalentHoutu[2]

Bhumi (Sanskrit: भूमि, IAST: Bhūmi), also known as Bhūdevī, is the personification of the earth as a goddess in Hinduism. According to Hindu mythology, Varaha, the third avatar (incarnation) of the god Vishnu, saved her from the asura Hiranyaksha and married her. She is regarded as the mother of Narakasura, Mangala and Sita.[3]

The Vedic precursor of Bhumi seems to have been Prithvi Mata (Sanskrit: “Earth mother”), the primordial goddess of the Rigveda. In Sri Vaishnava tradition, Bhudevi is considered as the second aspect of Vishnu's consort, Lakshmi, along with the aspects of Sridevi and Niladevi.[4]

Etymology

The name "Bhūmi" is the Sanskrit word for "earth". The version "Puhumi" is the equivalent in Old Awadhi.[5]

Mythology

Birth

Varying accounts of Bhumi's birth are narrated in Hindu scriptures. The Southern Recension of the epic Mahabharata mentions Bhumi as the daughter of the creator god Brahma. The Devi Bhagavata Purana states her to be born of out the remains of two Rakshasas, Madhu and Kaitaba.[6]

Rescue by Varaha

A sculpture of Bhumi seated on Varaha's lap.

Bhumi is the consort of the anthropomorphic Varaha, an avatar of the preserver god Vishnu. According to the Puranas, during the Satya Yuga (first eon), the demon Hiranyaksha kidnapped Bhumi and hid her in the primordial waters. Upon the request of the gods, Vishnu took the avatar (incarnation) of Varaha to rescue her. Varaha slew the demon and retrieved the Earth from the depths of the ocean, lifting it on his tusks. He restored Bhudevi to her rightful place in the universe, and proceeded to marry her.[6]

The episode of the devas seeking the assistance of Vishnu's Varaha avatar in rescuing Bhudevi is described in the Padma Purana:[7]

They sought the shelter of Nārāyaṇa, Viṣṇu. Then knowing that wonder, he, Viṣṇu, the holder of a conch, a disc, and a mace, took up the Boar-form, existing everywhere and having no beginning, middle or end. The highest lord full of everything, having hands and feet on all sides, having large fangs and arms, struck the demon with one fang. The mean son of Diti, with his huge body pounded, died. Seeing the earth fallen (from the demon’s head), he lifted it with his fang, and putting it on Śeṣa’s head as before, took up the form of a Tortoise.1 Seeing great Viṣṇu of the form of the hog, all deities and sages, with their bodies bowed with devotion, praised him.

— Padma Purana, Chapter 237

Children

Narakasura was the first born of Bhudevi. There are two stories about Narakasura's birth. In the first one, he was the first son of Bhumi and Varaha. He was born when Bhumi requested Varaha for a son. Narakasura later performed a penance to receive a boon that only his mother would be able to kill him. In the second one, Narakasura's father was Hiranyaksha and was born when Hiranyaksha's horns touched Bhumi.[8] Narakasura is believed to have been the founder of the legendary Bhauma dynasty among the Boro people.

Mangala, according to Vaishnava tradition, was the son of Varaha and Bhumi.[9][10]

Sita, the wife of Rama, emerged from the earth, and subsequently adopted by the King of Mithila, Janaka. The tale goes that there was once a drought in Mithila, the hometown of Sita. Janaka, the future father of Sita, was ploughing the ground. Under his plough, he found a baby girl (Sita). Rain showered upon the earth and Janaka and his wife decided to adopt the girl. As Sita was born from the earth, she was also known as Bhumija.[11]

Saving Prahlada

Prahlada, the son of Hiranyakashipu, was a devotee of Vishnu. The father did not like the son’s devotion to Vishnu. He punished Prahlada in a number of ways. Once, he threw down Prahlada from the top of a high building. At that moment, Bhudevi appeared there and received him in her arms.[12]

The milking of the earth

Main article: Prithu

One of the most well-recounted legends of Bhumi is her episode with the emperor of the world, Prithu. When Prithu hears that his people are starving because the earth had withdrawn most of her vegetation, he furiously chases her in her form of a cow. She submits, allowing herself to be milked so that living beings could be nourished once more. Attributes such as the courage, valour, knowledge, and the bodily health of the Brahmin sages are stated to have been milked from the earth, and the virtues and the truths that characterise animals may be attributed to her as well:[13]

Pṛthu got angry on hearing this and taking his bow Ajagava and several arrows went in search of the goddess of earth. The goddess got frightened and fled taking the form of a cow. She went to all lokas but Pṛthu followed her with his bow and arrows everywhere. At last desiring to escape from the arrows of such a valiant king Bhūmidevī went to him and trembling with fear said "Oh king, why do you make such a persistent attempt, to kill me which would be the great sin of Strīvadha? (killing a woman)." The Rājā replied that there was no sin in killing wicked persons. The goddess asked what refuge was there for the people if the earth was destroyed. The king said that he would protect his people by the power of his yoga. Bhūmidevī was frightened and she said "Oh king, I shall give you back all I have destroyed in the form of milk. Therefore, virtuous as you are, if you are really interested in the welfare of the people I shall allow you to milk me and take back everything you want. Do bring a calf."

Satyabhama avatar

Main article: Satyabhama

The scriptures narrate how Bhumi took the incarnation as a human to slay her son, Narakasura. According to the legend, after receiving his desired boon, Narakasura grew arrogant and drunk with his power. He started capturing women and forcefully made them his wives. He captured nearly 16,000 women. He wrested control of heaven from Indra and no deity was able to defeat him because of his boon. Narakasura even took the earrings of Indra's mother, Aditi, and gave them to his mother, Bhumi. Bhudevi was requested by the devas to slay her son. She manifested herself upon the earth as Satyabhama, the daughter of Satrajit. Satyabhama married Krishna, and the couple waged war on Narakasura. She finally beheaded the latter with her husband's Sudarshana Chakra, thus fulfilling the prophecy that the asura could only be killed by his mother.[14]

Iconography and worship

Idol (murti) of Bhumi at a temple in Tamil Nadu

Bhudevi is depicted as seated on a platform that rests on the back of four elephants, representing the four cardinal directions. She is usually portrayed with four arms, holding a pomegranate, a water vessel, a bowl containing healing herbs, and another bowl containing vegetables, respectively.[15] She is also sometimes depicted with two hands, the right hand holding a blue lotus known as Kumuda or Utpala, the night lotus, while the left hand may indicate the pose of Abhayamudra, the fearlessness or the Lolahasta Mudra, which is an aesthetic pose meant to mimic the tail of a horse.[16][17]

Temples

Raja Festival

The Raja festival in Odisha, Eastern India, is a three-day celebration dedicated to Bhudevi, also known as Bhoomi Devi. This festival honors the essence of womanhood and agriculture in life. During Raja, Bhudevi is revered as a symbol of motherhood, femininity, and fertility. The festival marks the beginning of the monsoon and the arrival of new crops, as it is believed that Bhudevi is resting and preparing to bless humanity with a prosperous harvest. Raja is predominantly celebrated by women and young girls. They indulge in self-care, donning new clothes and beautiful ornaments. Applying red dye (alta) to their feet and adorning their hair with flowers are essential rituals. They are treated to their favorite food and a special Odia delicacy called Poda Pitha, a baked rice cake prepared exclusively for this occasion. Elaborate flower-laced swings are set up for the women and girls, who are considered embodiments of goddesses, particularly Bhudevi. They are not allowed to touch the ground during the festival. To respect Bhudevi's deep slumber, people refrain from digging the earth or engaging in agricultural work during this time. The festival embodies the interdependence and respect for agriculture, women, and the environment in Odisha and beyond.[18]

References

  1. ^ "Bhumi, Bhūmi, Bhūmī: 41 definitions". Wisdom Library. 11 April 2009. Earth (भूमि, bhūmi) is one of the five primary elements (pañcabhūta)
  2. ^ Shaw, Miranda Eberle (2006). Buddhist Goddesses of India. Princeton University Press. p. 237. ISBN 978-0-691-12758-3.
  3. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (2019-01-28). "Story of Bhūmi". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
  4. ^ Duffy, Michelle; Mair, Judith (2017-08-07). Social inclusion, social exclusion and encounter. Routledge. pp. 83–93. doi:10.4324/9781315644097-8. ISBN 9781315644097. Retrieved 2022-06-28. ((cite book)): |work= ignored (help)
  5. ^ "पृथिवी", Wiktionary, 2022-07-03, retrieved 2022-10-22
  6. ^ a b Mani, Vettam (1975). Puranic Encyclopedia: A Comprehensive Work with Special Reference to the Epic and Puranic Literature. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 978-81-208-0597-2.
  7. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (2019-10-31). "The Boar Incarnation of Viṣṇu [Chapter 237]". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 2022-08-11.
  8. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  9. ^ Dalal, Roshen (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books India. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6.
  10. ^ "Bhoomi Devi – Our Sacred Goddess Mother Earth". Anaadi Foundation Blog. Retrieved 2020-09-09.
  11. ^ "The Story of Mother Sita the consort of Rama". Salagram.net. Archived from the original on 30 May 2012. Retrieved 18 March 2012.
  12. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (2019-01-28). "Story of Bhūmi". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 2022-08-11.
  13. ^ www.wisdomlib.org (2019-01-28). "Story of Pṛthu". www.wisdomlib.org. Retrieved 2022-08-11.
  14. ^ "Happy Diwali: The Legends Linked To Deepavali Festival". NDTV.com. Retrieved 2020-06-09.
  15. ^ Rao, T.A.G. (1997). Elements of Hindu Iconography. Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 81-208-0876-2.
  16. ^ Stutley, Margaret (2003). The Illustrated Dictionary of Hindu Iconography. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers. p. 82. ISBN 81-215-1087-2.
  17. ^ Mitchell, A. G.; Victoria and Albert Museum (1982). Hindu gods and goddesses. United Kingdom: Her Majesty's Stationery Office. p. 8. ISBN 9780112903727.
  18. ^ "Bhudevi: Significance and Her Ancient Representation". www.exoticindiaart.com. Retrieved 2023-07-15.