Chapter 68 — Story of the Demoness Karkati, Vishuchika (Cholera) & Suchi (Needle); Her Tapas

Vasishta said:—

Hear me relate to you, Rama, an old story bearing upon this subject and relating to a difficult question that was resolved by a rakshasi (female demon).

There lived on the north of Himalaya a heinous rakshasi named Karkati, a crooked crab, who was as dark as ink and as stalwart as a rock, with limbs strong enough to split the sturdy oak. She was also known as Vishuchika or Choleric Pain, by which she was ever afflicted, and which had reduced her frame like that of Vindhya Hill which was pushed down (by the curse of Agastya). Her eyeballs were blazing like fires. Her stature reaching half way to the sky. She was covered by a blue garment, like the shade of night wrapping the atmosphere. A white cloak covered her head like a cloud fragment. The long erect hairs of her head stood like a dark cloud on her crest. Her eyes flashed like lightning, and her sharp hooked nails glistened like sapphires. Her legs were as long as tamara trees, and her loud laughter was like a burst of frost. A string of dried bones decorated her body like a wreath of flowers. Traces of dead bodies adorned every part of her body. She frolicked in the company of vetala ghosts, with human skulls hanging down her ears like earrings. When she stretched out her arms she looked like she was going to pluck the sun from his sphere.

Her huge body lacked its necessary food, causing her stomach fire to blaze like an undersea flame that the waters of the deep are unable to quench. 10 Nothing could ever satisfy the insatiable hunger of this big bellied monster, or satisfy her licking tongue that was always stretched out like a flame of fire. 11 She thought to herself, “O, if just once I could to the land of Asia (Jambudwipa), I would devour all its men in one swoop and feast on them continually like an undersea fire upon the waters. 12 As clouds cool burning sands by their rain, so will I allay the burning fire of my hunger there. It is settled as the best plan to support my life at this critical moment.”

13 “All men are well guarded by their mantras, medicines, austerities, devotions and charities from all evils of the world. Therefore it is impossible for anybody to destroy the indestructible devotee. 14 I will perform the most rigorous austerities with an unflinching heart and mind, because it is by intensity of effort that we may gain what is otherwise hard to be had.”

15 Having thought so, she went to an inaccessible mountain for the purpose of destroying all animal beings. 16 She climbed to the top of the mountain, scrambling over it with her hands and feet, and stood on it with her body looking a cloud and her eyeballs flashing like lightning. 17 Having reached the summit, she made her ablution and then sat in her tapas. Her steadfast eyeballs resembled the two orbs of the sun and moon fixed on one object. 18 She passed many a day and month there, and saw the course of many a season and year. She exposed her huge body to the rigor of heat and cold, like the hill itself (on which she sat). 19 She with her huge black body remained unmoved as a thick dark cloud on the mountain top. Her jet black hairs stood up as if to touch the sky.

20 Seeing her body beaten by the blasts and covered with nothing but her ragged skin, and her hairs standing up to their end, tossed to and fro by the raging winds, while the twinkling of her eyelids shed a whitish glare on her dark frame, God Brahma appeared before her.