The great Kola Maharshi performed intense tapas in the valley of the Kodachadri hills near Udupi in Karnataka. Pleased with his tapas, Lord Shiva appeared before him and granted him a boon. The Sage said that he wanted nothing for himself, but he wanted the Lord to reside in the sacred valley for the welfare of all the people. The Lord agreed and took the form of a Linga. However, the Sage wanted the presence of Devi Parvati also along with the Lord. In response to the rishi’s request, a golden line appeared on the Shiva linga to indicate the presence of Shakti along with Shiva. The place became known as Kollur.
Long after that, a rakshasa by name Kaumasura went about creating havoc amongst the pious and virtuous people. He undertook penance to propitiate Lord Brahma and ask for the boon of becoming invincible. His tapas was almost becoming fruitful and the Creator was about to bestow on him whatever boon he wanted. All the devatas were worried. If Brahma gave him the boon of becoming invincible, he would become a threat to all the three worlds. They all invoked Vagdevi – the Goddess of Speech and asked her to withdraw her grace from him. She agreed and withdrew the power of speech from the rakshasa, and as a result of that he became dumb. He could not ask the Lord for anything. From that day onwards, he came to be known as Mookasura. Mooka means ‘dumb’.
The angry Mookasura continued to trouble the devatas and sages. The devatas again prayed to Shakti. Devi appeared before them. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva along with their Sakti-s, Saraswathi, Lakshmi and Parvati, along with all the devatas transferred their powers to her. There was a fierce battle between Shakti and Mookasura and finally she killed Mookasura. From that day onwards she became known as Mookambika. She represents the power of speech (Vak) which destroys dumbness (mookatva).
Years later, as Adi Sankara was travelling through this region, pleased with his tapas, Vagdevi appeared in front of him desirous of bestowing a boon upon him. Sankara was overjoyed at the darshan of the Mother of the Universe and prayed to her to come with him and dwell in the land of his birth. She agreed to come with him, but she put forth one condition. While walking, he should not turn back and look. Sankara agreed and started walking. Mookambika walked behind him. He could hear the sound of her anklets. As they were approaching Kollur, suddenly Sankara did not hear the sound of Devi’s anklets. He turned around and looked. As per her condition, Mookambika or Vagdevi remained permanently there in Kollur, on the banks of the sacred Sauparnika river.
Sri Mookambika is the Goddess who destroys mookatva (ignorance) and confers speech (Knowledge) to all those who invoke her. Hence, during the Navaratri festival on the most auspicious day of Vijayadasami, Devi Mookambika is invoked and “Akshara Abhyas” or “initiation of the alphabets” is performed for little children before they start their formal education.
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