Subscription Subscription
Home > News > Opinion News > Article > Swallowing gods

Swallowing gods

Updated on: 21 May,2023 08:04 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Devdutt Pattanaik |

The regurgitated gods attack Cronus and defeat him in battle.

Swallowing gods

Illustration/Devdutt Pattanaik

Devdutt PattanaikIn mythology, we often come across stories where gods swallow and regurgitate various beings. Greek god Cronus swallows his own children until he is forced to vomit them out. The regurgitated gods attack Cronus and defeat him in battle.

In Hindu mythology, during the battle between the devas and asuras, the guru of the asuras, Shurkracharya, is about to use Sanjeevani Vidya to resurrect all dead asuras. To prevent this from happening, the gods beg Shiva to help. Shiva swallows Shukracharya and keeps him in his body. But Shurkracharya manages to escape in the form of semen. This is why “shukra” means semen. 

In another story, the asuras kill Kacha, the son of Indra, and get Shurkacharya to eat him. But Shurkacharya’s daughter is in love with Kacha. She begs her father to bring him back to life by regurgitating him. Shurkacharya does not know how to do this. So he comes up with another idea. He teaches Kacha who is in his body the secret of Sanjeevini Vidya. Then Shukracharya’s body is cut open and Kacha is pulled out. Kacha then resurrects his teacher, Shukracharya. 

In another folktale, we are told how Kalidas sees the goddess Saraswati and is so impressed by her beauty that he starts describing her. But he describes her from head to toe, and this is seen as disrespect which is why the goddess who gets angry, takes the form of the terrifying Kali, and swallows him. He apologises from within her stomach for his mistake and starts describing her from toe to head. Pleased by this new narration, the goddess spits him out, which is why he is called the servant of Kali.

Also read: ‘Log kya kahenge?’

Then there are stories where the endings are not so happy. For example, we hear how the asura Atapi would turn his brother Vatapi into a goat, cook his meat and offer them to guests. When the guests had eaten this meat, he would get his brother to turn back and rip his way out of their stomachs. That would naturally kill the guests. But, when the goat meat was offered to Agastya Muni, he digested Vatapi before he could turn back. Agastya is famous for his digestive powers. He is supposed to have swallowed the entire ocean and revealed the asuras who were hiding under the sea. 

In the folk Ramayana in Tamil Nadu we learn of a fight between Surpanakha and her sister-in-law, Mandodari. Enraged by this fight, Surpanakha’s husband swallows Mandodiri’s husband, Ravana. Ravana begs his sister, Surpanakha, to pull him out, but the only way to do so is by killing her own husband. Ravana tells Surpanakha that if she does this, he will declare her son as his heir. Greedy for the throne, Surpankaha cuts open the husband’s belly and releases Ravana. But then Ravana goes back on his promise and refuses to make her son his heir. This makes Surpanakha furious, which is why she procures the help of Ram to destroy Ravana. 

In a Rajasthani folk Ramayana, it is said that, at the time of their first meeting, Hanuman swallows Lakshman, when Lakshman eats a mango from a tree without his permission. Ram apologises on Lakshman’s behalf, and Hanuman is appeased enough to regurgitate Lakshman.

The author writes and lectures on the relevance of mythology in modern times. Reach him at

"Exciting news! Mid-day is now on WhatsApp Channels Subscribe today by clicking the link and stay updated with the latest news!" Click here!

Register for FREE
to continue reading !

This is not a paywall.
However, your registration helps us understand your preferences better and enables us to provide insightful and credible journalism for all our readers.

Mid-Day Web Stories

Mid-Day Web Stories

This website uses cookie or similar technologies, to enhance your browsing experience and provide personalised recommendations. By continuing to use our website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy. OK