Chapter 6 – Interpretations
6.1–9: At news of the Devī’s refusal of marriage, Śumbha flies into a rage. Suddenly the ardently desired “jewel among women” (5.92, 5.100) becomes “that vile woman” (6.4). The word used is duṣṭā, rendered by previous translators as “shrew” (Pargiter, Jagadīśvarānanda), “wicked woman” (Cobum, Sharma), “wretch of a woman” (Sivānanda), “proud lass” (Siddhināthānanda), and “naughty one” (Satyānanda). Duṣṭā definitely conveys the idea of sexual impurity and is applied to adulteresses and other women of loose morals. There is no doubt that Śumbha’s intention is to be insulting, although not excessively so, and any stronger English term would be inappropriate here.
This would be a classic case of sour grapes, except that Śumbha is bent on possessing the beautiful Devī by any means, even if that means having Her taken by force and slaying anyone who attempts to intervene. To that end he dispatches Dhūmralocana (“the smoky-eyed one”), whose name aptly describes the dim-witted thug whose vision is clouded, metaphorically, by the smoke of ignorance. Remember that the Aparājitāstuti employs dhūmrā as an epithet of the Devī (5.12) in reference to the obscuring power of Her māyā, which is, of course, the source of the asura’s ignorance. Note Dhūmralocana’s sarcasm when he addresses The Devī with the deferential “Her Highness” (Bhavatī) and in the next breath threatens Her with force (6.9).
6.10–19: The Devī’s reply (6.11) seems innocent enough, but when Dhūmralocana suddenly rushes at Her, She instantaneously destroys him with an outcry of contempt, the sound huṁ. Understanding only the rule of force, Dhūmralocana quickly falls victim to the proverbial violence that begets violence.
Previously, sound has been associated with The Divine Creative Power; here it represents Destructive Might. Such a Show of Strength is Mere Play for The Devī, and when She Unleashes Her Lion to wreak havoc upon Dhūmralocana’s accompanying forces, sixty thousand strong, we are reminded of the similarly effortless destruction of Mahiṣa’s army in the second chapter.
6.20–24: Śumbha is angered to the point of losing self-control. His lower lip quivers with rage as he next sends Caṇḍa and Muṇḍa and an immense army to reattempt Dhūmralocana’s failed mission. In his desperation to possess the Devī, the asura no longer cares whether “that vile woman” be delivered unharmed or beaten into submission (6.23–24). He simply wants to possess Her. Similarly, thwarted human ambition breeds intemperance, and the goal becomes success at any cost. On that note, the Devīmāhātmya’s shortest chapter ends.