Long long ago there lived a demon (Asura) named Mahisha. He wanted to become invincible and so he prayed to Lord Brahma for the boon of invincibility. With this aim he performed severe penances and austerities. All the three worlds trembled under the strength of his penance. This impressed Lord Brahma who then came down to grant him a boon. Mahisha asked for immortality, which the Lord said he could not have as every creature that was born had to die. Mahisha decided that he would cunningly ask for a boon that would make him as good as immortal. He asked that no man should be able to kill and if he had to die, it should only be at the hands of a woman. He was sure that no woman could ever fight against him however strong she would be.
Now that Mahisha was invincible, he started doing evil deeds and terrorising the people on earth and boldly tried to conquer the gods in heaven. His attack was so powerful that even Indra’s mighty thunderbolt could not drive him away. Mahisha drove out the Gods and took over Indra’s throne and started harassing all the pious people who continued praying to Vishnu or Shiva. Unable to tolerate his tyranny, the gods pleaded with Vishnu to put an end to the demon. The Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara (Shiva) joined together to create an all powerful female form with ten arms – Goddess Durga or ‘Mahamaya’, the Mother of the Universe who embodies the primeval source of all power. The gods then bestowed upon this Supreme creation their individual blessings and weapons. Armed like a warrior, the goddess appeared on the back of a fierce lion to battle with the Mahisasura. After a fierce combat the ‘Durgatinashini’ was able to slay the ‘Asura’ king with her trident. She thus earned the title of Mahishasura Mardhini – the destroyer of Mahishasura. Heaven and earth rejoiced over her victory and everyone, gods and humans alike chanted loudly the refrain of supplication before this Supreme Power:
“Ya devi sarbabhuteshshu, sakti rupena sanksthita Namasteshwai Namasteshwai Namasteshwai namo namaha.”
Vijaya Dasami is the day on which this event happened. It is the tenth day after the nine nights of Navaratri and signifies the victory of the Goddess Durga over the powers of darkness. It is believed that the famous battle between Durga and Mahishasura took place right here on the slopes of Arunachala. Thus the brave Parvathi took the form of Durga, the fierce Shakthi and screamed at Mahishasura, “This is a sacred place where only sages and devotees of Arunachala can reside, therefore do not incur the wrath of my Lord and be burnt by Him. It is ordained that I should fight and kill you.” Hence She took him outside the borders of Tiruvannamalai. After a nine day battle She slayed him and returned to Tiruvannamalai truimphantly, where She continued her tapas on the slopes of the holy mountain. Thus the Navaratri festival although celebrated all over India, has the greatest significance in Tiruvannamalai.