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The Story of Demon Bhasmaksha and His Deadly Gaze

The tale of the demon Bhasmaksha, who possessed the terrifying power to burn people to death with a mere glance, is found in the Krittibasi Ramayana, a Bengali adaptation of the Valmiki Ramayana. Bhasmaksha's story is one of immense power, isolation, and an ultimate downfall due to his own curse.

Bhasmaksha's Terrible Boon

Bhasmaksha, a formidable rakshasa (demon), desired unparalleled power and immortality. He embarked on a severe penance to please Brahma, the creator god. After years of relentless austerities, Brahma finally appeared before him. Bhasmaksha, eager for eternal life, requested the boon of immortality. However, Brahma, bound by cosmic laws, declined this request.

Undeterred, Bhasmaksha asked for a different boon: the power to incinerate anyone he gazed upon. Brahma, albeit reluctantly, granted this terrifying boon. To test his newfound power, Bhasmaksha looked at the rakshasas who accompanied him, and they were instantly reduced to ashes. Realizing the potency of his power, Bhasmaksha covered his eyes with leather to prevent accidental destruction.

Isolation and Fear

The power to kill with a glance came with a heavy price. No one dared to approach Bhasmaksha, fearing for their lives. As a result, he lived in profound isolation. His dreadful power made him an outcast among his kind, and no one wished to marry him or be associated with him. He rode a chariot covered with leather, a constant reminder of the deadly curse he carried.

Encounter with Rama

Bhasmaksha's path of destruction eventually brought him near Rama, the prince of Ayodhya and an incarnation of Vishnu, who was in the midst of his quest to rescue his wife Sita from the demon king Ravana. Vibhishana, Ravana’s brother who had defected to Rama's side, warned Rama about Bhasmaksha's deadly gaze. He recounted the story of the boon and advised Rama on how to counter the demon's power.

Vibhishana explained that if Bhasmaksha saw his own reflection, he would be consumed by his own power and burn to ashes. Armed with this knowledge, Rama devised a clever plan to defeat the rakshasa.

The Mirror Strategy

Rama invoked a divine weapon that could create mirrors. As the arrow was released, it transformed the vanaras (monkey warriors) in Rama's army into a multitude of mirrors. Bhasmaksha, unaware of the impending trap, saw his own reflection in the myriad mirrors surrounding him.

Instantly, the curse took effect. Bhasmaksha's own deadly gaze, reflected back at him, ignited his flesh. In moments, the powerful demon was reduced to a pile of ashes, defeated by his own power.

The story of Bhasmaksha is a poignant reminder of the perils of unchecked power and the isolation it can bring. It also highlights the wisdom and resourcefulness of Rama and his allies in overcoming seemingly insurmountable challenges. Through cleverness and divine intervention, the deadly curse of Bhasmaksha was turned against him, restoring peace and safety to those who had been threatened by his fearsome gaze.