By Swami Harshananda
Sometimes transliterated as: Manasa, ManasA, Manasaa
Manasā literally means ‘created by mind’.
Origin of Manasā
Manasā is the goddess controlling all the reptiles, especially the snakes. Her worship is very common in Bengal and Assam. The tale narrates that when the people of the world were unable to bear the affliction created by snakes, they approached the great sage Kaśyapa. Snakes were his offsprings. For succour, he created the goddess Manasā by using his mental powers (manas = mind) as the presiding deity and controller of the reptiles.
She pleased Śiva and Viṣṇu through her severe austerities and obtained several boons from them. Jaratkāru was her another name. She was married to a sage whose name also was Jaratkāru. They gave birth to a son named Āstika. He later on succeeded in stopping the sarpayāga or serpent-sacrifice of the king Janamejaya, the son of Parīkṣit.
She is known by many other names such as Trijagadgaurī, Sivā, Vaiṣṇavī, Nāgamātā, Viṣaharā, Mṛtasañjīvanī, Siddhayoginī and so on. Repetition of her twelve names is said to give full protection against poisonous reptiles.
Her images show her as a goddess with two arms, one holding a snake and the other in abhayamudrā. She may also be shown with four arms and a seven- hooded snake as a parasol, along with her husband (the sage Jaratkāru) and her child Āstika.
- The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore