Lord Brahmā and the other demigods returned to their respective abodes. Later, to gain victory for the demigods, Lord Śiva pitched his big tent and camped on the banks of the Candrabhāga River under a beautiful fig tree. He then sent Puṣpadanta, the leader of the Gandharvas, as a messenger to Śaṅkhacūḍa. When Puṣpadanta arrived at Śaṅkhacūḍa’s capital, he noticed that it was more beautiful than Indra’s realm and more opulent than Kuvera’s.
The city was 40 miles wide and 80 miles long. It was built of pearl and jewel crystals, and on all sides there were roadways. Seven inaccessible moats, one after another, surrounded the city.
There were hundreds of shops full of trade articles and marketable commodities. Palatial buildings of traders and merchants were all over. Thousands and thousands of beautiful buildings, constructed with scarlet gems, inlaid with various ornaments, and decorated with fancy articles, gave the place a boundless charm.
The Gandharva chief saw that Śaṅkhacūḍa’s palace was spherical like the moon. Four successive moats with fiery flames encircled it. On top of the palace were ramparts, made of jewels, that touched the sky. The palace was inaccessible to enemies but offered no hindrance to friends.
The twelve gates, decorated with lotuses, jeweled mirrors, paintings and statues, were guarded by twelve gatekeepers. On all sides the place was protected by very powerful, graceful, well-dressed and richly adorned demons who were holding heavenly weapons in their hands. When Puṣpadanta approached the first gate, he saw that it was guarded by a man who had a hideous face, copper complexion and tawny eyes, and who was smiling and holding a trident in his hand. Puṣpadanta explained to him the purpose of his mission-that he was a war ambassador-and the guard allowed him to pass inside; the other gatekeepers did the same. At the last gate he said to the guard, “O guard, quickly inform your king that a war is about to occur.”
The guard did so and, obtaining Śaṅkhacūḍa’s permission, ushered the messenger inside. There, the Gandharva saw the well-formed, handsome demon seated in the center of the royal assembly on a golden throne. One attendant was holding a jeweled umbrella over the king’s head while other attendants were fanning him with white cāmaras. Countless demons surrounded him and armed guards walked here and there. Śaṅkhacūḍa was beautifully dressed in heavenly garments, covered with garlands, and anointed with fragrance.
Seeing all this, Puṣpadanta was thunderstruck and said to Śaṅkhacūḍa, “O King, I am a messenger of Lord Śiva and my name is Puṣpadanta. My lord has ordered me to tell you the following: The demigods have sought the protection of Lord Hari. So you had better restore to them their kingdoms and rights. Lord Hari has given His own trident to Lord Śiva and asked him to wage war against you if necessary. Presently, Lord Śiva is residing under the shade of a fig tree on the bank of the Puṣpabhadra River. Either you must return to the demigods their property or you must be ready to fight with Lord Śiva…What shall I tell my lord is your reply?”
The demon laughed loudly and said, “You had better leave. I shall go to him in the morning.”
The messenger returned to Lord Śiva and conveyed the demon’s message. In the meantime the following group of persons appeared before Lord Śiva: Kārttikeya, Nandī, Mahākāla, Bāṇa, Maṇibhadra, the eight Bhairavas, the eleven Rudras, the eight Vasus, the twelve Ādityas, Indra, Agni, Candra, Viśvakarmā, the two Aśvini-kumāras, Kuvera, Yama, Jayanta, Nalakūvara, Vāyu, Varuṇa, Budha, Maṅgalā, Dharma, Śani, Kāma, Ugra-caṇḍā, Koṭarī, the hundred-armed Bhadrakālī, as well as many other personages.
Bhadrakālī was seated on an excellent chariot. Her paraphernalia, clothing, garland and sandal paste were red. Inspiring her devotees with courage and infusing fear into the enemy, she began dancing, laughing and singing. Her rolling tongue and the skull she held in her hand were each eight miles in circumference. She carried a trident, an iron spear, conches, a wheel, mace, lotus, bow, arrows, dumbbells, a scimitar, thunder, the weapons of Viṣṇu and Varuṇa, a snake noose, the weapons of Agni, Nārāyaṇa, Brahmā, Gandharva, Garuḍa, Paśupati, a pestle, shield, staff, as well as other irresistible weapons. This fearsome goddess was accompanied by millions of devotee Yoginīs and Ḍākinīs, and also countless ghosts, goblins and demons known as Bhūtas, Pretas, Piśācas, Kuṣmāṇḍas, Brahma-rākṣasas and Rākṣasas, as well as Yakṣas and Kinnaras. Then Kārttikeya arrived and he bowed down to his father Lord Śiva, who asked him to sit on his left side and help him. The army remained there in battle array.