SHIVA’s mysterious aspect which shows us that he penetrated, through the enigmatic power of his divine smile, the distinctive manifestation of the three worlds
By Gregorian Bivolaru, yoga teacher
SHIVA TRIPURANTAKA is a mysterious aspect in which SHIVA purifies and also transforms with his divine, endless love, all the three worlds: the physical world, the subtle-astral world and the causal world. In the Indian tradition, this aspect of SHIVA is also known as TRIPURARI. In this mysterious aspect, SHIVA is the one who destroys the three extremely powerful demons (ASURAS) as well as their strongholds built of gold, silver and iron. Within these fortresses, beings are enthralled by illusion (MAYA). SHIVA bears the name of TRIPURARI in this aspect, because he overpowered the three demons and destroyed their chimeric fortresses in the three worlds. This is why, in this aspect, he is called TRIPURA SAMHARA. As a personified aspect of SHIVA, he is known in this state under the name of TRIPURANTAKMURTI.
SHIVA TRIPURANTAKA is also a dreadful aspect of SHIVA VIRAMURTI. SHIVA appears here as the destroyer of the three strongholds. The strongholds, or in other words, fortresses, represent the symbol of the three major impurities of the being, which are also the main causes of limitation and captivity of beings (PASA). These are: 1 – selfishness (AHAM), 2 – both malicious actions and actions that are not integrated within the divine harmony, together with all their consequences (KARMA), and 3 – illusion (MAYA).
The complete removal of these major impurities from one’s being occurs especially when SHIVA overflows his mysterious grace, which manifests in the form of his divine purifying smile. When all the three impurities are instantaneously burned through the enigmatic energy of divine overwhelming love manifested by SHIVA, only bliss remains in one’s being, which is without any kind of impurities. Thus purified through the mysterious grace of SHIVA, the being participates to the endless ecstatic dance of SHIVA. The scene for this cosmic dance is now the very being of the one who is “pierced” by SHIVA’s love which, among others, makes possible the instantaneous burning of the three great enthralling impurities.
The mythical episode describing SHIVA’s manifestation in this aspect is part of the KARNAPARVA poem which is part of Mahabharata.
In times of legend, a long time ago, there has been a major confrontation between the mysterious forces of good, represented by the gods (DEVAS) and the occult forces of darkness, represented by the demons (ASURAS). Due to their malicious orientation, the demons (ASURAS) were eventually defeated in this battle, but even after their defeat which lead to the arrest of their actions, the malicious tendencies that were deeply hidden within their beings have awakened once again, through the actions of the gods. With the strongest seed of evil within them awakened, the three sons of the demon TARAKA were consumed by the desire of vengeance for the humility of their defeat. The three demons were: KAMAYAKSHAN, DARUKASHAN and IDULMARI.
Wicked and skilled, they became aware that without having a strength superior to the gods, they will not be able to defeat and subdue them. They also knew that they couldn’t obtain this force by any other means than asking for it from SHIVA himself. This is why they began to rigorously practice a ritual of worshipping SHIVA. To repay their dedication, the Supreme SHIVA offered them, through BRAHMA, the Creator of the Universe, the paranormal power they desired, through which they became invincible. The only way in which that someone could defeat them was if they pierced all three of them at once using a single arrow. Having this extraordinary ability which gave them great strength, they built three massive strongholds, one in each part of the world, and they started to work on their plan to lead the world as they wished. One of these strongholds was built entirely out of gold and it was placed in the celestial universe, the causal world. The second fortress was made solely from silver, it was built floating in air, which is a symbol for the astral universe. The third one had been built solely out of iron and it was erected on earth, which is a symbol for the physical world. By building them in the three essential dimensions of the Macrocosmos, the three demons (ASURAS) have ensured that no one could ever attack all three of them at once.
With all advantages on their side, the three demons began to attack the gods and the sages in order to subdue them. Then, the divine beings (DEVAS) started to feel agitated by the malicious actions of the three demons. They all went to BRAHMA first, the creator of the Universe. BRAHMA told them that no one, except SHIVA, who perfectly mastered the secret science of spiritual liberation and who was also an expert in the YOGA and SAMHYA systems, could ever defeat the three ASURAS. Then, the gods asked SHIVA to stop the three demons from their destructing actions at once. But SHIVA himself answered the gods, telling them that, as long as those demons and the people in their fortresses will subject to him and pray to him in their hearts, he will not destroy them.
Then, the great VISHNU tried to verify the honesty and strength of faith in SHIVA of the three demons and of the people in their citadels. VISHNU took the form of an advisor. To test the strength of their faith in SHIVA, he suggested the three demons to stop worshipping SHIVA and to start praising and worshipping themselves (AVAVATA). He also told them that by doing so, they will be able to subdue the gods (DEVAS) and sages more easily, because people will only listen to them. Blinded by pride and tempted by the fascinating perspective of praising their illusory power, the three demons gave up worshipping SHIVA. By doing this, they lost the only divine quality they still had. Since he were no longer subjects of SHIVA by banishing him from their hearts, SHIVA decided that they must be defeated.
Overwhelmed by vanity and blinded by their passing power, the three demons forgot about the divine gift they could still protect and they still had. They came to fight SHIVA, all three of them at once. Then the gods thought of supporting SHIVA in his action of annihilating the demons, because he was about the fight them and they were extremely powerful. They decided to give SHIVA a battle chariot made of all the necessary forms existing in the Universe. So the whole Earth transformed into SHIVA’s battle chariot. BRAHMA became the driver of the chariot, VISHNU became the arrow, the SUN (SURYA) and the MOON (CHANDRA) became its wheels, mount MERU became the bow and the VASUKI snake turned into the string from SHIVA’s bow.
All gods from the heavens gathered and they all assumed different shapes necessary to build SHIVA’s chariot. But the god of fire (AGNI) and the god of death (YAMA) turned into the wheels of the chariot, instead of the arrow. Then, the sage BINAYAKA broke the chariot’s wheel and forced the two to turn into an arrow. Then, both SOMA as well as AGNI took part in the forming of the arrow.
In the end, everything was ready, but the gods also became pride at the very idea that only through their aid SHIVA would be able to destroy the three demons and their fortresses. Then they asked SHIVA to shoot the arrow they prepared at the three demons and their fortress, to destroy everyone inside. Blinded by their desire to destroy all sinners, the gods forgot that the main purpose of the destruction caused by the Supreme SHIVA is that of purifying the being for, as we know, ”GOD does not desire the destruction of the sinner but its reformation.” But everyone was amazed to see that SHIVA used none of these. He only smiled and then, all three fortresses of the demons immediately melted in the dreadful heat of divine love overflown by SHIVA, through his smile.
All the beings who lived in the three fortresses started to cry in the heat of the fire of divine love that they negated until that moment and they rejected, due to the malicious influence of the three demons. In addition, the gods’ vain assumption that without their help, SHIVA couldn’t destroy the three fortresses, proved to be a great delusion and foolishness for themselves. He alone, SHIVA, was the one who kept on manifesting the divine state of endless love, whose mysterious energy is capable of shortly destroying all the impurities in one’s being.
Then, to test their modesty, SHIVA told the gods that he cannot destroy the three demons (ASURAS) all by himself, because they were very powerful but that the gods would be able to defeat the three demons only with the help of half of his divine power. The gods became aware of the trial that was given to them and they answered SHIVA saying they cannot bear half of SHIVA’s power and that only him, SHIVA, will have to annihilate the three demons. They humbly gave SHIVA half of their total power. Then, SHIVA immediately agreed, because he was aware that their intention had no trace of vanity with it.
SHIVA gathered all this force and firmly pointed it towards the three demons, he used the arrow made by the gods, piercing them with the combined power of all the beneficial forces of the universe, which were all condensed in his divine arrow. The gods humbly thanked SHIVA and then returned to the heavens. After that, SHIVA brought the three demons (ASURAS) back to life, whom he killed with his terrible arrow. Having been pierced with the power of divine good, emanated by the being of SHIVA, the three were reborn in a new life which became highly spiritual to them. Shortly afterwards, they became fervent worshippers of SHIVA, sincerely repenting for all their past mistakes and asking SHIVA for his forgiveness.
Filled with tremendous compassion, SHIVA forgave all of them. SHIVA offered to one of them an important role of his close companion and worshipper, and he assigned the others with the task of guarding his celestial residence.
In India, the temple at TIRUADIKAI is dedicated to worshipping this divine aspect of SHIVA. This divine aspect, SHIVA TRIPURANTAKA, is represented in Indian iconography as follows: “Being crimson colored, with a bright face and holding an antelope, a symbol of mastering the mysterious forces of nature and the bow, as a symbol of his masculine powers in his left hands, while in his right hands he is holding the arrow and the battle ace, which defeats the ignorance of created beings, with the crescent moon and the waters of the celestial Ganges in his divine hair, almost constantly worshipped by VISHNU and BRAHMA, he, SHIVA TRIPURANTAKA is the one who instantaneously melted the three fortress-cities belonging to the three worlds – the causal world, the astral world and the physical world, with his divine smile which manifested an endless overwhelming love. Hence, he is the divine sovereign of the three worlds, the one who destroys with his mysterious power the three impurities of the being, results of illusion (MAYA).” yogaesoteric