Tripurāsundarī (त्रिपुरा सुंदरी - "Beautiful (Goddess) of the Three Cities") or Mahā-Tripurasundarī ("Great Beautiful (Goddess) of the Three Cities"), also called Ṣhoḍaśhi ("Sixteen"), Lalitā ("She Who Plays") and Rājarājeśvarī ("Queen of Queens, Supreme Ruler"), is one of the group of ten goddesses of Hindu belief, collectively called Mahavidyas or Dasha-Mahavidyas. She is the highest aspect of Goddess Adi Shakti Parvati / Durga.
As Shodashi, Tripurasundari is represented as a sixteen-year-old girl, and is believed to embody sixteen types of desire. Shodashi also refers to the sixteen syllable mantra, which consists of the fifteen syllable (panchadasakshari) mantra plus a final seed syllable. The Shodashi Tantra refers to Shodashi as the "Beauty of the Three Cities," or Tripurasundari.
Tripurasundari is the primary goddess associated with the Shakta Tantric tradition known as Sri Vidya.The Goddess Who is "Beautiful in the Three Worlds" (Supreme Deity of Srikula systems); the "Moksha Mukuta".
'Tripura' means 'the three cities,' and 'sundarī' means 'beautiful,' specifically a beautiful female. Therefore, her name means 'Beautiful (Goddess) of the Three Cities'. Tripura is often popularly translated as 'the three worlds;' however, this is an incorrect translation of the original Sanskrit.
The 'three cities' esoterically refers to a variety of interpretive doctrines, but commonly refers to the triple form of the goddess as found in the triadic doctrine of Shaktism. According to Bhaskararaya's commentary of the Tripura Upaniṣad:
- There are three forms of deity: physical (sthūla), subtle (sūkṣma) and supreme (parā). Now the first [physical anthropomorphic form of the deity] is described in its respective meditative verses (dhyānaśloka); the second [subtle form] consists of the [particular deity's] respective root-mantra (mūlamantra); the third [supreme or transcendent form] consists of contemplative worship [of the deity's yantra]. Because deities are threefold in form, contemplative worship (upāsti) is divided threefold respectively into external sacrifice (bahiryāga) [performed primarily to the physical form of the deity], silent repetition (japa) [on the subtle form root-mantra] and internal sacrifice (antaryāga) [in the form of contemplative worship (upāsti) of the yantra].
- Even though the bindu cakra [the "drop" in the center of the śrīcakra, is only one point] it has a threefold nature... The three deities created [and] not different from [her supreme] peaceful (śānta) [aspect] are [the three creative powers,namely,] Icchāśakti, Jñānaśakti, and Kriyāśakti. The female deities named Vāmā, Jyeṣṭhā, and Raudrī [identified with the three śaktis are complemented] by the three [male consort] forms of Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Rudra which are not different creations from [her all-subsuming aspect called] Ambikā.
Icchāśakti is literally the 'power of will,' Jñānaśakti is the 'power of knowledge,' and Kriyāśakti is the 'power of action.'
Brooks further notes:
- The traditional interpretation of Tripurā's name in Tantric soteriology involves a rather technical discussion of different levels of spiritual insight and worldly accomplishment, the fate of the individual soul (ātman) in the karmic process, and the concepts of external (bahir-) and internal sacrifice (antaryāga).
Tripura also refers to the Śrīcakra, the yantra that represents the highest vibrational form of Tripurasundari, according to the commentator on the sutra of Gauḍapādā. Bhaskararaya notes in his commentary on Tripura Upaniṣad that the śrīcakra, composed of nine interlocking triangles, is triple in nature.
References in Hindu literature
The Lalitopakyana tells of the epic battle between her forces and the forces of the arch-demon Bhandasura.
Tripurasundari is described as being of dusky, red, or golden in color, depending on the meditational form, and in union with Shiva. The couple are traditionally portrayed on a bed, a throne, or a pedestal that is upheld by Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Ishana(another form of Shiva, depicted in the Tantras) and Sadashiva forming the plank. She holds five arrows of flowers, a noose, a goad and a sugarcane as a bow. The noose represents attachment, the goad represents repulsion, the sugarcane bow represents the mind and the arrows are the five sense objects.
Bala Tripurasundari is another form of Tripurasundari, depicted as an independent young pre pubescent goddess who is 9 years of age, also known as a kumari. She is said to be the daughter of Lalita Maha Tripurasundari. Bala Tripurasundari's mantra and yantra differs completely from that of Maha Tripurasundari. The only Temple of Bala Tripurasundari Bhagawati is located at Tripurakot of Dolpa district of Nepal where Adi Shankaracharya had prayed and worshipped due to renowned exaltation of Bala Tripurasundari Bhagawati Temple. Tripurasundari is also worshipped as the Sri Yantra, which is considered by practitioners of Sri Vidya to be a more true representation of the goddess.
Tripurasundari combines in her being Kali's determination and Durga’s charm, grace, and complexion. She has a third eye on her forehead. Usually four-armed and clad in red, the richly bejeweled Tripurasundari sits on a lotus seat laid on a golden throne. An aura of royalty characterizes her overall bearing and ambiance.
Influences on Indian History and Culture
The Indian state of Tripura derives its name from the goddess Tripura Sundari. Her main temple, the Tripura Sundari temple is also located on top of the hills near Radhakishorepur village, a little distance away from Udaipur town.
Kashmiri Pandits have a collection of five ancient hymns, collectively known as Panchastavi, that were composed ages ago in praise of Tripura Sundari. These ancient hymns still remain very popular among this community. Panchastavi was translated into Kashmiri by the renowned Kashmiri scholar, Pandit Jia Lal Saraf, which it remains popular among Kashmiris to this day.
In West Bengal, there is a temple of Ma Tripura Sundari Devi located in Boral, near Garia.
- Frawley, David: "Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses", page 89. Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, reprint 2005
- Danielou, Alain (1991). The Myths and Gods of India. Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International. p. 278.
- Brooks, Douglas R. (1990). The Secret of the Three Cities: An Introduction to Hindu Sakta Tantrism. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press. p. 80.
- Brooks, Douglas R. (1990). The Secret of the Three Cities: An Introduction to Hindu Sakta Tantrism. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press. p. 97.
- Brooks, Douglas R. (1990). The Secret of the Three Cities: An Introduction to Hindu Sakta Tantrism. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press., 103.
- Joshi, L.M. (2009). Lalita Sahasranama: A Comprehensive Study of One Thousand Names of Lalita Maha-Tripurasundari (Tantra in Contemporary Research, No. 2). Delhi: DK Printworld. p. 86.
- Brooks, Douglas R. (1990), The Secret of the Three Cities: An Introduction to Hindu Sakta Tantrism, Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press
- Brooks, Douglas R. (1992), Auspicious Wisdom, Albany: State University of New York Press
- Kinsley, David (1997), Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas, New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 978-0-520-20499-7
- books released by Sathguru sri seshadri swamigal brindavanam trust ( regd) web site:www.seshadri.info
- Kinsley, David. Hindu Goddesses: Vision of the Divine Feminine in the Hindu Religious Traditions. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.
- Dikshitar, V.R. Ramachandra. The Lalita Cult. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt Ltd, 1991.