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|Lalita Tripura Sundari|
Sri Lalita-Tripurasundari enthroned with her left foot upon the Sri Chakra, also known as Sri Yantra, holding her traditional symbols, the sugarcane bow, flower arrows, noose, and goad.She is seated on a chair constituted by Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Maheswara and Sadashiva. Lakshmi and Saraswati are fanning her.
|Spouse(s)||Kameshwara (a form of Shiva)|
Tripurāsundarī (त्रिपुरा सुंदरी - "Beautiful (Goddess) of the Three Cities") or Mahā-Tripurasundarī ("Great Beautiful (Goddess) of the Three Cities"), also called षोडशी ṣoḍaśī ("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 foremost and the most important in Dasha-Mahavidyas. All other Mahavidyas concludes in her vidya i.e. Sri Vidya. Her consort is Maha Kameswara Shiva. She is the highest aspect of Goddess Adi Shakti. Parvati is the complete incarnation of Lalita Maha Tripura Sundari. Tripurasundari is the primary goddess associated with the Shakta Tantric tradition known as Sri Vidya.
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.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 Story
- 3 Physical description
- 4 Abode
- 5 Bhandasura
- 6 Lalita Sahasranamam
- 7 Srichakra
- 8 References in Hindu literature
- 9 Iconography
- 10 Influence on Indian history and culture
- 11 Temples dedicated to her worship
- 12 Notes
- 13 References
- 14 Further reading
'Tripura' means 'the three fortified cities,' and 'sundarī' means 'beautiful,' specifically a beautiful female. Therefore, her name means 'Beautiful (Goddess) of the Three Cities'. Etymologically, "Lalitha" means "She Who Plays". In the root form (vyutpatti), the word "Lalitha" means "spontaneous" from which the meaning "easy or easy to attain" is derived and implicitly extends to "play". She plays with her devotees just like a mother plays with her child. Also the concept of maya (illusion) is referred to here. She is also called Maha Maya.
Shiva is one of the trinity of Hindu pantheons. He married Sati, the daughter of Daksha. Daksha and Shiva did not get along and consequently Daksha did not invite Shiva for one of the great fire sacrifices that he conducted. However Sati went to attend that function in spite of Shiva’s protest. Daksha insulted her husband and she jumped into the fire and ended her life. Consequently, at the behest of Shiva, Daksha was killed and later resurrected with a goat’s head. This incident i.e. death of his wife upset Shiva and he entered into deep meditation. Sati reincarnated as Parvati, the daughter of Himavat, king of the mountains, and his wife, the apsara Mena as a result of a boon given to them by Adi Para Sakthi (un-manifested form of Lalita Tripura Sundari or Nirguna Brahman). Naturally, Pārvatī sought and received Shiva as her husband.
The devas faced an enemy in Tarakasura who had a boon that he could be killed only by a son of Shiva and Parvati. So for the purpose of begetting a son from Shiva and Parvati, the devas deputed Manmatha, the God of love. Manmatha shot his flower arrows to Shiva and Parvati in order to induce severe sexual feelings in them. Shiva in anger for being tricked, opened his third eye which reduced the God of love to ashes. The Devas and Rathi Devi, the wife of Manmatha requested Shiva to give life to Manmatha. Heeding their request Shiva stared at the ashes of Manmatha. From the ashes came Bhandasura, who made all the world impotent and ruled from the city called Shonitha pura, after which he started troubling the devas. The devas then sought the advice of Sage Narada and Trimurti, who advised them to seek the help of Nirguna Brahman, the ultimate god head which is unmanifested i.e. Sat-Chit-Ananada (Truth-Consciousness-Bliss). Nirguna Brahman took the shape of Maha Sambhu and Adi Parasakthi (who were unmanifested and beyond the manifest Brahmanda) and appeared before them. Maha Sambhu and Adi Parasakthi agreed to take the form of Maha Kameswara and Lalita Tripura Sundari for the benefit of the universe. For this a maha yajna is made where the entire creation i.e. manifest universe is offered as the oblation and from the fire rose Maha Sambhu and Adi Parasakthi as Lalitha Tripura Sundari and Kameswara.Lalitha Tripura Sundari and Kameswara re-created the entire universe as it was before. She created Brahma and Lakshmi, Vishnu and Parvati, Shiva and Sarswati.Thus Vishnu came to be known as the brother of Parvati (i.e. incarnation of Lalita or Adi Para Sakthi).
She is described as extremely beautiful, having dark thick long hair with the scent of Champaka, Asoka and Punnaga flowers. She had the musk thilaka on her forehead, eyelids which appeared as if they were the gate of the house of the God of love, and having eyes like fish playing in the lake of her face. She had a nose with studs that shone more than the stars, ears with the sun and moon as studs, cheeks which were like the mirror of Padmaraga, beautiful rows of white teeth, and she was chewing Thamboola with camphor. She had a voice sweeter than the sound emanating from Veena of Sarswathi, and having such a beautiful smile that Shiva himself could not take his eyes off her. She was wearing Mangala soothra and necklaces, with beautiful breasts which were capable of buying the invaluable love of Kameswara,having wisps of beautiful hair raising from her belly, her stomach having three pretty folds, and she was wearing red silk tied with a string with red bells. She had thighs which steal the heart of Kameshwara, knees which looked like crowns made of precious gems, voluptuous legs, upper parts of the feet resembling the backs of tortoises, feet which resembled lamps made of gems which could dispel worries from the mind of devotees and a body with a golden red color. She was given in marriage to Kameshwara by Trimurtis as priests of the wedding, Varhai and kurukulla stands in the position of her father and mother, Vishnu stands in the position of her brother and made to stay in Nagara(city) at the top of Maha Meru Mountain.Thus Vishnu came to be known as her brother and Varhai and Kurkulla devi as her parents.. (literally, as she has no father & mother i.e. self-born)
Her abode,also called Sri Nagara(city) had 25 streets circling it, made of iron, steel, copper, and lead. An alloy made of five metals, silver, gold, the white Pushpa raga stone, the red Padmaraga stone, onyx, diamond, Vaidoorya, Indra neela ([Blue Sapphire]), pearl, Marakatha, coral, nine gems and a mixture of gems and precious stones. In the eighth street was a forest of Kadambas. This is presided by Syamala. In the fifteenth street lived the Ashta Dik palakas. In the sixteenth lived Varahi alias Dandini who was her commander in chief. Here Syamala also had a house. In the seventeenth street lived the different Yoginis. In the eighteenth street lived Maha Vishnu. In the nineteenth street lived Esana, in the twentieth Thara Devi, twenty first Varuni, the twenty second Kurukulla who presides over the fort of pride, twenty third Marthanda Bhairawa, twenty fourth the moon and twenty fifth Manmatha presiding over the forest of love.
Center of city
In the center of Nagara is the Maha Padma Vana (the great lotus forest) and within it the Chintamani Griha (The house of holy thought), in the north east is the Chid agni kunda and on both sides of its eastern gate are the houses of Manthrini and Dhandini. On its four gates stand the Chaduramnaya gods for watch and ward. Within it is the chakra. In the center of the Chakra on the throne of Pancha brahmas on the Bindu Peeta (dot plank) called sarvanandamaya (universal happiness) sits Maha Tripura Sundari. In the chakra are the following decorations viz., the square called Trilokya mohanam (most beautiful in the three worlds), The sixteen petaled lotus called Sarvasa paripoorakam (fulfiller of all desires), the eight petaled lotus called Sarvasamksopanam (the all cleanser), the sixteen cornered figure called Sarva sowbagyam (all luck), the external ten cornered figure called Sarvartha sadhakam (giver of all assets), the internal ten cornered figure called Sarva raksha karam (All protector), the eight cornered figure called Sarva roga haram (cure of all diseases), the triangle called Sarva siddhi pradam (giver of all powers) and the dot called Sarvananda mayam (all pleasures).
The devas prayed to her to kill Bhandasura. When she started for the war with Bandasura, she was accompanied by the powers called anima, mahima, Brahmi, Kaumari, Vaishnavi, Varahi, Mahendri, Chamundi, Maha Lakshmi, Nitya Devaths and Avarna Devathas who occupy the chakra. While Sampatkari was the captain of the elephant regiment, Aswarooda was the captain of the cavalry. The army was commanded by Dhandini riding on the chariot called Giri Chakra assisted by Manthrini riding on the chariot called Geya Chakra. Jwala malini protected the army by creating a fire ring around it. Lalitha maha Tripura Sundari rode in the center on the chariot of Chakra. Nithya destroyed a large chunk of Bandasura’s armies, Bala killed the son of Bandasura, and Manthrini and Dhandini killed his brothers called Vishanga and Vishukra. When the asuras created a blockade for the marching army, Lalitha Tripura sundari created Ganesha with the help of Kameshwara to remove the blockade. Then Bandasura created the asuras called Hiranyaksha, Hiranya Kasipu and Ravana. She killed all his army using Pasupathastra and killed him with Kameshwarasthra. The gods then praised her. She then recreated Manmathan for the good of the world. This story is contained in the first 84 names of the first 34 slokas of Lalitha sahasranamam. All together it contains one thousand names. This is also called the Rahasya Nama Sahasra (the thousand secret names). Reading it, meditating on the meaning of the names would lead to the fulfillment of all the wishes of the devotees.
Lalita Sahasranama contains a thousand names of the Hindu mother goddess Lalita. The names are organized in a hymns (stotras). It is the only sahasranama that does not repeat a single name. Further, in order to maintain the meter, sahasranamass use the artifice of adding words like tu, api, ca, and hi, which are conjunctions that do not necessarily add to the meaning of the name except in cases of interpretation. The Lalita sahasranama does not use any such auxiliary conjunctions and is unique in being an enumeration of holy names that meets the metrical, poetical and mystic requirements of a sahasranama by their order throughout the text.
Lalita Sahasranama begins by calling the goddess Shri Mata (the great mother), Shri Maharajni (the great queen) and Shrimat Simhasaneshwari (the queen sitting on the lion-throne). In verses 2 and 3 of the Sahasranama she is described as a Udayatbhanu Sahasrabha (the one who is as bright as the rays of thousand rising suns), Chaturbahu Samanvita (the one who has four hands) and Ragasvarupa Pashadhya (the one who is holding the rope). Chidagnikunda Sambhuta (one who was born from the altar of the fire of consciousness) and Devakarya samudyata (one who manifested Herself for fulfilling the objects of the devas) are among other names mentioned in the sahasranama.
Lalitha sahasranama is said to have been composed by eight vak devis (vaag devathas) upon the command of Lalitha. These vaag devis are Vasini, Kameshwari, Modhinee, Vimala, Aruna, Jayinee, Sarveshwari, Koulini. The sahasranama says that "One can worship Lalitha only if she wishes us to do so". The text is a dialogue between Hayagriva, an (avatar) of Mahavishnu and the sage Agastya. The temple at Thirumeyachur,near Kumbakonam is said to be where Agastya was initiated into this sahasranama. Another alternative version is the Upanishad Bramham Mutt at kanchipuram is where this initiation happened.
This sahasranama is held as a sacred text for the worship of the "Divine Mother", Lalita, and is used in the worship of Durga, Parvati, Kali, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Bhagavathi, etc. A principal text of Shakti worshipers, it names her various attributes, and these names are organized in the form of a hymn. This sahasranama is used in various modes for the worship of the Divine Mother. Some of the modes of worship are parayana (Recitations), archana, homa etc.
This stotra (hymn of praise) occurs in the Brahmanda Purana (history of the universe) in the chapter on discussion between Hayagreeva and Agasthya. Hayagreeva is an incarnation of Vishnu with the head of a horse who is held to be the storehouse of knowledge. Agasthya is one of the sages of yore and one of the stars of the constellation Saptarshi (Ursa major). At the request of Agasthya, Hayagreeva is said to have taught him the thousand holiest names of Lalita. This has been conveyed to us by the sage Maharishi Vyasa. Lalitha Sahasranama is the only sahasranama composed by vag devatas under Lalitha's direction. All the other sahasranamas are said to have been composed by Maharishi Vyasa.
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The slokas are organized in such a way that Devi is described from heead to feet (kesadhi padham). There are basically five works (pancha krtyam). They are creation (srishti), protection (sthiti), destruction (samharam), hiding (thirudhanam) and blessing (anugraham). Devi herself has been described as "pancha krtya parayana" in the sloka and the five tasks are described as follows:
srshtikarthi brahmma roopa gopthree-govinda-rupini samharini-rudra-rupa thirodhanakareeswari sadasiva-anugrahadha panchakruthya-parayana[this quote needs a citation]
This means Devi is the aspect of Brahma, while creating srshti, aspect of Vishnu while sustaining sthiti, aspect of Rudra during dissolution samhara. These five entities (Brahmma, Vishnu, Rudra, Isvara and Sadasiva) are known as "pancha-brahma". Lalitha has designated the five functions to these brahmam. Sometimes, Devi will take away the life from these five brahmmam and make them inactive, performing all the five tasks herself. At that time they will be called "pancha pretam" that is lifeless bodies.The first three slokas are: Srimata (great mother) - srshti; Sri Maharajni (great ruler) - sthithi; Srimat Simhasaneswari (one who sits on the lion throne) - samharam. The rest of the slokas cover thirodhanam and anugraham.
The next names - "chidhagnikunda sambhutha devakarya samudhyatha" tells us that devi arose from the fire of knowledge to help devas in their task (war against asuras – bhandasura). From the namAa- Udhyath bhanu sahasraba till sinjanamani manjeera manditha sree padambuja, all her parts like her face, fore head, eyes, mouth, tongue, voice, hands, hip, legs have been described.Thereafter, Devi's place (Chintamani gruham), her war against bandasura, kundalini shakti, and her properties have been described. A common image of the goddess depicts a parrot and a sugarcane with her. Sugarcane represents the sweetness of her mind.
In the Shri Vidya school of Hindu tantra, the Sri Yantra ("sacred instrument"), also Sri Chakra is a diagram formed by nine interlocking triangles that surround and radiate out from the central (bindu) point. It represents the goddess in her form of Shri Lalita Or Tripura Sundari, "the beauty of the three worlds (earth,atmosphere and sky(heaven)"(Bhoo, Bhuva and Swa).[according to whom?] The worship of the Sri Chakra is central to the Shri Vidya system of Hindu worship. Four isosceles triangles with the apices upwards, representing Shiva or the Masculine. Five isosceles triangles with the apices downward, symbolizing female embodiment Shakti. Thus the Sri Yantra also represents the union of Masculine and Feminine Divine. Because it is composed of nine triangles, it is known as the Navayoni Chakra. "These nine triangles are of various sizes and intersect with one another. In the middle is the power point (bindu), visualizing the highest, the invisible, elusive centre from which the entire figure and the cosmos expand. The triangles are enclosed by two rows of (8 and 16) petals, representing the lotus of creation and reproductive vital force. The broken lines of the outer frame denote the figure to be a sanctuary with four openings to the regions of the universe".
Together the nine triangles are interlaced in such a way as to form 43 smaller triangles in a web symbolic of the entire cosmos or a womb symbolic of creation. Together they express Advaita or non-duality. This is surrounded by a lotus of eight petals, a lotus of sixteen petals, and an earth square resembling a temple with four doors. The various deities residing in the nine layers of the Sri Yantra are described in the Devi Khadgamala Mantra.
The Shri Chakra is also known as the nava chakra because it can also be seen as having nine levels. "Nine" comes from" Nava" of Sanskrit. Each level corresponds to a mudra, a yogini, and a specific form of the Deity Tripura Sundari along with her mantra. These levels starting from the outside or bottom layer are:
- Trailokya Mohana or Bhupara, a square of three lines with four portals
- Sarva Aasa Paripuraka, a sixteen-petal lotus
- Sarva Sankshobahana, an eight-petal lotus
- Sarva Saubhagyadayaka, composed of fourteen small triangles
- Sara Arthasadhaka, composed of ten small triangles
- Sarva Rakshakara, composed of ten small triangles
- Sarva Rogahara, composed of eight small triangles
- Sarva Siddhiprada, composed of 1 small triangle
- Sarva Anandamaya, composed of a point or bindu
The two dimensional Sri Chakra, when it is projected into three dimensions is called a Maha Meru (Mount Meru).
References in Hindu literature
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, Maheshwara 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 a goddess, 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 and Kameswara. Bala Tripurasundari's mantra and yantra differs completely from that of Maha Tripurasundari. One 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. Perhaps the most well known temple of Bala Tripurasundari in South India is the Sri Bala Peetam in Nemili, near Kancheepuram.
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.
Influence on Indian history and culture
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.
Temples dedicated to her worship
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Her most important temple is the Kanchi Kamakshi temple in Kanchipuram,Tamil Nadu. Kanchipuram is one of the moksha puris.Sage Durvasa done intense penance in Kanchipuram and the pleased Lalita Tripura Sundari appeared and agrees to reside in Kanchi for the benefit of her devotees.Sage Durvasa installed the Sri Chakra in this temple.It is also the place of Kanchi Kamakoti mandali.
Her temple, the Tripura Sundari temple is located on top of the hills near Radhakishorepur village, a little distance away from Udaipur town in Tripura and in Banaswara, Rajasthan .In West Bengal, there is a temple of Ma Tripura Sundari Devi located in Boral, near Garia.In Madhya Pradesh, Jabalpur, there is Tripura Sundari temple about 12 km from city on Bhedaghat road in village Tewar.In the outskirts of Chennai, is the Shri Tirusoolanathar Tripurasundari temple, an ancient temple built by Kulothunga Chola I in the 11th century. The Trisula Nathar Temple is dedicated to Sri Shiva as Trisula Nathar and Divine Mother Shakti as Tripura Sundari Amman.
There are literally countless temples dedicated to Tripura Sundari in India and most of them are located in South India. A particularly interesting one is the temple in Devipuram, Andhra Pradesh. The temple here is shaped like a Sri Meru, the three-dimensional projection of the Sri Yantra, and visitors can walk inside its nine levels and see life-sized idols of the Khadgamala devis who reside in them. The temple was built by Prahlada Sastry, who died in October 2015. Before the building the temple Hladini (aka Lalita Devi) appeared to in front of Sastry, while he was meditating in the hill-valley of present-day Devipuram, and showed him where to build the temple. When Sastry told her that he had no knowledge of Khadgamala devi swaroopas (forms), Hladini asked him to meditate on Khadgamala Devis so that they would appear. As Sastry was meditating different Khadgamala devis appeared in various forms roughly one Devi every month - some took longer, some less. Sastry then built the sculptures according to what he saw. It took him seven years to have the Khadgamala Devis manifest in front of him and to complete building the temple. Thus, the Devipuram temple is unique, perhaps the only temple in the world, in which the sculptures represent actual forms of Khadgamala Devis.
One of the most prominent temples dedicated to Tripura Sundari in North America is the Sri Rajarajeswari Peetam in Rush, NY.
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- 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
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