|Member of The Ten Mahavidyas|
|Other names||Kamakshi, Kameshvari, Lalita, Lalitambika, Rajarajeshvari, Shodashi, Sri Mata|
|Abode||Manidvipa / Śrī Nagara|
|Weapon||Pasha (noose), Ankusha (elephant goad), arrow and sugarcane bow|
त्रिपुर सुन्दरी (Tripura Sundarī)
|Sanskrit||त्रिपुर सुन्दरी (Tripura Sundarī)|
|Bengali||ত্রিপুরা সুন্দরী (Tripura Sundarī)|
|Hindi||त्रिपुरा सुन्दरी (Tripura Sundarī)|
|Kannada||ತ್ರಿಪುರ ಸುಂದರಿ (Tripura Sundari)|
|Malayalam||ത്രിപുര സുന്ദരി (Tripura Sundarī)|
|Marathi||त्रिपुरा सुंदरी (Tripura Sundarī)|
|Punjabi||ਤ੍ਰਿਪੁਰ ਸੁੰਦਰੀ (Tripura Sundarī)|
|Tamil||திரிபுரசுந்தரி Tripura Sundarī)|
|Telugu||త్రిపుర సుందరి (Tripura Sundarī)|
|Glossary of Hinduism terms|
Tripura Sundari (Sanskrit: त्रिपुरा सुन्दरी, IAST: Tripura Sundarī), also known as Rajarajeshvari, Shodashi, Kamakshi, and Lalita is a Hindu goddess, revered primarily within the Shaktism tradition and recognized as one of the ten Mahavidyas. She embodies the essence of the supreme goddess Mahadevi. Central to the Shakta texts, she is widely praised in the Lalita Sahasranama and Saundarya Lahari. In the Lalitopakhyana of the Brahmanda Purana, she is referred to as Adi Parashakti.
The term "Tripura" conveys the concept of three cities or worlds, while "Sundari" translates to "beautiful woman." She signifies the most beautiful woman across the three realms, with associations to the yoni symbol and the powers of creation, preservation, and destruction.
According to the Srikula tradition in Shaktism, Tripura Sundari is the foremost of the Mahavidyas, the supreme divinity of Hinduism and also the primary goddess of Sri Vidya. The Tripura Upanishad places her as the ultimate Shakti (energy, power) of the universe. She is described as the supreme consciousness, ruling from above Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.
The Lalita Sahasranama narrates the cosmic battle between Lalita Tripura Sundari and the demon Bhandasura, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil. This sacred text offers a detailed portrayal of her divine attributes and qualities. Temples dedicated to her exist across India, with prominent ones in Tripura, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Jharkhand, and Karnataka. Her festivals, including Lalita Jayanti and Lalita Panchami, are celebrated fervently, reflecting devotees' deep spiritual connection to the goddess and her embodiment of the divine feminine energy.
Etymology and nomenclature
The word Tripura (त्रिपुर ) means three cities or three worlds, Sundari (सुन्दरी) means beautiful woman. Tripura Sundari means the most beautiful woman in the three worlds. Tripura could also mean the three cities crafted by Mayasura and destroyed by Tripurantaka, thus meaning “She who is beautiful to the destroyer of the Three Cities.” She is called Tripura because it is similar to the triangle (triangle) that symbolizes the yoni and forms her circle. She is also known as Tripura as her mantra has three clusters of letters. She is called Tripura because she is manifested in Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as the creator, preserver and destroyer of the universe.
History and paramparas
The Srikula (family of Sri) tradition (sampradaya) focuses worship on Devi in the form of the goddess Lalita-Tripura Sundari. Rooted in first-millennium. Srikula became a force in South India no later than the seventh century, and is today the prevalent form of Shaktism practiced in South Indian regions such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Tamil areas of Sri Lanka.
The Srikula's best-known school is Srividya, "one of Shakta Tantrism's most influential and theologically sophisticated movements." Its central symbol, the Sri Chakra, is probably the most famous visual image in all of Hindu Tantric tradition. Its literature and practice is perhaps more systematic than that of any other Shakta sect.
Srividya largely views the goddess as "benign [saumya] and beautiful [saundarya]" (in contrast to Kalikula's focus on "terrifying [ugra] and horrifying [ghora]" Goddess forms such as Kali or Durga). In Srikula practice, moreover, every aspect of the goddess – whether malignant or gentle – is identified with Lalita.
Srikula adepts most often worship Lalita using the abstract Sri Chakra yantra, which is regarded as her subtle form. The Sri Chakra can be visually rendered either as a two-dimensional diagram (whether drawn temporarily as part of the worship ritual, or permanently engraved in metal) or in the three-dimensional, pyramidal form known as the Sri Meru. It is not uncommon to find a Sri Chakra or Sri Meru installed in South Indian temples, because – as modern practitioners assert – "there is no disputing that this is the highest form of Devi and that some of the practice can be done openly. But what you see in the temples is not the srichakra worship you see when it is done privately."[a]
The Srividya paramparas can be further broadly subdivided into two streams, the Kaula (a vamamarga practice) and the Samaya (a dakshinamarga practice). The Kaula or Kaulachara, first appeared as a coherent ritual system in the 8th century in central India, and its most revered theorist is the 18th-century philosopher Bhaskararaya, widely considered "the best exponent of Shakta philosophy."
The Samaya or Samayacharya finds its roots in the work of the 16th-century commentator Lakshmidhara, and is "fiercely puritanical [in its] attempts to reform Tantric practice in ways that bring it in line with high-caste brahmanical norms." Many Samaya practitioners explicitly deny being either Shakta or Tantric, though scholars argue that their cult remains technically both. The Samaya-Kaula division marks "an old dispute within Hindu Tantrism."
The battle between Goddess Lalita Tripura Sundari and the demon Bhandasura is primarily described in the Lalita Sahasranama, a sacred text from Hinduism that consists of a thousand names of Goddess Lalita. The Lalita Sahasranama is a part of the larger scripture called the Brahmanda Purana, specifically in the Uttara Khanda (the concluding section) of the Purana.
In this narrative, Bhandasura is depicted as a powerful demon who has obtained a boon from Lord Shiva that makes him nearly invincible. With his newfound powers, Bhandasura wreaks havoc and establishes his own kingdom, challenging the divine order. In response to the growing threat posed by Bhandasura, the gods, led by Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu, approach Goddess Lalita Tripura Sundari for help.
Goddess Lalita Tripura Sundari is a manifestation of the divine feminine energy and is considered the ultimate form of Adi Parashakti. She is often depicted as a beautiful and benevolent goddess, but when faced with the need to restore cosmic balance and protect the universe, she transforms into a fierce and powerful warrior.
The battle between Goddess Lalita and Bhandasura is described in the Lalita Sahasranama as a cosmic confrontation that symbolizes the triumph of good over evil, righteousness over tyranny, and divine intervention over malevolent forces. The goddess, adorned with various weapons and symbols of power, engages in a fierce battle with Bhandasura and his army of demons. With her extraordinary prowess and the assistance of her divine companions and manifestations, Goddess Lalita defeats Bhandasura and restores cosmic harmony.
The Lalita Sahasranama not only describes the battle itself but also delves into the divine qualities and aspects of Goddess Lalita, highlighting her significance as the embodiment of divine love, grace, power, and wisdom. The text is revered by devotees of the goddess and is recited as a form of worship and meditation to invoke her blessings and protection.
Role in creation
According to the Tripura Rahasya, only goddess Tripura Sundari existed before the beginning of the universe. She created the Trimurti and began the creation of the universe.
Long ago, at the time of creation, Tripura the Universal Consciousness was all alone. There was nothing other than Her. She, the embodiment of Power, who is Self independent wanted to create; the desire developed. From desire, knowledge was born and then action. From Her three glances the three gods were born. Pashupati represented desire, Hari knowledge and Brahma action. They were looked at by Sankari and became naturally powerful and Truth abiding.— T. B. Lakshmana Rao, Shri Tripura Rahasya (Mahatmya Khanda), Chapter 10, Verses 18 to 22
Those who are deluded by my maya, don’t know me completely. I alone, worshipped by all, give the desired fruit. Other than me, there is none who is to be worshipped or who grants the fruits.— T. B. Lakshmana Rao, Shri Tripura Rahasya (Jñāna Khanda), Chapter 20, Verses 40 to 41
The most important text of Tripura Sundari is the Lalita Sahasranama (from the Brahmanda Purana). Tripura Sundari is most often mentioned in the Lalitopakhyana (the fourth book of the Brahmanda Purana) and Tripura Rahasya. The Lalitopakhyana tells of the epic battle between her forces and the forces of the arch-demon Bhandasura.
The Tripura Upanishad places the goddess Tripura Sundari as the ultimate Shakti (energy, power) of the universe. She is described as the supreme consciousness, above Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The Tripura Upanishad is historically the most complete introduction to Shakta Tantrism, distilling into its 16 verses almost every important topic in Shakta Tantra tradition. Along with the Tripura Upanishad, the Tripuratapini Upanishad has attracted scholarly bhasya (commentary) in the second half of 2nd-millennium, such as the work of Bhaskararaya, and Ramanand.
Lalita Sahasranama contains a thousand names of the Hindu mother goddess Lalita. The names are organized in a hymn (stotras). It is the only sahasranama that does not repeat a single name. Further, in order to maintain the meter, other sahasranamas use the artifice of adding suffixes 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 meet 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.
The Lalita Sahasranama is said to have been composed by the eight vaag devis (Vasini, Kameshvari, Aruna, Vimala, Jayani, Modini, Sarveshvari, and Kaulini) upon the command of the goddess Lalita herself. The Sahasranama says that "One can worship Lalita only if she wishes us to do so." This stotra occurs in the Brahmanda Purana (history of the universe) in the chapter of discussion between Hayagriva and Sage Agastya in Kanchipuram. Hayagriva is an incarnation of Vishnu with the head of a horse and is held to be the storehouse of knowledge. Agastya is one of the sages of yore and one of the stars of the constellation Saptarishi. At the request of Agastya, Hayagriva is said to have taught him the thousand holiest names of Lalita. The temple at Thirumeyachur, near Kumbakonam, is said to be where Agastya was initiated into this sahasranama. An alternative origin is that the Upanishad Bramham Mutt at Kanchipuram is where this initiation happened.
Tripura Sundari occupies a very special place in the Tripura Rahasya, a Shakta scripture.
The Power called Tripura is Pure Consciousness. It is beyond speech, senses and mind. She, the Parameshvari exists as Atma in everything. She is beyond codes of conduct, free from conduct and the conductor. She is merely Pure Consciousness supporting all and beyond speech. She is just the soul and consciousness. By virtue of Her freedom She is termed as Maya (illusion). Her glory that encompasses all is beyond logic and questioning. The being gets deluded in many ways by Her who is the pure soul. The creation is said to be the sport of the Devi.— T. B. Lakshmana Rao, Shri Tripura Rahasya (Mahatmya Khanda), Chapter 58, Verses 12 to 14
She rules over three cities, three paths children of the universe. a, ka, and tha , fully present. She is present in these letters. She is ageless, birth less, the greatest and she is the glory of all gods.— Swami Narasimhananda, Tripura Upanishad Verse 01
Her form is described in her Dhyana Stotra as follows.
Arunam Karuna thrangitakshim dhrutha
raha mityeva vibhavaye Bhavanim.[This quote needs a citation]
I imagine of my goddess Bhavani, who has a color of the rising sun. Who has eyes which are waves of mercy, who has bow made of sweet cane, arrows made of soft flowers, and Pasha, Ankusha in her hands, and who is surrounded, by her devotees with powers great, as personification of the concept of “I”.
Also details of her appearance are found in the famous hymn in her praise, the Lalita Sahasranama, where she is said to be,
seated on a throne like a queen (names 2 and 3), to wear jewels (names 13 and 14), to have the auspicious marks of a married woman (names 16–25), and to have heavy breasts and a thin waist (name 36); the crescent moon adorns her forehead, and her smile overwhelms Kameshwara, the lord of desire (name 28). She has as her throne with its legs being Pancha Brahmas (five Brahmas) (name 249).
She is often depicted iconographically as a 16-year-old girl (hence the appellation "Shodashi") seated on a lotus that rests on the supine body of Sadashiva, which in turn lies on a throne whose legs are the gods Brahma, Vishnu, Isvara, and Rudra. In some cases, the lotus is growing out of Shiva's navel. In other more common cases, the lotus is grown directly from the Sri Chakra.
In the Jnana Khanda of Tripura Rahasya, goddess herself describes her eternal form.
In the island of jewels, encircled by the ocean of nectar, beyond the universe, there is a mansion made of Chintamani (wish giving jewel) in the grove Kadamba (Burflower) trees. There is a platform with four legs representing Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesha and Ishwara, and the platform itself represent the back Sadashiva. On it, is installed my non-transcendent form as Tripura Sundari in the form of eternal consciousness.— Shri Tripura Rahasya (Jnana Khanda), Chapter 20, Verses 36:37
The Vamakeshvara tantra says that Tripura-sundari dwells on the peaks of the Himalayas; is worshipped by sages and heavenly nymphs; has a body like pure crystal; wears a tiger skin, a snake as a garland around her neck, and her hair tied in a jata; holds a trident and drum; is decorated with jewels, flowers, and ashes; and has a large bull as a vehicle.
The Saundarya Lahari and the Tantrasara describe her in detail from her hair to her feet. The Tantrasara dhyana mantra says that she is illuminated by the jewels of the crowns of Brahma and Visnu, which fell at her feet when they bowed down to worship her. Kinsley also says that "In Saundarya Lahari and Tantrasara she is not associated with Shiva in any obvious way as she is in other depictions".
Vaishnavism traditions have a similar set of complementary parallels between Vishnu and Lakshmi. The Tantric Vaishnava Pancharatra texts associates Lalita with Lakshmi. Author Douglas Renfrew Brooks says, "Lalita, like the Pancharatra conception of Lakshmi, acts independently by taking over the cosmic functions of the male deity; yet she does not defy the god's wishes". Brooks also says, "In contrast to most Vaishnava conceptions of Lakshmi, however, Lalita destabilizes temporarily for the purpose of reasserting order".
Scholar and professor Thomas B. Coburn says,
Sri Vidya, then, can be understood as one of the premier instances of Hindu Shakta Tantrism. Specifically, it is the tradition (sampradaya) which deals with worship of Tripurasundari, "the most beautiful Tantric form of Sri/Lakshmi, [who is]... the most benign, beautiful and youthful yet motherly manifestation of the Supreme Shakti.
The Sri Yantra is a form of mystical diagram (yantra) used in the Shri Vidya school of Hinduism. Comprising nine interlocking triangles, it embodies complex symbolism. Four upward triangles signify Shiva, while five downward triangles represent Shakti, encompassing the cosmic and human realms around a central point called the bindu. This configuration is sometimes termed the Navayoni Chakra..
The Sri Yantra holds great significance in the Shri Vidya school, central to its worship. It symbolizes the union of masculine and feminine divine energies. The triangles, varying in size, form 43 smaller triangles in concentric levels, mirroring the cosmos. The power point (bindu) stands as the cosmic center, encompassed by concentric circles with lotus petal patterns denoting creation and life force. These elements, set within an earth square, depict a temple with doors to different regions of the universe.
In the Shri Vidya tradition, the Sri Yantra represents the core of devotion. Each triangle and level is associated with specific aspects of divinity, culminating in a structure known as the nava chakra. Its projection into three dimensions results in the Maha Meru, symbolizing the philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism. Subhash Kak has drawn parallels between the Sri Yantra and ancient Vedic texts, emphasizing its enduring significance across Hindu spiritual thought.
There are several temples dedicated to Tripura Sundari across India. Some of the most significant ones include:
- Tripura Sundari Temple, Tripura:This temple is located in the ancient city of Udaipur in Tripura, India. It is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas, which are considered highly sacred in the Shakta tradition. The temple complex is dedicated to Goddess Tripura Sundari and attracts devotees from all over the country.
- Tiruvakkarai Kamakshi Amman Temple, Tamil Nadu: This temple is located in Tiruvakkarai near Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu. It is an important pilgrimage site dedicated to Goddess Tripura Sundari. The temple is known for its intricate architecture and serene surroundings.
- Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Kali Bari, Tripura: This temple is located in Agartala, the capital city of Tripura. It is a significant temple dedicated to Goddess Tripura Sundari and is often visited by devotees seeking her blessings.
- Mukhalingeswar Temple, Andhra Pradesh: While primarily dedicated to Lord Shiva, this temple complex in Andhra Pradesh also houses a shrine for Goddess Tripura Sundari. The temple is known for its unique architecture and historical significance.
- Tiripura Sundari Temple, Telangana: This temple is located in the Nizamabad district of Telangana, India. It is dedicated to Goddess Tripura Sundari and is known for its striking architecture and religious significance.
- Ratneshwari Temple, Jharkhand: Located in Jharkhand, this temple is dedicated to Goddess Tripura Sundari. It is believed to be one of the Shakti Peethas and holds immense importance among devotees.
- Sri Rajarajeswari Peetham, Karnataka: This peetham (spiritual institution) in Karnataka is dedicated to Goddess Rajarajeswari, a form of Tripura Sundari. It is a well-known center of worship and spiritual activities.
- Adyar Kamakshi Temple, Tamil Nadu: While the primary deity of this temple is Goddess Kamakshi, she is often associated with Tripura Sundari in the Shakta tradition. The temple is located in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
- Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, Tamil Nadu: also called the Sri Kanchi Matham or the Sri Kanchi Monastery, is a Hindu institution, located in Kanchipuram, Tamil Nadu. It is located near a temple dedicated to Goddess Sri Kamakshi, along with a shrine for the Advaita Vedanta teacher Adi Shankara.
Festivals dedicated to Tripura Sundari are celebrated with devotion and reverence across various regions in the Shakta tradition. Her main festivals are Lalita Jayanti and Lalita Panchami, but other festivals also hold significance.
Lalita Jayanthi is celebrated on Magha Purnima, the full moon day of the month of Magha (January-February). It is a very important day in some parts of North India when special offerings and ceremonies are held. It is believed that devotees on this day will be blessed if they worship Goddess Lalita with full devotion and dedication.
Lalita Panchami is a very auspicious tithi, celebrated on the fifth day of the Sharad Navaratri festival. Legend has it that on this auspicious day Goddess Lalita emerged from fire to defeat Bhandasura, a demon created from the ashes of Kamadeva. This day is very important in Gujarat and Maharashtra. On this day, some devotees also hold a fast called Lalita Panchami vrata, which is also called the Upang Lalita Vrat. It is believed to bring wealth, happiness and wisdom. Chanting of Vedic mantras dedicated to Goddess Lalita on this day is very useful. It is a popular belief that doing so will immediately solve all the personal as well as business related problems in life.
Navaratri, a nine-night festival, holds immense significance as devotees engage in elaborate rituals, fasting, prayer, and recitation of sacred texts in honor of the divine feminine. Dussehra, which marks the triumph of good over evil, often includes the worship of Tripura Sundari, emphasizing her role as a protector and nurturer. Shodashi Puja, dedicated to her youthful form, is conducted by initiated devotees. Chaitra Navaratri, observed in March-April, mirrors the autumn Navaratri celebrations. Pournami Pooja, observed during full moon days, involves special prayers and rituals to seek her blessings. Additionally, various regions might organize Shakti Utsav, celebrating the multifaceted forms of the goddess. These festivals collectively showcase the devotion, cultural richness, and spiritual connection that devotees share with Goddess Tripura Sundari.
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