In the chapter 1 to 10 in Section 2.5 of Rudra-saṃhita (Yuddha-khaṇḍa), the story of building and destruction of Tripura (the three cities) of three sons of Taraka is told.
Boon for three castles:
When the Asura Taraka was killed by Skanda (Kumar Kartikeya), the son of Shiva, his three sons performed severe penances to seek a boom from Brahma. The eldest of them was Tarakakṣa, the middle one Vidyunmali and the youngest Kamalaksa. They sought a boon from Brahma: -
“Build three castles, the one of steel on earth, another of silver in the sky and the third of gold. These castles could join together during midday at the time of Abhijit when the moon shall be in the constellation Puṣhya, at the end of a thousand years. These cities shall never join otherwise. When these cities would join together, Shiva who embodies all the gods sitting in a wonderful chariot containing all necessary adjuncts, may, in his distorted sport, discharge a wonderful single arrow and pierce our cities.”
Brahma granted the boon and asked the Maya to build these castles for the Asuras. The Maya built the cities by means of his penance: the golden one for Tarakakṣa, the silver one for Kamalakṣa and the steel one for Vidyunmali. The three fort like excellent cities were in order in heaven, sky and on the earth. The castles had many Kalpa trees there. Elephants and horses were in plenty. Aerial chariots shining like the solar sphere. There were many palaces, divine minarets resembling the summits of the mount Kailasha. Celestial damsels, Gandharvas, Siddhas, and Caraṇas were also there. There were temples of Rudra. In every house, people performed the rites of Agnihotra. There were excellent brahmins well-versed in sacred texts and devoted to Shiva always. There were beautiful tanks, lakes, wells, rivers and huge ponds. There were very beautiful with plenty of fruit-bearing trees. There were time-indicators, playgrounds and different halls for Vedic studies. Thus, the Asuras, sons of Taraka, after acquiring the boons, lived there.
Misdeeds of Sons of Taraka & distress of Gods:
The three worlds came under sway of three sons of Taraka. The excellent sages and the Siddhas were destroyed. The entire universe was exterminated by them. The terrible Asuras took the entire share of the sacrificial benefits to themselves. They initiated evil activities. They prevented the sages from performing their virtuous rites. Later, the gods including Indra were defeated by them. Then, Gods approached Brahma and later Shiva for redressal of their grievances. They eulogised Shiva by various hymns and informed Shiva about entire activities of sons of Taraka. They sought redressal.
Shiva informed them, “Those Asuras are my devotees. O Gods, how can they be slain by us? They should not be slain as long as they continue their devotion to me. Yet, this reason may very well be intimated to Vishnu.”
Then, the gods with Brahma as their head went to Vaikuṇṭha and intimated to Vishnu about their misery. On hearing the distress of the gods as well as the vows observed by the Tripuras, Vishnu spoke as follows: “This is true that where the eternal virtue reigns supreme, no misery raises its head like darkness when the sun is seen.”
On hearing these words, the gods became miserable and dejected. They spoke to Vishnu: “How are we to go about our activities. How can our misery be dispelled? How can we be happy? How are we to remain firm? As long as the Tripuras are alive, how can we observe virtuous activities? All the residents of the three cities give troubles to us.”
On seeing them in that plight, distressed and humiliated, Vishnu thought within himself, “I am the benefactor of the gods. But what can I do in this affair? The sons of Taraka are the devotees of Shiva.” After thinking like this, he thought upon the Supreme Vishnu, the lord of sacrifices, the primordial Puruṣa. Immediately on being thought upon by Vishnu all the sacrifices came where Vishnu was stationed. The eternal lord Vishnu saw the eternal sacrifices and told them looking at the gods too including Indra. Vishnu said: “In order to destroy the three cities and to bring about prosperity in the three worlds, O gods perform the worship of lord Shiva along with the lord of sacrifices.”
On hearing the words of Vishnu, the intelligent lord of the gods and bowing to him lovingly, the gods eulogised the lord of sacrifices. The gods worshipped the Sacrificial Being in accordance with the rules governing the same with the complete rites. Then from the sacrificial pit rose up thousands of Bhutas of huge size and armed with tridents, spears, iron clubs and other weapons. The gods saw thousands of Bhutasanghas armed with tridents and spears and possessing various weapons such as staffs, bows, stones, etc. They had various missiles to strike with. They were in different guises. They resembled the destructive fire and Rudra. They were on a par with the destructive Sun. When they bowed to him and stood waiting in front, Vishnu saw them. The glorious lord of sacrifices who carried out the behests of Rudra, spoke to them. Vishnu said: “O Bhutas, listen to my statement. You are all very powerful and have risen up for fulfilling the task of the gods. All of you go immediately to the three cities. Go there, strike at, break and burn the three cities of the Asuras. O Bhutas, thereafter you can go away as you please for prosperity.
On hearing the words of the lord, the hosts of Bhutas bowed to the lord of the gods and went to the three cities of the Asuras. Immediately after their entry into the cities they were reduced to ashes like moths in the fire.
On realizing that all the gods were distressed and dejected in the mind. Vishnu said, “O good gods, these Asuras and the other residents of the three cities are virtuous. O gods, thanks to the worship of Shiva, their cherished desires are realised. Different means of enjoyment in the world are brought under their control. Hence these Asuras who are devoted to the phallic worship enjoy different kinds of pleasures and prosperity and salvation hereafter. Then putting obstacles in their activities of virtuous rites, by means of magic art I shall destroy the three cities of the Asuras quickly for accomplishing the task of the Asuras.”
Thus, lord Vishnu set himself to the task of interfering with the sacred rites of the Asuras. Hence such means shall be followed as will make Vedic Dharma disappear thence. Undoubtedly the Asuras will forsake their worship of the phallic emblem of Shiva. Deciding thus, Vishnu started ridiculing the Vedas for putting up obstacles in the virtuous activities of the Asuras.
Creation of Deceptive text to initiate Tamasika rites:
For causing obstacles in their virtuous activities, Vishnu created a Puruṣa born of himself. He had a shaven head, wore dirty clothes, held a woven wicker vessel in his hand and a roll of cotton in his hand which he shook at every step. His face was pale and weak. In a faltering voice he was muttering “Dharma, Dharma.” He bowed to Vishnu and stood in front of him. He spoke to Vishnu with hands joined in reverence. “O laudable, revered one, please tell me what my names are and what my place shall be.”
Vishnu said: “O intelligent one, born of me, you are certainly identical with me in form. Know why you have been created. I shall tell you. You are born of me. You can perform my task. You are my own. Certainly, you will be worthy of worship always. Let your name be Arihat. I shall assign to you a place afterwards. Now hear with reverence what is relevant to the context. You create a deceptive sacred text of sixteen hundred thousand verses, contrary to Srutis and Smṛtis wherein Varnas and Asramas shall be eschewed. Let that holy text be in Apabhraṃsa lauguage. Let there be emphasis on actions. You shall strain yourself to extend it further. I shall bestow on you the ability to create it. Different kinds of magic arts shall be subservient to you.”
The shaven-head said: :O lord, command me quickly what I shall do. At your bidding, all activities shall be fruitful. Saying this he recited the main tenet in the deceptive philosophy. “Heaven and hell are functioning here itself.”
Vishnu commanded him, “O intelligent one, they shall be initiated by you. They shall be taught strenuously. At my bidding you will incur no sin on that account. You shall go there for destroying the residents of the three cities. Revealing the Tamasika rites, destroy the three cities. After that, you shall go to the desert region and stay there carrying on your own duties and activities till the advent of the Kali age. When the Kali age begins let your Dharma be revealed. You shall then continue to do so by means of disciples and disciples’ disciples. At my bidding your cult shall certainly expand. Depending upon my permission and direction you will attain me as your goal.”
Then the ascetic of shaven head acting in accordance with Vishnu’s behest created four disciples of the like form as himself and taught them the deceptive cult. The four disciples with shaven heads followed the heretic cult. They had the wicker vessel in their hands. They covered their mouths with a piece of cloth. They habitually wore dirty clothes. They did not talk much. Delightedly they used to speak “Dharma is the great gain, the true essence” and some similar words. They held a besom broom made of pieces of cloths. They used to walk step by step very slowly because they were afraid of injuring living beings.
Then, bowing to Vishnu who carried out the wishes of Shiva, the deceptive sage went joyously to the three cities accompanied by his disciples. The sage of great self-control entered the three cities and created illusion. Stationing himself in a garden at the outskirts of the city, accompanied by his disciples he set his magic in motion. That was powerful enough to fascinate even the expert magicians. His magic was ineffective in the three cities by virtue of Shiva’s worship. Then the heretic sage became distressed. He mentally remembered and eulogised Vishnu many times, with an aching heart. He had been so dispirited and listless. On being remembered by him Vishnu mentally thought of Shiva. Receiving his behest by the process of thought forms he remembered Narada. Immediately after, Narada approached Vishnu. After bowing to him and eulogising him, he stood before Vishnu with palms joined in reverence. Vishnu spoke to Narada: “O dear, this is being mentioned to you at the bidding of Shiva. Go to the three cities immediately. The sage has gone there already for deluding the residents of the cities.”
On hearing his words, Narada went there quickly where the ascetic expert in magic was stationed. Then Narada approached the lord of the three cities. Narada said: “A certain sage, very virtuous and excellent master of lore has arrived here. He possesses complete knowledge of the Vedic lore. Many cults have been observed by me but none of them is like his. Seeing the eternal virtue in this cult we have got ourselves initiated into it. O great king, O excellent Asuras, if you have any interest in that cult, you shall get yourself initiated into it.”
On hearing his words full of significance, the lord of the Asuras was deluded and exclaimed with surprise in his heart. The Tripura ruler said: --
“O sage of pure mind, you shall perform my initiation. I shall become your disciple. On hearing the frank words of the ruler of the Asuras the heretic sage, professing to be eternal, spoke emphatically.” O excellent Asura, if you are prepared to act according to my behests, I shall initiate you, otherwise not, even if you strive for a number of times. The Asura said: “I shall carry out whatever command you are pleased to give. I will not transgress your orders. True. It is certainly true.
On hearing the words of the Tripura-ruler, the excellent sage removed the cloth from his mouth and spoke. “O lord of Asuras, take initiation in this most excellent of all cults. By this initiation you will become contented.”
Saying thus, the deceptive sage immediately performed the initiation of the ruler of the Asuras, in accordance with his cult observing all rules. When the ruler of the Asuras was initiated along with his brothers, the residents of the three cities too got themselves initiated. The entire Tripuras were filled with the line of disciples of the sage, an expert in great art of illusion. “Since Narada has been initiated, we too shall be initiated.” Resolving thus, the Asura approached the sage. On seeing his features, the Asura was deluded by his magic.
Arihat told him:
“The entire universe is eternal. It has no creator nor it is an object of creation. It evolves itself and gets annihilated by itself. There are many bodies from Brahma down to a blade of grass. They themselves are the gods for them. There is no other God. Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra are only the names of embodied beings just like my name Arihat etc. Just as our bodies perish when their time arrives, so also the bodies of all beings from Brahma to a mosquito perish when their time arrives. There is no other virtue equal to the mercy shown to living beings. Hence all men shall strenuously practise acts of mercy to living beings. Non-violence is the greatest virtue. Affliction of others is a great sin. Salvation is defined as non-dependence on others. Eating the food of our choice is heavenly bliss. The hoarding and amassing of vast wealth are useful only for the propitiation of twelve organs of senses. Of what avail is the propitiation of other things? The twelve organs of senses are the five organs of activity and the five organs of knowledge together with the mind and intellect. Happiness is heaven and misery is hell. Narrating his opinions to the leader of the Tripuras, the ascetic addressed the citizens with great zeal. One shall seek and enjoy happiness as long as the body is hale and hearty, as long as the sense-organs are not impaired and as long as the old age is far off. It is unnecessary to divide the people into different castes. When all are men who is superior and who is inferior? How can sons born of the same body or from the same body be of four different castes?”
Addressing the lord of the Asuras and the citizens thus, the sage with his disciples spoiled the Vedic rites in a determined manner. He then criticised the womanly virtues of chastity and manly virtues of continence etc. Similarly, he attacked and repudiated the divine rites, Shraddhika rites, sacrificial rites and holy observances and festivals, pilgrimages and anniversaries. Worship of Shiva, propitiation of his phallic form, adoration of Vishnu, Sun, Ganesh and other deities in accordance with the sacred texts were repudiated by him. The heretic sage, an expert in wielding magic art, foremost among the deceptive, criticised the ceremonial ablutions and charitable gifts that are made on auspicious occasions.
The glory that they had acquired by the boon of Brahma, the lord of the gods, went out forsaking them, at the behest of Brahma. When the Asuras had become so, when they had abandoned the worship of Shiva, when the virtuous rites of chaste women came to an end and evil conduct came to stay, Vishnu was apparently contented. Accompanied by the gods, Vishnu went to Kailas and intimated their activities to Shiva.
Shiva said: “there is no doubt in this that I will destroy the three cities of the Asuras if they persist in indulging in evil activities. But the great Asuras are my firm devotees. They shall be killed only by me, for they have been forced to abandon their excellent virtue under false persuasion. Let Vishnu or anyone else slay them now that they have been made to abandon their Dharma. The Asuras of the three cities have become devoid of devotion to me.”
Brahma said: “There is no sin in this, since you are the great lord, the great Brahman and the saviour of gods and sages always. It is at your own bidding that they have been deluded. You induced them to be deluded. Although the Asuras have forsaken their duties and your worship, they cannot be killed by others. Hence, O great lord, the saviour of the lives of the gods and the sages, the terrorists shall be killed by you for the protection of the good.”
Shiva’s Chariot to destroy Tripura:
Then the divine chariot of lord Shiva was built by Vishvakarman with devoted effort. The right wheel was the sun and the left wheel was the moon. The right wheel had twelve spokes. The twelve Adityas presided over them. The left wheel had sixteen spokes. The sixteen spokes of the left side wheel consisted of the sixteen digits of the moon. The six seasons constituted the rims of the wheels of the chariot. The Pushkara of the chariot was the sky. The inner side of the chariot was Mandara. The rising and the setting mountains constituted the poleshafts. Mahameru was the support and the Keshara mountains the sharp sides. The year constituted its velocity. The two Ayanas northern and southern constituted the junctions of the wheels and axles. The Muhurtas constituted the joints and the Kalas the pins of the yoke. The division of time Kaṣṭha constituted the nose of the chariot and the Kṣaṇas the axle-shaft. The Nimeṣas constituted the bottom of the carriage and the minutest divisions of time constituted the poles. The firmament constituted the fender of the chariot; Heaven and salvation the flag staffs; Abhṛamu and Kamadhenu constituted its harrows at the end of the shafts. The unmanifest principle formed their shaft and cosmic intellect the chariot’s reeds. The cosmic Ego cosmic corners and elements its strength. The cosmic sense-organs constituted the embellishments of this chariot on all sides. Faith was its movements. The six Vedangas were its ornaments. The Puraṇas, Nyaya, Mimaṃsa and Dharma Shastras constituted the side trinkets. The forceful and excellent mantras with their syllables and feet, of all characteristic features and the stages in life constituted the tinkling bells. Ananta embellished with thousand hoods constituted its fittings. and the main and subsidiary quarters, the pedestals of the chariot. The clouds Puṣkara and others constituted the gem-studded banners of glowing colours. The four oceans are remembered as the bullocks of the chariot. Ganga and other rivers shining in excellent female forms and decorated in all ornaments held the Camaras in their hands. Lord Brahma was the charioteer, the gods were holders of the bridle. Praṇava the Vedic divinity constituted the long whip of Brahma. The syllable A constituted the great umbrella, Mandara the side staff. The lord of mountains became his bow and the lord of serpents the bowstring. Goddess Sarasvatī in the form of the Vedas constituted the bells of the bow. The brilliant Vishnu became the arrow and Agni the spear-head. The four Vedas are said to be his horses. The remaining planets became their embellishments. His army came up from water. The winds were his feathers, wings etc. Vyasa and other sages were the drivers of the vehicle.
Shiva said: “O excellent gods, you will not fall even in your animalhood. Let the process of release from animalhood be practised. He who performs the divine rite of Pasupata will be released from animalhood.”
Hence all the gods and Asuras became the animals of the lord. Shiva became the lord of animals. Bhṛngin, the chief of all Gaṇeshas, surrounded by lord of Gaṇas and gods went speedily to destroy the three cities like Mahendra seated in an aerial chariot.
In the auspicious moment called Abhilaṣa Shiva drew the bow and made a wonderful and unbearable twanging sound. He addressed the great Asuras and proclaimed his own name. Shiva discharged an arrow that had the refulgence of countless suns. The arrow which was constituted by Vishnu and whose steel head was fire god blazed forth and burnt the three Asuras who lived in the three cities. It thereby removed their sins. The three cities reduced to ashes fell on the earth girt by the four oceans. Tarakakṣa was burnt along with his two brothers.