The Mahabharata Home
"'Duryodhana said, "Listen, once more, O ruler of the Madras, to what I will say unto thee, about what happened, O lord, in the battle between the gods and the Asuras in days of yore. The great rishi Markandeya narrated it to my sire. I will now recite it without leaving out anything, O best of royal sages. Listen to that account confidingly and without mistrusting it at all. Between the gods and the Asuras, each desirous of vanquishing the other, there happened a great battle, O king, which had Taraka for its evil (root). It hath been heard by us that the Daityas were defeated by the gods. Upon the defeat of the Daityas, the three sons of Taraka, named Tarakaksha, Kamalaksha and Vidyunmalin, O king, practising the austerest penances, lived in the observance of high vows. By those penances they emaciated their bodies, O scorcher of foes. In consequence of their self-restraint, their penances, their vows and contemplation, the boongiving Grandsire became gratified with them and gave them boons. Unitedly they solicited the Grandsire of all the worlds, O king, for the boon of immunity from death at the hands of all Creatures of all times. The divine Lord and Master of all the worlds said unto them, 'There is nothing like immunity from death at the hands of all creatures. Therefore, ye Asuras, abstain from such a prayer. Solicit some other boon that may seem desirable to you.' When all of them, O king, having settled it amongst themselves after long and repeated conferences, bowed to the great Master of all the worlds and said these words, 'O god, O Grandsire, give us this boon. Residing in three cities, we will rove over this Earth, with thy grace ever before us. After a 1,000 years then, we will come together, and our three cities also, O sinless one, will become united into one. That foremost one amongst the gods who will, with one shaft, pierce those three cities united into one, will, O lord, be the cause of our destruction.' Saying unto them, 'Let it be so,' that god ascended to heaven. Those Asuras then, filled with joy at having obtained those boons and having settled it among themselves about the construction of the three cities, selected for the purpose the great Asura Maya, the celestial artificer, knowing no fatigue or decay, and worshipped by all the daityas and danavas. Then Maya, of great intelligence, by the aid of his own ascetic merit, constructed three cities, one of which was of gold, another of silver, and the third of black iron. The golden city was set in heaven, the silver city in the welkin, and the iron city was set on the Earth, all in such a way as to revolve in a circle, O lord of Earth. Each of those cities measured a hundred yojanas in breadth and a hundred in length. And they consisted of houses and mansions and lofty walls and porches. And though teeming with lordly palaces close to each other, yet the streets were wide and spacious. And they were adorned with diverse mansions and gate-ways. Each of those cities, again, O monarch, had a separate king. The beautiful city of gold belonged to the illustrious Tarakaksha: the silver city to Kamalaksha, and the iron one to Vidyunmalin. Those three Daitya kings, soon assailing the three worlds with their energy, continued to dwell and reign, and began to say, 'Who is he called the Creator?' Unto those foremost of Danavas having no heroes equal to them, came from every side millions upon millions, of proud and flesh-eating Danavas who had before been defeated by the celestials, and who now settled in the three cities, desirous of great prosperity. Unto all of them thus united, Maya became the supplier of every thing they wanted. Relying upon him, all of them resided there, in perfect fearlessness. Whoever amongst those residing in the triple city wished for any object in his heart had his wish fulfilled by Maya aided by the latter's powers of illusion. Tarakaksha had a heroic and mighty son named Hari. He underwent the austerest of penances, upon which the Grandsire became gratified with him. When the god was gratified, Hari solicited a boon of him, saying, 'Let a lake start into existence in our city, such that persons, slain by means of weapons, may, when thrown into it, come out with life, and with redoubled strength.' Obtaining this boon, the heroic Hari, son of Tarakaksha, created a lake, O lord, in his city, that was capable of reviving the dead. In whatever form and whatever guise a Daitya might have been slain, if thrown into that lake, he was restored to life, in the self-same form and guise. Obtaining alive the slain among them, the Daityas began to afflict the three worlds. Crowned with success by means of austere penances, those enhancers of the fears of the gods sustained, O king, no diminution in battle. Stupefied then by covetousness and folly, and deprived of their senses, all of them began to shamelessly exterminate the cities and towns established all over the universe. Filled with pride at the boons they had received, and driving before them, at all times and from all places, the gods with their attendants, they roamed at will over celestial forests and other realms dear to the denizens of heaven and the delightful and sacred asylums of rishis. And the wicked Danavas ceased to show any respect for anybody. While the worlds were thus afflicted, Sakra, surrounded by the Maruts, battled against the three cities by hurling his thunder upon them from every side. When, however, Purandra failed to pierce those cities made impenetrable, O king, by the Creator with his boons, the chief of celestials, filled with fear, and leaving those cities, repaired with those very gods to that chastiser of foes, viz., the Grandsire, for representing unto him the oppressions committed by the Asuras. Representing everything and bowing with their heads unto him, they asked the divine Grandsire the means by which the triple city could be destroyed. The illustrious Deity, hearing the words of Indra, told the gods, 'He that is an offender against you offends against me also. The Asuras are all of wicked souls and always hate the gods. They that give pain to you always offend against me. I am impartial to all creatures. There is no doubt in this. For all that, however, they that are unrighteous should be slain. This is my fixed vow. Those three forts are to be pierced with one shaft. By no other means can their destruction be effected. None else, save Sthanu, is competent to pierce them with one shaft. Ye Adityas, select Sthanu, otherwise called Ishana and Jishnu, who is never fatigued with work, as your warrior. It is he that will destroy those asuras.' Hearing these words of his, the gods with Sakra at their head, making Brahman take their lead, sought the protection of the Deity having the bull for his mark. Those righteous ones accompanied by rishis devoted to the severest penances and uttering the eternal words of the Vedas, sought Bhava with their whole soul. And they praised, O king, in the high words of the Vedas, that dispeller of fears in all situations of fear that Universal Soul, that Supreme Soul, that One by whom All this is pervaded with his Soul. Then the gods who, by special penances, had learnt to still all the functions of his Soul and to withdraw Soul from Matter,--they who had their soul always under control--beheld him, called Ishana,--that lord of Uma, that mass of energy, that is, who hath no equal in the universe, that source (of everything), that sinless Self. Though that Deity is one they had imagined him to be of various forms. Beholding in that high-souled one those diverse forms that each had individually conceived in own heart, all of them became filled with wonder. Beholding that Unborn one, that Lord of the universe, to be the embodiment of all creatures, the gods and the regenerate Rishis, all touched the Earth with their heads. Saluting them with the word 'Welcome' and raising them from their bent attitudes, the illustrious Sankara addressed them smilingly, saying, 'Tell us the object of your visit.' Commanded by the Three-eyed god, their hearts became easy. They then said these words unto him, 'Our repeated salutations to thee, O Lord. Salutations to thee that art the source of all the gods, to thee that art armed with the bow, to thee that art full of wrath. Salutations to thee that hadst destroyed the sacrifice of that lord of creatures (viz., Daksha) to thee that art adored by all the lords of creatures. Salutations to thee that art always praised, to thee that deservest to be praised, to thee that art Death's self. Salutations to thee that art red, to thee that art fierce, to thee that art blue-throated, to thee that art armed with the trident, to thee that art incapable of being baffled, to thee that hast eyes as beautiful as those of the gazelle, to thee that fightest with the foremost of weapons, to thee that deservest all praise, to thee that art pure, to thee that art destruction's self, to thee that art the destroyer; to thee that art irresistible, to thee that art Brahman, to thee that leadest the life of a brahmacari; to thee that art Ishana; to thee that art immeasurable, to thee that art the great controller, to thee that art robed in tatters; to thee that art ever engaged in penances, to thee that art tawny, to thee that art observant of vows, to thee that art robed in animal skins; to thee that art the sire of Kumara, to thee that art three-eyed, to thee that art armed with the foremost of weapons, to thee that destroyest the afflictions of all that seek thy shelter, to thee that destroyest all haters of brahmanas, to thee that art the lord of all trees, the lord of all men, the lord of all kine, and ever the lord of sacrifices. Salutations to thee that art always at the head of troops, to thee that art three-eyed, to thee that art endued with fierce energy. We devote ourselves to thee in thought, word and deed. Be gracious unto us.' Gratified with these adorations, the holy one, saluting them with the word 'Welcome' said unto them, 'Let your fears be dispelled. Say, what we are to do for you?'"'"
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