Lord Shiva's Battles with Demons

BY: SUN STAFF - 14.9 2023

Lord Siva Destroys Tripura with a Single Arrow


Lila pastimes with the transcendental demons.



There was an asura named Tara whose son was Taraka. Tarakasuara went to a place named Madhuvana and began to perform very difficult tapasya. He gazed at the sun and stood there with his arms raised. He stood on one leg and only on the toes of his feet. A hundred years passed. For those hundred years, Taraka drank only water and had no food to eat. For the next hundreds, he gave up water also and lived only on air.

A hundred years were spent in performing tapasya inside water, another hundred years on earth and a hundred years more inside fire. For a hundred years he performed tapasya upside down, standing on his hands. And for yet another hundred years, he hung upside down from the branches of a tree.

The meditation was so difficult that Lord Brahma was pleased. He appeared before Tarakasura and said, I am pleased with your tapasya. What boon do you want? If you are pleased, replied Tarakasura, grant me two boons. The first boon should be that no one created by you should be as strong as me. The second boon should be that I should be killed only by Shiva's son. Shiva at that point in time had no sons. Sati had died and although she had been reborn as Parvati, she had not yet married Shiva. Brahma granted Tarakasura the two boons.

The demon went to a city named Shonitapura and began to live there. All the other demons made Tarakasura their king. Thanks to the boon, Tarakasura was so strong that the easily defeated his challengers, stealing all their belongings and employing them as his servants.

Tarakasura had three asura sons named Vidyunmali, Tarakaksha and Viryavana (tripurasuras). These three began to perform tapasya. For a hundred years they meditated standing only on one leg. For a thousand more years they lived on air and meditated. They stood on their heads and meditated in this posture for yet another thousand years.

Brahma was pleased at this difficult tapasya. He appeared before them and said, What boon do you want? Make us immortal, answered Tarakasura's sons. I can't make you immortal, replied Brahma. I don't have the power. Ask for something else instead. Very well, then, said Viyunamali, Tarakaksha and Viryavana. Grant us the following: Let three forts be made. The first will be of gold, the second of silver and the third of iron. We will live in these forts for a thousand years. At the end of the thousand years, the forts will become one. This combined fort will be called Tripura. And if anyone can then destroy Tripura with only a single arrow that shall be the death destined for us.

This rather unusual boon Brahma granted. There was a danava named Maya who was very good at building work. Brahma asked him to build the forts. The golden fort was built in heaven, the silver one in the sky and the iron one on earth. Tarakaksha got the golden fort, Viryavana the silver one and Vidyunmali the iron one. Each of the forts was a big as a city and had many palaces and vimanas (spaces vehicles) inside.

The demons populated the three forts and began to flourish. The demigods did not like this at all. They first went to Brahma, but Brahma said he could not help them. After all, the demons had got Tripura thanks to his boon. The gods then went to Shiva for help. But Shiva said that the demons were doing nothing wrong. As long as that was the case, he did not see why the demigods were so bothered. They next went to Vishnu, who suggested that the problem was that the demons were doing nothing wrong, the solution was to persuade them to become sinners.

Out of his powers Vishnu created a man. This man's head was shaven, his clothes were faded and he carried a wooden water-pot in his hands. He covered his mouth with a piece of cloth and approached Vishnu. "What are my orders?" he asked Vishnu.

Let me explain to you why you have been created, replied Vishnu. I will teach you a religion that is completely against the Vedas. You will then get the impression that there is no svarga (heaven) and no naraka (hell) and that both heaven and hell are on earth. You will not believe that rewards and punishments for deeds committed on earth are meted out after death. Go to Tripura and teach the demons this religion, which they are dislodged from the righteous path. Then we will do something about Tripura.

The being did as he had been asked to. He and four of his disciples went to a forest that was near Tripura and began to preach. They were trained by Vishnu himself. Therefore, their teachings were convincing and they had many converts. Even the sage Narada got confused and was converted. In fact, it was Narada who carried news of this wonderful new religion to king Vidyunmati. King, he said, there is a wonderful new teacher with a wonderful new religion. I have never heard before. I have got converted.

Since the great sage Narada had got converted. Vidyunmati also accepted the new religon. And in due course, so did Tarakaksha and Viryavana. The demons gave up revering the Vedas, they stopped worshipping Shiva's linga.

Vishnu and the other gods then went to Shiva and began to pray to him. When Shiva appeared, they told him that the demons had now become evil and should be destroyed. They had even stopped worshipping Shiva's linga.

Shiva agreed to destroy Tripura. Vishvakarma was the architect of the gods. Shiva called Vishvakarma and asked him to make a suitable chariot, bow and arrow. The chariot was made entirely out of gold. Brahma himself became the charioteer and the chariot was speedly driven towards Tripura. The gods accompanied Shiva with diverse weapons.

By then a thousand years had passed so that the three forts had become a single Tripura. Shiva installed a divine weapon known as pashupata into his arrow and shot it at Tripura. The arrow burnt up Tripura into ashes in a split second. While the celebrations were going on, the shaven-heads religious teachers arrived. What are we supposed to do now? they asked.

Brahma and Vishnu told them to go and live in the desert. The last of the four eras was kaliyuga and in kaliyuga, evil would reign supreme. When kaliyuga arrived, they were to come back and begin their teaching afresh.

"There was a demon by the name Vidyunmali who was gifted with a glowing golden airplane which traveled to the back of the sun, and night disappeared because of the glowing effulgence of this plane. Thus the sun-god became angry, and with his virulent rays he melted the plane. This enraged Lord Siva. Lord Siva then attacked the sun-god, who fled away and at last fell down at Kasi (Varanasi), and the place became famous as Lolarka."

Srimad-Bhagavatam 1:7:18



Lord Siva Attacks Andhaka


"The demon Andhaka was born from a drop of Lord Siva's sweat. Andhaka conceived an unnatural lust for his mother, Parvati, which accounts for Shiva's ferocious antagonism against him. Andhaka is usually shown either impaled on Shiva's trident, or in skeletal form as Bhringi after submitting to Shiva, who drained his blood during the conflict."

"On Mount Mandara, Paravati covered Shiva's eyes from behind with her two hands. Shiva could not see and everything seemed to be dark to him. Parvati's hands sweated from the exertion and the sweat fell down on the ground. From this sweat, a dark and fierce creature was born and started to roar. Since the creature was born in darkness, Shiva and Parvati named their son Andhaka.

Andhaka was born blind, as Shiva was effectively blind when Andhaka was born. There was another asura named Hiranyaksha (also called Hiranyanetra), who had no sons. He prayed to Shiva, who offered him Andhaka to raise as his own son. Andhaka was later crowned king in Hiranyaksha's kingdom.

Andhaka's cousins wanted to take over the kingdom Andhaka was hurt by this. He went away to the forest to perform tapasya, praying to Lord Brahma. For millions of years he stood on one leg, with his arms raised high, and prayed. He did not eat or drink, and chopping off parts of his body, offered it to the sacrificial fire. When there was no more meat left on his body, Lord Brahma appeared before him and offered a boon.

Andhaka asked Brahma for a boon that would enable him to see, and that he would not be killed by gods, demons, or humans, or even by the great Vishnu himself. Brahma was in a fix. Earlier, many demons had asked for similar boons, but they had generaly not mentioned Vishnu. So that, when the need arose, Vishnu had been able to kill them. But here was an asura who asking for the boon that even Vishnu would not be able to kill him. This would make him virtually immortal.

Everything that you have asked for is possible, replied Brahma. But all beings have to die. Indicate the circumstances under which you will die and the boons will be granted.

Since I have to die, said Andhaka, let it be under the following conditions. If I ever wish to marry a beautiful woman who is like a mother unto me, let that be the hour appointed for my death.

This condition was better than nothing at all and Brahma granted Andhaka the boons. Andhaka returned to his kingdom. When Andhaka's cousins learnt that Andhaka had become so powerful because of the boons, they not only returned to him his kingdom, but theirs as well.

The first thing that Andhaka did was to invade heaven. He defeated Indra and the other gods and made them pay taxes to the demons. Next he defeated the snakes (nagas), the gandharvas, the rakshasas, the yakshas (companions of Kubera) and the humans. Thus he began to rule over all the three worlds. For millions of years Andhaka ruled in this fashion. The religion of the Vedas suffered during this period, since Andhaka paid no attention to it.

Once Andhaka went to visit Mount Mandara. The place was so beautiful that he made up his mind to live there. Three of Andhaka's generals were named Duryodhana, Vighasa and Hasti.

These three were exploring the environment of Mount Mandara when they came upon a cave. An ascetic was meditating inside the cave. He was dressed in the skin of a tiger, wore a garland of skulls, his hair was matted and he wore a crescent moon on his forehead. There was a beautiful woman near the ascetic. She was more beautiful than any other woman in the three worlds. The three generals concluded that this was the right wife for Andhaka. When the generals came back to Andhaka and reported on what they had seen, the asura king said, What are you waiting for? Go to the ascestic and ask him for the woman.

Duryodhana, Vighasa and Hasti went back to the ascetic. You are only an ascetic, they said. You don't deserve such a pretty wife. Our master is the lord of everything and he is immensely rich. He is also handsome because of a boon received from Brahma. Give us this woman so that our master Andhaka may marry her.

Ask your master to come and take the woman himself, replied Shiva, for the ascetic, as you have already guessed, was none other than Shiva, and the beautiful woman was Parvati.

As soon as he heard this, Andhaka grasped his sword and came to fight with Shiva. The door to the cave was guarded by Nandi, and Andhaka first had to fight with him. Nandi easily defeated the asura and also defeated the asura soldiers who had accompanied their king. But Andhaka returned and again a fight raged with Nandi for five hundred years. Brahma, Vishnu, Indra and the other gods also came to help in the fight with the demons.

The general Vighasa was a very strong warrior. He opened his mouth wide and swallowed up all the gods, including Vishnu. So far, Shiva himself had not played any part in the fighting. But hearing what Vighasa had done, he ascended his bull and came out to fight. He killed Vighasa and rescued the gods from the asura's stomach. The asuras had a preceptor named Shukracharya who knew the art of bringing back dead beings to life. So Shukracharya moved around the battlefield, brining back to life any demons that were killed. This was not helping the cause of the gods at all. Shiva's companions (gangas) captured Shukracharya and brought him to Shiva. Shiva promptly swallowed up Shukracharya.

Soon all the demons were taken care of, with the exception of Andhaka. He continued to fight. Vishnu's mace could do him no harm and he only laughed at Indra's arrows. Some of the arrows did pierce the asura's body. But whenever drops of blood from his body onto the ground, asuras who were exactly like him in appearance were created from this blood. As a result, the battlefield was soon populated with thousands and thousands of Andhakas.

Shiva created a goddess known as Devi from his own body. Devi was appointed the task of drinking up the blood of the asuras before it could spill onto the ground. Thus aided by Devi, Shiva started to tackle the demons and soon there was only the original Andhaka left. Shiva flung a trident at him. The trident struck Andhaka on the chest and the asura king fell down dead.

When the war was over, Shukracharya prayed to Shiva and was released from Shiva's stomach."

This panel from Elephanta caves portrays Shiva as the slayer of the demon, Andhaka. Shiva dances in triumph beneath the the outstretched skin of the elephant demon Nila, one of Andhaka's allies, as a seated Parvati looks on admiringly. In one hand, Shiva holds a skull cap used to catch Andhaka's blood. The head of the elephant is barely visible behind Shiva's raised sword.



Gajasuramardana Siva, Slayer of Gajasura


"The demon Gajasura (also knows as Nila ) was a friend of Andhaka's. Nila took the form of an elephant and attacked Shiva, but was killed by one of Shiva's attendants. Two representations of Shiva from this battle, often combined, are Shiva Andhakasuravadha (impaling Andhaka) and Shiva Gajasamharara (dancing on Nila's decapitated head or underneath his butchered skin).

Gajaharamurti is said to have been sent by sages of Darukavana to kill Siva for seducing their wives as Bhikshatana. Siva killed the elephant and opened his head.

Another story of Gajasura explains that the rakshasa called Gajasura was an ardent devotee of Lord Siva who underwent penance for many years to receive special boons. Siva, who is easily pleased by prayers, was moved by Gajasura's devotion, and offered a boon. Gajasura asked Siva to reside in his belly, and Siva agreed.

Meanwhile on Mount Kailash, Parvati was anxious to know the whereabouts of her husband and finally approached Lord Vishnu for help. Vishnu disguised himself in the form of a street player along with Nandi, Siva's bull carrier, and the two set out in search of Shanker (Siva). In Gajasura's kingdom, Nandi performed a dance to please the demon. In thanks, Gajasura let Siva out of his stomach, but prayed that he would be allowed to be immortal in the memories of people. To fulfill this wish, Lord Siva severed Gajasura's head and freed him from the cycle of birth and death. He carries the head along with him.

On Mount Kailash, Parvati comes to know of Vishnu's victory and is very happy. She creates a doll out of the dough that she uses in her bath, and calls him Vinayak - the one who puts off all obstacles. This boy having never seen Siva, prevents his entry into the palace. In a fit of fury Shiva beheads the boy and enters the palace. Parvati is unaware of the happenings and receives Siva with warmth, for he had returned after a long period. During the course of their conversation, Siva mentions the incident at the palace gates and tells her about severing the child's head. Parvati is shocked to hear the news and pleads with Siva to bring the child back to life for he is like a son to her.

Shiva who had with him the head of Gajasura, immediately puts it on the torso of the dead child, thus bringing him back to life and blessing him with a boon that the entire world would worship him in remembrance of that day.