Queen of the Universe
Lalitha Tripura Sundari is revered as the primal form of Adi Parashakti, the Primordial Energy of the Universe, worshipped as the Highest Divinity in the Shaktha religion, one of the Shadmada of India. She is also know as Raja Rajeshwari, meaning the Queen of all Kings and Rulers. She is the One whole rules over the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. In other words, She is the Queen of the whole universe. The Supreme Energy who empowers the Creation.
Lalitha Tripura Sundari
Lalitha, the playful
Lalitha, means “the playful”. The Maya, the illusionary power of the universe, that influences all beings, is one of Her aspects. Thus the whole universe is Her play and She is Lalitha, the Playful.
Tripurasundari, meaning “In the three planes of Existence – Gross, Subtle and Causal”, She is the most beautiful. This Beauty is not superficial, but represents the Bliss aspect of the Divine.
A Manifestation of Devi Parvati
Devi Parvati manifested in Her transcendental aspect as Laitha, to annihilate Bhanda Asura.
Burning of Manmatha
Lord Shiva was in deep penance. An Asura by name Taraka had wrecked havoc over the whole world. Taraka Asura had the boon that He could only be slayed by a son born to Shiva. If Shiva continued to be in penance, then His marriage would not take place. Then the Deva sent Kamadeva, also known as Manmatha to disturb the penance of Shiva. Shiva was infuriated and reduced Kamadeva to ashes.
Shiva Burning Kamadeva
Shiva was woken up from His penance, and thus took place the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. Karthikeya was born to the Divine Couples and slayed Taraka Asura.
Marriage of Shiva and Parvati
The Unique Birth of Bhanda Asura
Once, after Manmatha was reduced to ashes, a Shiva Gana by name Chitrakarma, started playing with the ashes of Manmatha, and prepared a doll out of it. He took this doll to Lord Shiva. However as soon as this doll was brought into the presence of Shiva, it sprang to life and assumed a human form. Thus was born a young boy. The boy prostrated before Shiva, and sought His blessings.
Bhanda Asura’s Penance and Boon
Chitrkarma was overwhelmed. He taught Sri Rudram to the young boy and asked him to undertake penance. The little boy undertook rigorous penance on Lord Shiva. When his penance reached fruition, Lord Shiva manifested before Him. He was bestowed the boon that if anybody fought against him, his enemy’s half strength would automatically go to him.
Lord Shiva giving boon to Bhanda Asura
Havoc Caused by Bhanda Asura
This Asura empowered by this boon began to create havoc across the world. Lord Brahma who was frustrated by the evil deeds of this Asura, once yelled, “Bhanda, Bhanda”, meaning “Shame, Shame”. Thus this Asura came to be known as Bhanda Asura.
The word Asura comes from the root “Asu”, meaning “Prana”, “with life”, “with spirit” and suffix “Ra” meaning “to glow with”, “to possess”. Thus Asura means, “to glow with spirit”, “spirited”.
Maha Yajna and the Manifestation of Lalitha Tripura Sundari
Meanwhile, all Deva and Brahma and Vishnu approached Lord Maha Shabhu, and sang His praises. Lord Maha Shambhu manifested before the Deva, who sought a solution from Him on the menace of Bhanda Asura. Lord Maha Shambhu told them that only Devi Lalitha, the Adi Shakti could annihilate this powerful Asura. He advised them to undertake a yajna to propitiate the Devi. The Deva immediately conducted a Maha Yajna to please the Goddess. At the end of this Yajna, Devi Laitha Tripura Sundari manifested Herself from the Yajna fire, and assured the Deva that She will soon put an end to Bhanda Asura, who had made the whole world tremble through his tyrant.
Marriage of Laitha and Maha Shambhu
Lalitha Devi was wedded to Maha Shambhu, the transcendental aspect of Lord Shiva, beyond the bodily form. They had a daughter by name Bala.
Bala seated on the lap of Her Mother Lalitha
Lalitha Devi is known as Kameshwari and Maha Shambhu as Kameshwara.
Kameshwara and Kameshwari, Tanjore Painting
Lalitha Devi Marches into The Battle
Lalitha Devi became ready for the battle. Thousands of elephants and horses accompanied Her. The commander – in – chief of Her Army, Dandanatha Devi played the drums, to begin the Army march.
Lalitha Devi started her march in Her Srichakraraja Chariot.
Many woman warriors and Her Daughter accompanied the Devi
It is to be noted that all the army chiefs of Lalitha’s Army were women. Her daugheter Bala who was also a warrior, took part in the battle.
Bhanda Asura Prepares for the Battle
Meanwhile, Bhanda Asura began to witness many bad omens. He called an urgent meeting to become aware of the new situation that had made the Deva brimming with confidence once again. His dootha, messengers apprised him of the Divine manifestation of the Devi Lalitha Tripura Sundari. Immediately, Bhanda Asura commanded Kutilaksha, his Commander-in-Chief to protect the fort from the attacks of the Devi and Her Forces.
Killing of Kutilaksha and Durmada
Kutilaksha sent the first batch of His army which was led by Durmada. Durmada’s army was however defeated by Sampatkari Devi, and her army of elephants, the force on the side of Lalitha Devi’s forces. Durmada himself now entered the battle with Sampatkari Devi, seated on a camel. In a fierce fight that followed Sampatkari Devi killed Durmada with her fierce arrows that pierced his chest.
Annihilation of other Asura forces by Devi Warriors
Similarly, the many woman warriors on the side of Lalitha Devi annihilated the prominent commanders of Bhanda Asura.
Ashwarudha Devi killed Durmada’s elder brother Kurunda.
Nakuli Devi slayed Ranashambari.
After this, Bhanda Asura sent the 7 sons of an Asura by name Kikasa, who were annihilated by Tiraskarinika Devi.
Dandanatha Devi put to end one of the brothers of Bhanda Asura, by name Vishanga, while his other brother Vishukra was killed by Shyamala Devi.
Bala Kills the 30 sons of Bhanda Asura
Bhanda now sent his thirty sons led by Chaturbahu. Hearing this, Lalitha’s daughter Bala insisted on facing them. She soon destroyed the army and cut off the heads of all thirty sons of Bhanda with her arrows.
Now, only the commander-in-chief Kutilaksha remained, to console Bhanda Asura.
Bhanda Asura’s Entry into the Battle and his fight with Devi Lalitha
Bhanda Asura himself entered the battle, in a chariot by name Abhilami, drawn by lions instead of horses. Lalitha Devi now came face to face with this Asura. A fierce battle ensued between the Goddess and Asura. Lalitha Devi was supported by many Devi, who along side this main battle, slayed many other minor Asura of Bhanda Asura. The end of the day’s battle was soon approaching, and the Devi now decided to end it all and for ever. She discharged the Narayana Astra and Pashupata Astra, to destroy all the soldiers and commanders fighting for Bhand Asura. Eventually, only Bhanda Asura was left alone.
The Final Battle and The Slaying of Bhanda Asura
The final battle took place between Lalitha Devi and Bhanda Asura. The Devi wounded him all around, defeated him and slayed Bhanda Asura with the Mahakameshwara Astra. The entire retinue of the Deva were relieved that the Devi had finally put an end to their woes. The Deva, including India, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, heaped praises on this heroic deed of the Devi.
This story of the Devi slaying Bhanda Asura, is one of the popular stories of Indian puranic tradition tradition, and is a part of Lalitha Trishati of Brahmanda Purana.
Devi – An epitome of Courage
In this story, Devi Lalitha and Her daughter Bala represent the fighting spirt and valour of a woman warrior. Both mother and daughter are warrior queens.
The Devi Lalitha Stotram known as Lalitha Sahasranama, is very popular all over the land. Its popularity is second only to the popularity of Vishnu Sahasranama. In every small village, temple and other places, there are gatherings of people even today, who chant Lalitha Sahasranama.
Inner Significance of this Puranic Story
There is also an inner significance to this Puranic Story.
Bhanda Asura was born from the ashes of Kama Deva. Kama is a powerful instinct. When Kama is supressed, it becomes even more powerful. When Shiva burns Kama Deva to ashes, then Bhandasura is born. Bhanda means Shame. There is Shame associated with Kama, or uncontrolled Desire. Bhanda Asura represents the power of Kama, which overpowers all the indriya, represented by Indra and the Deva. The Maha Yajna performed by the Deva represents the Sadhana, Penance that we undertake, whereby our higher Prana is manifested. Only the Highest Force, Prana symbolized here by Devi Lalitha can overcome Kama. Hence Devi Lalitha is also known as Kameshwari, the Goddess who rules over Kama.
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