The Shiva Purana (English translation)

by J. L. Shastri | 1970 | 616,585 words

This page relates “penance and reign of tarakasura” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.

Chapter 15 - The penance and reign of Tārakāsura

Brahmā said:—

1. Then that Varāṅgī. devoted to him, conceived. The child within her body developed in many years with its brilliance.

2. That Varāṅgī, when the time was complete, delivered of a son of huge body and great strength dazzling the ten quarters.

3. At the same time, several phenomena of evil portent forboding misery and distress happened, when the son of Varāṅgī was born making the gods miserable.

4. O dear, the phenomena of three varieties indicating great calamity and terrifying the worlds occurred in the sky, heaven and earth. I shall narrate them.

5. With a terrifying noise, thunderbolts fell along with comets; shooting meteors rose up, making the world miserable.

6. The earth with all the mountains quaked; the quarters blazed; the rivers and oceans were particularly agitated.

7. The rough wind blew with a hissing noise. Gusts of wind with troops of tempests and dust for banner uprooted several trees.

8. O great brahmin, the misty haloes around the sun and the moon in the grip of Rāhu became the harbingers of great fear and unhappiness.

9 At that time terrifying sounds that resembled those of the chariot issued forth from cracks and crevices in the mountains.

10. Within villages, inauspicious vixens howled hideously vomitting fires; as it were, through their mouths along with the hissing and twanging sounds of the hootings and howlings of owls and jackals.

11. Lifting up their necks, the dogs barked in diverse ways producing sounds of singing or lamenting here and there.

12. O dear, groups of mad asses ran here and there braying loudly and digging the ground with their hoofs.

13. Terrified by the asses, birds flew up from their nests. In their excitement and flutter they honked and cronked. They did not find a peaceful perch anywhere.

14. Beasts in sheds and forests roamed here and there in great fright as though beaten and driven about, passing urine and shitting dungs as they pleased.

15. Frightened cows sprayed blood through their udders; their eyes brimmed with tears, clouds showering putrid matter became terrifying.

16. Idols and images of deities appeared to cry and fly up. Even when there was no gale, trees fell down. Planets in the sky clashed with one another.

17. O excellent sage, these and similar portending phenomena occurred: Ignorant persons thought the submersion of the whole universe was imminent.

18. Then Kaśyapa Prajāpati thought well and named the powerful demon Tāraka.

19. That heroic demon, with his manliness and valour manifesting quickly grew and developed with his steely frame like the lord of mountains.

20. Then the demon Tāraka, of great strength and exploit, endowed with a lofty mind, requested permission of his mother for performing penance.

21. The permission having been secured, that demon possessing great power of illusion and capable of deluding even experts in the magical art, thought of performing penance in order to conquer all the gods.

22. Strictly adhering to the directions of his elders and preceptors he went to the forest of Madhu and performed a severe penance duly, having Brahmā as his objective.

23. For a hundred years he performed penance with his hands lifted up, standing on only one leg and gazing at the sun. With his mind steady and firm he observed all sacred rites.

24. Then for a hundred years, the lord and king of Asuras, Tāraka performed the penance: stood steady touching the ground with the single big toe.

25. For hundred years he performed penance by drinking only water; another hundred years by sustaining himself on air alone, another hundred years standing in water and another hundred years standing on dry land.

26. A hundred years he performed the penance amidst fires, a hundred years in a topsy-turvy position and a hundred years supported on the ground by the palms of his hands.

27. O sage, a hundred years he remained with his head down and feet up clinging fast to the branch of a tree and inhaling the pure smoke of the sacrificial fire.

28. Thus with ardour, the king of the demons performed the severe penance duly unbearable even to those who heard about it.

29. O sage, in the process of such a penance, a huge mass of light shot up from his head and spread all round. It caused great havoc.

30. All the worlds of the gods were well nigh consumed by it alone. O sage, all the celestial sages were hard hit and distressed.

31-32. Indra, the lord of gods, was extremely terrified. He thought “Some one is performing a penance. Surely he will usurp my position. This master mind shall in a trice destroy the whole cosmos”. All those who entertained similar doubts could not decide what to do.

33. Then all those gods and sages consulted one another and in their great fright they came to my world and approached me in a piteous plight.

34. Bowing to and eulogising me with palms joined in reverence, all of them explained everything to me distressed in mind that they were.

35. Coming to a definite conclusion with adequate thought as to the reason for the same, I went where the demon was performing penance in order to grant him the boon.

36. O sage, I told him thus—“Tell me what boon you want. A severe penance has been performed by you. There is nothing which cannot be granted to you”.

37. On hearing these words of mine, Tāraka, the great demon, bowed and eulogised me and requested for a terrible boon.

Tāraka said:—

38. “O Pitāmaha, if you are glad and ready to grant me the boon what is it that cannot be achieved by me? Hence I request you for this boon. Please listen.

39. O lord of gods, if you are pleased and if a boon is to be given to me, be kind enough to grant me two boons.

40. O great lord, there should certainly be no man equal to me in strength in this entire universe created by you.

41. If a son born of Śiva becomes the commander-inchief of an army and discharges weapons against me, let my death occur then”.

42. O excellent sage, thus requested by that demon, I granted him two boons and hastened back to my abode.

43. Securing the excellent boon in accordance with his cherished desire, the demon was very glad and went to the town Śoṇita[1].

44. That great demon was crowned the king of the three worlds with the permission of Śukra, the preceptor of the demons.

45. Then the great demon became the leader of the three worlds. He inaugurated his commanding position by harassing the mobile and immobile beings.

46. He duly established his suzerainty over the three worlds. He protected his subjects but inflicted pain on the gods and others.

47. Then the demon Tāraka seized gems and jewels of all the guardians of the quarters, Indra and others, offered under duress by them on being afraid of him.

48. Afraid of him, Indra surrendered his Airāvata (white elephant) and Kubera all his nine treasures.

49. White horses were surrendered by Varuṇa, the wish-yielding cow Kāmadhenu by the sages, and the sun out of fear for him surrendered his divine horse Uccaiḥśravas.

50. Wherever a fine article was espied by the demon, he seized it immediately. The three worlds became void of all valuable things.

51. O sage, the oceans the offered him their gems on account of fear. The entire earth became exuberant in productivity without being tilled and yielded what his subjects desired.

52. The sun glowed gently and mildly as not to make him distressed. The moon was always visible with his brilliant light and the wind blew always favouring him.

53. Whatever riches the gods possessed or the manes or others had, were forfeited by the wicked demon.

54. Bringing the three worlds under his control, he declared Indra himself. He became the undisputed lord and ruled over them with perfect self-control.

55. Dismissing the gods he installed demons in their places. Some gods he engaged in his personal service.

56. O sage, the gods harassed by him, led by Indra, sought refuge in me. They were helpless and extremely agitated.

Footnotes and references:


It was the capital of the Asura territory, later on called Bāṇapura, as it was ruled by the powerful Asura Bāṇa, the devotee of Śiva. According to Dey (G. D. PP. 21, 189) Śoṇitapura is still called by that name, and is situated in Kamaun on the bank of the river Kedāra-Gaṅgā or Mandākinī about 6 miles from Uṣāmaṭha at a short distance from Guptakāśī”.