The Shiva Purana (English translation)

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

This page relates “burning of the tripuras” 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 10 - The burning of the Tripuras

Sanatkumāra said:—

1. Then Śiva, the great lord, seated in the chariot and equipped with everything, got ready to burn the three cities completely, the cities of the enemies of the gods.

2-3. The lord stood in the wonderful posture of Pratyālīḍha for a hundred thousand years. The bow was well strung and kept near the head. The arrow was fixed. The fingers clenched at the bow firmly. The eyes were fixed.

4. Gaṇeśa was stationed on the thumb. During this time the three cities did not come within the target path of the trident-bearing lord.

5. Then from the firmament, the odd-eyed Śiva who was standing there holding the bow and the arrow heard an auspicious voice.

6. “O lord of the master of the universe, you will not kill the Tripuras as long as the lord Gaṇeśa is not adored”.

7. On hearing these words, Śiva the destroyer of Andhaka called Bhadrakālī and worshipped the elephant-faced god Gaṇeśa.

8-9. When Gaṇeśa was worshipped, when he standing ahead was pleased, lord Śiva saw the three cities of the powerful Asuras, sons of Tāraka, joined together.

10. It is said that when the great lord Śiva, the lord of the Gods, the supreme Brahman, worshipped by all is there, it is not proper -to say that he achieved success by another God’s grace.

11. He is independent, the great Brahman, both possessed and devoid of attributes. He is invisible, the supreme soul and unsullied.

12. He is the soul of five divinities. He is worshipped by the five deities[1]. He is the great lord. There is none else worthy of worship. He is the ultimate abode of all.

13. Or, O sage, the activities of Śiva, the lord of the Gods, the granter of boons are but proper inasmuch as they constitute his divine sports.

14. When the great God stood up after woeshipping Śiva, the three cities joined together into one unit.

15. O sage, when the three cities came to a unified whole, a tumultuous shout of joy rose up among the noble Gods and others.

16. Then all the Gods, Siddhas and the sages shouted out “Victory” and eulogised Śiva who has eight cosmic bodies[2].

17-18. Then Brahmā and Viṣṇu, the lord of the worlds said—“The time for killing the Asuras has arrived, O great God. The three cities of the sons of Tāraka have come into one unified whole. O lord, please perform the task of the Gods.

19. O lord of the gods please discharge the arrow and reduce the three cities to ashes lest they should be separated again.”

20. Then stringing the bow tight and fixing the arrow Pāśupata worthy of worship, he thought of the Tripuras.

21. Then lord Śiva, an expert in excellent divine sports for some reason looked at it with contempt.

22. Śiva is capable of reducing the three cities to ashes in a trice, Still lord Śiva, the goal of the good bides his time.

23. The lord of gods is capable of burning the three worlds by a single glance. O lord, for the flourish of our fame you shall discharge the arrow.

24. On being eulogised by Viṣṇu, Brahmā and other gods, lord Śiva desired to reduce the three cities to ashes with his arrow.

25-26. In the auspicious moment called Abhilāṣa he drew the bow and made a wonderful and unbearable twanging sound. He addressed the great Asuras and proclaimed his own name. Śiva discharged an arrow that had the refulgence of countless suns.

27. The arrow which was constituted by Viṣṇu 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.

28. The three cities reduced to ashes fell on the earth girt by the four oceans[3].

29. Since they had refrained from the worship of Śiva, hundreds of Asuras were burnt by the fire generated by the arrow. They cried “Hā Hā” in distress.

30. Tārakākṣa was burnt along with his two brothers. He remembered his lord Śiva who is favourably disposed to his devotees.

31. Lamenting in diverse ways and looking up to lord Śiva, he mentally appealed to him.

Tārakākṣa said:—

32. “O Śiva, you are known to be pleased with us, if at any future hour you burn us, you will do so along with our kinsfolk. Let it be in accordance with this truth.

33. What is difficult and inaccessible to the gods and Asuras has been secured by us. Let our intellect be purified by our thoughts on you in every birth.”

34. O sage, at the bidding of Śiva, those Asuras were burnt and reduced to ashes by the fire[4] even as they were muttering thus.

35. Other Asuras too, children and old men were completely burnt out, O Vyāsa, at the bidding of Śiva and speedily reduced to ashes.

36. Just as the universe is burnt at the end of a Kalpa so also every thing and every one there, whether woman or man or vehicles, was reduced to ashes by that fire.

37. Some women were forced to leave their husbands necking them and were burnt by the fire. Some were sleeping, some were intoxicated and some were exhausted after their sexual dalliance. All were burnt.

38-39. Some who were partially burnt woke up and rushed here and there. They fell unconscious and fainted. There was not even a minute particle whether mobile or immobile which escaped unscathed by that terrible Tripura fire excepting Maya, the imperishable Viśvakarman of the Asuras.

40. Those who were not opposed to the Gods were saved by Śiva’s brilliance, those who devoutly sought refuge in lord Śiva at the time of adversity.

41. Whether Asuras or other beings those whose collective activities were not destructive were saved; others of contrary activities were burnt in fire.

42. Hence, all possible efforts shall be made by good men to avoid despicable activities whereby people waste away themselves.

43. Let there be no predicament to any as it happened in regard to the residents of the three cities. This is the opinion of all. By chance if it happens, let it.

44. Those who worshipped Śiva along with their family attained Gaṇapati’s region, thanks to the worship of Siva.

Notes on the Burning of Tripura:

The Purāṇas accord different versions of the burning of Tripurī. The present version is a regular legend based on an ancient tradition. There is however another version which describes graphically the devastation, oppression and barbarities practiced by the Gaṇas which remind us of those perpetrated by the Hūṇa-chief Mihirakula in his invasions There is a veiled allusion to this event, for Agni is addressed as a Mleccha (Matsya p. I88. 51). There is no such anachronism in the ŚP account of Tripuradāha.

Footnotes and references:


The five god Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Rudra, Skanda and Indra (See ŚP. VS 14.48) are in essence identical with Śiva but they have also their distinct forms in which they remain subservient to him.

According to another version, the five deities are the son, Gaṇeśa, Durgā, Rudra and Viṣṇu. See note 174 P. 168.


See Note 89 P. 132.


In ancient Indian literature, the four oceans are said to be surrounding the earth on four sides. Most probably they represent the Arabian sea in the West, the Indian ocean in the south, the Bay of Bengal in the East and the sea of Japan in the North.


For the detailed description of the burning of Tripurī compare Matsya P. Ch. 188.