BLOG STATUS: Updated 26 June 2017. New article "Criticism of Vishishtadvaita Vishleshana Vivecanam" Read here

Tripura Samhara as per Harivamsa Parva


Time and again, it is being claimed by Saivites that Siva's burning of three cities built by demons (tripura-saMhAra) is a proof of the supremacy of Siva over Brahma and Vishnu. The fact that Vishnu became the head/tip of the arrow is used by Saivites that Vishnu indeed is inferior and therefore not paramAtmA. To any serious reader, these arguments should sound childish and frivolous, since nowhere in the tripura samhAra episode Vishnu is shown as subordinate, as narrated in standard shAstras (Veda, Itihasa, and Sattvika Puranas).

While the shAstras in fact say that Lord Siva had to be equipped with half the power of the other devas + Vishnu's tejas + the supply of other paraphernalia such as chariot, bow, arrow, bowstring etc. in order to carry out this task, Saivites claim that Siva burned the three cities with just a smile. This contradiction by Saivites has already been pointed out in the article here about the Tamasa Puranas.

Here, we show from Harivamsa that it is indeed Vishnu's supremacy which was brought out during this episode. The following chapter from Harivamsa clearly makes this point, and any neutral reader will have to accept that. This chapter can not be set aside as a later interpolation, since the mahAbhArata and harivamsa are replete with clear declarations of Vishnu's supremacy over Brahma and Siva. There would be no need for any Vaishnavite to interpolate stories to establish the supremacy of his beloved Lord.

Translation from Harivamsa

Source text courtesy: 

Adapted into English from Tamil translation by paramapada-vAsi shrI U. Ve. S. Krishnaswamy Iyengar, fondly known as Puttur Swami / Sudarshanar, editor of SriVaishnava Sudarsanam.

tato madhye divyashabdaH prAdurAsInmahIpate |
R^iShINAM brahmaputrANAM mahatAmapi bhArata ||3-133-62
sa eSha sha~NkarasyAgre ratho bhUmiM pratiShThitaH |
ajeyo jayyatAM prAptaH sarvalokasya pashyataH ||3-133-63

Oh king! As Shiva was thus fighting the tripurAsuras, a loud noise came from the sky. In front of Maharishis, who are sons of Brahma, and Shankara, the chariot fell to the ground. In this manner, Lord Shiva, who is known to be undefeatable, was defeated in front of the whole universe to see.

tasminnipatite rAjanrathAnAM pravare rathe |
nipetuH sarvabhUtAni bhUtale vasudhAdhipa ||3-133-64
vicheluH parvatAgrANi chelushchaiva mahAdrumAH |
vichukShubhuH samudrAshcha na rejushcha disho dasha ||3-133-65

Along with that best chariot of chariots, all the living entities fell down to the earth. Due to the impact of this fall, even great mountains and biggest of trees swayed; oceans got agitated; and there was no light in the horizons of any of the ten directions.

vR^iddhAshcha brAhmaNAstatra jepushcha paramaM japam |
yattadbrahmamayaM tejaH sarvatra vijayaiShiNAm ||3-133-66
shAntyarthaM sarvabhUtAnAmiha loke paratra cha |
samAdhAyAtmanA.a.atmAnaM yogaprAptena hetunA ||3-133-67
rathantareNa sAmnAtha brahmabhUtena bhArata |
tejasA jvalayanviShNostryakShasya cha mahAtmanaH ||3-133-68
sarveShAM chaiva devAnAM balinAM kAmarUpiNAm |
R^iShINAM tapasA.a.aDhyAnAM vasatAM vijane vane ||3-133-69

Mature (in knowledge, conduct, austerity, and splendor) brAhmaNas, at this juncture, performed a great japa, directed towards tEjas, which is of the form of brahmam. They, wishing victory (for the Devas), and wishing tranquility for all beings in this world and the next, with their yogic prowess and in their minds, worshiped the Supreme. (As a result of such worship), they -
the wishful Devas, and the Rishis who perform austerities in secluded forests - made the divine tEjas of Vishnu shine inside the powerful three-eyed lord,

atha viShNurmahAyogI sarvatodR^ishya tattvataH |
vR^iSharUpaM samAsthAya projjahAra rathottamam||3-133-70
samAkrAntaM devagaNaiH samagrabalapauruShaiH |
balavAMstolayitvA tu viShANAbhyAM mahAbalaH |
nanAda prANayogena mathyamAna ivArnavaH ||3-133-71
tR^itIyaM vAyuviShayaM samAkramya viShANavAn |
nanAda balavAnnAdaM samudra iva parvaNi ||3-133-72
tato nAdena vitrastA daiteyA yuddhadurmadAH |
punaste kR^itasannAhA yuyudhuH sumahAbalAH ||3-133-73

Then, Lord Vishnu, who is mahAyOgI, whose form is transcendental (aprAkRta), unseen by anyone, assumed the form of a Bull. With that form, He lifted up that chariot, which is unequal in power, surrounded by hordes of Devas. He (Lord Vishnu) of magnificent prowess, bearing the chariot with his horns, controlling with His breath (prANayOga), made a sound as if to churn up the ocean. Just by the sound of the One with great potency, which sounded like the ocean during parva time (full moon?), the demons, who were (until then) ferocious by their desire for war, became very afraid.

[Note: In this shloka and in the next, the name "mahAyOgI" should not be taken in the conventional sense, as though Vishnu is a yogi who performs austerities. It should be understood as it was explained by our pUrvAcHAryas as - Vishnu is 'mahAyOgI' since He is always thinking of ways to help and save the jivAtmAs. This, as we can see, suits the context very well, because the next shloka says Vishnu was smiling due to his yoga. Ie, because he was asked to help and because he saved the devas, being always of such thoughts, he was smiling happily.

Mandodari refers to rAmA as mahAyOgI for this purpose "mahAyOgi brahma sanathanam" in the rAmAyaNa. Because, Rama killed Ravana only as the latter was committing sins in his current body. Since Ravana refused to listen to the advice of Sita and Vibhishana, he was acting against rAmA's nirhEtuka krupa. So, bhagavan killed Ravana so that he could not accrue any more sins in that present body.

Thus, rAmA was always thinking of the welfare of even rAvana and Mandodari praises this guNam.]

Then, the description of Shiva destroying the Tripura with the arrows comes. At the end of this chapter, the following is said:

hate cha tripure devairvAcho harShAtkileritAH |
sarvA~njahIti shatrUMstvaM pravR^idhdAnpuruShottama ||3-133-82
viShNureva mahayogI yogena prasmayanniva |
stUyate brahmasadR^ishairR^iShibhiH sha~NkareNa cha |
brahmaNA sahitairdevaiH saMpannabalapauruShaiH ||3-133-83

After the three cities were destroyed thus, the following words were spoken by the Devas, in their delight: "Our dear Purushottama! May you destroy all the enemies who have become great (in might)!". Thus praised, Vishnu, who is mahAyOgI, and who is always smiling due to his Yoga, alone is (fit to be) worshipped by (i) Rishis who are comparable to Brahma, (ii) Shankara, and (iii) other Devas who are possessed of various powers, along with (iv) Brahma.


  1. Dear sir,
    A question has lingered in my mind for quite sometime.In the Kena Upanishad(if i am not wrong),there is a mention of Brahman,appearing before the devas as a yaksha and destroying there ahankara.Now someone told me that this story is present in the saiva upanisadas and there shivadeva has been given the position of the yaksa.Can you please clarify this with pramanas how the yaksa mentioned in that upanisad is Sri Hari only and no body else.
    Thank you.
    Your servant.

  2. Sorry i made a mistake,I meant saiva puranas not upanishads.Also I'd be grateful if you kindly explain the story of appearance of Rudra,given in the Kaushthiki Brahmana which varies from the Satpatha Brahmana.You are doing a marvellous job by serving Vishnu and Vaishnavas with this blog of yours.May the Lord bless you!
    Thank you!
    Your servant.

  3. Dear sir,
    I think, this description of Lord Vishnu appearing as a Bull, during the tripura samhara, and lifting the sunk chariot of Siva, along with Siva and Brahma by his horns is also available in Matsya Purana. It also beautifully describes the wonderful feats of Lord Vishnu in that fight, and it is very clear that without Lord Vishnu's help, there was no way Siva could win over Tripurasuras.
    Neither Siva and nor Brahma are in a position to lift the sunken Chariot and for that too, they need Lord Vishnu's help. This again shows, without Lord Vishnu's grace or help neither Siva, Brahma or for that matter no other deity can achieve anything.



Please click here and read the information in red carefully before posting comments

Kindly also check if we already have an answer to your question, in the FAQ section of this blog: