This an excerpt from my unpublished book “Master of Time” since no time to write took it from there. The festival of Deepawali which is also celebrated as Kali Puja here and thousands will visit Tripura Sundari Temple, so thought to write about one of the holiest shrine in the country.
She rules the Three Worlds; Heaven, Earth and Hell. She is also the custodian of the past, present and the future. She is Tripureshwari, yet many prefer to call her Tripura Sundari- “The Beauty of Tripura” for she embodies the soul of this land.
The holiest shrine in Tripura is her Temple at Udaipur, the ancient capital. Thousands of devotees from the state and all over the country converge at this temple and seek the blessings of the Divine Mother. Some scholars insisted that Tripura got its name from this deity. Therefore, this shrine has a special place not only in the religious life of the people but also in the history of this kingdom The story of this goddess is surrounded in deep mystery and legends that are found in the Puranas (Old Hindu Texts). It was somewhat mystifying how these stories coincided with the ones found in ‘The Rajmala’ which are ‘The Chronicles of the Kings of Tripura’.
It all began with Tripur who was said to be the 40th king of Tripura according to The Rajmala. It is from him that the Kingdom got its name- Tripura. He was a tyrant and a ferocious man who conquered far and wide and became so powerful that he proclaimed himself as a god and ordered that no other deity should he worshipped in his kingdom.
The name of king Tripur was also found in the ancient Puranas; there too the same characteristics were attributed to him. It went on to add that his subjects tortured by his despotic rule prayed to Lord Shiva to free them from his tyranny. Lord Shiva sent several warnings to Tripur to mend his ways but he paid no heed to these. Finally, Lord Shiva had no way but to fight Tripur himself.
There were many battles between the two of them but Tripur could not be defeated. Within his kingdom there was a holy shrine of the Divine Mother and as long as she remained there, no harm could be brought upon this despotic king. This holy shrine was one of the 51 places where a part of the body of Sati had fallen when Shiva was going around the earth in anger with the corpse of his wife on his shoulders. It had been clearly mentioned in the ‘Peethmala Tantra’; an ancient text that relate parts of the body of Sati (which fell off) to different places, (“Tripuraiyang Dhakyapada Devi Tripurasundari”) that her right leg fell in Tripura and the holy shrine there was known as Tripura Sundari. Therefore this shrine is considered as a ‘Peethasthan;’ a shrine with a holy relic.
The gods came to know of this problem, got together and requested the goddess Tripura Sundari to leave the kingdom of Tripur. The goddess then appeared in a dream to the king of Arakan and instructed him to take her away to his kingdom and install her there. The King of Arakan obeyed and installed this shrine in ‘Chottogram’ (Chittagong) now in Bangladesh.
Once the Divine Mother left, Tripur lost much of his power and Lord Shiva was able to slay him.
Before dying he told Shiva “Lord, I know that I am not all powerful, you have taken away the shrine that protected my kingdom and my people. Please bless this land by bringing back the Divine Mother to where she was installed through the ages.” Lord Shiva replied, “You were a cruel king and did not serve your people. It is for their welfare that you have been slain. Now that you have given your life for your motherland, I bless your son; he shall become the greatest of all kings of this land. You shall be reborn, and through you the Divine Mother shall come back to the place where she was”. Lord Shiva henceforth also came to be known as ‘Tripurari’ meaning ‘The Slayer of Tripur’.
This story from the Puranas had an uncanny relationship with the history of Tripura found in The Rajmala. The Rajmala recorded that after the death of Tripur his son Trilochan succeeded him to the throne. With the blessings of Shiva, Trilochan became a pious king. He was also known as “Subrai” and it was during his time that the kingdom was supposed to have reached its zenith in art and culture. The indigenous people of the kingdom proudly claimed their descent.
Historians and linguists were in discord regarding the name of the kingdom.
But Hunter remarked “the name was probably given to the country in honour of the temple at Udaipur, which still exists. This temple now ranks as the second shrine (after the fourteen gods) or sacred shrine. It was dedicated to Tripureshwari, the mistress of the three worlds.”
To be continued will post tomorrow how The Divine Mother -Tripura Sundari Devi returned to Tripura after many centuries.