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Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals: Tripurantaka – Shiva’s incarnation destroying three aerial cities


This painting depicts Tripurantaka, an incarnation of Shiva, and is part of the murals painted more than 500-years ago on the ceiling of the Ranga Mantapa, a covered hall in front of the garbhagriha (inner sanctum) of the Virupaksha Temple, located at Hampi in Karnataka, India. Situated next to the lotus flower medallion, this painting occupies the central part of the ceiling.

Check the Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals for the other images and a detailed explanation of the murals.

As you can see, Tripurantaka, who is standing majestically on a chariot, is about to shoot an arrow. Note: Tripura means three cities. With his incarnation, Shiva destroys three aerial cities, each belonging to a son of Tarakasura. He is pointing an arrow at the three cities (two of them are partly visible on the right side). Notice the faces drawn inside the wheels of the chariot; They represent the sun and moon.

Here is the story in brief:
Pleased with the three sons of Tarakasura after they perform tapasu, Brahma presents them with three aerial cities in the sky that revolve around the earth. Brahma assures them that they are indestructible, except when a single arrow pierces through them when they are aligned in a straight line.

When Tarakasura’s sons realize that they are invincible, they start tormenting the devas (demigods) and rishis (sages). The gods, including Vishnu and Brahma, urge Shiva to destroy the evil cities. Shiva agrees and makes plans to teach Tarakasura’s sons a lesson.

Vishwakarma, the god of architecture and crafts, constructs a chariot with Prithvi (Earth) as its body and Surya (Sun) and Chandra (Moon) as its wheels. He creates a bow from Mount Meru with Vasuki as its string. Brahma volunteers to become the charioteer, and Vishnu the arrow. Once the chariot is ready, Shiva waits for the precise moment for the three cities to align into a straight line and shoots an arrow that pierces through the aerial cities and destroys them.

Shiva wipes the ashes from the destroyed cities on his forehead horizontally with his three fingers, and these three lines remain permanently on his forehead from then on. Based on this legend, Shiva’s devotees apply the three horizontal ash lines daily on their foreheads.

Other Virupaksha Temple Paintings
Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma
Girija Kalyāna, Sita Swayamvara, Draupadi Swayamvara
Dashāvatāra, Ashta Dikpālas
Manmatha Vijaya

Related Pages
Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals

Hoysala Temples
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Bracket Figures
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Navaranga
Belur Chennakeshava Temple – Garbhagriha Outer Wall
Kappe Chennigaraya Shrine
Somanathapura Keshava Temple
Badami Chalukya Temples
Badami, Cave – 1, Cave – 2, Cave – 3, Cave – 4
Durga Temple at Aihole

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