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THE MAHABHARATA ADI PARVA
The brothers set out with a large Daitya force clad in mail and armed with maces and axes and lances and clubs. The Daitya heroes set out on their expedition with joyous hearts, the charanas (bards) chanting auspicious panegyrics indicative of their future triumphs. Furious in war, the Daitya brothers, capable of going everywhere at will, ascended the skies and went to the region of the celestials. The celestials knowing they were coming and acquainted also with the boons granted unto them by the Supreme Deity left heaven and sought refuge in the region of Brahman. Endued with fierce prowess, the Daitya heroes soon subjugated the region of Indra, and vanquishing the diverse tribes of Yakshas and Rakshasas and every creature ranging the skies, came away.
Those mighty car-warriors next subjugated the Nagas of the nether region, and then the inmates of the ocean and then all the tribes of the Mlechchhas. Desirous next of subjugating the whole earth, those heroes of irresistible sway, summoning their soldiers, issued these cruel commands, ‘Brahmanas and royal sages (on earth) with their libations and other food offered at grand sacrifices, increase the energy and strength of the gods, as also their prosperity.
Engaged in such acts, they are the enemies of the Asuras. All of us, therefore, mustering together should completely slaughter them off the face of the earth!’ Ordering their soldiers thus on the eastern shore of the great ocean, and entertaining such a cruel resolution, the Asura brothers set out in all directions. And those that were performing sacrifices and the Brahmanas that were assisting at those sacrifices, the mighty brothers instantly slew. And slaughtering them with violence they departed for some other place. Whilst their soldiers threw into the water the sacrificial fires that were in the asylums of Munis with souls under complete control, the curses uttered by the illustrious Rishis in wrath, rendered abortive by the boons granted (by Brahman), affected not the Asura brothers.
When the Brahmanas saw that their curses produced not the slightest effect like shafts shot at stones they fled in all directions, forsaking their rites and vows. Even those Rishis on earth that were crowned with ascetic success, and had their passions under complete control and were wholly engrossed in meditation of the Deity, from fear of the Asura brothers, fled like snakes at the approach of Vinata’s son (Garuda the snake-eater). The sacred asylums were all trodden down and broken. The sacrificial jars and vessels being broken, their (sacred) contents were scattered over the ground.
The whole universe became empty, as if its creatures had all been stricken down during the season of general dissolution. And, O king, after the Rishis had all disappeared and made themselves invisible both the great Asuras, resolved upon their destruction, began to assume various forms. Assuming the forms of maddened elephants with temples rent from excess of juice, the Asura pair, searching out the Rishis who had sheltered themselves in caves, sent them to the region of Yama. Sometimes becoming as lions and again as tigers and disappearing the next moment, by these and other methods the cruel couple, seeing the Rishis, slew them instantly. Sacrifice and study ceased, and kings and Brahmanas were exterminated.
The earth became utterly destitute of sacrifices and festivals. And the terrified people uttered cries of Oh and Alas and all buying and selling were stopped. All religious rites ceased, and the earth became destitute of sacred ceremonies and marriages. Agriculture was neglected and cattle were no longer tended. Towns and asylums became desolate. And scattered over with bones and skeletons, the earth assumed a frightful aspect. All ceremonies in honour of the Pitris were suspended, and the sacred sound of Vashat and the whole circle of auspicious rites ceased.
The earth became frightful to behold. The Sun and the Moon, the Planets and Stars, and Constellations, and the other dwellers in the firmament, witnessing these acts of Sunda and Upasunda, grieved deeply. Subjugating all the points of heaven by means of such cruel acts, the Asura brothers took up their abode in Kurukshetra, without a single rival.’”
There were present that God of gods, viz., Mahadeva, and Agni, accompanied by Vayu, and Soma and Surya and Sakra, and Rishis devoted to the contemplation of Brahma, and the Vaikhanasas, the Valakhilyas, the Vanaprasthas, the Marichipas, the Ajas, the Avimudas, and other ascetics of great energy. All those Rishis were sitting with the Grandsire, when the celestial and other Rishis, approaching Brahman with sorrowful hearts, represented unto him all the acts of Sunda and Upasunda. And they told the Grandsire in detail everything that the Asura brothers had done, and how they had done it, and in what order.
Then all the celestials and the great Rishis pressed the matter before the Grandsire. The Grandsire, hearing everything they said, reflected for a moment and settled in his mind what he should do. Resolving to compass the destruction of the Asura brothers, he summoned Viswakarman (the celestial architect). Seeing Viswakarman before him, the Grandsire possessed of supreme ascetic merit commanded him, saying, ‘Create thou a damsel capable of captivating all hearts.’ Bowing down unto the Grandsire and receiving his command with reverence, the great artificer of the universe created a celestial maiden with careful attention.
Viswakrit first collected all handsome features upon the body of the damsel he created. Indeed, the celestial maiden that he created was almost a mass of gems. And created with great care by Viswakarman, the damsel, in beauty, became unrivalled among the women of the three worlds. There was not even a minute part of her body which by its wealth of beauty could not attract the gaze of beholders. And like unto the embodied Sri herself, that damsel of extraordinary beauty captivated the eyes and hearts of every creature. And because she had been created with portions of every gem taken in minute measures, the Grandsire bestowed upon her the name of Tilottama. And as soon as he started it into life, the damsel bowed to Brahman and with joined palms said, ‘Lord of every created thing, what task am I to accomplish and what have I been created for?’ The Grandsire answered, ‘Go, O Tilottama, unto the Asuras, Sunda and Upasunda. O amiable one, tempt them with thy captivating beauty. And, O damsel, conduct thyself there in such a way that the Asura brothers may, in consequence of the wealth of thy beauty, quarrel with each other as soon as they cast their eyes upon thee.’
While Tilottama walked round the conclave of the celestials, Indra and the illustrious Sthanu (Mahadeva) were the only ones that succeeded in preserving their tranquillity of mind. But exceedingly desirous as Mahadeva was (of beholding Tilottama) when the damsel (in her progress round the celestial conclave) was at his side, another face like a full-blown lotus appeared on the southern side of his body. And when she was behind him, another face appeared on the west. And when the damsel was on the northern side of the great god, a fourth face appeared on the northern side of his body.
Mahadeva (who was eager to behold the damsel) came also to have a thousand eyes, each large and slightly reddish, before, behind and on his flanks. And it was thus that Sthanu the great god came to have four faces, and the slayer of Vala, a thousand eyes. And as regards the mass of the celestials and the Rishis, they turned their faces towards all directions as Tilottama walked round them. Except the divine Grandsire himself, the glances of those illustrious personages, even of all of them fell upon Tilottama’s body. And when Tilottama set out (for the city of the Asuras) with the wealth of her beauty, all regarded the task as already accomplished. After Tilottama had gone away, the great god who was the First Cause of the Universe, dismissed all the celestials and the Rishis.’”