The Hindu wisdom is always encapsulated so that it is preserved against mutilation and also makes itself revealed only to the seeker. This wisdom is three-fold, physical, divine and symbolic. There is a verse in Aithareya Upanishad that says that Devas want to be invisible, secretive, mysterious, indirect, hidden and so on. This is told in a single word "parOkshENa" ("parOksha priya iva hi dEvaa:" Ai Upa - 1-3 -14).
That is why we find most of the stories of Puranas and of deities indiscernible or even absurd at normal reading, metaphysical on deeper contemplation but revealing geological stories of man and creation when seen in the light of revelations of diverse fields of modern science. In this post I am bringing out the inner secret of Tripura Samhara by Lord Shiva that is now revealed in the findings of what is called "Sundaland".
Sundaland is a name given to a cluster of islands in South eats Asia. It consists of Malay peninsula, Java, Sumatra, Borneo and other surrounding areas. The recent developments in sea level research done by Glenn Milne and Graham Hancock have shown that these islands were not islands but were connected as a huge land mass some 22,000 years ago.
The sea level was lower than now by approximately 150 meters thereby offering a good expanse of land for mankind to thrive. This region is a centre of attraction for researchers because this is the "closest area" for early man from east Africa who moved out eastward around one lakh years ago.
The light shades around the continents show the extent of exposed landmass at an earlier time when sea level was low due to Ice Age. The red circle shows the 'Sundaland' which now looks fractured into islands. The migration of man as revealed in genetic studies show that mankind stayed on for thousands of years somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Currently Indian Ocean, south off India shows no sign of landmass. But with the discovery of Sundaland, there is increased interest in finding out whether it offered habitation for early man.
Another important discovery is that an ancient volcano located in Sundaland erupted about 73,000 years ago causing a wide spread devastation of mankind and other life.
The red star on the left side of Sundaland was the location of Mt Toba, a Super Volcano that erupted then.
The scale of devastation was such that the volcanic ash spread as far as the Arabian sea covering most parts of South India by a few meters.
The red spot in the above picture is the location of Mt Toba and the blue spots are the regions where ash deposits have been identified. Due to the wind direction at the time of eruption, the ash had spread towards west of Indonesia.
Recent excavations in Jwalapuram, in Kurnool district of Andhra Pradesh showed that this village which had an human dwelling at that time (73,000 years ago) was covered with the ash of Mt Toba.
Genetic studies reveal that almost all of mankind vanished then but for a small group from which the current population of the globe has come up. These 2 revelations - a massive burst of a volcano and a small and specific cluster of mankind surviving that catastrophe are remarkably revealed in the Puranic narration of Tripura Samhara.
Before telling about that, I want to describe a few words and concepts that occur in the Puranas.
The Devas were beings who were inclined on divine path and lived in the region close to the north pole.
The Asuras were the beings who though good in many ways were harsh and materialistic. They lived in the region close to the South pole. They were huge in size too. Though this description looks out of place in today's world, we must know that the world was not the same in the past as it is now. The tilt of the earth keeps varying from 22 degrees to 25 degrees. This, in addition to other reasons had resulted in extreme conditions near polar region alternating between the north and the south.This is explained as Milankovitch cycle which can be read here:
Currently the earth is tilted at 23.44 degrees and is decreasing. As a result we are now in the middle of two Ice ages. When the tilt had gone to the extreme limit, either the North or the South-end would become suitable to support life. This shows that the Puranic narration on the location of Devas and Asuras is a practical one.
The gigantic size of the Asuras is also not a figment of imagination. There is something about gigantism in the South Pole, the reasons for which Science has not yet found out. Recently many marine life forms of gigantic size have been found out in the Antartic ocean.
The other terms that I want to introduce to the readers are Meru and Naga or snake.
The Meru or the peak of Meru mountain is the Northern pole. The South pole offers a basis or substratum which was borne by the Giant Tortoise (Vishnu as Kurma). The constant rotation of the axis of Meru causing day and night and changing the climate in the north and south is described as the churning done by Devas and Asuras. Samudra Manthan, as it is called is thus a geological incident written as a story in the Puranas.
The Meru is tied with the snake, Vasuki which is used for churning. It is actually a personification of the mantle under the crust of the earth. As the earth keeps rotating continuously for eons, the underlying mantle is churned continuously. It erupts wherever there is a weak spot on the crust.Poisonous gases, molten minerals etc come out of the churning. The poisonous gases were de-harmed because Puranas say they are "drunk by Shiva, the Neela kanta" . The molten minerals get solidified in course of time and become valuable metals and gems. This is personified as "Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth". But for this constant churning, we would not be getting wealth (lakshmi).
A scene of Samudra Manthan seen at the floor of Atlantic ocean.
With this background information on some basic concepts of the Puranas, we will proceed with Tripura Samhara.
Tripura means three sides or anything that is three. One can explain it at any level - physical, philosophical etc.
But after coming to know of the Sunda land and the eruption of Mt Toba, the story of Tripura Samhara shows a geological event.The names associated with Tripura samhara bear unique resemblance to the way a Super Volcano was maturing to erupt.
There was a Tarakasura who was killed by Karthikeya.
Tara means star.
Karthikeya is derived from a meaning 'fire' or 'cut'.
A star or star like glowing material was absorbed by Fire (Agni) is the import of this.
After the death of Tarakasura, his three sons,
Tarakaksha, Vidyunmali and Makalaksha did penanceto become terrific fortresses.
Tarakaksha means star-eyed, Vidyunmali means one wreathed in lightening and Kamalaksha means lotus eyed (red in colour).
They formed 3 cities which were continuously rotating.
The cities were made of iron at the bottom, silver above that and gold on top.
They were fierce and kept rotating thereby tormenting the people.
They were called the Tripura Asuras.
This description of the Tripura asuras (3 sided asuras) tallies with that of an active volcano.
The initial Volcano, Tarakasura had spewed fire (killed by Karthikeya).
But that was not the end of the Volcano.
It kept being active by being star like sparks (Tarakaksha), lightening (Vidyunmali) and red in color (kamalaksha).
The magma underneath had been so volatile that it is described as though the 3 layers of molten minerals of iron, silver and gold were rotating all the time.
The Devas and Danavas were present in that location, so say the Puranas
We know Asuras, but who are these Danavas?
Generally those in the southern hemisphere were called as Asuras. But there were other people also. One of them were called as Danavas. This is another concept of Puranas which is now proven by genetics.
There was an ancient progenitor of man (Y-chromosome) and quite a few female progenitors (mt DNA). The current population of the earth have come from them.
In Puranic narration, Sage Kashyapa will appear wherever there is a need for creation of people.
Perhaps he signifies the ancient Y- chromosome.
If someone says that he does not know his Gotra, elders will ask them to adopt Kashyapa Gotra because all Gotras (Y- chromosomes?) have come from Kashyapa.
He was in the Deep South before 70,000 years ago,
near Kashmir around 40,000 ago and
after that his name comes associated with the region that has the Caspian sea.
Kashmir got its name from Kashyapa only.
This sage in the beginning of populating the world married 13 daughters of the Prajapathi (Father of people).
In ordinary understanding, people used to think lowly about this sage and other sages who married many women.
But all those stories are symbolic.
One of his wives was called as Danu.
The children born to her were called as Danavas!
The lineage from them also were called as Danavas.
This shows that Danavas are coming in a specific maternal-lineage
They are asuric in nature to some extent.
Popular Danavas are
The Danavas including Maya was present at the time Tripura was fuming!
The torment caused by Tripura was unbearable that the Devas asked Shiva to kill him.
He did so by using a single arrow.
The killing of Tripura by Shiva was described as Tripura samhara.
The exact process of killing is described in the Sangam Tamil text called Paripadal
which is an exact description of the destruction caused by a Volcano.
Paripadal - 5 says
Naaga - snake
naaNaa - as the string (of the bow)
malai - mountain
villaaka - as the bow
moovakai - 3 types
aareyil - walls (fortresses)
Orazal - a single streak of fire
ambin muLiya - at the end of an arrow - killed
Shiva killed Tripura with the mountain as the arrow and the snakes (mantle / magma) as the string, he blew the 3 fortresses of iron, silver and gold (molten material) by shooting a single arrow which has fire at its end.
The snakes - as we told before - personify the magma trying to come out.
This describes the sudden and powerful eruption of fire and mantle from inside the mountain (volcano) which resulted in the complete collapse of the volcano.
To depict it pictorially, here is the image of how a volcano looks when it bursts.
The same picture with the personification of a volcanic eruption with the Bow, String and Arrow that Puranas describe in Tripura Samhara is given below.
This Bow -string -arrow symbolism will look like a bursting volcano like this:
Further description of the narration of the puranas say that as a result of that destruction, there was ash everywhere. The ash was pale gray in colour. Shiva was completely drenched in that ash. He took up a handful of ash and smeared it on his forehead (the custom of wearing sacred ash started then). Not only that he started dancing! That dance was called as Tripura Samhara Dandava (the dance of destruction of Tripura)
This pose of Tripura samhara also fits in the description of the burst of a Volcano.
The leg has been raised straight upwards showing the path of the arrow from inside the earth
and shot upwards through the mouth of the volcano.
This dance of Shiva is described in the Tamil text, Silappadhikaram as the first among the 11 dance forms. This is called in Tamil as "Pandarangam".
This description from Tamil texts clearly show that Tripiura samhara was indeed a Volcanic burst.
Shiva is associated with destruction.
The way the destruction had happened has been told as a symbolic story.
The Devas were happy about the destruction as the asuras were devastated.
But Maya Danava was present at that time!
He was a Shiva worshiper.
Seeing him trapped in the fire that ensued, Shiva saved him.
This shows the Danavas also escaped and continued their life.
Now let us look at corresponding clues to the location around Mt Toba.
(Toba sounds like a corrupt form of Tripura. Locals in that area might give us some leads on how that name Toba was pronounced in olden days)
When Mt Toba erupted, the land looked like above. The red mark denotes the location of Mt Toba.
In the picture above we see so many locations of Sumatra having the name 'Pulau' which sounds similar to Puloma, the Danava who once inhabited this location according to the Puranas.
From where these names starting with Pulau come?
Now take a look at this picture.
Tarakan in this region (Kalimanthan)
The red star shows the area of Tarakan and the inserted picture shows Toba and Tarakan.
Tarakan has underground oil fields, thereby substantiating our analysis that this location has for long experienced hot beds underneath.
In the story of Tripura samhara, we see Taraka or Tarakasura as the father who was destroyed by Karthikeya.
The 3 Tripura asuras were the sons of Tarakasura.
In the picture above, there is a Taraka and also on the same line Mt Toba.
This seems to be the Father and the sons according to Puranic symbolism.
The location of Tarakan now must be researched to know whether it was the location a volcano that burst in much older times.
Tarakan is in a place called Kalimanthan.
Look at the name Kalimanthan, it means Kali's rotations or agitated dance.
In Tripura dandava, Kali, the better half of Shiva also joined the dance.
Look at this picture.
We can see the Puranic characters Maya, Indra etc connected with Tripura samhara.
There are many places in this region having Maya name attested somehow.
There is Maya Karimatha and a Mayo island!
There is Indramayu!
Bali island reminds of Bali danava.
This location had been occupied by danavas in Tripura samhara times.
In addition there is a Madura and Yamadena.
This would raise doubts whether this region was originally the
Tamil region of old Pandyas, the Then- Madurai.
No I dont think so.
Then-Madurai was lost due to sea-floods.
Shiva was the protector deity and a king of that land once.
But the Sundaland region suffered the wrath of Shiva and it bore the brunt of fire not water.
This makes us think that the Madurese came to occupy this part
after their Then-Madurai was devastated by a flood.
According to Sangam Tamil texts,
the Pandyan king along with the survivors landed in the then extended region of South India
in a place called Kapatapuram.
It is probable that many of his subjects have either died or managed to survive in nearby islands.
One such group would have landed in Sumatra and started new life.
It is always a habit with people to call their new locations with their old place- names.
The Madurese carry resemblance to Tamil life described in Tamil texts,
such as making salt as their profession (called as Umanar in sangam text)
and conducting bull races!!
Close to this place is a place called Yamadena, a word resembling the Vedic concept of Yama , the lord of death. The people here have a old stone-boat in which they do ancestor worship.
It looks that the people who escaped a great flood in a boat had reached this island.
The boat stood rock-strong that they escaped,
while others of their clan in other boats had drowned.
The people had done obeisances in their memory in a boat made of stone.
These 2 places, Madura and Yamadena seem to come from a people of later times
who escaped a flood.
Such a flood devastated Then Madurai about 7000 years ago.
But the rest of Sundaland bear the imprint of Tarakasura
as a Super volcano which caused havoc to the population.
The people who had escaped the havoc have managed to live in other areas nearby.
Though Indian Ocean seems to be devoid of land to support people,
it did have good many locations which were mostly top of the mountains
of 90 east ridge and the other long range on south of Arabian sea.
There were scattered regions where people could have stayed.
The Mascarene region was a landmass as huge as Tamilnadu that was above sea water some 7000 years ago.
The memory of Mt Toba was carried on for 1000s of years
which was personified as the destruction caused by Lord Shiva.
In my opinion, the people had started recognizing the stars of the sky and watching the patterns and relating them to events abour 70,000 years ago.
The name Tarakasura, though could have been coined later, was coined so to show that the knowledge of stars started at the time of Tripura (Mt Toba)
The Tripura samhara was 'predicted' to happen on the day when Moon comes in conjunction with the star Pushya.
The study of stars must have started then and was gradually developed.
By the time people overcame the impact of the Volcano and started new life,
sages would have come into existence through contemplation and deep thought on sun and stars.
The period of Daksha comes later and he is identified as having 27 stars as daughters.
So that is the period of the actual birth of astrology.
The oldest name for astrology is 'Nakshatra darsana' (seeing the stars or the philosophy of stars)
and not Jyothisha.
The Hindu astrology is based on star positions and the position of planets in the stars.
There is a puranaic narration of Daksha having his head replaced with the head of a ram.
That symbolizes the birth of the knowledge of the zodiac.
All these go far backwards in time, perhaps 40,000 years before present.
The contemplation on Nature by the people of that era resulted in the birth of Vedic Thought and the formulation of symbolisms for natural events such as Toba eruption.
The Sundaland existed then and people had moved back to occupy them.
They also carried their symbolisms and named the places as Pualu, Mayo, Taraka and so on.
Daksha's people suffered the wrath of Shiva (destruction) some time later in the form of a devastating fire. That was another period in the past which we will discuss in another post.