When I was randomly looking at the chat room,I saw this.

Ok, so Indra got 1000 eyes and Shiva 5 heads because of Tilottama

I did some research on this and found this.

Another tale in the Mahabharata (Book 13) narrates that Tilottama comes to tempt him. Eager to see her as she circumambulated him, Shiva developed four visible faces,

I also found this.

an apsara named Madhura arrives at Mount Kailash, the abode of Shiva, to pay her respects. In absence of his wife Parvati, Madhura has clandestine coitus with Shiva . When Parvati returns, she finds traces of ashes from Shiva’s body on the breasts of Madhura.

What is this?!How can Shiva even do this?!I think it is very demeaning to think that Shiva who is the destroyer of lust,Kama, falls prey to two mere apsaras.I would understand if he was seduced by Devi but he wasn't.Somebody please clear my doubts.

  • 3
    If we assume Lord Shiva to be a politician then you have now successfully assumed the role of Arnab Goswami. :) .As i have said before these are in general leelas of God which always lead to auspiciousness and are done for spreading goodness or Dharma.That is why we find even avatars of God, who are supposed to be the symbols of righteousness, often resorting to tricks and lies to achieve their goals.If we see these leelas with a human vision and judge them with human intellect then we will only understand them partially.:)
    – Rickross
    Feb 20, 2016 at 8:23
  • 1
    @Rickross I understand that Madhula and Shiva had to do such an act for her to be incarnated as Mandodari and for their son to teach Indra a lesson.However,what was the reason for his "eagerness" to see Tilothama?
    – user4627
    Feb 21, 2016 at 1:11
  • I have heard that Madhura had assumed the form of Parvati and lured Lord Shiva. Shiva unknowingly and thinking Madhura to be Parvati had clandestine coitus with her.
    – user9969
    Jun 12, 2017 at 9:32
  • 1
    These are mere stories. Lord Shiva does not have a form and is not human. We assume God to be humans Aug 9, 2017 at 9:09

1 Answer 1


The story of Lord Shiva and Tilottama is told by Lord Shiva himself in this chapter of Anushashana Parva. Lord Shiva himself tells that it is just to show the power of Yoga:

तिलोत्तमा नाम पुरा ब्रह्मणा योषिदुत्तमा ।
तिलं तिलं समुद्धृत्य रत्नानां निर्मिता शुभा ।।
साभ्यगच्छत मां देवि रूपेणाप्रतिमा भुवि ।
प्रदक्षिणं लोभयन्ती मां शुभे रुचिरानना ।।
यतो यतः सा सुदती मामुपाधावदन्तिके ।
ततस्ततो मुखं चारु मम देवि विनिर्गतम्।।
तां देदृक्षुरहं योगाच्चतुर्मूर्तित्वमागतः ।
चतुर्मुखश्च संवृत्तॊ दर्शयन योगमात्मनः।।

'In days of yore, a blessed woman was created by Brahman, called Tilottama, by culling grains of beauty from every beautiful object in the universe. One day, that lady of beautiful face, unrivalled in the universe for beauty of form, came to me, O goddess, for circumambulating me but really compelled by the desire of tempting me. In whatever direction that lady of beautiful teeth turned, a new face of mine instantly appeared. All those faces of mine became agreeable to look at. Thus, in consequence of the desire of beholding her, I became four-faced, through Yoga-puissance, Thus, I showed my high Yoga-power in becoming four- faced.

Also these four faces shows the attributes of Lord which are also described in SataRudriya section of Yajurveda. Like "Bhavãya cha / who is the Origin", "Somãya cha/who is with Uma", "Rudrãya cha/ who ends the Cries", "Sarvãya cha / who destroys everything", etc.. Lord Shiva himself explains the functions of his four faces there as:

पूर्वेण वदनेनाहम इन्द्रत्वमनुशास्मि ह ।

With that face of mine which is turned towards the east, I exercise the sovereignty of the universe.

उत्तरेण त्वया सार्धं रमाम्यहमनिन्दिते ।।

With that face of mine which is turned towards the north, I sport with thee, O thou of faultless features!

पश्चिमं मे मुखं सौम्यं सर्वप्राणि सुखावहम् ।

That face of mine which is turned towards the west is agreeable and auspicious. With it I ordain the happiness of all creatures.

दक्षिणं भीमसंकाशं रौद्रं संहरति प्रजाः ।।

That face of mine which is turned towards the south is terrible. With it I destroy all creatures.

Thus these are the functions of four faces. These functions are always carried out by Lord Shiva but during Tilottama event he revealed upto 4 faces only and on being asked by Uma he replied the secret of four faces. Thus, Lord Shiva through his simple Leela displayed powers of Yoga and attributes through which he rules (East face), sports (North face), protects (West face) and destroys (South face) the whole world.

The story of Lord Shiva and Madhura is just a folklore and it is highly unlikely that it is mentioned in some scriptures. But still Folklores have their own justifications.


Upotghatapaada Brahmanda Purana Chapter 7 states:

इत्यते बहुसाहस्रा भास्वरा अप्सरोगणाः ।
देवतामामृषीणां च पत्न्यश्च मातरश्च ह ।।
सुगंधाश्चाथ निष्पंदा सर्वाश्चाप्सरसः समाः ।
संप्रयोगस्तु कामेन माद्यं दिवि हरं विना ।।
तासां देवर्षी संस्पर्शा जाताः साधारणा यतः ।

These brillant groups of Apsaras numbering many thousands are the wives and mothers of Gods and Sages. All these Apasars are equally fragrant and free from excitement. Except Hara, everyone from among the Devas and Sages had contact with them on account of Kãma since they were common to all.

  • Thanks for his answer.I was wondering what was the reason behind this leela of Lord Shiva.
    – user4627
    Feb 11, 2017 at 10:55
  • What about His fifth invisible face?
    – user9969
    Jul 22, 2017 at 17:34

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