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This encyclopedia of Hindu mythology says the following about how Kubera became a god:

There are two versions of how Kubera was elevated to the stature of a god. The first version postulates that Kubera performed stringent austerities for thousands of years and, as a reward, was promoted. Another rather more romantic version is that one day Kubera had gone to rob a temple of Shiva, who is the king of robbers. During the robbery Kubera's taper had somehow been blown out. No matter how hard the dwarf tried he could not relight the taper. Nevertheless, he persisted with his efforts no matter how nefarious they were and, on the tenth attempt, he succeeded. Shiva is a benign god who is often pleased by the most illogical of efforts. This perseverance of Kubera's in his attempt to rob the god's temple won him much admiration from Shiva who subsequently granted the dwarf access to the Hindu pantheon of gods.

I know the 'first version' is narrated in Uttara Kanda of Ramayana where Kubera (a.k.a Vaishravana) practiced severe austerities and impresses Lord Brahma.

But what's the source of the alternate story where Kubera robs a temple of Shiva? Is it mentioned in Padma Purana?

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    Shiva Purana says Sripada goes to Shiva Temple in Kasi, which is near to city of Alaka, and he wanted gems in temples and did a penance. Lord Viswesvara with Uma appeared and gave him a boon and as Sripada, son of Yagnadatta, looked at goddess Uma with jealousy for her beauty and good luck she burst his left eye. So, Sripada is called Kubera (one with ill-shaped body). It was Sripda, son of Yagnadatta, who did penance not Vaishravana. Shiva Purana didn't mention any robbing of gems.
    – The Destroyer
    Commented May 20, 2016 at 9:34
  • Why would Kuvera (the god of wealth) become a thief all of the sudden? He had so much wealth yet he needed to steal? Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 6:31
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    @TheLogicalFanatic Not sure, these stories sometimes vary across the Puranas. I'm just looking for the source of the alternate story I cited. Commented Feb 12, 2018 at 16:48

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It appears that this story is found in the Śiva Purāṇa itself, albeit not exactly as narrated by the author of the Encyclopedia.

Technically, he didn't rob. Usage of rob is odd. He did steal offerings made to Śiva, that too, in his previous of previous birth, known as Guṇanidhi, whence he was a polluted, gamble-addicted and a wicked son of a pious Brāhmiṇa (called Dīkṣita).

Quoting from Section 2.1 - Rudra-saṃhitā (1): Sṛṣṭi-khaṇḍa, of the Śiva Purāṇa.

  • First, one may read about the previous lives of Kubera from Chapter 17 - The Story of Guṇanidhi.

  • Then in the next chapter, we get the complete picture of the so called "robbery" which ultimately become an act of piety in the eyes of the extremely benign - god Śiva.

Chapter 18 - The Redemption of Guṇanidhi

  1. When the worship was over, the songs and dances of prayer were duly concluded, the devotees lay down and began to sleep. Immediately the young man (Guṇanidhi) entered the sanctum sanctorum of Śiva in order to steal the eatables left there.

...

  1. and 53. Afterwards he was born as the son of Arindama, the king of Kaliṅga. Known as Dama he was devoted to the service of Śiva.

...

  1. to 65. That son of Dīkṣita never cared for any act of piety. It was to steal that he had entered the temple of Śiva. To serve his own end he had brightened the lamp there, thereby dispelling the shadow of darkness on the top of the liṅga. Then he became the virtuous king of Kaliṅga. O foremost of the sages where the wicked son of the Dīkṣita, and where the guardian of a quarter? Although he had been simply a man, he became the guardian of a quarter (i.e. Kubera).

English Translation by J.L. Shastri

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