2

The Mahabharata mentions twice the apsara Tillotama. Once, in the Adi Parva and the other time in the Anusasana Parva. What do these verses say about the apsara Tilottama?

3

The Apsara Tilottama is, as you say, mentioned in two places in the Mahabharata. First, in this chapter and the next chapter of the Adi Parva of the Mahabharata:

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.' ...

Bowing unto the Grandsire and saying, 'So be it,'--the damsel walked round the celestial conclave. The illustrious Brahman was then sitting with face turned eastwards, and Mahadeva with face also towards the east, and all the celestials with faces northwards, and the Rishis with faces towards all directions. 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....

Meanwhile the Asura brothers having subjugated the earth were without a rival. The fatigue of exertion gone, they, having brought the three worlds under equal sway, regarded themselves as persons that had nothing more to do. Having brought all the treasures of the gods, the Gandharvas, the Yakshas, the Nagas, the Rakshasas, and the kings of the earth, the brothers began to pass their days in great happiness. When they saw they had no rivals (in the three worlds), they gave up all exertion and devoted their time to pleasure and merriment, like the celestials. They experienced great happiness by giving themselves up to every kind of enjoyment, such as women, and perfumes and floral wreaths and viands, and drinks and many other agreeable objects all in profusion. In houses and woods and gardens, on hills and in forests, wherever they liked they passed their time in pleasure and amusement, like the immortals. And it so happened that one day they went for purposes of pleasure to a tableland of the Vindhya range, perfectly level and stony, and overgrown with blossoming trees. After every object of desire, all of the most agreeable kind, had been brought, the brothers sat on an excellent seat, with happy hearts and accompanied by handsome women. And those damsels, desirous of pleasing the brothers, commenced a dance in accompaniment to music, and sweetly chanted many a song in praise of the mighty pair.'

Meanwhile Tilottama attired in a single piece of red silk that exposed all her charms, came along, plucking wild flowers on her way. She advanced slowly to where those mighty Asuras were. The Asura brothers, intoxicated with the large portions they had imbibed, were smitten upon beholding that maiden of transcendent beauty. Leaving their seats they went quickly to where the damsel was. Both of them being under the influence of lust, each sought the maiden for himself. And Sunda seized that maid of fair brows by her right hand. Intoxicated with the boons they had obtained, with physical might, with the wealth and gems they had gathered from every quarter, and with the wine they had drunk, maddened with all these, and influenced by wishful desire, they addressed each other, each contracting his bow in anger, 'She is my wife, and therefore your superior,' said Sunda. 'She is my wife, and therefore your sister-in-law', replied Upasunda. And they said unto each other, 'She is mine not yours.' And soon they were under the influence of rage. Maddened by the beauty of the damsel, they soon forgot their love and affection for each other. Both of them, deprived of reason by passion, then took up their fierce maces. Each repeating, I was the first, I was the first,' (in taking her hand) struck the other. And the fierce Asuras, struck by each other with the mace, fell down upon the ground, their bodies bathed in blood, like two suns dislodged from the firmament. And beholding this, the women that had come there, and the other Asuras there present, all fled away trembling in grief and fear, and took refuge in the nether regions. The Grandsire himself of pure soul, then came there, accompanied by the celestials, and the great Rishis. And the illustrious Grandsire applauded Tilottama and expressed his wish of granting her a boon. The Supreme Deity, before Tilottama spoke, desirous of granting her a boon, cheerfully said, 'O beautiful damsel, thou shalt roam in the region of the Adityas. Thy splendour shall be so great that nobody will ever be able to look at thee for any length of time!' The Grandsire of all creatures, granting this boon unto her, establishing the three worlds in Indra as before, returned to his own region.'

And second, in this chapter of the Anushasana Parva of the Mahabharata:

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 [Shiva], O goddess, for circumambulating me but really impelled by the desire of tempting me. In whatever direction that lady of beautiful teeth turned, a new face of mine instantly appeared (so eager did I become to see her). 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. With that face of mine which is turned towards the east, I exercise the sovereignty of the universe, With that face of mine which is turned towards the north, I sport with thee, O thou of faultless features! That face of mine which is turned towards the west is agreeable and auspicious. With it I ordain the happiness of all creatures. That face of mine which is turned towards the south is terrible. With it I destroy all creatures. I live as a Brahmacharin with matted locks on my head, impelled by the desire of doing good to all creatures. The bow Pinaka is always in my hand for accomplishing the purposes of the deities. In days of yore, Indra, desirous of acquiring my prosperity, had hurled his thunderbolt at me. With that weapon my throat was scorched. For this reason I have become blue-throated.

1
  • Did Shiva forget that he has five faces? And how is it that Tilottama managed easily the task which failed with the combined efforts of Parvati, Kamadeva, Rati and Vasanta? – Surya Jul 26 '17 at 11:04
7

The first instance is mentioned in Mahabharata, Adi Parva, SECTION CCXIII of English version and Chapter 203 of Sanskrit version where Sage Narada is describing the birth of Tilottama and Lord Shiva's four faces.

17 तिलं तिलं समानीय रत्नानां यद विनिर्मिता
तिलॊत्तमेत्य अतस तस्या नाम चक्रे पितामहः
18 [पितामह]
गच्छ सुन्दॊपसुन्दाभ्याम असुराभ्यां तिलॊत्तमे
परार्थनीयेन रूपेण कुरु भद्रे परलॊभनम
19 तवत्कृते दर्शनाद एव रूपसंपत कृतेन वै
विरॊधः सयाद यथा ताभ्याम अन्यॊन्येन तथा कुरु
20 [नारद]
सा तथेति परतिज्ञाय नमस्कृत्य पितामहम
चकार मण्डलं तत्र विबुधानां परदक्षिणम
21 पराङ्मुखॊ भगवान आस्ते दक्षिणेन महेश्वरः
22 देवाश चैवॊत्तरेणासन सर्वतस तव ऋषयॊ ऽभवन
कुर्वन्त्या तु तया तत्र मण्डलं तत परदक्षिणम
इन्द्रः सथाणुश च भगवान धैर्येण परत्यवस्थितौ
23 दरष्टुकामस्य चात्यर्थं गतायाः पार्श्वतस तदा
अन्यद अञ्चितपक्ष्मान्तं दक्षिणं निःसृतं मुखम
24 पृष्ठतः परिवर्तन्त्याः पश्चिमं निःसृतं मुखम
गतायाश चॊत्तरं पार्श्वम उत्तरं निःसृतं मुखम
25 महेन्द्रस्यापि नेत्राणां पार्श्वतः पृष्ठतॊ ऽगरतः
रक्तान्तानां विशालानां सहस्रं सर्वतॊ ऽभवत
26 एवं चतुर्मुखः सथाणुर महादेवॊ ऽभवत पुरा
तथा सहस्रनेत्रश च बभूव बलसूदनः
27 तथा देव निकायानाम ऋषीणां चैव सर्वशः
मुखान्य अभिप्रवर्तन्ते येन याति तिलॊत्तमा
28 तस्या गात्रे निपतिता तेषां दृष्टिर महात्मनाम
सर्वेषाम एव भूयिष्ठम ऋते देवं पितामहम
29 गच्छन्त्यास तु तदा देवाः सर्वे च परमर्षयः
कृतम इत्य एव तत कार्यं मेनिरे रूपसंपदा
30 तिलॊत्तमायां तु तदा गतायां लॊकभावनः
सर्वान विसर्जयाम आस देवान ऋषिगणांश च तान

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.'

"Narada continued, 'Bowing unto the Grandsire and saying, 'So be it,'--the damsel walked round the celestial conclave. The illustrious Brahman was then sitting with face turned eastwards, and Mahadeva with face also towards the east, and all the celestials with faces northwards, and the Rishis with faces towards all directions. 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.'"

And the second instance is mentioned in Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, SECTION CXLI of English version and Chapter 128 of Sanskrit version where Lord Shiva himself is talking about Tilottama and his four faces to Mother Uma.

1 [महेष्वर]
तिलॊत्तमा नाम पुरा बरह्मणा यॊषिद उत्तमा
तिलं तिलं समुद्धृत्य रत्नानां निर्मिता शुभा
2 साभ्यगच्छत मां देवि रूपेणाप्रतिमा भुवि
परदक्षिणं लॊभयन्ती मां शुभे रुचिरानना
3 यतॊ यतः सा सुदती माम उपाधावद अन्तिके
ततस ततॊ मुखं चारु मम देवि विनिर्गतम
4 तां देदृक्षुर अहं यॊगाच चतुर्मूर्तित्वम आगतः
चतुर्मुखश च संवृत्तॊ दर्शयन यॊगम आत्मनः

"The blessed and holy one said, '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 impelled by the desire of tempting me. In whatever direction that lady of beautiful teeth turned, a new face of mine instantly appeared (so eager did I become to see her). 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.

You must log in to answer this question.