The image shows a part of the murals painted on the ceiling of the Ranga Mantapa of the Virupaksha Temple located in Hampi, Karnataka, India. This painting is at the center of the ceiling and next to the lotus flower medallion. Check the Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals for the other images and a detailed explanations of the murals.
The painting depicts Tripurantaka, an incarnation of Shiva, standing majestically on a chariot and about to shoot an arrow. Note: Tripura means three citiess. With his incarnation, Shiva destroys three aerial cities, each belonging to a son of Tarakasura. As you can see from the image, Shiva is pointing an arrow at the three cities (two of them are partly visible on the right side). The faces drawn inside the wheels of the chariot represent the moon and the sun.
Here is the story in brief:
Pleased with the three sons of Tarakasura after they perform tapasu, Brahma presents them three aerial cities in the sky that revolve around the earth. The only way they could be destroyed was by a single arrow when they converge in a straight line.
When Tarakasura’s sons realized that they were invincible, they start tormenting the devas and rishis, The gods, including Vishnu and Brahma, urge Shiva to destroy the evil cities. Shiva agrees and makes plans to teach Tarakasura’s sons a lesson.
Vishwakarma, the god of architecture and crafts, constructs a chariot with Prithvi (Earth) as its body and Surya (Sun) and Chandra (Moon) as its wheels. He creates a bow from Mount Meru with Vasuki as its string. Brahma volunteers to become the charioteer, and Vishnu the arrow. Once the chariot is ready, Shiva waits for the precise moment for the three cities to converge and then shoots the arrow to destroy them.
Shiva wipes the ashes from the destroyed cities on his forehead horizontally with his three fingers, and these three lines remain permanently on his forehead from then on. Based on this legend, Shiva’s devotees apply the three horizontal ash lines daily on their foreheads.
– Hampi Virupaksha Temple Murals
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