Posted by Art Of Legend India [dot] Com On 6:23 AM
Goddess Shodashi or Tripura Sundari is represented as a sixteen-year-old girl, and is believed to actualize sixteen types of desire. She is one of the Dasha Mahavidyas. The word Shodashi literally means sixteen in Sanskrit. She is thus visualized as a sweet girl of sixteen. She has four hands and three eyes. She is seated on the lotus, which is placed on the body of Shiva who is lying in a peaceful posture. She holds a noose, a hook, a bow and an arrow in each of her hands. Her appearance is completely sober and gentle and her heart is full of compassion. A devotee who takes her refuge achieves great divinity like the deities. Even the Vedas are incapable of describing her greatness. Being pleased with her devotee she gives more than he demands. Goddess Shodashi is shown seated on a lotus that rests on the supine body of Lord Shiva, who in turn lies on a throne whose legs are the Lord Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Rudra.
There is interesting story behind her supreme beauty. According to that story, Once Lord Shiva referred to Kali (his consort) by her name in front of some heavenly damsels who had come to visit, calling her "Kali, Kali" (Blackie, Blackie) in jest. This she took to be a slur against her dark complexion. She left Lord Shiva and resolved to rid herself of her dark complexion, through asceticism. Later, the sage Narada, seeing Shiva alone, asked where his wife was. Shiva complained that she had abandoned him and vanished. With his yogic powers Narada discovered Kali is living north of Mount Sumeru and went there to see if he could convince her to return to Shiva. He told her that Shiva was thinking of marrying another goddess and that she should return at once to prevent this. By now Kali had rid herself of her dark complexion but did not yet realize it. Arriving in the presence of Lord Shiva, she saw a reflection of herself with a light complexion in Shiva's heart. Thinking, that this was another goddess, she became jealous and angry. Shiva advised her to look more carefully, with the eye of knowledge, telling her that what she saw in his heart was herself. The story ends with Shiva saying to the transformed Kali: "As you have assumed a very beautiful form, beautiful in the three worlds, your name will be Tripura Sundari. You shall always remain sixteen years old and be called by the name Shodashi."
One of Goddess Shodashi’s epithets is 'Tripura-Sundari,' which means 'One who is beautiful in the three realms.' Her other name 'Lalita' implies softness. These two qualities give rise to images that depict her as ravishingly beautiful and of unsurpassed splendor. All paintings are courtesy of Art of Legend India.