BY: SUN STAFF - 16.7 2020

Sunda and Upasunda Fight over the Apsara, Tilottama
Banteay, Cambodia

he apsara who brought about Sunda and Upasunda's demise.

The apsara named Tilottama is described in the Mahabharata as a divine being created by the transcendental architect, Vishwakarma. Lord Brahma asked Vishwakarma to take all the best qualities of everything as ingredients, and to create an apsara accordingly. The Sanskrit word tila means 'sesame seed', and uttama, better or higher. Tilottama, therefore, was the name given to one whose smallest particles are composed of the finest and highest qualities.

Tilottama was such an attractive personality that even Lord Shiva and Indra became enamoured of her. In Adi Parva it is described that Shiva (Sthanu) became so desirous of seeing her that as she circumambulated him, he grew heads on both of his sides and another on the back of his head, so he could see her constantly. Lord Indra developed a thousand red eyes on his body with which to see her. Employing her great charm and beauty, Tilottama eventually brought about the mutual destruction of the asuras, Sunda and Upasunda.

There are several narratives about the personality, Tilottama. One states that in a prior life she was the ugly widow Kubja, who underwent auspicious ceremonies for eight years. Finally, due to the performance of Magha-puja, she gained birth as the apsara Tilottama.

Another says that she was cursed by the great sage Durvasa to be born as a daitya, and thus took birth as Usha, the daughter of Banasura and wife of Aniruddha, Krsna's grandson. The Brahma Vaivarta describes how Sahasika, grandson of Bali, disturbed sage Durvasa's penance by engaging in amorous pastimes with a woman. The sage turned him into a donkey and cursed the woman (Tilottama) to be born as the daughter of the demon king Bana.

In the Adi Parva of Mahabharata, the great sage Narada tells the Pandava brothers the story of destruction of the demon brothers Sunda and Upsunda, whose end was brought about by the apsara, Tilottama. Narada warned the Pandavas that their common wife, Draupadi, could be a source of quarrel between them, and the pastimes of Sunda and Upsunda were given to illustrate this.

Sunda and Upasunda were the sons of the demon Nikumbha. They are described as inseparable siblings who shared everything: their kingdom, their house, their bed, even the food they ate. At one time, the brothers went to the Vindhya mountains to perform severe austerities, and this compelled Lord Brahma to grant them a boon. They asked for great power and immortality, but the latter was denied. Instead, Brahma gave them the boon that nothing but they themselves could hurt one another.

Departing the Vindhyas with the prize of their boon, the demons soon began to attack the demigods, driving them out. Conquering the whole universe, the demons then began harassing sages, thus creating havoc in all quarters of society. The demigods sought refuge and relief from Lord Brahma, who then ordered Vishvakarma to create a beautiful woman.

10th Century, Madhya Pradesh

Vishvakarma set about collecting all beautiful things from the three worlds, including all the gems. When the work was done, Tilottama was an unrivaled beauty, and Brahma directed her to go and seduce the demon brothers, to the extent that she would create a great deal of contention between them.

One day, as Sunda and Upasunda were lounging along a river bank in the Vindhya mountains, enjoying their senses with women and intoxication, Tilottama appeared, gathering flowers. The brothers were instantly bewitched, and each one took hold of one of Tilottama's hands. They began to argue about which one would be the better husband for her. Grabbing their clubs, they attacked one another, and beat each other to death.

The grateful demigods congratulated Tilottama, and Lord Brahma granted her a boon -- the right to roam freely in the universe. Brahma also decreed that for a long time to come, no one would be permitted to look up her, due to her great luster.