Devas and Asuras fighting on chariots and elephants in the sky with Indra's elephant Airavata in the center

Tarakamaya: The War Over Tara

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Today, I bring you another family drama, this time about the Moon. If there’s any god in Hinduism that has constantly committed sins and took the immoral path, it is Soma, the Moon god. In this story, Soma kidnaps his own Guru’s wife, eventually leading to a whole war between the Devas and Asuras. I like to think of this story as essentially the Indian equivalent of the Trojan War story in Greece.

Soma’s Rajasuya Yagna

This story is in the Harivamsha, Book 1, Chapter 25 and the Brahmanda Purana, Upodghata-parva, Chapter 65

The sage Atri, one of the Manasputras (mind-born sons) of Brahma, wanted to have a child. He performed a silent penance for three-thousand celestial years. As he was deep in meditation, his body rose up into the sky and streams of tears began flooding from his eyes. Ten goddesses from the ten directions (north, south, east, west, northeast, northwest, southeast, southwest, zenith, nadir) together conceived a embryo with a child inside. But due to the divinity of this child, the ten women could not contain it and the child fell down to the Earth.

As the child fell, Lord Brahma caught the child in his chariot of thousand horses. He encircled the Earth twenty-one times and then came down onto the Earth. This child became Soma. The child performed penance for a thousand years and attained immense power and glory. Due to his penance, Brahma appointed him the god of the Moon (Chandra). He also became the lord of medicinal plants, grasses, and seeds.

Daksha gave his 27 daughters (the 27 Nakshatra constellations) to Soma in marriage. Soma then decided to perform the Rajasuya Yagna. The Shatapatha Brahmana describes this as the ultimate ritual, meant for declaring a world emperor. But this was a special Rajasuya yagna. Gods and sages like Atri, Bhrigu, Sanatkumara, Brahma, and even Vishnu himself were priests in this yagna. This yagna further increased Soma’s power and glory around the universe.

The Kidnapping of Tara

This story is in the Padma Purana, Srishti-khanda, Chapter 12

As Soma attained immense fame, his arrogance and immorality increased. One day, he saw a beautiful woman walking around in a garden. She was adorned with bright flowers and ornaments. This woman’s name was Tara, and her husband was none other than Brihaspati, the Guru of the Devas. But when Soma saw her, his heart missed a beat. He instantly fell in love and in lust, he seized her by the hair and kidnapped her, taking her to his house. Time went on, and Tara developed feelings for Soma. They would spend all day in Soma’s palaces, enjoying each other’s company.

When Brihaspati found out about his wife’s abduction, he was enraged. He sent Maruts, Sadhyas, Dikapalas, and other gods to convince Soma to return his wife, but Soma refused. Even Brahma went to ask Soma to return Tara, but Soma didn’t care. Eventually, Lord Shiva became angry. Shiva had studied under Angiras, Brihaspati’s father, and he was good friends with Brihaspati. Indra too sided with his Guru Brihaspati. Thus, Shiva and Indra led an army of gods against Soma. At the same time, the Asuras and their guru Shukracharya sided with Soma. Hence, an all-out war broke out between the Devas and the Asuras.

Tarakamaya War

This story is in the Padma Purana, Srishti-khanda, Chapter 12

Just a quick background: the Puranas describe 12 major wars between the Devas and the Asuras, and several other minor ones. The word Tarakamaya (Sanskrit: तारकामय युद्ध) literally translates to ‘war over the love of Tara’. Tarakamaya is said to be the 5th major war between the Devas and the Asuras.

The Tarakamaya war is described as a deadly and bloody conflict. On Brihaspati’s side were the gods, Ganas, Yakshas, Siddhas, all led by Shiva. On Soma’s side were what seemed like oceans of Vetalas, Sarpas, Kinnaras, Nagas, Rakshasas, and Asuras like Jambha and Kujambha. Both sides launched powerful weapons capable of destroying entire planets. Shiva launched the Brahmashiras, a weapon superior to even the Brahmastra. Both sides had heavy casualties. The world was on the verge of destruction as this war continued for a long time.

The Birth of Mercury

This story is in the Harivamsha, Book 1, Chapter 25 and the Brahmanda Purana, Upodghata-parva, Chapter 65

As the war continued, the Tushitas (a class of Devas) asked Brahma to intervene, or else the war would go on forever. Thus, Brahma came on the battlefield and prevented Shiva and Shukracharya from fighting. He ordered Soma to give Tara back to Brihaspati. Finally, Soma relented. He was tiring of fighting, so he returned Tara.

But there was one problem: Tara was pregnant. In some versions of the story, Tara gave birth to the child after one year. But in other versions, Brihaspati ordered Tara to give birth to the child right then and there. But anyways, when Tara gave birth to the child, both Soma and Brihaspati claimed to be the father. They both argued over who the father was. When they asked Tara, she gave no reply out of the shame that she had slept with two men.

At this point, the divine child himself was about to curse his own mother if she didn’t reveal his true father. Tara looked down and silently mumbled, “He is Soma’s.” Soma proudly wore a smile on his face as he lifted up his child and named it ‘Budha’. Budha, also known as ‘Dasyuhantama’, is the god of the planet Mercury. Budha would go on to marry Ila and have a son named Pururavas, the first king of the famous lunar dynasty of kings (Chandravansha).

The god Budha sitting on a lion

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