The Divine Armour: The Trailokya-vijaya Prayer
Most people know the Parashurama story, at least the bare bones of it. The story is about Kartavirya Arjuna and how, because of Kartavirya Arjuna’s oppression, Parashurama eliminated the Kshatriyas from earth 21 times. Most people also probably know that Parashurama obtained weapons from Shiva. Kartavirya Arjuna was blessed by Vishnu. How could Parashurama destroy him without something special? This column is about that something special, the Trailokya-vijaya mantra, and the account is from Brahmanda Purana. Let me warn you. This will be heavy reading.
Shiva addressed Parashurama in compassionate words. “O Brahmana! From today, you will become like Skanda to me. O immensely intelligent one! I will give you a mantra and a divine kavacha. Through this favour, you will be able to playfully kill Kartavirya. You will also empty the earth of kings 21 times.” Saying this, Shankara gave him a mantra that is extremely difficult to obtain. He also gave him the extremely wonderful kavacha named Trailokya-vijaya, the noose of the nagas, the Pashupata weapon, the Brahmastra, which is extremely difficult to obtain, the Narayanastra, Agneyastra, Vayavyastra, Varunastra, Gandharvastra, Garudastra, the extremely wonderful Jrimbhanastra, a club, a spear, a battle-axe, a trident, an excellent staff and all the aggregate of shastras and astras. He was delighted and prostrated himself before the serene Shiva, Durga, Skanda and Ganeshvara. Circumambulating them, Rama went to the supreme tirtha of Pushkara and consecrated the mantra stated by Shiva and the excellent kavacha.
(Trailokya-vijaya is a weapon that allows the possessor to conquer the three worlds. These are divine weapons, named after Brahma, Narayana, Agni, Vayu, Varuna, the gandharva and Garuda. Pashupata is Shiva’s own weapon. Jrimbhanastra makes the opponent yawn and go to sleep. Kavacha means armour, but is not to be understood in the sense of physical armour. It is a mantra that acts like a shield of protection.)
This entire account is being reported by the sage Vasishtha to King Sagara.
Vashishta said, “I will tell you about this exceedingly wonderful kavacha and about the mantra that brings eternal siddhi to sadhakas, bestowing happiness. At the end of the pada, one must utter, “To Gopijana-Vallabha”. [Gopa is a cowherd. Gopi is the feminine. Gopijana-Vallabha is the one loved by gopis, that is, Krishna. Since Krishna and Rama were later avatars, there is a chronological issue. It is possible that these sections, especially those on Krishna, were added to the text subsequently. Not only is there a reference to Krishna, Radha/Radhika is also mentioned.] The great mantra has 10 aksharas and must end with “svaha”. It bestows objects of pleasure and emancipation. The rishi is Sadashiva and the chhanda is said to be pankti. The divinity is Krishna and it is recited and used to obtain everything. The rishi for Trailokya-vijaya kavacha is Prajapati. The chhanda is jagati and the divinity is Rajeshvara himself. It is said that it should be used to conquer the three worlds.”
(Each mantra has a rishi who composed it and a divinity to whom it is addressed. The pankti chhanda has 10 aksharas in every pada. The text leads to confusion between a mantra to Krishna and the Trailokya-vijaya kavacha. The Krishna mantra in pankti chhanda is simply—“Gopijana-Vallabhaya Svaha/To the one loved by Gopis, Svaha.” The rest can be taken to be Trailokya-vijaya, composed in jagati. However, the classic jagati chhanda should have 12 aksharas in every pada. As stated in the text, this has 16 aksharas and is actually ashti chhanda. Anga-nyasa is the mental appropriation (nyasa) of different limbs of the body (anga) to different divinities. Kara-nyasa is similarly done to different parts of the hand (kara). In this mantra, anga-nyasa acts as the kavacha. In addition, the kavacha is worn as an amulet.)
“Let Pranava protect my head. I always prostrate myself before Shri Krishna. Let him always protect my forehead. To Krishna. Svaha. Let Krishna protect the pupils of my eyes. To Krishna. Svaha. Let him always protect my eyebrows. To Hari. Namah. Let him always protect my nose. OUM. To Govinda. Svaha. Let this always protect my cheek. I prostrate myself before Gopala. Let the kalpa-taru protect my ears. Kleem. [These are bija-mantras, each with a single akshara -kleem, shreem, hreem. Each of these has three varnas and each of these varnas possesses mystical significance.] To Krishna. Namah. Let him always protect my two lips. Shreem. To Krishna. Namah. Let him protect my rows of teeth. OUM. To the lord of gopis. Svaha. Let these three aksharas of ‘Shri Krishna’ protect the gaps between my teeth. Let him always protect my tongue. OUM. To Shri Krishna. Svaha. Let him always protect my palate. To Rameshvara. Svaha. Let him always protect my throat. To Radhika’s lord. Svaha. Let him always protect my neck. To the lord of all the gopis. Namah. Let him always protect my shoulders. OUM. To the lord of gopas. Svaha. Let him protect my back. To the one who assumed a boy’s form. Namah. Svaha. Let this always protect my stomach. To Mukunda. Namah. Hreem. Shreem. Kleem. To Krishna. Svaha. Let him always protect my hands. OUM. To Vishnu. Namah. Svaha. Let him protect my two arms. OUM. Hreem. To Bhagavan. Svaha. Let him protect my row of nails. To Narayana. Namah. Let him protect the gaps between my nails. OUM. Hreem. Shreem. To Padmanabha. Let him always protect my navel. OUM. To the lord of everything. Svaha. Let him always protect my hair. Namah. To Krishna. Svaha. Let him always protect my brahmarandhra. [Brahmarandhra is the centre of the brain and sahasrara chakra is located inside brahmarandhra.] OUM. To Madhava. Svaha. Let him always protect my forehead. OUM. Hreem. Shrem. To the lord of rasikas. (A rasika is a graceful person, a person who possesses taste.) Let him always protect my waist. Namah. To the lord of all gopis. Let him always protect my thighs. OUM. Namah. To the destroyer of the daityas. Svaha. Let him protect my knees. To Yashoda’s delight. Namah. Let him protect my calves. To the one who loves the pleasure of rasa. [The festival and dance of the gopas and gopis.) Svaha. Let him protect my modesty. To Vrinda’s beloved. (Vrinda is Radhika’s name, but can also be interpreted as a multitude.) Svaha. Let him protect all my limbs. Wholeheartedly, let Krishna always protect me in the east. Let the lord of Goloka himself protect me in the southeast. Let the one who is the form of the complete Brahman always protect me in the south. Let Krishna protect me in the southwest. Let Hari protect me in the west. Let Govinda protect me in the northwest. Let the lord of rasikas protect me in the north. Let the one who sports in Vrindavana always protect me in the northeast. Let the lord of Vrinda’s life always protect me in an upwards direction. Let the one who destroyed the immensely strong Bani always protect me in a downward direction. Let Nrisimha always protect me in the water, on land and in the sky. Let Madhava himself protect me when I am asleep and when I am awake. Let the unattached lord, present in all atmans, protect me in all directions.”
Vasishtha concluded, “O lord of the earth! This is said to destroy every kind of sin. This is the kavacha named Trailokya-vijaya. I have heard it from the mouth of Shiva Paramesha. It should never be revealed to anyone. After worshipping the guru, the kavacha must be worn in the proper way, around the neck, or on the right hand. There is no doubt that a person who does this, becomes like Vishnu himself. If a person is such a sadhaka, the goddesses of speech and wealth also reside with him. If a person succeeds in wearing such a kavacha, there is no doubt that he is like a jivanmukta. [A person who has been emancipated, though he is alive.] It has been determined that he obtains fruits equal to those obtained through crores of years of worship. Thousands of royal sacrifices, hundreds of horse sacrifices, all the great donations and pradakshina of the earth do not earn even one-sixteenth of the merits obtained through Trailokya-vijaya. Vows, fasting, niyamas, studying, teaching and bathing in all the tirthas do not earn even a fraction of the merits. Becoming a siddha, becoming immortal and obtaining the status of Sri Hari’s servant—there is no doubt that all these are obtained if one successfully wears the kavacha. If a person performs japa one million times, he becomes successful in wearing the kavacha. If a person wears the kavacha successfully, there is no doubt that he is victorious. A kingdom can be given away. A head can be given away. The breath of life can be given away. But even in a calamity, this kavacha must never be given away. For the sake of saving you, I have revealed this. O one who brings radiance to your lineage! Follow my command and understand. Wear this kavacha and become a chakravarti.”
This was Vasishtha’s advice to King Sagara. What did Parashurama do? Full of supreme devotion, Rama followed the sadhana. He slept on the ground, bathed thrice a day and observed the sandhya rites. Attentive, Rama resided in Pushkara for one hundred years.
First published on Open The Magazine
Reproduced here with permission from Dr Bibek Debroy