Srimad Bhagvata Mahapurana: Book 7: Chapter 10: Verses 49-71
(The story of) the conquest of Tripura
This very Sri Krsna, your well-known beloved friend and cousin (son of your maternal uncle, Vasudeva), (nay,) your very self (body), worthy of your adoration, obedient servant (ambassador and charioteer) and preceptor (all in one), is Brahma, the realization of absolute (unconditioned) supreme Bliss diligently sought after (even) by the great. May this Sri Krsna, the well-known Protector of devotees, be gracious to us-Sri Krsna, whose essential character has not (so far) been depicted in its true colours with the help of reason (even) by Lord Siva (the Source of the universe), Brahma (the lotus-born) and others, and who is adored (by us) through silent meditation and enquiry, Devotion and control of one's senses and soon (unlike you, who are on such intimate terms with Him and on whom He lavishes His affection, a privilege which even Prahrada never enjoyed). He is that very Lord, who spread (revived) of yore, O king, the renown of Lord Rudra, which had been marred by (the demon) Maya, who possessed an endless store of conjuring tricks. The king (Yudhisthira) submitted : (Pray) relate (to me) in what (particular) achievement Maya marred the glory of Lord Siva (the Ruler of the universe) and the way in which it was enhanced by yonder Sri Krsna. Narada replied : Utterly defeated in battle (once) by the gods, fostered by Sri Krsna, the Asuras sought as their protector (the demon) Maya, the supreme teacher of those skilled in conjuring tricks. Having built three cities (flying fortresses) of gold, silver and steel (respectively)-whose coming and going could not be easily detected and which were furnished with articles too numerous to conceive-the powerful demon handed them over to the Asura chiefs. Remembering their old enmity (with the gods), the aforesaid Asura generals set about devastating by means of these the three worlds with their rulers, O Yudhisthira, themselves remaining unperceived. Approaching Lord Siva, the denizens of these worlds with their rulers then prayed to Him: "0 Lord, protect us, Your own people, (well-nigh) destroyed by the demons ensconced in the three (flying) cities."
Reassuring the gods in the words "Do not be afraid !" the almighty Lord then fitted to His bow an arrow surcharged with mystic power and discharged it at the three cities. From that arrow, like streams of rays from the orb of the sun, issued forth (many more) fiery shafts, screened by which the cities could no longer be seen. Struck by these, all the occupants of the cities fell down dead. Maya, a great adept in conjuring tricks, fetched and put them into the nectar-like water of a well (built by himself within the cities). Touched by that nectar-like fluid endowed with the property of restoring the dead to life, they emerged with an adamantine frame and possessed of extraordinary strength like fires in the form of lightning tearing the clouds. Finding Lord Siva (who bears the device of a bull on His banner) depressed in spirits because of His will having been crossed, the aforesaid Lord Visnu (Sri Krsna) then contrived a plan for drying up the immortalizing fluid. On that occasion Brahma (the creator) took the form of a calf, while the aforesaid Visnu Himself actually assumed the semblance of a cow and, entering the three cities at midday, drank off the immortalizing fluid of that well of nectar. Though watching this, the demons in charge of the well did not forbid them, greatly bewildered as they were (by the deluding potency of the Lord). Coming to know of this, and reflecting on the course of destiny working in that (miraculous) way, the demon Maya (a past master in conjuring tricks), himself destitute of grief, addressed the following (words) to the demons guarding the fluid, who were stricken with grief :-"No one in this world-be he a god, demon, human being or anyone else-is capable of setting aside what has been ordained by fate with regard to oneself or another or both." After that, by means of His own (divine) potencies in the form of Righteousness, Wisdom, Dispassion, Affluence, Asceticism, Learning, Activity and so on, He (Sri Krsna) created the requisites for war for the use of Lord Siva (the Source of blessedness), viz., a chariot, a charioteer, an ensign, horses, a bow, armour, arrows etc. (respectively). Clad in armour and mounting the chariot, the almighty Lord (Siva) then took up the bow and an arrow; and, fitting the arrow to the bow during the Muhurta known as Abhijit, Siva (the Destroyer of the universe) burnt with it (all) the three cities, which were (so) difficult to penetrate, O Yudhisthira ! Drums began to sound in heaven; while gods, Rsis (seers), manes and the lords of Siddhas (a class of demigods endowed with mystic powers from their very birth)-with their hundreds of aerial cars crowded together (in the heavens)-showered heaps of flowers on the Lord, crying "May You be victorious !" And hosts of Apsaras (celestial nymphs) sang and danced, full of joy. Having burnt the three cities in this way, O king, Lord Siva (who henceforward became known as the Destroyer of the three cities) returned to His abode (Mount Kailasa), being glorified by Brahma and others. There are similar (other) exploits-the accounts of which purify (all) the three worlds-celebrated by seers, of the aforesaid Sri Hari, the Preceptor of the universe, who by His own deluding potency imitates'(the ways of) His human world. What else shall I say (to you)?
Thus ends the tenth discourse entitled "The (story of) the conquest of the three cities", forming part of the dialogue between Emperor Yudhisthira and the sage Narada, in Book Seven of the great and glorious Bhagavata-Purana,
otherwise known as the Paramahamsa-Samhita..