THE SIGNIFICANCE AND OBSERVANCE OF MAHASIVARATRI By Sri Swami Sivananda
THIS FALLS on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of Phalgun (February-March).
Note: For Montreal, the 14th day would be 5th March 4:00 p.m. till 6th March 1:00 p.m., So Sivaratri for Montreal would be night of 5th March.
The name means “the night of Shiva”. The ceremonies take place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honor of Lord Shiva. Shiva was married to Parvati on this day.
People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a drop of water. They keep vigil all night. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra Om Namah Shivaya continues. Offerings of bael leaves are made to the Lingam. Bael leaves are very sacred as, it is said, Lakshmi resides in them.
Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, such as the Shiva Mahimna Stotra of Pushpadanta or Ravana’s Shiva Tandava Stotra are sung with great fervor and devotion. People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya. He who utters the Names of Shiva during Shivaratri, with perfect devotion and concentration, is freed from all sins. He reaches the abode of Shiva and lives there happily. He is liberated from the wheel of births and deaths. Many pilgrims flock to the places where there are Shiva temples.
THE STORY OF KING CHITRABHANU
In the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhishma, whilst resting on the bed of arrows and discoursing on Dharma, refers to the observance of Maha Shivaratri by King Chitrabhanu. The story goes as follows.
Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty, who ruled over the whole of Jambudvipa, was observing a fast with his wife, it being the day of Maha Shivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of the king.
The sage asked, “O king! why are you observing a fast today?”
King Chitrabhanu explained why. He had the gift of remembering the incidents of his previous birth.
The king said to the sage: “In my past birth I was a hunter in Varanasi. My name was Suswara. My livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. One day I was roaming the forests in search of animals. I was overtaken by the darkness of night. Unable to return home, I climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a bael tree. I had shot a deer that day but I had no time to take it home. I bundled it up and tied it to a branch on the tree. As I was tormented by hunger and thirst, I kept awake throughout the night. I shed profuse tears when I thought of my poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously awaiting my return. To pass away the time that night I engaged myself in plucking the bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground.
“The day dawned. I returned home and sold the deer. I bought some food for myself and for my family. I was about to break my fast when a stranger came to me, begging for food. I served him first and then took my food.
“At the time of death, I saw two messengers of Lord Shiva. They were sent down to conduct my soul to the abode of Lord Shiva. I learned then for the first time of the great merit I had earned by the unconscious worship of Lord Shiva during the night of Shivaratri. They told me that there was a Lingam at the bottom of the tree. The leaves I dropped fell on the Lingam. My tears which I had shed out of pure sorrow for my family fell onto the Lingam and washed it. And I had fasted all day and all night. Thus did I unconsciously worship the Lord.
“I lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for long ages. I am now reborn as Chitrabhanu.”
SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF THE RITUAL
The Scriptures record the following dialogue between Sastri and Atmanathan, giving the inner meaning of the above story.
Sastri: It is an allegory. The wild animals that the hunter fought with are lust, anger, greed, infatuation, jealousy and hatred. The jungle is the fourfold mind, consisting of the subconscious mind, the intellect, the ego and the conscious mind. It is in the mind that these “wild animals” roam about freely. They must be killed. Our hunter was pursuing them because he was a Yogi. If you want to be a real Yogi you have to conquer these evil tendencies. Do you remember the name of the hunter in the story?
Atmanathan: Yes, he was called Suswara.
Sastri: That’s right. It means “melodious”. The hunter had a pleasant melodious voice. If a person practices Yama and Niyama and is ever conquering his evil tendencies, he will develop certain external marks of a Yogi. The first marks are lightness of the body, health, steadiness, clearness of countenance and a pleasant voice. This stage has been spoken of in detail in the Swetaswatara Upanishad. The hunter or the Yogi had for many years practised Yoga and had reached the first stage. So he is given the name Suswara. Do you remember where he was born?
Atmanathan: Yes, his birthplace is Varanasi.
Sastri: Now, the Yogis call the Ajna Chakra by the name Varanasi. This is the point midway between the eyebrows. It is regarded as the meeting place of the three nerve currents (Nadis), namely, the Ida, Pingala and the Sushumna. An aspirant is instructed to concentrate on that point. That helps him to conquer his desires and evil qualities like anger and so on. It is there that he gets a vision of the Divine Light within.
Atmanathan: Very interesting! But how do you explain his climbing up the bael tree and all the other details of the worship?
Sastri: Have you ever seen a bael leaf?
Atmanathan: It has three leaves on one stalk.
Sastri: True. The tree represents the spinal column. The leaves are threefold. They represent the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadis, which are the regions for the activity of the moon, the sun and fire respectively, or which may be thought of as the three eyes of Shiva. The climbing of the tree is meant to represent the ascension of the Kundalini Shakti, the serpentine power, from the lowest nerve centre called the Muladhara to the Ajna Chakra. That is the work of the Yogi.
Atmanathan: Yes, I have heard of the Kundalini and the various psychic centres in the body. Please go on further; I am very interested to know more.
Sastri: Good. The Yogi was in the waking state when he began his meditation. He bundled up the birds and the animals he had slain and, tying them on a branch of the tree, he rested there. That means he had fully conquered his thoughts and rendered them inactive. He had gone through the steps of Yama, Niyama, Pratyahara, etc. On the tree he was practising concentration and meditation. When he felt sleepy, it means that he was about to lose consciousness and go into deep sleep. So he determined to keep awake.
Atmanathan: That is now clear to me; you certainly do explain it very well. But why did he weep for his wife and children?
Sastri: His wife and children are none other than the world. One who seeks the Grace of God must become an embodiment of love. He must have an all-embracing sympathy. His shedding of tears is symbolical of his universal love. In Yoga also, one cannot have illumination without Divine Grace. Without practising universal love, one cannot win that Grace. One must perceive one’s own Self everywhere. The preliminary stage is to identify one’s own mind with the minds of all created beings. That is fellow-feeling or sympathy. Then one must rise above the limitations of the mind and merge it in the Self. That happens only in the stage of Samadhi, not earlier.
Atmanathan: Why did he pluck and drop the bael leaves?
Sastri: That is mentioned in the story only to show that he had no extraneous thoughts. He was not even conscious of what he was doing. All his activity was confined to the three Nadis. The leaves, I have said before, represent the three Nadis. He was in fact in the second state, namely, the dream state, before he passed into the deep sleep state.
Atmanathan: He kept vigil the whole night, it is said.
Sastri: Yes, that means that he passed through the deep sleep state successfully. The dawning of day symbolises the entrance into the Fourth state called Turiya or superconsciousness.
Atmanathan: It is said that he came down and saw the Lingam. What does that mean?
Sastri: That means that in the Turiya state he saw the Shiva Lingam or the mark of Shiva in the form of the inner lights. In other words, he had the vision of the Lord. That was an indication to him that he would realise the supreme, eternal abode of Lord Shiva in course of time.
Atmanathan: So it appears from what you say that the sight of the lights is not the final stage?
Sastri: Oh no! That is only one step, albeit a difficult one. Now think of how the story continues. He goes home and feeds a stranger. A stranger is one whom you have not seen before. The stranger is no other than the hunter himself, transformed into a new person. The food was the likes and dislikes which he had killed the previous night. But he did not consume the whole of it. A little still remained. That was why he had to be reborn as King Chitrabhanu. Going to the world of Shiva (Salokya) is not enough to prevent this. There are other stages besides Salokya. These are Samipya, Sarupya and finally Sayujya. Have you not heard of Jaya and Vijaya returning from Vaikunta?
Atmanathan: Yes, I have understood now.
LORD SHIVA’S ASSURANCE
When creation had been completed, Shiva and Parvati went out to live on the top of Mount Kailas. Parvati asked, “O venerable Lord! which of the many rituals observed in Thy honor doth please Thee most?”
The Lord replied, “The 14th night of the new moon, in the dark fortnight during the month of Phalgun, is my most favorite day. It is known as Shiva-Ratri. My devotees give me greater happiness by mere fasting than by ceremonial baths and offerings of flowers, sweets and incense.
“The devotee observes strict spiritual discipline in the day and worships Me in four different forms during each of the four successive three-hour periods of the night. The offering of a few bael leaves is more precious to Me than the precious jewels and flowers. My devotee should bathe Me in milk at the first period, in curd at the second, in clarified butter at the third, and in honey at the fourth and last. Next morning, he should feed the Brahmins first and, after performing the prescribed ceremonies, he can break his fast. O Parvati! there is no ritual which can compare with this simple routine in sanctity.”
Parvati was deeply impressed by the speech of Loid Shiva. She repeated it to Her friends who in their turn passed it on to the ruling princes on earth. Thus was the sanctity of Shivaratri broadcast all over the world.
The two great natural forces that afflict man are Rajas (the quality of passionate activity) and Tamas (that of inertia). The Shivaratri Vrata aims at the perfect control of these two. The entire day is spent at the Feet of the Lord. Continuous worship of the Lord necessitates the devotee’s constant presence in the place of worship. Motion is controlled. Evils like lust, anger, and jealousy, born of Rajas are ignored and subdued. The devotee observes vigil throughout the night and thus conquers Tamas also. Constant vigilance is imposed on the mind. Every three hours a round of worship of the Shiva Lingam is conducted. Shivaratri is a perfect Vrata.
The formal worship consists of bathing the Lord. Lord Shiva is considered to be the Form of Light (which the Shiva Lingam represents). He is burning with the fire of austerity. He is therefore best propitiated with cool bathing. While bathing the Lingam the devotee prays: “O Lord! I will bathe Thee with water, milk, etc. Do Thou kindly bathe me with the milk of wisdom. Do Thou kindly wash me of all my sins, so that the fire of worldliness which is scorching me may be put out once for all, so that I may be one with Thee—the One alone without a second.”
At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the Shivaratri festival is celebrated in the following manner.
1. All spiritual aspirants fast the whole day, many of them without taking even a single drop of water.2. A grand havan is performed for the peace and welfare of all.3. The whole day is spent in doing the Japa of Om Namah Shivaya and in meditation upon the Lord.4. At night all assemble in the temple and chant Om Namah Shivaya the whole night.5. During the four quarters of the night the Shiva Lingam is worshipped with intense devotion.6. Sannyas Diksha is also given on this day to sincere seekers on the path.
Offer this inner worship to Lord Shiva daily: “I worship the jewel of my Self, the Shiva residing in the Lotus of my heart. I bathe Him with the water of my pure mind brought from the river of faith and devotion. I worship Him with the fragrant flowers of Samadhi—all this so that I may not be born again in this world.”
Here is another formula for the supreme worship of the Lord: “O Shiva! you are my Self. My mind is Parvati. My Pranas are your servants. My body is your house. My actions in this world are your worship. My sleep is Samadhi. My walk is circumambulation of you. My speech is your prayer. Thus do I offer all that I am to you.
LORD SIVA AND HIS LILAS By Swami Sivananda
Siva is known by the name ‘Girisa’, as He is the Lord of the Mount Kailasa.
Siva is called ‘Tryambaka’, because He has a third eye in His forehead, the eye of wisdom (Jnana Chakshus).
The word ‘Hara’ is derived from the root ‘Hru’ to take and the suffix ‘Ati’, for He removes (Harati) all ills. ‘Hara’ means He who at the time of dissolution (Pralaya) withdraws the world within Himself.
Siva is holding in His hands Parasu (axe) and deer. He is making with the other two hands the Vara and the Abhaya Mudras. The deer here is Brahma. Siva is very powerful. Even Brahma is under His control.
Siva was the destroyer of the Asuras (Demons), Tripuras. He destroyed the Tripuras or the three cities of the Asuras which were built of gold, silver and iron by Maya. The Asuras oppressed all theists, being protected by the three cities. Siva is called Tripurari because He destroyed the Asuras, Tripuras, and the cities, Tripuras.
Brahma and Vishnu were one day disputing which of the two was the greater. Siva appeared in the form of an Infinite Jyoti or fiery Linga, in order to destroy their pride. Brahma and Vishnu set out to measure the Jyoti. They failed in their attempts.
When the ocean was churned, a terrible poison came out. Siva swallowed this in order to save the world. This caused a blue stain on His throat. So He is called by the name Nilakantha.
RAVANA AND SIVA
Ravana was a great devotee of Lord Siva. He used to go everyday to Mount Kailas to worship Lord Siva. He found this very troublesome. He thought within himself to bring the whole mountain to his abode in Lanka in order to save himself from the trouble of a daily journey to Mount Kailas. He began to pull up the mountain which trembled. Parvati, consort of Siva, got frightened. She embraced Lord Siva. Siva pressed Ravana with His toe and sent him down to the nether world.
HARI AND SIVA
Hari used to worship Siva daily with a thousand lotuses. One day one lotus was missing. He plucked out His own eye to make the number of a thousand. Siva gave Vishnu the Sudarsana Chakra or discus, being very much pleased with His devotion. It is this Sudarsana Chakra which Vishnu always bears. This discus is itself an embodiment of devotion.
A Rakshasa (Demon) worshipped Brahma and asked Him to grant him the power to destroy the whole world. Brahma was partially unwilling to grant him this boon. He consented in a half-hearted manner and asked him to wait. The Devas, hearing this, were terribly frightened and went to Siva and told Him everything. Siva danced in order to delay the granting of this boon by Brahma, to distract him and thus save the world.
BIRTH OF SUBRAHMANYA
The Asura Taraka drove all the gods from heaven. The gods went to Brahma. Brahma said to the gods: “The Asura has acquired his power through my grace. I cannot destroy him. I shall suggest to you one plan. Go to Lord Siva. He is in Yoga Samadhi. He must be tempted to unite with Parvati. A powerful son will be born unto Him. He will destroy the Asura”.
Thereupon, Indra asked Cupid (Kama) to go with his wife Rati and his companion Vasanta (the spring), to Mount Kailas, the abode of Lord Siva. The three persons at once proceeded to Kailas. Spring season appeared there. All the Rishis were surprised at this. Kama stood behind a tree and shot an arrow at Siva. At this moment Parvati was worshipping Siva and offering flowers in His hand. Her hand touched the hands of Siva. Siva felt suddenly a thrill of passion and His seed came out. Siva was wondering what was it that thus distracted Him from His Yoga. He looked around and witnessed Kama behind a tree. He opened His third eye. A fire flashed and burnt Kama to ashes.
Siva’s seed was thrown into Agni (God of Fire). Agni was not able to bear it. He threw it into the Ganga. Ganga threw it into a forest of reeds where Subrahmanya, called the reed-born (Sara Janma, Saravana Bhava), was born. Subrahmanya became the commander of the Devas and destroyed the Asura as Brahma intended.
LORD SIVA AND DAKSHA
Daksha goes to attend the sacrifice of the sages who are the progenitors of the world, and not being honored by Rudra who has come before him, Daksha reproaches Him and leaves the place. Nandisvara in his turn, curses Daksha and other Brahmins. Rudra then leaves the place of sacrifice.
Sati, daughter of Daksha, known also by the name Dakshayani, requests Siva’s permission to attend her father’s sacrifice, the Brihaspati-sava, and Siva shows how inadvisable it would be.
In spite of her Lord’s advice, Sati goes to Daksha’s sacrifice. Disregarded by her father and enraged at finding no offering made to Rudra, she praises the greatness of her Lord, censures Daksha and by the Yoga method casts off her body.
Hearing of Sati’s casting off her body, Sankara creates in His anger Virabhadra out of His Jata (or matted locks) and causes Daksha’s death.
Informed by the gods of the destruction of Daksha, Brahma pacifies Rudra, and Daksha and others are revived.
Being pleased with Brahma’s praise, Siva goes along with the gods to the scene of sacrifice; Daksha and others are revived; Vishnu issuing forth from the sacrificial fire is praised by Daksha and others. After the closing ceremony of ablutions, the gods return home. Maitreya describes the benefit of listening to this story, the birth of Sati as Parvati, and that of Skanda.
On the Mount Kailas, with Parvati Devi by His side, Lord Siva was sitting in a hall beautifully decorated by precious stones. At that time, Devi worshipped the Lord and requested Him to alter the name of Dakshayani given to her before, for being the daughter of Daksha. This Daksha was killed by Lord Siva for his disrespect and arrogance. On hearing this request Lord Siva ordained that Devi should be born as the daughter of Parvata Raj who was doing rigorous Tapas for getting a child. He also told Parvati that He would come over to her and marry her. Thus ordained, Parvati Devi was born as the child of Parvata Raj and since her fifth year, began to do rigorous Tapas for being the bride of Lord Siva.
During the absence of Devi, when Lord Siva was alone, the sons of Brahma, who are sages Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Sanatkumara, came to have Darsana of Lord Siva and prostrated before Him. They entreated the Lord to teach them the way to remove Avidya and attain salvation. They expressed that in spite of the vast study of scriptures they had no internal peace and they were in need of learning the inner secrets, by knowing which they could attain salvation.
Lord Siva, hearing this appeal made by the sages, assumed the form of Dakshinamurti and remaining as the Guru Supreme, began to teach them the inner secrets by keeping Mouna and showing the Chinmudra by His hand. The sages began to meditate on the lines shown by the Lord and attained the state of inexpressible and illimitable joy. Thus Lord Siva came to be known as Dakshinamurti. May the blessings of Lord Dakshinamurti be upon us all! May you all dive deep and enjoy the everlasting Peace and Bliss through His Grace!
This occurs in the Karna Parva of the Mahabharata. In times of yore, there was a war between the Devas and the Asuras. The Asuras were defeated in the battle. The three sons of the Asura, Taraka, wanted to take revenge on the Devas. They performed rigorous penance and obtained a boon from Brahma, the creator. By virtue of this boon, they could not be conquered by any one save somebody who could destroy their three castles by a single arrow.
They made three castles, one of gold in heaven, the second silver in air, and the third of iron on earth. They began to oppress the gods and the Rishis. Thereupon, all the gods made a complaint to Brahma. Brahma replied that no one save Mahadeva who knows Yoga and Sankhya, through particular penance, could vanquish these Asuras (Demons). All the gods approached Mahadeva and provided Him with a chariot out of all forms of the universe. They also supplied Him with a bow and arrow, the constituent parts of which were Vishnu, Soma and Agni. They requested Mahadeva to discharge the arrow against the three castles. Brahma became the charioteer. Mahadeva discharged the arrow against the three castles. The three castles fell down in the twinkling of an eye. Then all the gods eulogised Mahadeva and departed to heaven.
Mahadeva said to the gods that He Himself could not destroy the Asuras, as they were very strong, but that they themselves would be able to vanquish with the help of half His strength. The gods replied that they could not bear half His strength and that He should take up the task with the help of half their strength. Mahadeva agreed to this. He became stronger than all the gods. Hence He was called Mahadeva or the great God.
LORD SIVA CURSES AND PARDONS NAKIRAR
Once, a Pandya king of Madurai felt that his queen’s hair had some kind of natural fragrance. A doubt arose in his mind as to whether human hair could have natural fragrance, or could be rendered fragrant only through association with flowers or scents. He went to the Sangham or the Tamil Academy the next day, suspended a bag containing one thousand gold pieces and said to the poets that anyone who would write a poem clearing the doubt he entertained in his mind would get the gold pieces as a prize. Many poets composed poems but they were not able to satisfy the king.
Darumi, a Brahmin priest in the temple, was extremely poor. He requested Lord Siva thus: “O all-merciful Lord! I am very poor. I wish to marry now. Relieve me of my poverty. Help me to get these gold pieces now. I take refuge in Thee alone”. Lord Siva gave him a poem and said: “Take this poem to the Sangham. You will get the gold pieces”.
The king was immensely pleased with the song as it cleared his doubt, but the Sangham poets did not accept it. Nakirar, one of them, said that there was a flaw in the poem. The poor priest was greatly afflicted at heart. He came back to the temple, stood in front of the Lord and said: “O Lord! Why did You give me the poem which contained a flaw? Nobody will take You for the Lord. I feel very much for this”. The meaning of the poem is: “O fair-winged bee! You spend your time in gathering flower-dust. Do not speak out of love, but speak out of truth. Is there any among the flowers known to you that is more fragrant than the hair of this damsel who is most loving, is of the color of the peacock and has beautiful rows of teeth!”
Thereupon, Lord Siva assumed the form of a poet, went to the Sangham and asked: “Which poet found out flaw in the poem?” Nakirar said: “It is I who said that there is a flaw.” Lord Siva asked: “What is the flaw?” Nakirar said: “There is no flaw in the composition of words. There is flaw in the meaning.” Lord Siva said: “May I know what defect is there in the meaning?” Nakirar said: “The hair of a damsel has no natural fragrance. It gets the fragrance from association with the flowers.” Lord Siva said: “Does the hair of Padmini also possess fragrance by association with the flowers?” Nakirar said, “Yes.” Lord Siva said: “Does the hair of celestial damsels also possess fragrance by association with the flowers?” Nakirar replied, “Yes. Their hairs become fragrant by association with Mandara flowers.” Lord Siva said: “Does the hair of Uma Devi who is on the left side of Lord Siva whom you worship possess fragrance by association with the flowers?” Nakirar replied: “Yes. Quite so.”
Lord Siva slightly opened His third eye. Nakirar said: “I am not afraid of this third eye. Even if you are Lord Siva, even if you show eyes throughout your whole body, there is flaw in this poem.” The fire from the third eye of Lord Siva fell upon Nakirar. Nakirar was not able to bear the heat. At once he jumped into the neighboring lotus-tank to cool himself.
Then all the poets approached Lord Siva and said: “O Lord! Pardon Nakirar.” Lord Siva appeared before Nakirar. Through the grace of Lord Siva his body was rendered cool. He repented for his mistake and said: “I pointed defect even for the hairs of Uma Devi. No one but the Lord can pardon me.” He sang a song with intense devotion. Lord Siva entered the tank and brought him to the shore.
Then Nakirar and other poets gave the purse of gold to Darumi.
KNOW YOUR GURU
Devotion to the Lord dawns in the heart of a man who has done virtuous actions in his previous births without expectation of fruits and egoism or the idea of agency. Devotion leads to knowledge of the Self (Jnana) and through Jnana, he attains Moksha or the final emancipation.
In days of yore, Virasindhu was the king of Kalinga country. He did severe Tapas, meditation and Yoga in his previous birth, but did not attain Moksha. He became a Yoga-Bhrashta as he had to enjoy the fruits of some residual Karmas in this last birth of a King. He took his birth as the son of a king. When he attained the proper age, he was crowned as the king of Kalinga. He ruled the kingdom for a period of ten years.
Owing to the force of previous spiritual Samskaras, and the grace of the Lord, discrimination and dispassion dawned in his heart. He reflected within himself: “I am doing the same acts of eating, drinking and sleeping. My several forefathers who ruled the country, had been reduced to dust. I have no peace of mind despite my wealth and dominion. I should get a Guru and obtain initiation from him to get knowledge of the Atman and reach the abode of immortality and eternal bliss.
King Virasindhu sent invitation to all Pandits, Sannyasins, Sadhus and Mahatmas. He wrote in the letter thus: “I will give half of my dominion to that supreme Guru who will give me the right initiation and make me realize the Self. If he fails to do so he will be put in the prison.”
Many Pandits and Sadhus saw the king. One gave him Taraka Mantra, another gave Panchakshara, a third gave him Ashtakshara, but no one was able to satisfy the king. He put them all in the prison. He had initiation into these Mantras in his previous births.
King Virasindhu became very restless as he did not obtain his Guru. Lord Siva assumed the form of an ordinary coolie. He had a very black complexion. He wore some rags and appeared before the king. The king went in advance to receive him. Through the grace of the Lord, he came to know that this coolie was none other than the Lord. The coolie raised his hand towards the king and said “stop”, and vanished immediately. The king understood that the Guru has commanded him to stop the mind and control its movements. The king closed his eyes, while he was standing, and did not allow the mind to think of the sensual objects. He controlled all the modifications of the mind. It was easy for him as he had practised Yoga and meditation in his previous birth. He entered into Nirvikalpa Samadhi and became like a statue. He did not open his eyes.
The ministers were waiting in the Durbar Hall for hours together. King Virasindhu did not open his eyes for days together. Then the ministers reflected: The king is in Samadhi now. We do not know when he will return from the Samadhi. We will have to manage the affairs of the State.” They removed the ring from his finger and used it for putting the seal in the papers of the State.
The king opened his eyes after six years, and asked the ministers: “Where is my Guru?” The ministers replied: “O venerable king! The Guru said a word to your majesty and vanished at once. You are standing here like a statue for the last six years. We are conducting the affairs of the state with the aid of your ring. Here is the seal of your ring in all the registers and papers.”
The king was struck with awe and wonder. He thought within himself: “Six years have passed like a second. I enjoyed supreme bliss. I have no desire to rule the State after tasting the supreme bliss.” He left the palace and entered the forest and sat in Samadhi.
The force of Yogic Samskaras of the king that was generated by the practice of Yoga in his previous birth, helped him in the attainment of the beatitude in this birth. Those who have not much piety and religious inclination in this birth should do Japa, Kirtan, meditation, and study of religious books. They should live in the company of sages. They will develop good religious Samskaras. This will be a valuable asset for them in the next birth. They will start the practice of Yoga in the next birth in the early age.
It is difficult to say in what form the Guru or the Lord will appear before you to initiate you. He may come in the form of a leper as Sri Hanuman did, or in the form of an untouchable as Lord Krishna did, or in the form of a groom as Lord Siva did. The aspirants must be very careful and vigilant to detect the Lord in the various forms which He assumes.
LORD SIVA DRINKS POISON
Once, the Devas and the Asuras had a formidable fight for a very long period. Many Devas and Asuras died in the fight. The Devas thought that they should prolong their lives by drinking nectar and then continue the war. They approached Brahma with this desire in view. Brahma said: “This work cannot be done by me. It can be done only by Lord Vishnu.” Thereupon, Brahma and the Devas approached Lord Hari in Kshirasagara.
Lord Hari asked the Devas and Asuras to churn the ocean with the help of Mandaragiri as churning-rod and Vasuki, the serpent, as the rope. As they went on churning, poison (Halahala) came out first from the ocean. The terrible poison began to burn the people into ashes. The Devas, the Asuras and the Rishis began to fly away. Lord Vishnu was not able to destroy the poison. His body also became very black. He ran to Kailas along with the Devas and Brahma to see Lord Siva. He reported to Lord Siva all that had happened. Thereupon, Lord Siva collected the poison and kept it as a drop in the palm of His hand and swallowed it. Then Lord Vishnu and Brahma requested Lord Siva to keep it in His neck as a mark of their protection. Lord Siva did it accordingly. Due to the effect of the poison His throat became blue. From that day onwards Lord Siva is called by the name ‘Nilakantha’ (blue-necked one) or ‘Kalakantha Murti’. Then Lord Siva said to them: “If you churn again, you will get nectar and several other things.” They all started again the churning of the ocean and obtained nectar and many other things. All the Devas drank the nectar and rejoiced heartily.
LORD SIVA RIDES ON THE BULL
Turning of Chatur-Yuga two thousand times, is a day of Brahma. Such thirty days make a month for him. Such twelve months make a year for him. Such hundred years make the full life of Brahma. The whole life-period of Brahma is a day for Lord Vishnu. After one hundred years, Lord Vishnu also will pass away or merge himself in Parabrahman. All the Andas will perish. On account of the heavy blowing of Prachanda Vayu, the seven oceans will ebb high and cover the whole world. Lord Siva alone will exist. He will burn everything into ashes through His fiery third eye and then dance.
The Dharmadevata or the Lord of Virtue reflected within himself: “How can I attain immortality? If I approach Lord Siva only, I can attain this.” He assumed the form of a bull, went to Lord Siva and said: “My venerable Lord! Kindly accept me as Thy vehicle and thus protect me.”
Lord Siva agreed to the humble request of the God of Dharma and said: “Conduct the Dharma with four feet in the Krita Yuga, with the three feet in the Treta Yuga, with two feet in the Dvapara Yuga, and with one foot in the Kali Yuga. On account of My grace, you will be endowed with all splendour and powers. You will be always My vehicle. You will be one with Me.”
When Lord Siva destroyed Tripuras or the three cities, Lord Vishnu assumed the form of a bull and supported Lord Siva.
LORD SIVA WEARS THE GANGA ON HIS HEAD
Once upon a time in Mount Kailas, Parvati closed the eyes of Lord Siva with her hands. Thereupon the sun, moon and fire did not shine forth. This caused terrible havoc in the world. All were enveloped by darkness for a long period. Lord Siva opened His third eye a bit. The sun, moon and fire began to shine again and all darkness vanished.
Parvati was frightened. She removed her hands and dropped down the perspiration from her fingers. This perspiration was turned into ten Gangas with countless branches. These rivers did much havoc to the world. Thereupon Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Indra ran to Lord Siva and requested Him to avert this catastrophe.
Lord Siva felt compassionate and brought the whole waters in one hair of His matted locks. Lord Brahma, Vishnu and Indra requested Lord Siva to give a little of the water of the Ganga for their worlds. Lord Siva gave them a little. They became Virajanadi in Vaikuntha, Manasa Tirtha in Satyaloka and Devaganga in Indraloka. King Bhagiratha brought down the Ganga from Brahmaloka to save the sixty thousand sons of Sagara.
LORD SIVA’S LILA OF BEGGING
The Rishis of Darukavana thought that there was no use in loving and adoring Lord Siva and they could attain Moksha through the performance of sacrifices. They left off worship of the Lord and did sacrifices vigorously.
Then Lord Siva said to Lord Hari: “Assume the form of Mohini and enter the abode of all Rishis in Daruka forest. They have no regard for Me now. They are treading the wrong path now. We should teach them a severe lesson. Excite their passion and delude them. Destroy their Vratas.” He also put on the form of a mendicant-beggar.
Thereupon, Lord Hari assumed the form of Mohini and entered the dwelling places of the Rishis in Darukavana. All the Rishis lost their power of understanding and discrimination and followed Mohini under strong excitement of passion.
Lord Siva entered the Parnakutirs of the wives of the Rishis, sang the Srutis and hymns beautifully and roamed about as a mendicant-beggar. The wives of Rishis became excited and followed Lord Siva. They entreated Him in a variety of ways to satisfy them. Lord Siva multiplied Himself and appeared in the mind of each woman. All the wives of the Rishis enjoyed heartily. They all brought forth in the morning eighteen thousand Rishis with matted locks, Danda and Kamandalu. They all prayed to Lord Siva. Lord Siva blessed them to do Tapas in the forest. The Rishis acted accordingly.
The Rishis witnessed the condition of their wives and said: “We were deluded by the enchanting Mohini. The mendicant-beggar spoiled the chastity of our wives. Lo! how powerful is lust! Mysterious is Maya!”
LORD SIVA WEARS TRIDENT, DEER, ETC.
The Rishis of Darukavana performed a Yajna to destroy Lord Siva. A cruel tiger came out of the fire. They commanded the tiger to kill Lord Siva. Lord Siva killed the tiger and wore the skin around His waist. Then they created a trident, to kill the Lord. Lord Siva wore it in His hand as His instrument. Then they created a deer with sharp horns, to kill the Lord. Lord Siva wore it in His left hand.
Later on they created countless black cobras to kill the Lord. Lord Siva wore them as His ornaments. Then they created countless Bhuta Ganas to kill the Lord. Lord Siva made them as His army. Then they created a Damaru to kill the Lord. Lord Siva wore it in His hand. Then they created an Asura, Muyalaka, to kill the Lord. Muyalaka marched with the Yajna fire to destroy Lord Siva. Lord Siva held the fire as Malu in His hand and kept the Asura under His feet.
LORD SIVA HAS UMA ON HIS LEFT
After the Samhara was over, Lord Brahma born of the grace of Lord Siva thought of creating all beings. He created Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatkumara and Sanatsujata. They did not enter the life of householders. They developed wisdom and became great Yogis.
Lord Brahma went to Vaikuntha and saw Lord Hari and said to Him: “O venerable Lord! I am not able to continue the creation. Sanaka, Sanandana, etc., have become Yogis. They do not wish to become householders. Kindly suggest to me a way to continue my work of creation.” Lord Vishnu said: “This is not in my power. Let us go to Lord Siva who abides in Kailasa.”
Brahma and Vishnu saw the Lord of Kailasa and said to Him: “O God of gods! The creative work of Brahma has been stopped as the four Kumaras have become Yogis. Kindly bless him to continue his creative work.”
Lord Siva looked at the left side of His chest. Uma took Her birth from Lord Siva’s left side. Lord Siva said to them: “Now there is no difficulty in creation. It will continue without any hitch.” Thereupon Brahma and Vishnu repaired to their respective abodes. Then Lord Brahma created the worlds through the grace of Lord Siva. Men and women lived together happily and brought forth offsprings. The whole appearance is Saktimaya. Lord Siva witnesses Prakriti’s activities.
LORD SIVA WEARS ELEPHANT’S SKIN
In days of yore, Gajasura did severe penance. Brahma appeared before him and asked him: “O Gajasura! I am pleased with your penance. What boon do you want?” Gajasura said: “O venerable Lord! Give me prowess and inexhaustible wealth.” “I have given you what you desired. But if you fight against Lord Siva, you will lose your boon.” Then Lord Brahma vanished.
Thereupon, Gajasura did Digvijaya, and defeated Devas and Indra. He troubled the Munis and the Rishis also. They repaired to Banares and fell at the feet of Lord Visvanatha and said: “Gajasura is trying to kill us. Protect us. O Lord! There is no other refuge for us.”
Gajasura attacked Lord Visvanatha also. The Lord killed the Asura, tore the skin and wore it as His garment. Then the Devas and the Rishis praised the Lord and became happy.
LORD SIVA THE FUEL SELLER
Varaguna Pandian was the king of Pandya kingdom. His capital was at Madurai. He was like Indra. Yemanathan, skilled in Vina, came to his Durbar from Northern India. He played thrilling songs on Vina. The king appreciated Yemanathan’s music, gave him rich presents and kept him in a separate bungalow. Yemanathan was very much puffed up owing to his skill in music.
Varaguna Pandian understood that Yemanathan was proud of his knowledge of music. He called his Durbar-musician Bhanabhadra and said to him: “O Bhadra! Will you be able to attain victory over the new musician Yemanathan?” Bhanabhadra replied: “I can certainly defeat him through your grace and the blessings of Lord Somasundara of Madurai.” The king said: “Well then, come tomorrow and exhibit your skill in music.”
The disciples of Yemanathan roamed about in all the streets and lanes of Madurai, played on Vina and vigorously advertised about their skill in music. Bhanabhadra heard this and reflected within himself: “These disciples are very efficient in music and Vina. If the disciples possess such knowledge, what must be the splendour and glory of their Guru! How can I attain victory over this master-musician?” Then he prayed to Lord Siva: “Kindly help me now to defeat Yemanathan. I am in need of Thy grace.”
Then the Lord assumed the form of a wood-cutter, wore a rag around his body and torn shoes on his feet. He had a Vina in his hand and a bundle of fuel on his head. He went to the house where Yemanathan was living and sat on the verandah. He took his Vina and played in a marvellous manner. He sang beautifully along with Vina.
Yemanathan was struck with wonder when he heard the wonderful music. He came out and asked the fuel-seller: “O fuel-seller! Who are you?” The fuel-seller replied: “I am one of the disciples and a servant of Bhanabhadra, the Durbar-singer of Varaguna Pandian. He has many disciples. As I became old, my master abandoned me and told me that I am unfit for singing.”
Yemanathan requested the fuel-seller to sing again. He sang again Satari Raga which melted the heart of Yemanathan. Lord Siva, who acted the part of fuel-seller, vanished with his bundle of fire-wood.
Yemanathan thought within himself: “I have not heard this Satari Raga till now. It is Devaraga. If this old man can sing this Raga in such a beautiful manner, what must be the knowledge and glory of his master! Surely God only ought to have taught him this Raga. I cannot stand before Bhanabhadra. Let me leave this place at once.” Yemanathan’s heart was filled with fear and shame. He left all the things and left the house at midnight along with his disciples.
Lord Somasundara appeared in the dream of Bhanabhadra and said: “Do not be afraid. I put on the form of fuel-seller, sat on the verandah of the house in which Yemanathan lived and played on the Vina. He was struck with wonder and ran away at midnight. Be at ease now.”
Bhanabhadra got up in the morning, went to the temple at Madurai and worshipped Lord Somasundara. Then he went to the Durbar of Varaguna Pandian. The king sent a servant to call Yemanathan. The servant searched him in several places. He was not able to find out the new musician. The neighbours of the house in which Yemanathan lived said: “One fuel-seller came and sang. The new singer left the place at midnight. This only we know.”
The servant reported the matter to the king. The king said to Bhanabhadra: “Could you tell me what you did after leaving me?” Bhanabhadra told the king: “My venerable Lord! I went to my house and prayed to Lord Somasundara to bless me. He appeared in my dream and said: ‘I put on the form of a fuel-seller, sang Satari Raga in the house of Yemanathan. I drove him away.’ I at once woke up. This is what happened.”
Varaguna Pandian came to know that this was the Lila of Lord Siva. He admired the devotion of Bhadra and gave him rich presents. He said to Bhadra: “The Lord who made Brahma and the other Devas His servants, became your servant and blessed you. We are all your servants only. I am your servant. In future sing the praise of Lord Somasundara always.”
Bhanabhadra rejoiced heartily. He was ever devoted to Lord Somasundara.
THE TWENTYFIVE LILAS OF LORD SIVA
The following are the 25 Lilas (sportive plays) or manifestations of Lord Siva:
1. Wearing of moon on the head, 2. Living with Uma Devi, 3. Riding on ox, 4. Tandava dance with Kali, 5. Marriage with Parvati, 6. Begging, 7. Burning of Manmatha or the God of Love, 8. Victory over Yama or the God of Death, 9. Burning of Tripuras, 10. Killing of Jalandarasura, 11. Killing of Gajasura, 12. Incarnation of Virabhadra, 13. Harihara, 14. Ardhanarisvara, 15. Transforming into Kirata, (hunter), 16. Assuming the form of Kankala, 17. Blessing Chandisvara, 18. Drinking poison, 19. Giving of Chakra to Lord Vishnu, 20. Destroying of obstacles, 21. Having sons of Uma Devi with Him, 22. Becoming Ekapada Rudra, 23. Being in easy pose (Sukhasana), 24. Assuming the form of Dakshinamurti, and 25. Assuming Linga form.
Sianala, Montreal, 5th Mar, 2008