Pankajnath Tiwari :- Lord Shiva, also known as Mahadeva or the Great God, is one of the most important deities in Hinduism. He is revered as the destroyer and transformer within the Hindu Trinity, which also includes Brahma, the creator, and Vishnu, the preserver.
The stories and legends surrounding Lord Shiva are numerous and diverse, reflecting his multifaceted nature. Here, I’ll share a popular story that highlights some significant aspects of Lord Shiva’s character.
The Marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati: According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva was originally leading an austere and solitary life in the Himalayas after the death of his first wife, Sati. However, destiny had other plans for him. Once, the gods became worried about the increasing power of the demon Tarakasura, who had received a boon that only the son of Lord Shiva would be able to defeat him.
To address this concern, the gods approached Lord Shiva and requested him to marry Parvati, the reincarnation of Sati, who was born as the daughter of the Himalayas. Despite their initial hesitation, Lord Shiva and Parvati agreed to the divine union.
But before the wedding, Lord Shiva decided to test Parvati’s determination and devotion. He appeared before her in the form of an old, disheveled ascetic and tried to dissuade her from marrying him. He explained that he was a recluse and had nothing to offer her in terms of material wealth and comfort. However, Parvati was steadfast in her love and unwavering in her devotion. She reassured Lord Shiva of her commitment and expressed her willingness to live with him in any circumstances.
Impressed by her unwavering devotion and determination, Lord Shiva revealed his true form to Parvati and accepted her as his consort. Their marriage was celebrated with great joy and pomp by the gods and celestial beings. Lord Shiva and Parvati’s union symbolizes the harmonious balance between the divine masculine and feminine energies.
Lord Shiva’s marriage to Parvati represents the importance of loyalty, devotion, and the transcendence of material desires in one’s spiritual journey. It also showcases Lord Shiva’s role as a loving and caring partner who appreciates inner qualities above external appearances.
The Churning of the Ocean (Samudra Manthan): In Hindu mythology, there is a famous tale called the “Churning of the Ocean” or “Samudra Manthan.” The story revolves around the gods and demons joining forces to churn the cosmic ocean in search of the elixir of immortality, known as Amrita.
During the churning process, numerous divine and celestial objects emerged from the ocean, including precious gems, heavenly beings, and various mythical creatures. However, a poisonous substance called Halahala also arose, which began to engulf the universe, threatening to destroy everything.
To save the universe, Lord Shiva stepped forward and consumed the deadly poison. His act of swallowing the poison turned his throat blue, earning him the name “Neelakantha” (the one with a blue throat). Parvati, his consort, held his throat tightly to prevent the poison from spreading throughout his body.
As a result of Lord Shiva’s selfless act, the universe was saved from destruction. The story illustrates Lord Shiva’s compassion, courage, and willingness to take on immense responsibilities for the greater good. It also emphasizes his role as the ultimate protector and savior.
Furthermore, the Churning of the Ocean story symbolizes the concept of overcoming challenges and adversities through collective efforts. It highlights the importance of unity, cooperation, and perseverance in the face of obstacles.
These are just a couple of stories showcasing the multifaceted nature of Lord Shiva. His tales are diverse and encompass various aspects such as his role as a yogi, a destroyer of evil forces, a source of divine knowledge (Lord Shiva is often associated with the sacred scripture known as the “Shiva Purana”), and a bestower of blessings to his devotees.
The stories and legends surrounding Lord Shiva continue to inspire and provide valuable life lessons to people seeking spiritual growth and understanding in Hindu culture.
The Story of Bhasmasura: Once, a demon named Bhasmasura performed intense penance and pleased Lord Shiva with his devotion. In return, Lord Shiva granted him a boon, allowing Bhasmasura to turn anyone into ashes by simply touching their head.
However, Bhasmasura’s newfound power filled him with arrogance and a desire for supremacy. He decided to test his power by attempting to turn Lord Shiva himself into ashes. Lord Shiva, aware of Bhasmasura’s evil intentions, started fleeing from him.
As Bhasmasura chased Lord Shiva, the gods became concerned about the impending danger. They sought help from Lord Vishnu, who devised a plan to save Lord Shiva and restore balance. Lord Vishnu took the form of Mohini, an enchanting female form, and appeared before Bhasmasura.
Bhasmasura was captivated by Mohini’s beauty and fell in love with her. Mohini proposed a dance-off, enticing Bhasmasura to imitate her dance moves. In the midst of their dance, Mohini cleverly placed her hand on her head, and Bhasmasura imitated her by touching his own head, thus triggering his own power to turn himself into ashes.
In this story, Lord Shiva’s benevolence is evident in his granting of boons to his devotees, even though Bhasmasura misused his power. Lord Shiva’s humility is also demonstrated as he flees from the demon, recognizing the imminent danger. Furthermore, Lord Vishnu’s role showcases the unity and collaboration among the deities to overcome adversity.
This story serves as a reminder of the consequences of unchecked ego and the importance of using power responsibly. It also emphasizes the power of divine intervention and the ultimate triumph of good over evil.
Lord Shiva’s stories are plentiful and varied, each highlighting different aspects of his character, teachings, and interactions with humans and other deities. They continue to captivate and inspire devotees, conveying timeless wisdom and lessons for personal and spiritual growth.
The Tale of Ganga’s Descent to Earth: Once, King Bhagiratha of the Suryavanshi dynasty wanted to free his ancestors from a curse. His ancestors had been turned into ashes due to the curse of sage Kapila, and their souls could only be liberated by the divine waters of the Ganga River.
King Bhagiratha embarked on a rigorous penance to please Lord Brahma, the creator of the universe. Impressed by his devotion, Lord Brahma granted him a boon and agreed to bring the sacred Ganga from the heavens to the Earth. However, he warned Bhagiratha that the powerful force of Ganga’s descent could devastate the Earth.
To mitigate the impact, Bhagiratha prayed to Lord Shiva and sought his help. Lord Shiva, known for his control over the elements, agreed to intervene. As Ganga descended from the heavens, Lord Shiva gathered her in his matted locks, absorbing and regulating her immense force.
Ganga, now trapped in Lord Shiva’s hair, flowed gently and safely to the Earth. She meandered through Lord Shiva’s locks and eventually emerged in the form of the holy river, thereby liberating King Bhagiratha’s ancestors and purifying the land.
This story portrays Lord Shiva’s compassion and willingness to intervene for the benefit of humanity. His act of taming the mighty Ganga highlights his role as a protector and a source of balance. Lord Shiva’s matted locks symbolize his divine power and capacity to control and direct natural forces.
The tale of Ganga’s descent to Earth also highlights the significance of faith, devotion, and perseverance in accomplishing seemingly impossible tasks. It exemplifies how the divine can assist those who approach with genuine intentions and unwavering devotion.
These stories provide a glimpse into the rich mythology and symbolism surrounding Lord Shiva. They depict his various roles, including that of a compassionate deity, a protector, and a source of wisdom. Each story carries profound teachings and insights, inspiring devotees to embrace spirituality and seek the divine in their lives.
The Dance of Lord Shiva (Tandava): Lord Shiva is often depicted as Nataraja, the cosmic dancer. The story behind this iconic representation goes as follows:
Once, a demon named Tripura had gained immense power and began wreaking havoc on the universe. The gods were helpless against his might, and they approached Lord Shiva for assistance. Lord Shiva agreed to confront Tripura and restore balance.
In a fierce battle, Lord Shiva destroyed Tripura and brought peace to the cosmos. Overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, Lord Shiva broke into a triumphant dance known as the Tandava.
The Tandava is a powerful dance that symbolizes creation, destruction, and the cyclical nature of the universe. It represents the cosmic rhythm and the eternal cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. Lord Shiva’s dance is believed to maintain the equilibrium of the universe, with each movement holding immense significance.
The Tandava is often depicted with Lord Shiva standing on one leg, with his other leg raised in a dynamic pose. He is shown surrounded by a circle of flames, symbolizing the continuous process of creation and dissolution.
Lord Shiva’s dance also represents the balance between masculine and feminine energies. His right foot is often shown crushing the demon of ignorance, while his left foot is lifted gracefully, signifying liberation. The gesture of Lord Shiva’s hands in the dance carries various meanings, representing different aspects of the universe and human existence.
The Nataraja form of Lord Shiva serves as a reminder of the divine cosmic order and the interconnectedness of all things. It teaches us about embracing change, finding balance in life, and recognizing the eternal dance of creation and destruction that unfolds around us.
The Dance of Lord Shiva is a captivating story that illustrates the artistic and mystical aspects of Lord Shiva’s persona. It showcases his role as the embodiment of both power and grace, and it invites us to reflect on the deeper mysteries of existence.
The Origin of the Jyotirlingas: Legend has it that once there was a dispute between Lord Brahma, the creator, and Lord Vishnu, the preserver, regarding their supremacy. To settle their disagreement, Lord Shiva appeared before them in the form of a massive fiery column of light, stretching infinitely in both directions.
Amazed by the awe-inspiring sight, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu decided to find the beginning and end of the colossal pillar. Lord Brahma assumed the form of a swan and flew upward, while Lord Vishnu transformed into a boar and burrowed deep into the earth.
After years of searching, neither could locate the origin or end of the radiant column. Lord Brahma, in his pride, decided to falsely claim that he had found the topmost point of the pillar. Lord Vishnu, realizing Brahma’s deceit, admitted his defeat.
Witnessing their arrogance and ego, Lord Shiva revealed his true form and chastised both Brahma and Vishnu for their behavior. As a punishment, Lord Shiva cursed Brahma that he would not be widely worshipped in temples, and he cursed Vishnu that he would have to endure several incarnations on Earth.
However, Lord Shiva, being the epitome of compassion, also granted them a way to seek redemption. He instructed them to perform austerities and worship him by installing Jyotirlingas, the sacred representations of his divine form, at various locations on Earth.
Following Lord Shiva’s instructions, Brahma and Vishnu installed the Jyotirlingas in different parts of the world. These Jyotirlingas are considered highly revered and are believed to carry immense spiritual power. There are twelve principal Jyotirlingas, including famous ones such as Somnath in Gujarat, Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi, and Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain.
The story of the Jyotirlingas teaches the importance of humility, the futility of ego, and the power of devotion. It emphasizes Lord Shiva’s role as the supreme deity and highlights the significance of worshipping him in his sacred forms.
The Jyotirlingas continue to be revered by devotees who undertake pilgrimages to these holy sites, seeking blessings and spiritual enlightenment. The story serves as a reminder of the eternal presence and grace of Lord Shiva in the lives of his devotees.