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, 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.
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 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 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 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.
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 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 honoured 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. 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 colour 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 neighbouring 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 realise 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.
The Twentyfive Lilas of Lord Siva
The following are the 25 Lilas (sportive plays) or manifestations of Lord Siva:
- 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.