The Most Pop­u­lar Sto­ries of Shiva, the De­stroyer

Business Sphere - - CONTENTS - By G. R. Khat­tar, Ed­i­tor-in-Chief

Lord Shiva is one of three prin­ci­ple Hindu deities, along with Brahma and Vishnu. Es­pe­cially in Shavais—one of the four main branches of Hin­duism, Shiva is re­garded as the Supreme Be­ing re­spon­si­ble for cre­ation, de­struc­tion, and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. For other Hindu sects, Shiva's rep­u­ta­tion is as the De­stroyer of Evil, ex­ist­ing on equal foot­ing with Brahma and Vishnu. It is no sur­prise, then, that legends and mytho­log­i­cal tales sur­round Lord Shiva abound. Here are a few of the most pop­u­lar ones:

The Cre­ation of the Ganges River

A leg­end from the Ra­mayana speaks of King Bha­gi­rath, who once med­i­tated be­fore Lord Brahma for a thou­sand years for the sal­va­tion of the souls of his an­ces­tors. Pleased with his devo­tion, Brahma granted him a wish; the king then re­quested that the Lord send the river god­dess Ganges down to earth from heaven so that she could flow over his an­ces­tors' ashes and wash their curse away and al­low them to go to heaven. Brahma granted his wish but re­quested that the king first pray to Shiva, for Shiva alone could sup­port the weight of Ganga's de­scent. Ac­cord­ingly, King Bha­gri­rath prayed to Shiva, who agreed that Ganga could de­scend while en­twined in the locks of his hair. In one vari­a­tion of the story, an an­gry Ganga tried to drown Shiva dur­ing the de­scent, but the Lord pow­er­fully held her mo­tion­less un­til she re­lented. Af­ter me­an­der­ing down through Shiva's thick mat­ted locks, the holy river Ganges ap­peared on earth. For mod­ern Hindus, this leg­end is reen­acted by a cer­e­mo­nial rit­ual known as bathing the Shiva Lingam.

The Tiger and the Leaves

Once a hunter who was chas­ing a deer wan­dered into a dense for­est found him­self on the banks of river Kolidum, where he heard the growl of a tiger. To pro­tect him­self from the beast, he climbed up a tree nearby. The tiger pitched it­self on the ground be­low the tree, demon­strat­ing no in­ten­tion to leave. The hunter stayed up in the tree all night and to keep him­self from fall­ing asleep, he gently plucked one leaf af­ter an­other from the tree and threw it down. Un­der the tree was a Shiva Linga, and the tree bless­edly turned out to be a bilva tree. Un­know­ingly, the man had pleased the de­ity by cast­ing bilva leaves down upon the ground. At sun­rise, the hunter looked down to find the tiger gone, and in its place stood Lord Shiva. The hunter pros­trated him­self be­fore the Lord and at­tained sal­va­tion from the cy­cle of birth and death. To this day, bilva leaves are used by mod­ern be­liev­ers in rit­ual de­vo­tions to Shiva. The leaves are thought to cool the de­ity's fierce tem­per­a­ment and to re­solve even the worst karmic debt.

Shiva as a Phal­lus

Ac­cord­ing to an­other leg­end, Brahma and Vishnu, the two other deities of the holy Trin­ity, once had an ar­gu­ment over who was more supreme. Brahma, be­ing the Cre­ator, de­clared him­self to be more revered, while Vishnu, the Pre­server, pro­nounced that it was he com­manded more re­spect. Just then a colos­sal lingam (San­skrit for phal­lus) in the form of an in­fi­nite pil­lar of light, known as a Jy­otir­linga, ap­peared blan­keted in flames be­fore them. Both Brahma and Vishnu were awestruck by its rapidly in­creas­ing size, and, for­get­ting their quar­rel, they de­cided to de­ter­mine its di­men­sions. Vishnu as­sumed the form of a boar and went to the nether­world, while Brahma be­came a swan and flew to the skies, but nei­ther was able to ful­fill their task. Sud­denly Shiva ap­peared out of the lingam and stated that he was the pro­gen­i­tor of both Brahma and Vishnu, and that hence­forth he should be wor­shiped in his phal­lic form, the lingam, and not in his an­thro­po­mor­phic form. This tale is used to ex­plain why Shiva is often rep­re­sented icon­i­cally in the form of a Shiva Linga carv­ing in Hindu de­vo­tions.

Shiva, Durga and his two sons, Gane­sha and Kar­tikya. (c) Ex­oticIn­dia.com

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