7 Origin of Shiva Linga and Significance of Aatithya, Paativratya, Bhakti and Bhasma
( ‘Apara Stuti’ of Maha Deva by Saptarshis included)
In the secluded and thick Forests of Daruvana, select Munis including Sapta Rishis and Maha Yogis were engaged in deep Tapasya along with their wives and children. As the Munis were busy with their meditation and Yagna Karmas, the wives who were all Maha Pativratas were serving them in their spiritual activities and family chores. Maha Deva appeared in Daruvana to test the depth of the Rishis and their Tapasya. He assumed the form of a semi-lunatic but of an astonishingly handsome and shapely physique; as a ‘Digambara’ or naked, he was laughing loudly some times and behaving erratically always. Soon he became the talk of Daruvana especially the feminine gender. Even the renowned Pativratas of leading Maharshis, let alone the unmarried Kanyas and elderly women, spontaneously professed attraction and infatuation for the Stranger. Parama Shiva in disguise who terminated Kama Devata into ashes with his anger by his third eye had kindled passion among the Rishi Patnis including of the Sapta Rishis! Some of the enterprising women entered his ‘Parnashala’, declared love for him and enquired of his antecedents. He smiled but would not reply.The Maharshis reacted sharply against the Stranger as he was ruining their family lives; they all confronted him one day and gave him a ‘Shaap’that since he provoked his wives with his nudity, his Linga should be dropped down to the ground. Parma Shiva retaliated that since no fault of his the Maharshis gave the ‘shaap’, he would not give a return curse but his Linga would get fixed there as also multiply into innumerable forms to burn off the areas of their presence; further they (Sapta Rishis) would be hanging on the Sky along with Nakshatras for ever! Having heard this the Sapta Rishis were shaken up as the forest was gradually getting burnt off and the fire was spreading far and wide. They approached Brahma at once and the latter confirmed to the Rishis that the ‘Atithi’ or the Guest was none other than Maha Deva Himself and that they were most unfortunate in not realising the actuality. In fact Brahma reprimanded the Rishis as they did not observe one of the fundamental Precepts of Dharma viz. that a Grihasti or a Family Man ought to treat Guests as Devatas ( Athithi Devo Bhava)! Brahma narrated to the Maharshis about the legend of a Brahmana Sudarshana who instructed his wife to worship a Guest as Shiva Himself, whether he was ugly, ignorant or demanding. Dharma Deva himself arrived as an Atithi at the Brahmana’s house and being a true Pativrata, the Brahmani took enormous care to treat the Guest in disguise as per her husband’s instruction and worshipped the Atithi well. As she offered ‘Naivedya’to the Guest, Dharma Raja demanded the Pativrata’s body as an offering and as per her husband’s instruction again, she readily agreed to fulfil the desire of the Atithi. Just then Sudarshana arrived at the threshold of the house and called for his wife; the Atithi replied to Sudarshana that he was about to sleep with the wife of the Brahmana and the latter replied that he would indeed be happy to happy that his wife was ready to offer herself to the Guest! Dharma Raja was taken aback by the Brahmana’s positive reply and appeared before the Brahmana and his wife in his Real Form; he said that even by his remote thought he never had the desire for the Brahman’s wife but was only testing them. Dharma Raja further stated:
Mayaa chishaa na Sandehaha Shraddhaam Jnaatumihaagatah,
Jito vai yastvayaa Mrityur Dharmayairnaikena Suvraha!
( I have come here only to test your Shraddhaa / dedication; by this occurrence, you have proved that you conquered Dharma Raja!) Having narrated this incident, Brahma addressed the Sapta Rishis that the latter were most unfortunate that Maha Deva himself was their valued Guest and they not only neglected the Guest but insulted him by giving him a Shaap! Actually, there was no fault of Maha Deva in disguise but instead of respecting the Atithi, they gave him a Shaap! The Maharshis then performed penance and in response to their Tapasya, Maha Deva appeared but said that only Devi Parvati could stop the spread of the Fire in the Forest. Devi Parvati when approached by the Maharshis agreed to stop the havoc of Fire keeping in with the safety of the Lokas. That indeed was the Origin of Shiva Linga, as the Maharshis besides Deva-Danava-Gandharva-Daitya-Rakshasa-Yaksha-Naaga-Kinnara and all other manifestions in Srishti especially the Manavas commenced Shiva Linga worship to fulfill their own desires in ‘Iham’ ( Current Life) and ‘Param’ (the Life thereafter)!
As the Memorable Happenings at Darukavana were described about the Origin of Shiva- Linga pursant to the test of Maharshis by Maha Deva and the significance of Atithi Puja, Suta Maha Muni quoted Mahatma Shailda’s (Nandeswara’s) narration of how Sweta Muni attained Mrityunjayatwa. The Muni was stickler of ‘Rudraadhyayana’and an unparalleled Shiva Bhakta engaged in continuous recitation of Rudraashtakam:
Om namastey Rudra manyava utota ivave namah Baahubhyaamuta tey namah/
Om ya tey Rudra Shivaa tanuraghoraa paapakashinee,
Notwithstanding the continuous and hearty Salutations, the Time of Deliverance was up to Sweta Muni and Kaala Dharma Raja appeared while the Muni intensified the prayers to Shiva. Kaala Deva asserted that none whosoever might try to escape death proved to be failures despite the backing of Tri Murtis and the singular and unequivocal embrace of death was something inevitable. Sweta Muni kept on arguing that he had his unequivocal support of Mahadeva whithout whose instructions even a blade of grass woud not be destroyed and in his own case he had total faith on Shiva who had always been responding to his prayers of indefatigable faith and trust in Him. Kaala laughed away, heckled the Shiva Linga saying that it was a mere Stone and would not respond the misplaced prayers by the Sweta Muni and extended his ‘Yama Pasha’ or the noose of the death’s rope to the Muni while a Tri Mukha Swarupa of Parama Shiva along with Ambaa-Ganapati-Nandi faced Kaala Deva right in the latter’s face and Kaala got confused, sprang back and was exterminated! The Brahmana too was puzzled at the instant appearance of Maha Deva and was blessed to get absorbed in the Shiva Linga.
As the Rishis at Darukaavana were taken aback at the swift happenings that the highly dedicated Sweta Muni faced in response to the challenge of Kaala Deva, they approached Mahatma Shailada (Nandi) as to which means of worship could enable the kind of Response that the Shiva Linga bestowed to Sweta Muni with which he argued and came out with flying colours against Kaala Deva himself and even killed him! Would it be the means of Daana, or Yagna, or Tapa, or Vrata or Yoga! Brahma replied: In Satya Yuga, the means of Shiva Tatwa in Satya Yuga was of Yoga, in Treta Yuga it was through yagnas, and in Dwapara Yuga, the means were trough ‘Kaalaagni’; but in Kaliyuga the Sure route was Bhakti alone.
Na daanena Munishrashtha stapasyaa cha na Vidyayaa,
( It is neither daanas, nor Tapasya, nor Vidyaa, nor Yajnas and Homas, and not Vratas- Vedas-Yoga and Shastras; but only Bhakti that Sweta Muni which he had in abundance .) Thus the Brahmanas and Rishis underlined the single factor of Bhakti which bestowed to a human being the power of victory against Mrityu! Given such Bhakti, a Bhakta could choose any form and shape of Shiva Lingas as for instance the Suvarnamaya, Rajatamaya, Sphatikamaya, Taamra Mayaa, Shilamaya, Chaturmayi, Trikonamayi, Vartulaakaara and so on, each with appopriate Kalashaas.What is significant however is that the Sthapana or Setting up ought to be with ‘Beeja Mantras’ and daily Abhishekas and worship for the best results. Dhyana-Avaahana-Aasana-Padya-Arghya-AchamaneeyaPanchaamrita Snaana-Shuddhodaka Snaana-Vastra-Yagnopavita-Gandha-Pushpa-Dhupa-Deepa-Naivedya-Taambula-Pradakshina-Kshama-Namaskara etc should be a daily course of worship. Those Bhaktas who would perform such unfailing worship along with their families are blessed with fulfilment, peace of mind, and Shiva Prapti.
Munis at Darukavana made the following Stuti seeking pardon for the mindless and harsh action in giving ‘Shaap’ to Mahadeva resulting in the dropping of Shiva Linga:
Ajnaanaaddeva Devesha yadasmaabhi- ranushtitam,
Karmanaa Manasaa Vaachaa tat Sarvam kshantumarhasi/
Vishweswara Maha Deva yosi sosi Namostutey,
Stuvantitwaam Mahatmaney Deva Devam Maheswaram/
Namo Bhavaaya Bhavyaaya Bhaavanaayod -bhavaayacha,
(Devesha! Kindly excuse our blunders perpetrated out of ignorance by way of our thought, speech and deed. Little did we know of your background which even Brahma and others could comprehend. Our sincere salutations to you Bhava Rupa, Bhavya Rupa, Bhavanodbhava, Ananta Bala, Veerya, Bhutapati, Sarva Samahara, Avyaya, Vyaya, Gangaadhari, Adharara, Gunaatmika, Triabaka, Tri Netra, Trishula dhaari, Manmatha samhaara, Agni Swarupa, Paramatma, Shankara, Vrishaarudha, Ganapati, Danda hasta, Kaala,Paasha Hasta and Veda Mantra Pradhana ! You are Hundred Tongued, the Symbol of the Present, Past and Future; the Form of all Movable and Immovable Beings in the Universe, the Creator of the World from your Physique! Do kindly pardon our thoughtlessness and impudence as we were guided by the play of Yogamaya!)
Pleased and convinced by the remorseful prayers of the Maharshis, Maha Deva granted ‘Divya drishti’ or Celestial Vision to them so that they could guess the silhouettes or outlines of the Magnificence of what Maha Deva was all about and with the aid of this Vision, the Maharshis got into raptures and broke down in spontaneous Apara Stuti as follows:
Yaani chaanyaani bhutaani sthavaraani charaanicha/
Antah gantum na shaktaah sma Devadeva Namostutey/
(Our sincere obeisances toYou Digambara, Nitya, Kruaanta, Shulapaani, Vikata, Karaala, Bhayamukha, Prabhu; You are Arupa yet Sundara Rupa, Vishwarupa, Rudra and Swaahaakaara; Your Physique is respectfully prayed to by one and all and you are the Soul of Sarva Praanis; the Nitya, Nilakantha, Nila Shikhinda, Sarvaanga Bhasma Rupa and Nilalohita; you are applauded as the Embodiment of Shankya Shastra; You are the Meru among the Mountains, Chandra among the Stars; Vasishtha among the Maharshis, Indra Deva among the Devatas; Omkaara among Vedas; Lion among the Animals and bull among native animals. Bhagavan! do indicate to us the various Forms as at Present and indicated by Brahma. Our venerations to you Mahadeva! As you are devoid of the ‘Shatvargas’or the Six Enemies of humanity viz. Kama-Krodha- Lobha-Moha-Mada and Matsaraas or Lust-Anger-Greed-Attachment-Pride and Envy, besides Vishada or Grief. Parama Shiva! At the time of the Pralaya or the Great Destruction, you are of Agni Swarupa and as Agni assumes flagrant form converts the whole world into ‘Bhasma’ or ashes and with that Bhasma, You and your Linga Swarupa are worshipped the World over. Also may the Agni Swarupa of that Shivatwa devastates the Univerese including the Sttaavara-Jagamaas; and to that Supreme ‘Kaalaagni’ Swarupa that we all pray and pay homage to. Maheswara, do protect us from that Kaalaagni. We will indeed obey and comply with your instructions. We are regretful that among crores of humanity, we failed to recognise due to our ignorance and lack of wisdom!)
Maha Deva no doubt was satisfied with the Paraa Stuti but admonished the Maharshis not to be flippant in their assessment of ‘Yatis’ or Yogis in which ever form or Rupa they might be. He said that the entire Srishti happened to be of Stree Linga or Pumlinga and one should not rush to misinterpretations or wrong conclusions about any person as the Maharshis did in His case! A Brahmavadi might be a naked person, or ash-smeared or even as a child! His nakedness should not be misinterpreted to attract women! He might have smeared ‘Bhasma’ to destroy his sins; a Brahmavadi might be a ‘Nitya Dhyaana Parayana’ or engrossed in meditation and might be least-communicative; this should not be misunderstood as a sign of lunacy or arrogance; a Parama Yogi might be laughing away in a boisterous manner if he is enjoying ‘Paramaananda’ or bliss; he might be overjoyed as he could be engrossed in Parma Tatwa by way of Manasika Puja or Maha Dhyana and making Maha Mudras; then none should mistake him for his Vaachaka-Manasika-Shaariraka meditation. This was how Shiva guided never to mistake Maya for Satya or Illusions for realities.
Significance of Bhasma: Bhagavan Shiva further analysed the significance of Bhasma which was product of Agni Karyaas like daily homas and Yagnas; the burning of ‘Sthavara Jangamaas’ by Fire would result in Ash:
(Uttama Bhasma is produced by the scorching of the wood of trees and other materials of Nature. Shiva stated that by way of Bhasma, he carried his virility to human beings. Bhasma generated by Agni Karyaas while reciting the Mantras like ‘Triyaamshu’ is basically is the bye-product of Shiva’s ‘veerya’ and demolishes all kinds of Sins. This ‘bhasita’ or the radiant product emerges from Shiva’s Body and is responsible for the Bhakshana of Mahaa Paapaas and hence it is called Bhasma. Mahadeva futher explained that the word ‘Ushmapa’ or hot and burnt material is ‘Pitreeshwar’ or the material consumed by the Lord of Pitraas, while Devataas consume Amrita or Soma Rasa; Agni is of Soma Swarupa; Shiva is Agni and Soma rupi is Devi Ambika; Shiva is Purusha and Ambika is Prakruti. This is the reason why Bhasma is called Shiva’s veerya as his Veerya is generated from Shiva’s body. Thus Bhasma destroys Evil and Inauspiciousness / ‘Ashubha’ anywhere especially in households; any person taking a bath and applies Bhasma is stated to be eligible for performing the Sacred Paashupata Vrata Kapila Yoga and is assured of Bandha vimochana or the shackles of Samsara to Shiva Loka. If a person resorts to Bhasma Snaana and performs Shiva Dhyaana, then thousands of ‘Akaryas’ or misdeeds get destroyed like Agni burns off immoralities and turpitude. Application of Bhasma after Snaana and Shiva Dhyaana three times a day would fetch ’Gaanapatya’; if that person performs Shiva Worship at Smashaana or burial grounds along with the observance of the above deeds viz. Pavitra Snaana-Bhasmaalankarana-Shiva Dhyana and worship thrice daily would secure Ashta Siddhis of Anima-Garima, Vasitya etc. Performance of Kamika Vrata and Pashupata Vrata before Shiva Linga without the impact of Shadvagraas, Rajo-Tamogunaas and perfect equanimity besides the prerequisites of Snaana-Bhasma-Dhyana- Puja-Naivedyas etc. would qualify Kalpaanta Rudra Prapti. Maha Deva further stated that He had originally scripted Srishti without Lajja (Shame), Moha (Attachment), Bhaya (Fear) and such aberrations. Even now all Beings including Devas, Munis and human beings are born naked since no person could become Jitendriya, since features like Kshama (Forgiveness), Dhairya (Courage), Ahimsa or Non-Violence, Vairagya or Other-Worldliness constitute the most superior Vastras. Thus any mocking, criticism, protests and curses against Mahatmas and Siddhhas caused by Ahamkara (Ego) and Ignorance would tantamount to ‘Maha Paapaas’ attracting the wrath of Maha Deva even against Saptarshis who were cursed back by him, while their curses against Shiva proved to be boons to the Universe since Shiva Lingas were manifested for promoting Bhakti in the Trilokas as sure means of Shiva Prapti.