Shiva is the part of the trinity, fondly referred as Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh. Here he has been identified as Mahesh. He has several other names like Shankara, Ishwara, Mahadeva, Nataraja, Bholenath, Neelakantha, Pashupatinatha, Rudra and so much other names. Today, on the occasion of Mahashivaratri, I would like to write about some short stories associated with some of his names.
Shiva as Nataraja
The word Nataraja, literally translated into King of Dance. The legend says, once Shiva was wondering in a forest and come across some sages. Now, these sages are unaware of Shiva’s personality. And oblivious to the thoughts of them, Shiva was wandering naked. This offended the sages and they try to teach Shiva a lesson. With their yogic power, they create a tiger and launch an attack on Shiva. It was said that, he killed the tiger with his finger nail; tore his skin apart and use that as a garment for his lower body. But the sages were still not happy with it. So, they send some snakes to attack him. He takes the snakes and put them around his neck like a piece of cloth.
Finally, they launched the attack through a demon named Apasmara. Now, he could have killed that demon, but there is a problem. This dwarf demon Apasmara represents the ignorance. And Shiva knows well that, if you wipe out ignorance then the knowledge will also endanger its position. To have a balanced society both knowledge and ignorance should have been there. As he can’t kill the demon, he put him under his feet and started dancing on him. The dance called Tandava. His dance was so graceful, so mesmerizing and so enchanting that the sages started worshiping him as the King of Dance and he became Nataraja.
Shiva as Gangadhar
King Sagar performed the most sacred yagna of the time called “Ashwamedha Yagna”. In this yagna, they allowed a sacred horse to roam around the earth before it comes back to the kingdom, unharmed. But King Sagar’s horse went missing somewhere. The search process began. The 60000 sons of the King finally found the horse at Sage Kapila’s backyard. They have assumed that, the sage is the thief. So, they burnt his ashram. In turn sage Kapila with his yogic power he burnt all the 60000 sons of the king.
Later when King Sagar came to know about this, he pacified the sage. But the damage was already done. Now, the bodies are already turned into ashes and because of that they can’t get liberation from the cycle of life & death either. The Sage suggested the King to bring Ganga, the celestial river to earth, whose water has the capability of providing moksha to the dead ones.
The King started praying to the Gods. After the King, his son too tried but it’s only his grandson Bhagiratha who got the breakthrough. The Gods finally ordered Ganga to descend to earth. Ganga was not happy with this. With her fierce force Ganga started flowing towards earth. Her force of water was so fierce that, everyone feared she will destroy the whole mankind with it. Everyone started praying to Lord Shiva to save the mankind. The God came to the rescue. Before the river Ganga hit on the earth, he catch hold of her with his matted locks. And he did not release her till Ganga’s anger and pride has been destroyed. Once she calmed down, Shiva released her to the earth through his hairs. This is why the Lord is also named as Gangadhar, the one who holds Ganga.
Also read – Arjuna Acknowledges the Greatness of Karna
Shiva as Ardhanarishvara
The name Ardhanarishvara suggests that the God is half woman. The legend associated with this form of the Lord goes like this. There was a devotee of the Lord with the name Bhringi. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva but he never worshiped Parvati or any other goddesses. One day he visited Kailas to meet his God. He worshiped Shiva and as the final part of the ritual, he has to take circles around his God. But he did not want to go around Parvati. So, he asked Shiva to sit alone, so that he can only worship him.
Prafulla neelothaphala lochanayai,
Vikasha pankeruha lochanayai,
Jagat jananyai, Jagatheka pithre,
Nama Shivayai cha namashivaya. – Sage Upamanyu
This offended the Goddess Parvati. Shiva informed him that, he can’t ask his better-half to stay away from him. So Bhringi tried to circle only around Shiva by walking in-between Shiva and Parvati. To teach a lesson to this devotee, Parvati sat on Shiva’s lap. But Bhringi took the form of a bee and fly in between Shiva and Parvati.
It’s then the Lord takes the form of Ardhanarishvara, where half of his body belongs to the masculine Shiva and other half to the feminine Parvati. It makes impossible for Bhringi to circle around only Shiva anymore. But Parvati was highly upset with this gender bias approach of the devotee. So, she cursed him to get rid of all the part of his body that comes from his mother. Bhringi lost all his flesh and collapsed on the floor. A shocked Bhringi then realized his mistake and pleaded to the Goddess, to restore his body. The Goddess gives him another extra leg which helps him to stand upright and balance his body.