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Shiva Mahima

When we think of Shiva, we invariably think of Him as the innocent one, Bholenath, who is pleased easily, and as Ashutosh who blesses His devotees copiously and immediately. In fact, there are innumerable stories in our Puranas and in Mahabharata among others, where Shiva has blessed many Rakshasas and Asuras and given them boons which on the face of it, spelt disaster. In contrast MahaVishnu seems to subject His devotees to the most difficult of tests before He gives anyone a boon. But is this really the case? Let’s read on…

One of the boons given by Shiva which ended up creating problems for Him was the boon given to Bhasmasura. Bhasmasura was given the boon that if he touched any head with his hand, that person or creature would turn into ashes. Bhasmasura wanted to try it on Shiva Himself and finally Mahadev had to be rescued by MahaVishnu. Shiva also gave away His Atmalinga to Ravana who would have used it to become undefeatable and in panic all the other Devatas approached His son, Ganapati, to help them. Ganapati, with a little help from Narada, helped establish the Atmalinga in Gokarna, a place in coastal Karnataka. The Mahabharata too is replete with stories of various boons given to the Adharmis by Shiva, who used the boons to harm others. Some of the famous stories are those of Kaalyavan and Jayadratha, both of who had boons which made it next to impossible for anyone to kill them easily. Again, in both these cases, it was VishnuAvataar Sri Krishna who guided them to their death.

If one notices closely in the above stories and in any of the other incidents where Bholenath has given a boon relatively easily, one realizes that contrary to what it appears as, these boons have only hastened the end of that person. If anything, it is like a clue to the puzzle as to how to rid the earth of such Adharmis. Shiva is after all Mahakaal and as destroyer of Tamas, it is also His role to hasten the defeat of Adharma. He does that by making the receiver of the boon believe that he is imperishable and thus let his guard down. The Tamas in that person rises to the brim thanks to subsequent actions of the receiver of the boon. At that time, the ‘paalan-karta’ or sustainer of the Universe, MahaVishnu, is able to obliterate the Adharmi. The Trimurti work in tandem, have no doubts about that!

Whenever it is a case of redeeming a soul for the betterment of the individual or creation itself, Shiva too takes His time in giving the boon. One only has to look at the trials undergone by Parvati to become his wife. She became Aparna, subsisting only on leaves, and then gave that up too, in Her intense Tapasya to become fit to be Shiva’s wife. Anyone who aims for any Siddhi or aims to become an Aghori has to undergo the strictest of rites to purify oneself before attaining any boon from Mahadev. Without purifying oneself, without destroying the Tamas within oneself, one cannot attain Shiva.

At the same time, it is also true that He is indeed Ashutosh who cares for His bhakta and blesses him even without the bhakta seeking His blessings. The story of the hunter who remained hungry on MahaShivratri day is one such instance. It is believed that just telling this story or listening to / reading this story also bestows Shiva-Sayujya to the person indulging in this act. This is the extent of karuna (benevolence) of Shiva on His devotees. Let us also benefit from such benevolence…

In Treta Yuga lived a hunter by the name ‘Bhilla’. Cruel and short-tempered, he used to hunt the forest animals, eat or sell their meat and sometimes hunted for pleasure. Obviously, he had accumulated a lot of ‘paapa’ karma. Once, there was no food left in the house and so he set out to hunt a deer. He roamed around the entire forest the whole day but couldn’t find a single animal to kill. Tired, hungry and thirsty, he looked around for a water body and found a pond in the jungle. He drank some water and realised that since it was nearing sunset, some animal or the other would come to the pond to drink water. So, he collected some water in case he felt thirsty, climbed a nearby bael tree (wood apple tree) and waited for some animal to come by. Unknown to him, there was a Shivalinga below the bael tree. For a long time no animal approached. At the end of the first quarter of the night, a deer approached the pond. When he shook to take aim, some water from his water bag and some leaves from the tree fell on the Shivlinga. Though it was an involuntary action, Mahadev was content by it and the hunter was absolved of his paapa of this life.

The deer looked up at the rustling noise and saw the hunter taking aim at it. Astonishingly, she spoke and said to the hunter, “Oh hunter I understand that you want to kill me. But please let me drink some water, go back to meet my family, and then come back to you.” The hunter laughed out loud and said, “If I let you go, you will never come back here again” but the deer replied “I will keep my promise … be assured I will come back.” Bhilla who was now beset with emotions hitherto unknown to him, said to the deer “Okay you can go to meet your family, but you must return to be killed by me.” The deer delighted, thanked him and left to meet her family. In this manner, the cruel hunter was freed from hatred and malice in his heart by his act of pleasing Shiva in the first quarter of MahaShivaratri.

In the first quarter of the night, if a person offers water and baelpatra (bael leaves) to Shiva, then the person is freed from anger, jealousy, malice, and the person can then worship Shiva with a calm, pure, enlightened mind.

A long time passed and the hunter was still sitting atop the bael tree waiting for the deer. After some time, the sister of the first deer came to the pond in search of her. The hunter thought this was the same deer and he took aim at the deer. Again, as he shook to take aim, some bael leaves and some water from his water bag fell on the Shivalinga below. Thus without any intention of doing Shiv Puja, he did the same in the second quarter of the night. Now this deer too realised that her death was near. She said to Bhilla, “Oh hunter, I had come looking for my sister. If I do not return home, my family will be worried. Please give me some time to visit my family just once, after which I will surely come back to you.” Bhilla was not happy about this and said, “If I let you go, you will not come back. Another deer had said the same thing and left, and she did not come back again.” The deer then said, “Believe me dear hunter, I will come back to you.” Filled with trust in the words of the deer, Bhilla let the deer go home.

Some more time passed and the hunter was feeling a strange peace come over him. He could not sleep because he was waiting for his prey. After some time, a stout deer was seen approaching the pond. He was the husband of the first deer and was in search of his wife and sister-in-law. On seeing the stout and healthy deer approaching the pond, the hunter decided that he would definitely kill this deer. Again, as he took aim, the branch shook and some bael leaves and water fell on the Shivalinga below, and so unknowingly the hunter had now offered puja to Shiva in the third quarter of the night. The deer also looked up and noticed the hunter sitting atop the tree, and said, “Why do you want to kill me, o hunter?” The hunter told how his family had no food back at home and so he would kill the deer and feed them. On hearing this, the deer said, “Good that my life is going to be of use to you, but please let me meet my family once.” The hunter was sure that this deer would also not return since the others had not yet come back. But the deer said, “Believe me, I will come back”. The hunter was filled with positive feelings of sympathy and he let this deer also go back home.

In some time all three deer met and told each other about their encounter with the hunter. All of them wanted to sacrifice their life to save the others. Finally they all decided to die together. The entire family went back to the hunter together. In the meantime, the hunter’s family too were worried about him not having come back and his wife and children came in search of him. On seeing all the deer come together the hunter was surprised and happy at the same time. He felt he would be able to feed his family sufficiently for a few days. He jumped down from the tree. This act of his made some more bael leaves and water from his pouch fall on the Shivalinga below. Thus, Bhilla, the ferocious hunter had unknowingly stayed awake, fasted, offered bael-patra and water to Shiva and had also refrained from doing the cruel act of killing any animal, throughout the night of Maha Shivratri. By the grace of Mahadev, a complete transformation came over him.

On one side he saw his family and on the other he saw the deer’s family. He was filled with remorse and repentance. He shed tears thinking about the years of his hunting cruelly to feed himself and his family. He decided to let the deer go free. When he thought of this, he was completely free of all his ‘sanchitpaapa karma’ or accumulated adharmic acts of the past. Suddenly everyone heard the sound of a ‘damru’ and Shiva appeared before them. Shiva said to the hunter, “I am pleased by your Puja. You have stayed awake in all the four quarters of the night, fasted and worshipped me with water and bael leaves. Ask for a boon and I shall grant it to you.” Bhilla said, “Bhagwan, just receiving Your Darshan has redeemed me. I have nothing more to ask for”. Bhilla and his entire family bowed down to Shiva … so did the deer and her family. Mahadev looked upon all of them with love and blessed them to become His Ganas. They all left their mortal physical body and ascended to Kailasa. Shiva then left for Arbudachal, where he resided in the form of Vyadheshwar Mahadev.

Thus we see that when we pray to Shiva without any desires in our mind, He gives us Shiva-Sayujya (staying close to Shiva). When one prays with a desire to destroy or harm others, Shiva blesses one with the ability to do that, but also works towards destroying the fulfilment of such a desire.

Har Har Mahadev!

(Image credit: Zee News)

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