Shiva – The Destroyer of Maya

Shiva

Shiva – The Destroyer

The Hindu Mythology talks about three manifestations of the Almighty. Brahma – the Creator, Vishnu – the Preserver and Shiva – the Destroyer.

In the first place, it would appear that Creator and Preserver must be good and Destroyer must be bad. However, in India we worship the Preserver and the Destroyer but not the Creator. Confusing?

The confusion occurs because the notion of the world in our scriptures is very different and we are not much aware of it.

According to the scriptures, in the beginning only Narayan existed. From his navel emerged Brahma who was scared to be in a dark space. This feeling of insecurity generated fear in his mind and to materialize his significance he created the world. The world was, thus, not a result of divine grace but a result of Brahma’s desire. The world is thus considered Maya, or Illusion. It is this Illusion that Shiva ignores. He believes in the existence of soul and the power of tapasya so he rejects this materialistic world and thus metaphorically destroys it. Therefore he is called the Destroyer.

After he created the world, Brahma’s desire did not end but increased even more and he went to chase the Goddess Saraswati. She ran away from Brahma. She went to the East so Brahma emerged a head in the East. She went to the West so he propped a head in the West. She went behind him so he emerged a head at his back. She ran in the upward direction so he emerged a fifth head on the top.

Shiva got so disgusted by this utter display of desire by Brahma that he beheaded his fifth head. Thus the Destroyer destroyed the excessive desire of the one who created Maya. Therefore the Destroyer is worshipped and the Creator is not.

(Vishnu, the Preserver, recognizes that the world is an illusion and believes in the power of tapasya. But at the same time he understands the existence of Brahma’s desire and believes in preserving it as long as the desires are in limits. This concept of limited desire is called Dharma. A man who learns to control his desire and outgrow his fear walks on the path of Dharma. He who is overwhelmed by his fear and cannot control his desires steps on the path of Adharma. Vishnu creates this balance on Earth, therefore he is the Preserver. He watches it sportfully when Dharma is being followed and allows Brahma existence. When he sees Adharma overpowering Dharma, he takes an avatar and sets things right.)

To destroy, Shiva needs power therefore he is associated with the Goddess of power, Shakti. Throughout the epic Mahabharata, many characters worship Shiva to seek power in some form or the other. Amba worships Shiva to get a boon to kill Bheeshm. Arjuna worships Shiva during his exile to achieve deadly weapons to prepare for the Kurukshetra war. Jayadrath worships Shiva to obtain a boon of overpowering the four Pandavas (this is how he gets Abhimanyu killed).

It is also interesting to note that three people mentioned in the above example are obtaining power to avenge some kind of humiliation.

8. Bheeshm Pratigya! – A Terrible Sacrifice of a Son

Devavrata was now an adult and had been declared the heir to the kingdom. Everyone had full trust in his capabilities and Shantanu also relaxed the reigns of Hastinapur into the hands of Devarata.

One day Shantanu thought of taking a break from the daily kingdom chores and go for what Kuru kings did best – hunt! During the hunt in the forest, he reached the banks of Ganga, where a gentle breeze brought to him a heavenly fragrance. The fragrance aroused in Shantanu the desires that he had been unaware of ever since his wife Ganga left him. Shantanu realized that the source of fragrance was a woman who was ferrying across the river; daughter of the leader of fishermen. This woman was Satyavati.

Shantanu ordered his charioteer to stop the chariot and alighted from it to proceed towards Satyavati. He told Satyavati that he had fallen in love with her (Love at first sight is the trend in our generation. In those days love happened at first sniff!)

Shantanu: Marry me and be my queen. The kingdom of Hastinapur has not had a queen in quite some time.

Satyavati: Maharaj, I am not the one who can decide this on my own. If you wish to marry me, you should ask my father for my hand in marriage.

Within an hour, Shantanu and Satyavati were in the cottage of the head of the fisher-folks, Daashraaj. Shantanu told Daashraaj that he wished to marry Satyavati. Daashraaj was more than happy at knowing this but he had to refuse Shantanu. On being questioned, he said that since his daughter was destined to become a mother of kings, marrying Shantanu who had already declared Devavrata his heir would be a hindrance to that prediction. The revelation infuriated Shantanu. Even though he was madly in love with Satyavati, he could not deprive his beloved Devavrata of his rights for anything.

Shantanu: Kurus are not famous for taking back their words and depriving the rightful people of what they deserve. If you have such a condition, then I shall not marry your daughter.

Shantanu left the cottage without looking in Satyavati’s direction for even an instant. On that day, and on the following days Shantanu again felt the void that had been created ever since Ganga left him. In his old age, the void seemed to hurt more and he was also losing his capability of hiding his sorrows.

Devavrata could not see his father sad and so he tried to investigate but Shantanu never told anything. He then went to Shantanu’s charioteer expecting that the charioteer might reveal to the prince what the father was not revealing to the son. The charioteer told the entire story to Devavrata.

On the very evening, when the thick clouds were eclipsing the moon desperate to shower themselves on the city of Hastinapur, the fisher community heard the sound of armies proceeding in their direction. The fisher-folks were convinced that the audacity of their chief had succeeded in incurring Devavrata’s wrath and that he had come to savage the entire village that dared to harm his prospects of inheriting the throne.

Powerful men are usually understood by the weak.

Devavrata summoned Daashraaj, who came along with his daughter and asked him what stopped him from giving his daughter’s hand to the king of Hastinapur. Daashraaj explained the foretelling and its implications.

Devavrata: It was not wise on your part to have asked from my father what is mine, Daashraaj. My father could not promise to your grandsons the throne of Hastinapur because he has already given it to me. And if this is what is keeping my father away from happiness then I promise you that I will never sit on that throne. You can now proceed with the arrangements of the wedding. Mother Satyavati shall marry my father with no further delay.

Daashraaj: That’s very kind and brave of you my prince! History will always remember your sacrifice. But I have a question. If your father had no right to promise on your behalf, then how come you have the right to promise on the behalf of your sons? What if your sons raise swords against my grandsons for this very throne. How can I be sure of their future?8. Bheeshma Pratigya - A terrible sacrifice of a son

Devavrata: You are right dude! I cannot decide and promise on behalf of my sons. But I can certainly decide something for myself. And so to remove all your doubt and apprehensions about future of your grandsons, I decide never to marry. May Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh hear it today; may the devas and asuras hear it today; may all the directions hear it today; may all organic and inorganic forms of matter hear it today; may earth, fire, wind and water hear it today clearly – I, Devavrata, the son of Ganga and Shantanu, pledge never to marry and father children on any woman. I SHALL LIVE WITHOUT A WIFE AND A SON AND I SHALL DIE WITHOUT A WIFE AND A SON. THIS IS MY ULTIMATE PROMISE TO YOU!!!

The pledge disturbed the rhythm of the cosmos, the clouds burst into heavy rains and the devas descended on Earth to shower Devavrata with flowers and blessings. Time had never seen such a terrible oath being taken by anyone. Time would never see such a terrible oath being taken by anyone. There were tears in the eyes of every soldier that had accompanied Devavrata. Princes were known to slaughter the weak to show off their might and here they had the mightiest of their leaders sacrificing everything for the sake of his old father and his kingdom’s future. They felt blessed to have seen the most historical moment in time.

This terrible oath, also known as Bheeshm Pratigya in Hindi, earned Devavrata the title of Bheeshm. Though Bheeshm sacrificed everything to ensure that the king of Hastinapur stayed well and so did Hastinapur, he did not foresee the implications that this terrible oath would have and how his rigidity towards his oath would cost Kuru clan dearly. There were certain things only time could tell and this was one of those.

Vishnu and Bhudevi – The Preserver and the Earth Goddess

Now “Sustainability” is not just an MBA buzz word. It is a serious concept. A damn serious one. So serious that ignoring it and not trying to work in its direction can land you into battlefields (and mind you, here I am not being metaphorical).

Much before the Kurukshetra War (and probably after the menace caused by Parshuram), the Earth Goddess (aka Bhudevi) went to the Preserver of the Universe, Vishnu, in the form of a cow and begged for help. The following conversation took place (probably in Sanskrit).

***

Bhudevi: I am replete with warriors, and these warriors think no end to themselves. In the quest of creating culture, cities, dams and armies they have mindlessly destructed all that I had for them. They have cut the forests, polluted the water and land. But their lust knows no limits. Moreover, a few rich and powerful are doing this in abundance while depriving the weaker of their rightful share. They have so recklessly squeezed milk out of my udders that they are sore.

(Vishnu was furious at this discovery. He tried to comfort the Earth Goddess and made a declaration.)

Vishnu: These homo sapiens of the warrior community are indeed a bunch of maniacs. They have forgotten their place, and they have forgotten yours. They do not see you, the provider of all resources, as their mother but they regard you as their property. Their greed has made them stoop down to this level that they have lost all sense of Dharma. They will certainly learn a lesson and that too the hard way. That’s a promise!

(Then looking towards the tragic face of the cow)

Do not worry! I will descend on Earth as a cowherd to protect you. I promise you that the greedy and unrighteous Kshatriyas will pay for your milk with their blood.

Krishna and Cow

***

Thus Vishnu declared his arrival as Krishna, the cowherd, determined to teach unrighteous Kshatriyas a lesson and re-establish Dharma. Thus, one can say the war was, in a way, inevitable. The uncompromising Kuru princes were but the catalysts.

Brahma Vishnu Mahesh

Brahma Vishnu Mahesh

Brahma Vishnu Mahesh

Hindu mythology talks about three manifestations of the Almighty. No, they are not Amar, Akbar and Anthony but Brahma – The Creator, Vishnu – The Preserver and Shiva – The Destroyer.

Hindu mythology does not see the world as the ultimate Truth. It sees the world as an illusion, created by Brahma to actualize his existence. Brahma, its creator, is thus considered the first father (Param – pitah). He appears as a priest and is associated with knowledge – Saraswati. On creating the world he gets so mesmerized by his creation that he follows it passionately, ignoring the ultimate Truth of soul but pursuing the possession of materialistic truth and believing only in his subjective world. Thus, Brahma is not worthy of worship according to Hindu mythology.

Shiva is the God who does not believe in illusions but seeks the soul that is the only Truth. Thus, he shuns the notion of the world, society, rules and culture. He prefers to stay alone on the icy mountains of Kailash, smeared with ash which is an indicator of what remains when everything destroys (soul), wearing a tiger-skin and is deep into meditation. Through the continuous Yoga of eons he becomes an infinite source of spiritual power – Tapa. He is thus a hermit, dressed like one and associated with power – Shakti. By ignoring Brahma’s creation, he thus destroys it and so he is called the Destroyer. He is worshiped by the hermits who renounce the world to seek the soul as well as by those who seek power.

Vishnu is the God who recognizes the illusion created by Brahma but at the same time recognizes and accepts the concept of soul of Shiva. However, he does not shun Brahma. He rather believes in uplifting him and making him realize the Truth of Soul. He thus becomes the Preserver of Brahma’s world as well as the endorser of Shiva’s soul. Hence, he’s known as the Preserver. He’s the God of the householders and stays in the boundaries of culture, dresses like people with family and is associated with wealth – Lakshmi, which is indispensable for running a household. He is worshiped by the priests, hermits and householders alike.

The three Gods are thus associated with the three Goddesses.

Brahma – Saraswati | Vishnu – Lakshmi | Shiva – Shakti

 Lakshmi Durga Saraswati

Lakshmi Durga Saraswati

The three Gods and three Goddesses appear in different forms, in different ways, at different places and at different times throughout the Mahabharata influencing the course of the story.

Parshuram – Ram with an Axe

There are not many personalities we know who were named after their possessions. In fact, I don’t think I know even one in the present times. Have we ever addressed Little Master as Bat-Sachin Tendulkar? Or have we ever addressed Himesh as Crap Cap-Himesh Reshammiya?

But ages ago, there lived a sage who had achieved this nearly impossible feat. His original name was Ram, but for all PR activities, he was addressed as Parshuram. ‘Parasu’ means axe and so Parshuram meant ‘Ram with an Axe’.

This Ram, who was the sixth avatar of Vishnu and should not be confused with the seventh avatar (who too was Ram but without a prefix), was the son of a Brahmin man Jamadagini and a Kshatriya woman Renuka. The axe that made him popular was given to him by his mentor Shiva, and it was said that this axe had no close rival among weapons in the entire universe.

Thor’s hammer did not exist at that time.

The axe was given to Parshuram to get the Earth rid of unrighteous souls. It did not matter what relation that unrighteous soul had with Parshuram or anybody else. Parshuram in many ways is the avatar that always acted without thinking (maybe, because all the thinking was done by Vishnu before taking that avatar.)

Parshuram’s life had a few incidents of much significance to humanity, at large. The two most important ones are listed below:

1. 

Jamadagini had a nearly perfect family a loving wife and five sons, Parshuram being the youngest. Once while Renuka was collecting woods in the forests, she came across a handsome Gandharva who was indulged with Apsaras doing what Emran Hashmi does best on screen. This sudden encounter induced a momentary feeling of passion for the Gandharva in Renuka’s heart, which, according to the culture of that era was almost equal to infidelity. An ashamed Renuka went back to her home trying to forget what she had seen. However, the tense expressions on her otherwise serene face were a clear indication that something was wrong. Jamadagini, who through his austerities had mastered the art of reading minds, figured out in an instance what had happened.

Parshuram beheads his mother.

A furious Jamadagini ordered his sons to behead their mother without telling them the reason. The sons, naturally, were horrified at the very thought and shirked. Except for our man – Ram with the Axe. He moved ahead and beheaded his mother without a slightest flinch in his heart.

Jamadagini was angry at his first four sons for disobeying him and thus discarded them. He was, however, deeply moved by his youngest son’s unquestionable dedication towards his father. He offered Parshuram a boon.

Parshuram: Bring my mother back to life. I know you possess the same power of resurrection that Ekta Kapoor possesses.

Jamadagini could not take his word back. He resurrected her to life and forgave her too, for she had been punished for her mistake. So much happened for this much. It was once again a ‘Hum Sath Sath Hain’ family, but with four sons gone.

2.

Years later, when the ‘Hum Sath Sath Hain’ family was living life as it always did, a life-changing event happened.

The king Kartavirya of that province discovered that Jamadagini had a cow called Kamadhenu. This extra-ordinary cow fulfilled every wish of man and Kartavirya had an extreme desire to possess it at any cost. One day, while Parshuram was out in the forest, Kartavirya accompanied by his soldiers came to Jamadagini’s abode and insisted on taking away Kamadhenu. When Jamadagini and Renuka resisted, he brutally murdered them and left with Kamadhenu.

Parshuram kills Kartavirya

On returning, Parshuram discovered what had happened and was filled with potent range equal to that of Thakur when he figured out that Gabbar had slaughtered his family. He took his axe and reached Kartavirya’s palace and warned him to return Kamadhenu without delay, or the consequences would be fatal. Naturally, Kartavirya resisted and sent his force to stop Parshuram, whose talent with the axe was unmatched in the three worlds. Parshuram rushed as a havoc in the kingdom killing each and every soldier who tried to stop him, without the aid of Jai or Veeru. Then he slaughtered the demonic king as well.

After this, Parshuram went on a killing spree whirling his axe around and killing unrighteous Kshatriyas in great numbers. He was outraged by the fact that Kshatriyas who were supposed to be guardians of the society had resorted to overpower the weak out of their lust for power and property. He killed them in such great numbers that Earth was almost replete of them. He did it not once, twice but twenty-one times.

Parshuram kills Kshatriyas

All this while, the axe was his constant companion. This axe given by Shiva had soaked the blood of millions of Kshatriyas and still yearned for more. After 21 innings when Parshuram finally decided to retire he went to the river Samanata-panchaka and dipped his axe in it. The river was filled with blood and nothing else but blood. After this grand task of getting Earth rid of unrighteousness he finally retired to indulge himself into meditation and increase his prospects of future-mentoring.

It was near this land of Samanta-panchaka where the Kurukshetra war was fought and three almost invincible students of Parshuram: Bheeshma, Drona and Karna participated in it. The land bathed in blood again, though centuries later.

A few centuries later, even Thakur finally avenged his family, though with the help of Jai and Veeru.