With Maha Shivatri almost here, everywhere, people can find the Shiva temples being flocked by various devotees of Lord Shiva, chanting “Om namah shivaya” and “Har Har Mahadev”. In this article, we will highlight some interesting facts and know more about Shiva as per the various Upanishads and Puranas.
WHY IS SHIVA CALLED MAHADEVA?
Shiva is described as Mahadeva as he is propitiated by everyone from the devtas (gods) to the asuras (demons). Great devtaas like Indra and Kubera, as well as great demons like Hiranyakashipu and Ravana worshipped him. Srila Vyasadeva purposefully described Shiva to be the greatest mahadeva, as those who worshipped him out of selfless love and served him unconditionally with devout devotion were awarded with boons, regardless of being a devta or an asura.
There are two famous compositions about Shiva’s glories, namely Shiva Tandava Strota by Ravana and Shiva Mahimna Strota by Pushpadanta. Shiva was so pleased by these glorifications that he awarded both of them with the greatest of boons one could ever think of. The Tamasi Puranic literature is also full of glories of Lord Shiva.
BIRTH OF LORD SHIVA
There are three interesting mentions of the birth/existence of Lord Shiva:
1. In the Tamasi Puranas, there is no description about the birth of Lord Shiva. Instead, he is portrayed as aja, that is, the one who has no birth.
2. As per Narayana Upanishad (1-2), Mahopanishad (1), Mahabharata Moskha Dharma and Varaha Puran, “In the beginning, there was only one person, Narayana. Neither Lord Brahma, Shiva, fire, moon, stars, sky and sun. The Prajapatis, Lord Shiva and Brahma were created by me and since they are deluded by my illusory energy, none of them knows about the same.” Therefore, Lord Shiva was born out of Lord Narayana.
3. In Brahma Samhita (5.15), “The same Maha Vishnu created Vishnu from His left limb, Brahma, the first progenitor of beings, from His right limb and, from the space between His two eyebrows, Shambhu, the divine masculine manifested halo.” Therefore, we understand that, Lord Shambhu appears from Lord Maha-Vishnu from the middle of his eyes brows. And he is a form of the divine formless spiritual effulgence in the form of Linga. Lord Shiva or Rudra is an expansion of Lord Shambhu.
Both Shivashtakam and Srimad Bhagwatam describes Shiva’s appearance. However, both have a contrasting description of Lord Shiva. As per Shivashtakam (2, 4-5):
sunrtya-rangesta-vara-pradaya kaivalya-nathaya vrsa-dhvajaya
sahasra-patropari samsthitaya varangadamukta-bhuja-dvayay
vicitra-ratnaugha-vibhusitaya premanam evadya harau vidhehi
He resembles a moon of molten gold and is dressed in garments coloured like a group of budding blue lotuses or lustrous rain clouds and he dances delightfully. He is the shelter to those who seek to become one with the transcendental effulgence of Godhead. His flag bears the image of the bull and his form is brilliantly illuminated by the jewels of Ananta-deva, the king of snakes. He possesses divine potencies and is clothed in a tiger-skin and stands in the midst of a thousand-petal lotus and his two arms are adorned by lustrous bangles and he has nectar emanating from his reddish lotus feet upon which charming ankle bells ring.
Whereas, As per the Srimad Bhagwatam (4.2.15-15), his father-in-law Prajapati Daksha describes him in the following words:
pretavaseu ghoresu pretair bhuta-ganair vrtah
ataty unmattavan nagno vyupta-keso hasan rudan
sivapadeso hy asivo matto matta-jana-priyah
patih pramatha-nathanam tamo-matratmakatmanam
He lives in filthy places like crematoriums, and his companions are the ghosts and demons. Naked like a madman, sometimes laughing and sometimes crying, he smears crematorium ashes all over his body. He does not bathe regularly, and he ornaments his body with a garland of skulls and bones. Therefore only in name is he Shiva, or auspicious; actually, he is the most mad and inauspicious creature. Thus, he is very dear to crazy beings in the gross mode of ignorance, and he is their leader.
As per Brahma Samhita (5.10), Lord Shambu’s eternal consort is Durgadevi or Mayadevi (he is the male generative organ as Shivalinga and she is the female procreating organ as Yoni). His primary associates are ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, demons and other subtle elemental species.
Lord Shiva has two sons, namely Ganesha and Kartikeya, and a bull named Nandi, who is very dear to him. As a result of which, he is also addressed as Nandishwara or Master of the bull, Nandi.
As per Srimad Bhagwatam (4.6.32-33), Lord Shiva resides under a banyan tree on Kailasha Mountain. That banyan tree is 800 miles (1,287km) high and 600 miles (965km) wide. The description of Kailasha has been vividly described in some of the verses (4.6.9-23), and is full of a variety of fruitful trees and herbal plants, with a lake that surrounds the mountain in which Devi Parvati takes her bath.
QUALITIES OF LORD SHIVA
Lord Shiva is called Shiva because he is all auspicious. The meaning of Shiva is auspicious. Since he is a devout devotee of Lord Vishnu, he is a reservoir of all the good qualities (Srimad Bhagwatam 5.18.12). As mentioned in Bhakti Rasamrita Sindhu, the supreme personality of godhead has 64 qualities. Out of them 50 are common in all living entities. But Lord Shiva has 55 qualities, which are common with the supreme lord and, hence, he cannot be considered an ordinary jivatma.
As described in Srimad Bhagwatam (4.6.34-40):
1. Lord Shiva is brave and saintly.
2. He is situated in his perfection as the master of the senses, knowledge, fruitive activities and the path of achieving perfection.
3. He is the friend of the entire world, and by virtue of his full affection for everyone, he is very auspicious.
WHOM DOES SHIVA MEDITATE UPON
Lord Shiva is described as meditating and absorbed in trance. Now, the question arises that on whom does he meditate? The shastras give varieties of explanations and if seen properly, they all are correct and the same. According to the shastras, they say that he is Swaatmarama Rameti. This clearly indicates that he meditates upon his own soul. And as per the Brahma Samhita, his soul is Sankarshana.
On the other hand, as per the authority of Srimad Bhagwatam (8.12.44 and 5.7.16), Garuda Puran (1.2.12), Shankara Gita (6), Padma puran (71.113), Sammohan tantra (16), Brahma Vaivarta puran (Krishna Janma Khand 36.79), Narada Pancharatra (1.3.38) and Varaha Purana (73.3), it has been clearly established that Lord Shiva worships Lord Krishna.
HOW TO PLEASE LORD SHIVA?
Lord Shiva is a great devotee of Lord Vishnu (Srimad Bhagwatam 12.13.16) and, hence, when one tries to please Lord Vishnu, he is automatically pleased. Gangajal, Bilva, Dhatura, Bhanga and Panchamrita are very dear to him. He can be easily be pleased by fasting on Mondays and the auspicious month of Shravan.