Tuesday 10 July 2007

Ardhanareeswara

(A form of Siva – half man and half woman)

ONCE UPON A time on Mount Kailas, the mountain of delight, the great Lord Siva and Goddess Parvati were sitting on a resplendent throne. The place was filled with the scent of fine flowers and incense. After granting the boons desired by devas, rishis and other hosts of devotees, and dismissing them, Lord Siva rejoiced in the company of Goddess Uma (Parvati). The great God pleased Goddess Uma who was as beautiful as goddess Rati and full of auspicious qualities and noble traits. In a joyous mood the Goddess, who thought that her Lord’s attention was entirely centred on her, slipped playfully behind Him and in sport covered fondly the three eyes of Sambhu, the Lord of the World, with her two hands resembling lotus petals and asked merrily, “who is it?”

As soon as His three eyes (the Moon, the Sun and Fire) were covered a dismal darkness spread over the universe for millions of years, because half a trice for Siva is aeons for us. The darkness produced by the playfulness of the Goddess proved to be the cause of the untimely destruction of the worlds, for in the dense darkness no activities were possible and consequently living beings perished without giving birth to new generations. Seeing this state of affairs, the ever glorious Siddhas approached Sambhu with devotion and prayed to Him for the well-being of the universe. In response to this prayer of devotees and Siddhas, Lord Siva, the embodiment of compassion, said, “Gowri! Leave my eyes alone”. Immediately the Goddess removed the obstruction to the Moon, Sun and Fire in the form of the eyes of Hara. Light returned to the worlds. The Lord then asked the Siddhas, who stood in an attitude of worship, “How much time has elapsed?” and they replied, “Half a second for you and millions of years for us”. On hearing this the Lord, who is an ocean of compassion, turned with a smile to his beloved and graciously spoke some words on dharma and artha. “It is not proper that you, who are the Mother of the world, should do anything to dissolve it. At the appointed time only I am the one to do so. You have by your folly produced an untimely dissolution. How can you, the embodiment of love, perform acts which cause pain to your creation? You, who are compassion itself, should not even for sport do anything to hurt others”.

On hearing Sambhu’s words, Uma was struck with remorse and prayed to know what she could do in expiation of this fault of hers. At this Lord Siva was pleased with the repentance and devotion of the Goddess and said, “What penance can be prescribed for you leaving me out? Besides you follow the path of dharma. Therefore I shall prescribe a penance for you in accordance with prevailing practice. You may perform meritorious acts for the welfare of karma bhoomi (the earth, which is said to be the place most suited for performing religious rites). People will acquire firm faith in dharma by seeing your method of doing penance. There is no doubt about it. Your grace will make the earth realize its goal, which is the maintenance of dharma, Goddess! The timeless Vedas declare you to be the All. The city known as Kancheepuri is heaven on earth. A little penance done there yields boundless results. I shall remain there in the lotus of your heart in my formless state as the Absolute Pure Being. Therefore you need not suffer the pangs of separation from me”. On hearing this, the Goddess at once proceeded southwards with her companions.

At that time, in the kingdom of Kasi there was famine for want of rain, and the people were suffering greatly as they could not get food. Seeing this on her way and taking pity on the people, Devi created a big mansion by Her mere wish, took the name of Annapurna and, with a vessel which never became empty, fed thousands of people. Before long Her fame spread throughout the country.

Meanwhile the king himself found that his granary had become empty and was wondering what to do. When he heard of the poor-feeding that was being done by this lady Annapurna, he was greatly surprised at the ability of a mere woman and, to test her, asked for the loan of few measures of rice. He received a reply saying that there was no question of lending but that he could come there to eat. With a wish to test her ability, the king and his ministers went there in disguise and ate the food that was given. When the king found the inexhaustibility of the food that was being served all round, he immediately realised that this could not be done by any human agency but only by divine power.

Therefore, after the meal, he went and fell at the feet of Annapurna and prayed, “Great Mother, please bless us and grant us deliverance”. Pleased with his devotion, the Divine Mother assumed her original form and said, “My son, I am pleased with your devotion. As I have stayed here so long, your country will be relieved of the evils of drought. You will now have rain and there will be no famine. I cannot stay here any longer. I must go south for my penance. Rule the people well and be happy”. The king prayed, “Even so, You should be available to us for our worship”. So the Mother agreed and left. That is the reason why She manifested herself as ANNAPURNA, and the place where She was, is now famous as the Temple of Annapurna.

From there She went to Kancheepuram in the South. There She saw the pure and holy waters of the Kampa and began to practise austerities on the river bank. She put aside Her various ornaments and instead wore beads of rudraksha. She threw away Her fine clothes and wore for garments the bark of trees, and smeared her entire body with holy ashes. She lived on ears of corn picked by Herself and always repeated the name of Siva. Thrice a day (morning, noon and evening) She bathed in the Kampa, and lovingly shaped its sand into a Linga. Full of devotion she worshipped it with leaves as traditionally prescribed. She respectfully welcomed the holy sages (maharshis) who came to see Her. The sages were filled with wonder at Her austerities.

On one occasion she had collected and cleaned the flowers from the forest. Repeating mantras She began to worship the Linga made of sand, on the bank of the Kampa, in the agamic way. Siva wished to test her devotion and so made the waters of the Kampa rise and overflow its banks. Seeing a huge flood approaching, Her companions warned Devi, who opened Her eyes and saw the river in spate. Distressed at this obstacle to Her worship, She at once embraced the Linga lest it should crumble away and said to them, “What to do? Worship in progress cannot be stopped, come what may. Only those who have acquired merit can bring to completion their good actions in this world and practise the dharma which is capable of fulfilling the desires of the heart. The Sivalinga is made of sand. It will dissolve in the flood. If a Linga is to be destroyed, a true devotee should also perish with it. This flood has risen up through the maya of Siva to test the sincerity of my devotion. I will continue without the least fear. Friends! Go away quickly!” Saying this, Ambika did not abandon the Linga which she was embracing, even though she was fast being surrounded by water. She devoutly adored the great Linga, clasped it to her heart, and with open eyes meditated on Sadasiva with one pointed devotion.

Then a divine voice from the sky spoke: “Girl! This great flood has subsided. You can now leave the Linga, noblest of beings! This Linga worshipped by you will achieve everlasting fame as the one worshipped by the gods and capable of granting boons. May your penance be successful! May human beings who see and worship this Linga – established for the maintenance of dharma – attain the goal of their lives! I myself shine on this earth in the form of the effulgent Arunachala for the liberation of mortals. Since it removes the cruel heap of sins from all the worlds, and since bondage becomes non- existent when one sees it, it is named Arunachala (the Hill that destroys bondage). Rishis, Siddhas, Gandharvas, Yogis etc., come here and fervently worship it, forsaking the peaks of Kailas and Mount Meru. You may go there and learn from the Sage Gautama about devotion to me and about the glory of Arunachala, and do more penance. I shall reveal to you my effulgent form there in order that all the sins (of the world) may be destroyed and all the worlds prosper”.

On hearing these words which came from Siva in His formless state, Devi said, “So be it”, and started at once for Arunachala. Turning to the rishis who wished to follow Her, She said, “Perform your austerities on the banks of the sacred Kampa. This Linga of sand, which removes all sins and brings in all kinds of prosperity, bears the marks of my embrace. Worship it. Let my devotees know that I shall be worshipped as Kamakshi, since I fulfil their desires and bless them. Let them worship me and obtain the boons they desire.”

She then came to Arunachala. The Goddess saw Siddhas, yogis, rishis and devas there. All the Maharshis begged Her to be their guest, but She said that She must see Gautama according to Siva’s command. So they directed Her to his ashram. Devi then went to the Gautama Ashram at the foot of the Coral Hill (pavalakunru). Satananda, the son of Gautama, saw Her and full of devotional fervour invited and worshipped Her as prescribed and requested Her to stay on while he went to the forest to bring his father, Gautama, who had gone to fetch Kusa grass. By that time Gautama had already started for home and when Satananda saw him, he ran to his father with great excitement and told him that the Divine Mother had come to their ashram. The whole forest in the twinkling of an eye became green and full of flowers and fruits. Gautama was surprised and asked his son if it was really so. Satananda with a faltering voice said, “Mother Parvati Herself has come.” Equally thrilled and elated, Gautama hastened to the place, saw Parvati and worshipped Her. After Devi performed penance for a long time according to the instructions of Gautama, Mahadeva finally appeared before Her and said that He would grant Her whatever boon she asked for. With great respect Devi prayed that She should become half of Siva Himself saying, “I cannot live any longer with a separate body, for if separate, I may make another mistake like this and then shall have to undergo all the hardships of penance and suffer the pangs of separation”.

Parameswara therefore acceded to Her request and so united with Her as ARDHANAREESWARA (the Lord with a half- female form). This is how Amba, the Mother of the universe, became one half of Siva.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

HARA HARA MAHADEVA SHAMBO