In the entire Vedic pantheon, there is nobody quite like Lord Shiva. He is the foremost Yogi, the detached vairagi, the supremely sacrificing tyagi; the one who has completely mastered His senses.
Nothing can bind him, lure him, contain him.
… Except, love.
According to an ancient legend recorded in the Shiva Puranas, creation had just taken place and Goddess Earth beamed radiantly, for she was the new mother of this exquisite creation. The human race thrived and all sentient beings lived in perfect harmony together. A sacred lightness in the air made creatures love and care for each other naturally. Their prayers of gratitude easily reached the heavens above, for their crystal-clear hearts were filled with the light of truth.
However, as time passed and the three modes of material nature came into play,of Sattva (mode of goodness), Rajas (mode of passion) and Tamas (mode of ignorance), a slow decay started to take place in the collective consciousness of men.
As the dark age descended upon them, the foreboding Kaliyuga, brought with it a thick impenetrable cloud of ignorance that covered their minds like soot and snuffed out their connection with the Divine.
They forgot their true nature as beings of light and they could no longer perceive the beauty and blessings that surrounded them.
Blinded by ego and material hunger, they lost their moral compass, integrity and inner strength. Most people looked out for their own selfish needs, stepping over others conveniently, squishing them over like rotten fruit.
Finally, when she could take it no longer, the arms of tired, burdened Mother Earth went up, who now looked haggard, even regretful, for her offspring were men with dark, sinful hearts, who walked her expanse destroying, plundering everything in their wake. She raised her hands heavenward and folded them, as a final plea for help and redemption.
The Gods above taking note, immediately flew to see Lord Brahma, who equally puzzled, took them to see Lord Vishnu at his abode in Vaikuntha.
In the Vedic culture, Brahma represents creation, Vishnu represents sustenance and Shiva or Rudra represents destruction. This is the cyclical sequence that keeps the order in the world of form.
As they neared the blue, majestic outline of Lord Narayana resting calmly on the infinite waters of Ksheersagara, for a moment the glorious, shimmering sight made everybody forget why they were there, as they admired his form and felt his grace touch their hearts.
However, as the resplendent Lotus-eyed Lord looked at them, inquiringly, The devatas folded their hands and pleaded, “Oh most auspicious Lord Padmanabha, the human race is suffering and the earth can barely take it anymore. We need you to create something to restore balance on this planet. Lord Shiva is so engrossed in his Samadhi, for he has found the inner bliss of yoga. But, we need him to understand the challenges of human beings and help them out..how can we do this?”
Lord Vishnu pondered over this for a few seconds and then looked over at Brahma, with a dazzling smile. As if the answer struck them both at the exact same moment, they declared in unison, “Shiva needs to get married!”
A surprised hush fell over the crowd of devatas, some nervously cleared their throats and coughed, as they could barely imagine solitary, tapasvi Shiva, settling down with a wife in holy matrimony as a householder. It was simply unthinkable, even laughable, but they kept their thoughts to themselves.
As the party of Gods approached the scintillating snow-glazed peaks of Shiva’s abode, Mount Kailasha, flying down on their winged mounts and chariots, they were entranced at the sight of the magnificent Mahayogi, who came into view from a distance; a striking vision of calm, beauty and grace.
The handsome God was sitting as still as the mountain he meditated on. Only the air rang with the rapture and purity of his penance and permeated their being. The sacred ash from his body flew about in the air, mixed with the snowflakes and landed on the Gods, softly like blessings, even as the snow that had settled on Lord Shiva’s perfect form melted away, as it made contact with his lustrous skin, burning from the heat of his searing tapasya.
They all approached Lord Shiva tiptoeing around him cautiously and sang his glories, to rouse him gently. Lord Shiva opened his intoxicated eyes, pleased to see them and asked them in his deep, sonorous voice, “What brings you here to my abode Vishnu? Brahma? Is everything alright?”
Brahma spoke first, “Oh Mahakal, Lord of all the worlds, the earth awaits you to aid with transformation, so new creation can take place. Humans need you to understand their challenges and so we thought you should..you could, perhaps…”
He trailed off mid-sentence not quite knowing how to complete it, for fear of annoying the Lord with his words and potentially being a recipient of his destructive wrath, which he was no stranger to. He had already lost one of his heads to Sadashiva in an earlier manifestation. He hesitated, and Lord Vishnu stepped in, continuing calmly, “You need to get married Shiva.”
Shiva arched one eyebrow on his perfectly chiselled face, and not in the least angry, partially amused, he responded, “As that may be the case Vishnu, I am not interested. I love my freedom. I am an ascetic that wanders about with wild abandon, meditating in cremation grounds, on mountains, in dark caves and dangerous forests. Not a care in the world, I roam unfettered by worldly responsibilities. I’m sitting here, my body smeared with ash from funeral pyres. Not exactly husband material, now am I? What will a consort do with somebody like me, who has no needs, desires or a permanent residence even? It sounds ridiculous. You all have consorts, but I don’t need one.”
Lord Vishnu retorted in an authoritative, parental tone, “Shiva, your role is going to be incomplete. You need to have a consort, it’s the only way to fulfill your dharma.”
Never able to deny granting a wish or request for too long, especially from Lord Narayana, Shiva relented and said with a charming smile, “As you wish Vishnu, but I have four conditions for the woman I seek. If she fulfills these conditions, then by all means. I will get married…”
“What are the conditions Shiva, let’s hear it?”,the Gods asked loudly all together, barely able to suppress their excitement to have wiggled that promise out of the ascetic ash-smeared God.
Shiva said, “Deep in my heart, I know I am a yogi and I am going to remain one forever. So, my first condition is that whenever I am a yogi, she should also be a Yogini…okay?”
“Okay, sure, easy, done!” they replied excitedly, thinking of all the lovely Yoginis they knew of.. what is the second condition?
Lord Mahadeva added, “My second condition is that if sometimes I feel like playing and sporting in the realm of Kama, then she should become a woman too. When I act like a man, she should be a woman.”
“Yes, totally, we understand”, said the smiling devatas exchanging furtive glances. What else do you want in your perfect wife Shiva?
Shiva went on, “My third condition is that when I am sitting in Samadhi, she must never break it. Even a slight ripple in my consciousness at that time can cause great destruction in the Universe. So, she must never question what I’m doing or disturb me, in order to spend time with her or something of the sort.”
The Gods looked baffled now and their smiling faces started to drop. They had cheered and congratulated each other initially when Shiva had agreed to tie the knot, but now it felt with each passing condition, like they had been tricked and were actually the ones getting twisted into a knot.
And my final condition, Shiva said, “The day she stops trusting me, I will abandon her. If there is even a fraction of a moment where she does not believe what I am telling her, because I only speak the truth, that’ll be the time to part ways – I will end it!”
Brahma looked at Vishnu, stumped – they exchanged thoughts, “What in the three worlds is Shiva thinking? Such a woman does not exist anywhere! The all-knowing Shiva, he’s never been married, so he doesn’t know the reality.”
Lord Shiva caught the thought wave and chuckled quietly to himself, waiting eagerly to return to the fountain of yogic bliss bubbling up inside him.
Lord Brahma spoke at last, “Lord Mahadeva, there is no woman like this anywhere, only a manifestation of your own energy can fulfil all these conditions. Only Mother Divine, that pure energy of Sri Ma, that is going to emerge from within you – only she can be like you, because what you are essentially looking for is an equal alliance.There is nobody like you on the outside!”
Lord Brahma spoke these words matter-of-fact and walked away to counsel with Lord Vishnu and all the other Gods, whispering, strategising in a corner.
Shiva closed his eyes, for a magnetic pull within him, beckoned urgently. He felt a force so intense rising up inside his body, the sound of the feminine seed syllable, “hrim” resounding in his being, making his heart beat fast, sounding very much like the beats of the damru tied to his trident.
In a blinding flash of light, he found the most beautiful pair of dark, doe-like eyes of a woman looking up at him with love and longing, that lit up the whole Universe inside him like a billion stars. It felt like he was looking at his own reflection. She was breathtaking.
Unsettled by this vision, and the intense feeling bubbling up in his heart, Mahayogi Shiva, still attached to his asceticism and solitude, tried to shake it off, but he couldn’t.
As the fog cleared in his vast consciousness, he found himself in a magnificent palace on a planet two billion light years away from Kailasha, walking down the familiar lanes of memory and time, and then it all came back to him, as he heard the the mellifluous sounds of Devi’s anklets, the tinkling of her bangles which could be heard at her slightest movement.
It was Chintamani Gruha, the royal abode of the Goddess of the Universe, his eternal consort. She stood before him smiling, radiant, youthful, as he walked towards her with powerful strides.Overwhelming love emerged from the depths of his being for the Empress of his heart.
He heard her irresistible voice call out to him sweetly, “Nath, you’re here…”, Just as he reached her to hold her in his arms, the vision broke and he exclaimed out loud in frustration,“Oh Varanane…”, as he found himself back on Kailasha, sitting in front of all the perplexed Gods, staring at him.
Just then Brahma snapped him out of his reverie and misery, as he reminded him, “Lord, do you remember, my son Daksha had attained a boon from Goddess Bhavani herself, to have her be born in his home as his daughter and then get her married to you? Her name is Sati, the Devi herself has manifested in human form and she has spent all her days praying to you, devoted only to you..and she awaits you.She will fulfil the role of being your wife, just fine!”
Lord Shiva contained his excitement, and needed no further prompts, as he manifested in a most splendid form of light in front of Sati; she who awaited his darshan every second of every day, since the day she was born.
They were married and united on the auspicious night of Mahashivratri, celebrating the purest love there is.
And the rest as they say, is history…
Shivratri is the night Shiva invoked his own energy, his subtlest inner aspect of Mahadevi, the embodiment of love, for the greater good of mankind.
And that’s the secret to real love; it doesn’t exist anywhere on the outside, because it lives deep within us, as us!
It emerges naturally from within when you put kindness out into the world towards others, and that energy gets reflected back to you in your own heart, as love, for yourself.
For, when you are truly in love with yourself, you are in love with everybody.
The Shiva Lingam represents the subtlest aspect of Shiva and His union with Shakti. Invoke the powerful energy of love within yourself, with an Abhishekam of the Shiva lingam on the Sadhana App, this Mahashivaratri.