Shiva Maha Purana
Another False Parvati
This is an incident from the time when Parvati went away to do tapasya so as to become fair. Before going away to meditate, she called Nandi to her and said, My husband does not know the difference between real Parvatis and false ones. Keep careful guard at the gate and do not let any false Parvatis enter.
There was an asura named Adi. He performed tapasya and wanted a boon from Brahma which would make him immortal. Brahma refused to grant him this, but granted him the boon that Adi would be very strong. Happy with this boon, Adi wandered around the Himalayas and discovered Nadi standing guard at the gate to Shiva’s palace.
What are you doing here? the asura asked Nandi.
Nandi reported the conversation that had taken place with Parvati.
The demon went away. But he soon returned, this time disguised as Parvati. Lest Nandi not let him pass, he slimed through the gate disguised as a snake. And once inside the palace, he resumed his form of Parvati. He then went to meet Shiva. Shiva did not realize that this was a false Parvati and he came forward to embrace Adi. But no sooner had Shiva embraced him, than the asura adopted his own form and tried to kill Shiva. The two fought and Shiva killed Adi. But before dying, the asura played another trick.
He told Shiva, I have a brother who is stronger than me. He will return here in the form of Parvati and will kill you. This was a blatant lie. Adi had no brother.
The real Parvati returned after finishing her tapasya. But Shiva thought that this was demon disguised as Parvati. He created many beings from his body so as to kill Parvati. But Parvati also created many beings from her own body and these swallowed up Shiva’s beings. When this had gone on thousands of times. Shiva realized that this must be the real Paravati.
Shiva and Parvati were united.
There were not more false Parvatis.
The sage Sanathkumara was Brahma’s son, Sanathumara had gone to visit Yama, the god of death. While they were conversing, a shining vimana brought a man to Yama who immediately stood up to honour the guest.
Yama worshipped him and said, I am honoured. I hope you had no problems on the way. The vimana will take you to Brahma’s residence in Brahmaloka.
After this guest had left, another shining vimana brought another guest who was also worshipped in similar fashion by Yama.
Sanatkumara was mystified at this. He asked Yama, Who are these two people? I have never heard of Yama worshipping anyone in such glowing terms. These two must be holy men indeed. They must have accumulated a lot of punya. Who are they? Tell me their stories.
There was a city named Vaidisha. The king who ruled there was named Dharapal. Nandi was cursed by Parvati that he would have to spend twelve years on earth as a jackal. His crime was that, when Parvati had gone to perform tapasya, Nandi had permitted a false Parvati to enter Shiva’s palace. Nandi was born as a jackal. The jackal went to the confluence of the rivers Vitasta and Vetravati. There it set up a linga and prayed before it, going without food and water. After the twelve years passed, the jackal died and adopted a shining form. In this form, Nandi returned to Shivaloka.
King Dharapala had seen the jackal fasting and praying. He also witnessed its strange death. The king’s wonder knew no bounds. He erected a temple in that wonderful place. He brought several brahmanas to the temple and made them recite the Puranas there. When Dharapala died, it was decided that he would go to Brahmaloka because of all this punya. This was the first guest who had come before Yama. Such are the wonderful virtues of worshipping Shiva and the Puranas.
What about the second guest? asked Sanatkumara.
The second quest used to be evil. He had never donated anything in his life. But he once heard the Paranas being recited and was completely converted. He arranged many recitals of the Puranas on his own and donated gold to the reciters.
This punya was going to take him to Brahmaloka. Such are the wonderful virtues of hearing and reading the Puranas. Doing this is tantamount to worshipping Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
Shatanika and Shasranika
In the region named Jambudvipa, there used to rule a king named Shatanika. He was the best among warriors. But he was also very religious. He donated alms and treated his guests well. Every day, the brahmanas received gold and clothes from Shatanika. When Shatanika died, his son Sahasranika became king.
Sahasranika also ruled well and righteously. But he did not donate as much of alms to the brahmanas as his father used to. They took their complaint to the king and said, You do not give as much of alms to us as your father used to. Many brahmanas have already left your kingdom. So will the others, unless you increase the alms you give us.
I have indeed heard that the donation of alms to brahmanas brings punya, replied Sahasranika. I have also heard that all this punya takes one to heaven after death, until the time one has to be born again. Since my father accumulated all this punya by donating alms to brahmanas, he must be in heaven. You are all learned brahmanas. Why don’t you tell me where my father is right now?
The brahmanas could not reply. They had no idea where Shatanika was. But later on, they met a learned sage named Bhargava. Bhargava was so powerful that the brahmanas were sure that he would be able to tell where Shatinika was. They begged Bhargava to help them. Bharagava was not very interested in helping the brahmanas. He was busy meditating and had no desire to waste his time on idle pursuits like finding out where dead people now were. But the brahmanas kept begging him and Bhargava eventually agreed.
The sun god himself led the way and, following the sun god, Bhargava went all the way to Yama’s abode. It was a long distance away.
The sun god led Bhargava straight to where the twenty-eight crores of narakas (hells) were. The wailings of sinners who were being tortured could be heard. Before they could go any further, their way was barred by a brahmana.
Bhargava, said the brahmana, You owe me a coin for services rendered. You have not paid this and I am dead. Pay me the coin and only then can you proceed further.
I am not carrying any coins on me, replied Bhargava. When I return home, I will collect a coin and bring it back to you. Now let me move forward.
Nonsense, said the brahmana. This is hell. Here payments are strictly on a cash basis. There is no question of paying up later. Pay or you shall not proceed. If you do not have any coins, why then , pay me one-sixth of all the punya that you have earned through your mediations.
Bhargava paid what was asked for and edged forward. He was successively stopped by a cowherd, a washerman, a tailor, a priest and a builder. To each of them Bhargava owed some money and they would not let him go until the debts were cleared. In each case, Bhargava parted with one-sixth of his punya so that he was left with none at all.
When these accounts were settled, the sun god led Bhargava to the hell where Shatanika was. Bhargava was bewildered to find such a righteous king as Shatanika in a hell. The king was hung upside down in a pot and was being boiled in oil.
Bhargava asked Shatanika, What is all this? Why are you in hell? You had accumulated a lot of punya through your righteous deeds.
Not really, replied the king. I did donate a lot of alms, especially to brahmanas. But all the money for the alms came from taxing my subjects severely. So it brought no punya at all. Go and tell my son that punya is best acquired by associating with righteous people. And most important of all, tell him to pray to Shiva in the month of Chaitra and on chaturdashi tithi (fourteenth day of the lunar fortnight).
When Bhargava returned, he related what he had been told to Sahasranika. Sahasranika did not stop donating alms. But the money for such alms no longer came out of the royal treasury. The king worked as a labourer and used this money for the donation of alms. He also observed the vrata that his father had asked him to observe in honour of Shiva.