Shiva Maha Purana

In the city of Avanti there used to be a righteous brahmana. He had two sons, Sunidhi and Vedanidhi. Vedanidhi was wicked.

The king of Avanti was so pleased with the brahmana that he gave him a golden bangle as a present. The brahmana took it home and gave it to his wife to store safely. There it was discovered by Vedanidhi. Vedanidhi stole the ornament and gave it to a dancing-girl.

It so happened that the king was watching a dance performed by the dancing-girl and he noticed the bangle on the girl’s hand. He found out from the girl that the bangle had been given to her by Vedanidhi. He retrieved the bangle and called the brahmana. Do you remember the golden bangle that I had give you? said the king. Can you please return it to me? I need it.

The brahmana hurried home and asked his wife for the bangle. But it could not be found and they realized that it was Vedanidhi who had stolen it. Vedanidhi was banished from his parents’ house.

He wandered around here and there and begged food so that he might eat. One day, he did not get any food at all. That day happened to be shivaratri. But Vedanidhi didn’t know this. He saw several people going to Shiva’s temple with all sorts of offerings, including food, in their hands. The evil brahmana thought that he might be able to steal and eat this food. He followed the devotees to the temple and waited till they should fall asleep.

When they did so, Vedanidhi crept up to the place where the offerings had been placed. This was right in front of the linga. It was very dark there and Vedanidhi could not see very well. A lamp was burning and the shadow of the lamp fell on the linga. Vedanidhi tore off a piece of cloth from his clothing and stuffed it into the lamp so that it might burn better. The flame rose and the shadow on the linga was removed.

But when Vedanidhi was about to steal the food, the devotees awoke. They gave chase to the thief and shot at him with arrows. These arrow struck Vedanidhi and he died. Yama’s messengers arrived and wanted to take the evil brahmana to hell. But Shiva’s companions also arrived and they would not permit Vedanidhi to be taken to hell. The brahmana had fasted on shivaratri day, he stay awake at night and he had removed the shadow from the linga. These were acts of the faithful, even if they had been performed unconsciously. Vedanidhi’s sins were all forgiven.

Parvati once asked Shiva, Lord, tell me, why do you wear a crescent moon on your forehead? What is the story behind this?

Shiva told her the story.

Earlier, Parvati had been born as Sati, the daughter of Daksha. As Sati, she had been married to Shiva. Since Daksha insulted her husband Shiva, Sati gave up her life. When Sati died, Shiva no longer found pleasure in anything. He began to live in the forest and started to perform tapasya. Such was the power of the tapasya that any trees or mountains that were near the place where Shiva was meditating used to be burnt into ashes. As Shiva moved from place to place, the earth started to burn and wither away . The gods were greatly alarmed at these developments. They went to Brahma to seek advice as to how the earth might be saved.

Brahma, said, Let us take the moon god Chandra with us and make a present of him to Shiva. Chandra’s visage is so pleasing that Shiva may feel happy and pacified. The gods placed Chandra in a pot of amrita (a life-giving drink). They also had another pot that was full of poison. With these two pots they went to Shiva and offered him the pots.

Brahma said, The gods have brought you two pots. Please accept them.

Shiva first accepted the pot that contained the amrita. As soon as he did this, the crescent moon came out and got fixed to Shiva’s forehead. Next Shiva accept the pot of poison and touched it with his middle finger. He touched his throat with the finger and the throat became blue. That is the reason why Shiva is known as Nilakantha, blue of throat. And because the moon is like a crown to Shiva. Shiva is called Chandrashekhara.

At the sight of the moon, Shiva was pacified.

The Ashes
Parvati said, I understand about the moon now. But why do you always smear ashes on your body? What is the reason for that?

Shiva told her the story.
There used to be a brahmana who was descended from the great sage Bhrigu. This brahmana began a very difficult tapasya. The tremendous heat of the summer made no difference to him. Nor was he disturbed by the downpour of the monsoon. He was only interested in meditating. When he felt hungry, he used to ask the bears, the deer, the lions and the jackals to fetch him some fruits. The wild beasts had lost all fear of him, they served him instead. Later on, the brahmana gave up eating fruits also. He ate only green leaves. And because leaves are called parna, the brahmana came to be known as Parnada. He performed tapasya for many years.

One day, Parnada was cutting some grass and his scythe slipped and sliced off his middle finger. Parnada was amazed to find that no blood issued from the severed joint. Instead, a sap like that which issues from plants came out. Parnada’s vanity knew no bounds. He realized that his was due to the fact that he had been living on green leaves for such long time. Parnada began to jump with delight.

Shiva decided that Parnada needed to be taught a lesson. He disguised himself as a brahmana and arrived before Parnada.
Why are you so happy? asked Shiva.

Can’t you see? replied Parnada. My tapasya has been so successful that my blood has become like the sap of plants.

This sort of vantiy destroys the fruits of all tapasya, said Shiva. What have you got to be so proud about? Your blood has only turned into the sap of plants. What happens when you burn plants? They become ashes. I myself have performed so much tapasya that my blood has becomes ashes.

Shiva sliced off his middle finger and ashes came out of it. Parnada was impressed. He realized that there was nothing that he could be proud about; here was a far greater hermit than he. He asked Shiva who he was and Shiva then displayed his true form to Parnada.

Ever since that day, there have always been ashes on Shiva’s body.

There was a sage named Shilada. He once saw that his ancestors were being tortured in hell. When he tried to find out why this was so, he was told that htis was because Shilada did not yet have a son.

To obtain a son, Shilada began to pray to Shiva. He prayed for a thousand years. At the end of the tapasya, Shiva appeared and offered to grant Shilada a boon. Shilada wanted the boon that he might have a virtuous son.

A few days later, when Shilada was ploughing the land, he discovered a baby boy on the blade of theplough. The boy was as bright as the sun and the fire. Shilada was frightened and started to run away. But the boy called after him, Father, stop. Father, stop, A voice was then heard from the sky. This voice told Shilada that this was the son he had wanted. Since this son would make everyone happy, he was to be named Nandi.

Shilada brought nandi home to his mermitage. He taught his son the Vedas, the arts of the medicine and fighting, dancing and singing and several other sacred texts. All this Nandi mastered within fifteen days.

When nandi was seven years old, two powerful sages arrived in Shilada’s hermitage. Their names were Mitra and Varuna. Shilada worshipped them and presented Nandi before them. The sages blessed Nandi with the words, Be learned, be faithful to your teacher.

Shilada said, Sages, why didn’t you bless my son with a long life?

We couldn’t, replied the sages. Your son is going to die when he is eight years old. That is written in his stars.

Shilada was crestfallen to hear this, but Nandi consoled his father. He promised his father that he would do something so tha this fate would have to be rewritten. He would pray to Shiva. And when he met Shiva, he would ask of him a boon.

Meeting Shiva, exclaimed Shilada. I had to meditate for a thousand years before I could get to meet Shiva. How do you expect to meet Shiva in the one year tha tis left to you?’

Wait and see, father, replied Nandi. Shiva is difficult to meet if you only perform tapasya or thirst for knowledge. The secret lies in faith and devotion. I will manage. There is a river named Bhuvana. Nandi entered this river and began underwater prayers to Shiva . His efforts pleased Shiva so much that Shiva appeared before him. What boon do you want? asked Shiva.

Please grant me the boon that I may be devote to you, replied Nandi. I don’t want to be born become old and die.

Shiva granted Nandi the boon tha the and his father would get to live in Shiva’s residence in Shivaloka. Shiva’s companions are known as ?ganas. Shiva made Nandi ganapati, the chief of the ganas and retained him as a perpetu ? companion. Shiva also gave Nandi a wonderful garland to wear. As soon as he put this garland on, Nandi became resplendent with three eyes and ten hands.

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