Shiva Maha Purana
The smallest unit of time is nimesha. This is the amount of time it takes to blink. Fifteen nimeshas make one kashtha and thirty kashthas are one kala. Thirty kalas make one muhurta and thirty muhurtas are one day. Thirty days are one month. Each month is divided into two lunar fortnights, shukapaksha and krishnapaksha. Six months are called an ayana. There are thus two ayanas in a year. Three hundred and sixty human years are equivalent to one year for the gods.
The lengths of the four yugas (eras) are defined in terms of years of the gods, not in terms of human years. There are four eras and their names are kritayuga or satyayuga, tretayuga, dvaparayuga and kaliyuga. Satyayuga lasts for four thousand divine years, tretayuga for three thousand, dvaparayuga for two thousand and kaliyuga for one thousand. This adds up to ten thousand divine years. The sandhyas and sandhyamshas are the intervening periods between the yugas and these add up to two thousand divine years. Thus, the four yugas taken together last for twelve thouand divine years.
In a kalpa (cycle), each of the four yugas occurs a thousand times. A kalpa has fourteen manvantaras (eras). In a manvantara, each of the four yugas thus occurs seventy one times. One kalpa corresponds to one day for Brahma. One thousand kalpas are one of Brahma’s years and eight thousand of Brahma’s years make one of Brahma’s yugas. One thousand such yugas make up one savana and Brahma lives for three thousand savanas. This period is known as a trivrita.
During each of Vishnu’s days, one Brahma is born and dies. And during each of Shiva’s days, one Vishnu is born and dies.
The sages aid, Romaharshana, you have not told us the story of the quarrel between Daksha and Shiva which led to Sati’s death. You have only mentioned it in passing. Tell us the story now.
Romaharshana related the following story.
Daksha’s daughter Sati was married to Shiva. One day, the gods, the demons and the sages went to visit Shiva and Sati in the Himalyas. Daksha accompanied the other gods on this visit. When the gods arrived, Shiva was seated and did not get up. He showed no special honour to Daksha because Daksha happened to be his father-in-law. Daksha interpreted this as a sign of disrespect. He felt insulted.
Subsequently, Daksha arranged for a yajna and sent invitations to all his other sons-in-law and their wives. He did not invite Shiva or Sati. But Sati heard about the sacrifice and resolved that she would attend it, invitiation or no invitation. In a beautiful vimana, Sati travelled to her father’s house.
Daksha was not at all pleased to see Sati. In fact, he ignored her completely and devoted all his attention to his other daughters. When Sati wished to know the reason for this, Daksha told her that this was because of her husband, who happened to be a worthless fellow and did not deserve any respect. Hearing this, Sati gave up her life.
The mountain Himalaya had prayed that Sati might be born as his daughter. Sati was born as his daughter Parvati and married Shiva again. This story you already know.
Several years later, Daksha resolved to hold an ashvamedha yajna (horse sacrifice) in the Himalayas. The gods and the sages were all invited to this sacrifices, although Shiva was not amongst the invites. The sage Dadhichi did not like this slight to Shiva and he boycotted the yajna in protest.
Parvati heard about this sacrifice and she began to incite Shiva to do something. Shiva created a being named Virabhadhra. Virabhadhra shone with energy and he had thousands of mouths and eyes. His hair glistened like lighting and his hands were full of all sorts of weapons. When he spoke, it was like thunder. From his body, Virabhadra created a female demon named Bhadrakali.
What are our orders?, asked Virabhadra and Bhadrakali of Shiva.
Go and destroy Daksha’s yajna, was the order.
To help them in their endeavour, Virabhadra created several other demons from parts of his body. All of them had a thousand arms and carried weapons. Virabhadra, Bhadrakali and these other demons headed for Daksha’s sacrifice.
When they got there, they found that the sacrifice had already started and the sacred fire was burning. The sages were reciting hymns and the gods were watching. Musical instruments were being played. Virabhadra roared and the sound of the roar was so terrible that several of the gods began to run away. The earth shook with the sound of the roar. There were tidal waves in the ocean.
Daksha was frightened. But he summoned up courage and asked, Who are you and why have you come here?
We are Shiva’s servants and we have come to take part in the sacrifice, replied Virabhadra.
Virabhadra and the other demons then proceeded to burn down the structure where the sacrifice was being held. They tied up the priests and threw all the offerings away. With their weapons, they attacked the gods. Whatever resistance the gods tried to put up was taken care of by Virabhadra’s trident and Bhadrakali’s spear. The goddess Sarasvati lost her nose and the god Agni lost his arms. The sage Bhaga had his eyes gouged out and the sage Pusha lost all his teeth. Virabhadra sliced off Daksha’s head and gave it to Bhadrakali, who proceeded to kick it around as one kicks a football. Thousand and thousands of gods died and the sacrifice became a battlefield.
Vishu tried to fight it out and he and Virabhadra shot arrows at each other. But one of Virabhadra’s arrows struck Vishnu on the chest and he fell down unconscious.
Spurred on by Brahma, the gods began to pray to Shiva. These prayers pacified Shiva and he asked Virbhadra and Bhadrakali to refrain from causing any further damage.
Brahma asked, What about the gods who have been killed? Please bring them back to life,
Since Shiva’s anger had been appeased, he restored life to the dead gods. Those who had lost parts of their anatomy got themb ack again. But what was to be done about Daksha? His head could not be found. A goat’s head was therefore stuck onto Daksha’s body. Thus restored to life. Daksha begged forgiveness of Shiva.
Parvati Becomes Gouri
There were two asuras named Shumbha and Nishumbha. They meditated a lot and pleased Brahma. Brahma thereupon gave them the boon that they could not be killed by males. Having obtained the boon, the two demons started to oppress the world. They drove the gods out of heaven and the gods went to Brahma so that a solution might be found to the problem.
Brahma went to Shiva. You have to help the Gods, he told Shiva. I have given Shumbha and Nishumbha the boon that they cannot be killed by males. Find a way so that a female is born out of Parvati’s body. She will kill Shumbha and Nishumbha.
I will try, replied Shiva.
When Shiva next met Parvati, he addressed her as Kali. This angered Parvati, since kali means black or dark.
Why did you marry me if you thought I was so dark? she asked Shiva. Why do you pretened to love me? Cursed is the woman who is not loved by her husband. I am going to perform tapasya so that I may become fair. I am going to pray to Brahma.
Parvati went off to meditate. She meditated for many years.
There was a tiger which saw Parvati meditating. It was not a good tiger at all, but an evil one. It thought that Parvati would provide a good meal. It sat down in the front of Parvati to appreciate for a while the treat that was in store for it. Parvati did not realize that the tiger was planning to eat her. She thought that it had sat down in front of her because it wanted to protect her from other wild beasts. She thought that the tiger was one of her devotees and she therefore entered the tiger’s soul. As soon as she did this, all thoughts vanished from the tiger’s mind. Now it was indeed one of her devotees.
Meanwhile, Brahma arrived to find out who Parvati was meditating. Parvati said that she wanted to become Gouri, that is, someone who was fair. She was sick and tired of being addressed as kali. Brahma granted the boon.
Parvati shed off all the dark cells (kosha) from her body became Gouri. From the cells emerged a dark-hued goddess named Koushiki. Parvali handed over Koushiki to Brahma. Endowed with weapons by Brahma, Koushiki killed Shumbha and Nishumbha.
Parvati returned to her husband as Gouri.
What happened to the tiger? Shiva turned him into a man and he was employed by Nandi as one of Shiva’s guards. He was named Somanandi.
The sage Vyaghrapada had a son named Upamanyu. When he was small, he wanted some milk from his mother. But he was not at all happy with the milk that his mother gave him. He complained that it did not taste like milk at all.
Naturally, said his mother. I did not give you milk. How can we afford milk? We are not rich. I powdered some rice and mixed it with water. That is what I gave to you as milk. Unfortunately, you have tasted milk in your uncle’s house and you could make out the difference.
Upamanyu’s mother began to cry. But Upamanyu consoled his mother. Don’t cry, please, he said. I will pray to Shiva and get milk for myself.
His mother taught him the mantra that was to be used for praying to Shiva. She also taught him another mantra which would summon up a terrible divine weapon named aghorastra. This was just in case there was any danger.
Upamanyu went to the Himalayas and started to meditate. He lived only on air and chanted the incantation that his mother had taught him. He prayed in front of an earthen linga. Demons came to disturb his meditation, but Upamanyu paid no attention to them. Shiva himself was impressed by Upamanyu’s difficult tapasya. But he thought that he would test Upamanyu first.
He arrived in front of Upamanyu in the disguise of Indra and asked, Upamanyu, what are you doing?
I am blessed that the king of the gods has arrived before me, replied Upamanu. I am praying to Shiva.
Shiva! Why pray to that useless fellow? asked Shiva.
Upamanu could not stand this insult to Shiva. He summoned up aghorastra by means of the mantra and let it loose at the person he thought was Indra. Shiva then manifested himself in his own form and aghorastra was repelled by Nadi, who had also turned up. Shiva himself taught Upamanu all sorts of sacred knowledge, and arrangements were made so that Upamanyu need never suffer from a lack of milk.
Krishna once came to meet the sage Upamanyu, many years after the milk incident. Upamanyu taught Krishna the words of wisdom that he learned from Shiva; he also taught Krishna to pray to Shiva. It was by praying to Shiva that Krishna obtained his son Samba. For sixteen months Krishna had to pray before Shiva appeared, to grant the boon regarding the son. Parvati also granted Krishna several boons.