Varanasi History related to Lord Shiva
Varanasi is regarded as the sacred city of Lord Shiva and has become one of the seven holy cities of the Hindu religion. The city has been mentioned in several Hindu sacred texts like Rigveda, Skanda Purana, Ramayana, and Mahabharata. As per ancient sagas, Varanasi is about 3000 years old and the oldest city globally. Varanasi is also a hub of industries and is notable for various works such as muslin, silk fabrics, perfumes, ivory work and sculpture. In the time of Gautam Buddha, Varanasi was the capital of the kingdom of Kashi.
The prominent Chinese traveller Xuanzang regarded Varanasi as the core of several religious and artistic activities. The city is situated along the western bank of the river Ganga. Varanasi was also the birthplace of the great Jain Tirthankar Suparshv Nath Ji and Tirthankar Parshva Nath Ji.
Varanasi is widely known as Shiva Nagari and has become a significant pilgrimage destination. The name Shiva means auspicious. Lord Shiva is the most important Hindu deity, the destroyer and transformer of living beings among the Trimurti. He is the most powerful god in the Hindu religion. As per the traditions, Lord Shiva is the supreme of all, the creator, preserver, destroyer, keeper, conserver and revealer of human beings. His devotees are called Shaivites or Shaivas.
Lord Shiva is prayed in the form of lingam in Hinduism. It is believed that he lives on Mount Kailash as an almighty yogi with his wife Parvati and sons Ganesha and Kartikeya. His forms are both kind and compassionate, and frightening. He is often engaged in deep meditation, destroying devils and evil spirits in furious forms or as the cosmic dancer.
Etymology and other names of Lord Shiva
Shiva, a Sanskrit word, means pure. It also means promising one and is a name for Rudra. The name Shiva has numerous meanings such as, the pure one, the one who might never get affected by three Gunas of nature (Rajas, Sattva and Tamas) or the one who sanctifies living beings by the utterance of his name. Swami Chinmayananda stated that Shiva means one who is eternally pure or can not ever be contaminated by the imperfection of Rajas and Tamas. Lord Shiva, the supreme god in Hinduism, has no Aadi or Anta; therefore, he has no birth or death. He is well known as Devon Ke Dev Mahadev, meaning great god, or god of all gods.
A seal was sighted in Mohenjodaro, which exhibits a seated figure surrounded by animals, probably Shiva, the Pashupati.
Reality of Rudra
It was discovered in the 2nd century that Rudra is a three-headed Shiva. As per various religious traditions, both Lord Shiva and Rudra are deemed as the same personality. It is mentioned in Rig Veda that Rudra is the ‘Father of the Rudras’, a group of storm gods. In the opinion of Axel Michaels: Rudra is called “The Archer”, and the arrow is an essential attribute of Rudra; he was armed with arrows in his hands. Rudra is the great God of Hindus who has the strength to destroy all the forces of darkness.
Relationship of Rudra with Agni
It is supposed that Rudra and Agni have an intimate relationship. It is recognised in the Vedic literature with Rudra’s constant development process as Rudra-Shiva. Agni is also called Rudra as per Nirukta. Stella Kramrisch claims that the relationship between two great Hindu deities is highly elaborate.
It is revealed in Satarudria that the golden-red hue of flame and burning bright is a fusing of the two deities. Agni is believed to be the bull having horns that Lord Shiva possesses as his vehicle, Nandi. The horns of Agni, who is at times identified as a bull, are acknowledged. But in the middle age sculpture, Bhairav is the form of both Agni and Lord Shiva with flaming hair as his distinctive attribute.
Relationship of Shiva with Indra
A primitive theory reports, the continuation of Vedic Indra was through Lord Shiva. Both Lord Shiva and Indra are believed to have a thirst for Soma. Both the Hindu divinities are linked to mountains, ferociousness, courage, fearlessness, rivers, male fertility, warfare, the Aum sound and the supreme self. In Rig Veda name Shiva is used to calling Indra. God Rudra is described in Rig Veda as the father of the Maruts.
The three-eyed deity Lord Shiva controls the flow of river Ganga through his matted, yellowish-white, molten gold hair. He wears a garland of five serpents, a bouquet of skulls, and a skull bracelet. All these ornaments are very dear to him. He covers himself in ashes and also has Trishula and Damaru. On his head, one can see the crescent moon and a Trishul in the right lower arm. He is also known as Trilochana because of his third eye.
Shiva is known as Chandrasekhara or Chandramouli because of having a crescent moon on his head, and there is a legend about the same. The crescent moon signifies the absolute control of his mind. Lord Shiva smears ashes or bhasma on his whole body. He is widely known as Jataajoota Dhari because of his yellowish-white, matted hair and Kapardin, which means his hair is put in a braid of the shell.
History Behind Blue Throat
Nilakantha is another name of Lord Shiva because of his blue throat or blue Kantha. It is believed that he drank the Halahala poison that came out of the Samundra Manthan¨to get rid of its damaging and destructive capabilities. And also to protect the Devgans from the Devils. Goddess Parvati was stunned by his act, and she tried to strangle his neck to stop the poison from spreading in his stomach and eventually all over the universe. Therefore, his neck turned blue.
Connection with Ganga, Tigerskin, Serpents, Deer, Trident, Nandi, Damaru, Gana, Mount Kailash, Varanasi
Since the river Ganga flows through his hair, he is popularly known as Gangadhara, which means the carrier of Ganga. The flow of the river Ganga from the matted hair of Lord Shiva signifies the nectar of permanence and immortality. King Bhagirath did severe penance to bring the river Ganga on earth to help his ancestors get Moksha. Lord Shiva bore river Ganga to protect the world from her powerful and extreme flow of water. Lord Shiva let out only a single stream of the river Ganga from his hair to flow on earth because of the immense speed and vastness of the river.
Lord Shiva is often depicted as seated on a tigerskin. The tigerskin seat represents his triumph over lust.
He is shown to be always wearing a garland of serpents known as Nagendra Haara. Wearing snakes signifies knowledge, intelligence and immortality.
He carries deer in one hand, which suggests that he does not have Chanchalta or fickleness in his mind and expresses his maturity, firmness and determination to the world.
He has the mighty weapon (Trident or Trishula) in his right hand that stands for three Gunas Rajas, Tamas and Sattva. Therefore, it is believed that the rules the world through three Gunas.
The small Damaru in his left hand signifies OM, which is the origin of all languages. Damaru is also an essential trait of his famous dance depiction called Nataraja.
Lord Shiva’s vehicle is a bull known as Nandi or Nandin, which also functions as Shiva’s mount. Since Lord Shiva has a connection to an animal, he is also known as Pasupati or Pashupati or Lord of cattle. The bull also shows him as a Dharma Devata, one who is the preserver of Dharma.
Lord Shiva resides with a group of Ganas, also called Bhutagana, in Kailash. It is believed that Lord Ganesha, son of Lord Shiva, was decided to be the Chief of all ganas by the Lord himself. Therefore, Ganesha is also known as Ganapati or Lord of the Ganas.
Mount Kailash is located in the Himalayas, the Nagari of King Himalaya. Kailash resembles Linga, the traditional abode of Lord Shiva, also known as the universe’s core.
Varanasi is regarded as a sacred city and is popularly known as the city of temples. Varanasi is very dear to Lord Shiva, and the town has turned out to be one of the holiest destinations of pilgrimage in India.
Forms of Lord Shiva and depictions
As per Gavin Flood, Lord Shiva is enigmatic and mysterious and has a contradictory nature. Nevertheless, Hindus worship him as their higher intelligence and supreme god. He is regarded as the annihilator as well as the contributor and protector. Yajurveda acknowledges both these aspects of his personality, one that is fierce and vicious and the other that is affectionate and optimistic.
In Mahabharata, Lord Shiva is mentioned as an epitome of contentment, glory, integrity and prowess. The wild, ferocious and enraged form of Lord Shiva is Rudra. Shiva is also prominent as Shambu, one that causes happiness and joy.
Shiva as an ascetic versus householder
Lord Shiva has Parvati, Ganesha and Kartikeya, also known as Skanda, in his family. Lord Shiva is represented as both the ascetic yogi and householder. As a mystic, he is often depicted as sitting and meditating on a tiger skin. He is also recognised as Umapati or the husband of Uma or Umakanta or Umadhava as a householder. Mata Parvati is regarded as Devi or Shakti ( Divine Energy ) or Divine Mother, Tripura Sundari, Durga, Kamakshi, Meenakshi and many more. She is the origin of Lord Shiva’s creative energy and strength. Their son Lord Ganesha, Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles, is revered and offered prayers throughout India and Nepal as the Remover of Obstacles. Their son Kartikeya is honoured by numerous names like Subrahmanyan, Skanda, Kumara, Subrahmanya, Shanmughan, Swaminathan, and Murugan in its southern states Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Karnataka.
Lord Shiva is also an admired eternal dancer and therefore regarded as the Lord of Dance. This form of Lord Shiva is widely popular by the name of Nataraja. His dance with the music is chronicled in the Puranic period. The two most popular dances linked to Lord Shiva are the Tandava depicting strength and power and Kala-Mahakala, the masculine dance depicting the destruction of the whole world. Another widespread style is Tandava-Lasaya which is related to both creation and destruction of the world.
Lord Shiva is always shown as sitting towards the south direction (Dakshin), and hence he is called Dakshinamurthy. It signifies that he is the guru and guide of wisdom, yoga, music and several other shastras.
The form of Lord Shiva, the five-headed Tripurantaka aiming his arrow towards Tripura, the rightmost top corner with a bow of mount Meru and bowstring of serpent Vasuki, is known as Ardhanarishvara. This form shows Lord Shiva as half male and half female, as the Lord is half woman. It is believed that Lord Shiva surrendered his half body to the Shakti Swaroop Goddess Adi para shakti as a token of love.
Shiva has the name Tripurantaka as he is the annihilator of triple fortresses or the one responsible for the end of Tripura. It is claimed that after the end of Tripura, Lord Shiva smeared his forehead with three strokes of ash.
Lord Shiva as a Lingam
Lord Shiva is prayed to and honoured in the form of lingam in most temples; one of them is the Jambukesvara temple of Thiruvanaikaval. The linga is a form that represents the great god of the universe. In Hinduism, Lord Shiva is the supreme being who creates, sustains, protects, and, if required, may end the entire universe.
Avatars of Lord Shiva
At Lord Shiva’s command, Virabhadra avatar destroyed the Daksha’s yajna and cut his head. To protect the Sati Pind, Lord Shiva originated Kala Bhairava, also known as Bhairava avatar, Bhairo or Bhairon or Bhairadya or Bheruji. Another incarnation of Lord Shiva is Durvasa avatar which is famous for his short temper. In Maharashtra and Karnataka, Lord Shiva is regarded in the form of Khandoba. In the period of Lord Rama, Hanuman is considered to be the eleventh Rudra avatar of Lord Shiva.
The Five Mantras of Lord Shiva
The sacred number for Lord Shiva is number 5. One of the most potent and significant mantras is Namah Shivaya. It is believed that the body of Lord Shiva is composed of five mantras (which acts as five faces of Lord Shiva) called Pancha Brahmans. Each mantra has its unique name, which is as follows:
These mantras are related to five elements, five senses, five organs of perception, and five organs of action.
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated to mark the union of Mata Parvati and Lord Shiva. In Hinduism, this holy festival is celebrated annually on the 13th night or 14th day in Krishna Paksha of Maagha or Phalguna with full passion and devotion. It is believed that Lord Shiva performed Tandava on the night of Maha Shivaratri. The worshippers and followers of Lord Shiva observe fast and offer prayers to Shiva Lingam by presenting him fruits, flowers and bael leaves.
Jyotirlinga Temples in India
Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Origin and Birth of Lord Shiva
Nobody has any trace regarding the origin and birth of Lord Shiva. But, as stated by Hindu mythology, once Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had a dispute, one of them and the entire universe was the most powerful and supreme. To find the almighty, they went in opposite directions. An enormous blistering pillar popped up in front of them; they decided to find the source and end of the pillar. A long time passed, but they failed to find the pillar’s origin and fate, and they never found any. Finally, after their futile attempts when they were returning, they saw Lord Shiva arising from the opening of the pillar. They eventually caught the supreme being and concluded that the ultimate power exists apart from them, nurturing or destroying the universe.
As per Hindu traditions, Lord Shiva is believed to be the annihilator of the universe, and after the death of a living being, his soul intermingles into Lord Shiva. He is the supreme being with three eyes; the third eye can end all the creation. He is also referred to as the God of Storm, famously known as Rudra.
Story Of Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva imbibes extreme strength and has several roles. He always wears the garland of snakes on his neck and also a necklace of skulls. Lord Shiva is the higher intelligence that supports his creations in the form of human beings and god. He penalises the evil and wrongful like a divine judge who does not pity the sinners. He has immense spiritual strength and mediates at Mount Kailash in the Himalayas for long periods. He signifies truth and righteousness. He eliminates the evil forces and diminishes the suffering of his followers through his captivating dance. He protected the universe by drinking the poison which came out of the Samundra Manthan. He is known as Neel Kanth as his neck became blue because of the poison.
Lord Shiva gave River Ganga the route to flow on earth by intermingling her to his matted hair. He rescued the world from the dry spell and shortage of water by providing Adam’s ale through river Ganga. The saga goes like this: once there was a drought on earth, and the river Ganga streamed only in heaven during that time. King Bhagirath did severe meditation and prayed extensively to river Ganga. Finally, one day Ganga was very pleased by his devotion and dedication; she appeared in front of him and told him that she could not flow on earth because of her extreme and heavy flow of water, which would drown the entire world. She advised King Bhagirath to pray to Lord Shiva for a resolve. King Bhagirath worshipped Lord Shiva, and Lord Shiva came up with a way to make it possible.
Lord Shiva bears Ganga river in his matted hair, and he has a coiled serpent in his neck, a crescent moon on the right side, Trishul, also known as the trident, in his right-hand bhasma, also called ashes all over his body. His vehicle is a bull named Nandi. Shivalinga signifies peace, contentment and joy. The symbol of Lord Shiva, Shivalinga, is revered and worshipped by people.
Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati have another form as half man and half woman, that is Ardhanareeswara. This form coheres to the male energy, Purusha and the female power Prakriti to create the cosmic energy.
Another incarnation of Lord Shiva is the Panchamukha Shiva that means five-faced Shiva. Each face is in a particular direction, as Sadyojata Lord Shiva faces to the east, as Tatpurusha faces to the north, as Aghora faces to the west, as Ishana faces to the south and as Sadesiva, also known as the eternal Shiva, he faces upside down.
There is a legend that once some sages were fully immersed in their penance. Lord Shiva wanted to test their devotion and commitment; therefore, he began to dance in the forest. The sages’ wives who had come to the woods to collect the firewood were in awe to see the dance. At dusk, when the scholars went to the woods to fetch their wives, they noticed that all the wives were engrossed in the dance of that being. Therefore they annoyed and bothered him. Because of the nuisance, the penis fell on the ground and began to rise long in both directions. Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma both went to the south and the north direction, subsequently to find a way out. But all their efforts were in vain, and they realised that it was infinite. Then they recognised Lord Shiva as ultimate and the supreme being.
Lord Shiva Family
Lord Shiva was married twice. His first marriage was with the granddaughter of Brahma, named Sati. The daughter of Prajapati Daksha. His second marriage was with Parvati, which was the rebirth of Sati as the daughter of the King of Himalayas. Lord Shiva and Parvati were blessed with two sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya.
How to worship Lord Shiva
The most popular way of worshipping and honouring Lord Shiva is performing and observing fast on sixteen consecutive Mondays.
The procedure is as follows :
One must get up early on Monday, take a bath and wear clean white clothes. Churma is made by cooking and frying a pound of pure wheat flour and our ghee. Then, one must offer Churma to Lord Shiva with a ghee diya, gur, sandal paste, rice grains, beetle nut, a sacred thread and flowers. Mantras are chanted while making offerings to Lord Shiva. After the ritual, the prasad is distributed, and the worshippers also have the same.
One must continue this ritual for 16 successive Mondays and on the 17th Monday, prepare Churma by frying ten pounds of flour, ghee and gur. Finally, offer the Churma to Lord Shiva with sincerity, honesty and devotion.
There is a legend behind the custom of worshipping for 16 back to back Mondays. Once Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati went for a world tour. They were staying at the temple of Lord Shiva. They began to play Chaucer, and Goddess Parvati asked the lady priest who would win the game. The priest said that Mahadev would win the game. In the end, Lord Shiva won the game, and Goddess thought this was because of the priest’s prediction. She was furious and cursed that lady priest to be the patient of leprosy. The lady suffered from leprosy, and a long time passed, she was unfortunate. One day she went to the temple to know about her wrongdoing which led the Divine Mother to curse her. An Apsara suggested her worship, Lord Shiva, on 16 Mondays as per rituals. The lady priest offered prayers to Lord Shiva for 16 Mondays and followed all the customs. Lord Shiva blessed her, and she got rid of leprosy.