Category Archives: Shiva

Lord Vithala and Pundalika

Janudev and Satyavati were a pious couple devoted to the Lord who lived in Dandirvan in Maharashtra. They had a son by name Pundalika (Pundarika). He was noble, respected his parents and was devoted to the Lord. At a suitable age, Pundalika got married. Under the influence of his wife, he neglected the worship of the Lord. He started abusing and ill-treating his parents. His wife started making them do all the domestic work. Tired and exhausted, sad and dejected at their plight they decided to go on a pilgrimage to Kashi. 

Pundalika and his wife also immediately decided to accompany them to Kashi. They made the old couple walk, while they rode on the horse-back. Throughout  the journey they harassed them enough that they even regretted having undertaken the pilgrimage. Enroute they arrived at Kukkuta Rishi’s ashram and decided to break the journey and stay there for a few days . 
At night when everyone was sleeping in the ashram, Pundalika was disturbed by the sound of anklets. He got up and went out to see from where the sound was coming. To his surprise he saw three young and beautiful women cleaning Kukkuta Rishi’s ashram. Their clothes were extremely dirty. And surprisingly, when they had finished cleaning the entire premises and were about to leave the ashram, their clothes were spotless white and clean! This happened consecutively for three days.

On the third day, unable to check his curiosity, Pundalika approached the women and asked them who they were and why their clothes were dirty and how their clothes became clean after cleaning the ashram. The women told Pundalika that they were the presiding deities of the rivers Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati. They said, “every day thousands of devotees come and take a holy dip in our waters and wash off their sins because of which our clothes become dirty. As a result of serving the great Kukkuta Rishi by cleaning his ashram, we get rid off the sins of thousands of pilgrims and inturn our clothes again become spotless and clean and we once again regain back our lost glory.” And the river-deities continued, “of all the people, you are the most sinful one because you ill-treat and harass your parents. We are able to regain our glory because Kukkuta Rishi consistently and constantly served his old parents by looking upon them as the Lord himself. That is the Rishi’s Greatness and Glory .”

These words went straight into Pundalika’s heart. He immediately remembered how badly he had treated his parents. He was overcome with remorse. He narrated everything to his wife and told her that the rest of his life would be spent only in looking after his aged parents. He ran to his parents, fell at their feet and asked to be forgiven. He convinced his parents to return home and promised to look after them well. They were overjoyed at the transformation of their son whom they had totally given up and happily agreed to return back home. While coming back, the aged parents rode on horse-back and Pundalika and his wife walked by their side.
After coming back home, from that day onwards, day and night, Pundalika looked after and served his parents with all devotion. To him they were the manifestation of Lakshmi and Narayana. The Lord was very pleased with Pundalika’s devotion and decided to bestow his grace upon him and decided to come to the banks of the river Chandrabhaga where Pundalika was staying. Lord Shiva came to know about this and wished to accompany Sri Hari. The Lord agreed and asked Lord Shiva to occupy the crown on his head and Shiva seated himself on the crown of Hari in the form of Shiva-linga. 

Hari and Hara came to the dwelling of Pundalika and Hari called out to Pundalika and announced his arrival. Pundalika was massaging his father’s leg at that time and therefore told the Lord that he was busy serving his father and would not be able to leave his duties and come outside immediately. He threw a brick that was lying nearby and told the Lord to stand on it and wait. Lord Hari stood on the brick and with both his hands on his waist, waited for Pundalika. After his service, Pundalika came out of his house and was overwhelmed with the darshan of the Lord. He prostrated to the Lord. Pleased with his devotion to his parents, the Lord asked him what boon he wanted. Pundalika told the Lord that he wanted nothing for himself but asked the Lord to permanently stay there to bless all the devotees. The Lord agreed and stayed there standing on the brick with hands on his waist as Lord Vithala along with his consort, Rukmini in Pandharpur on the banks of the river Chandrabhaga.

Jai Sri Vithala! Jai Hari Vithala! Vithala Vithala! Panduranga Vithala!

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Ganesha and Analasura

Lord Ganesha

Analasura was a rakshasa who was very powerful and invincible. His very name ANALA means “fire”. His eyes were fiery. His very breath would burn and destroy everything it came in contact with. And his mouth emitted fire. He had a boon from Brahma, the Creator that no weapon whatsoever could harm him. Arrogant and vain, that he had conquered death and become immortal, Analasura went about torturing and harassing people on the surface of the earth as well as the gods in heaven.

Tired of Analasura’s endless attacks on them, all the devatas went to Vaikunta to seek the Lord’s help. Lord Vishnu told them that his Sudarshana Chakra cannot destroy him and told them to invoke Lord Shiva. All of them went to Kailasa and told Lord Shiva the havoc that Analasura was creating. Lord Shiva too told them that his mighty Trishul would not be able to counter the evil rakshasa. Lord Ganapati who was also present there heard everything. He immediately told them all not to worry and he would destroy the demon. Lord Vinayaka challenged the rakshasa to a dual war. The rakshasa fought fiercely and rushed forward in his huge form towards Ganesha.

The Lord immediately assumed his huge cosmic (virat) form. He caught hold of Analasura and swallowed him up. As a result of this, the heat generated in Ganesha’s stomach became unbearable. To reduce the heat, Lord Varuna showered water on him. Sankara tied the snake which is cold to the touch around Ganesha’s waist, Lord Chandra, the cool moon sat on his head and Lord Vishnu gave the lotus which is always in water to his hands, but none of them were capable of removing the tremendous heat which was consuming Ganesha. 

A group of Rishis who were performing a yagna heard of Ganesha’s trouble. They came there with a bunch of Durva Grass which they were using for their yagna. They tied twenty one blades of Durva grass into a bundle and asked Ganapathi to swallow it. The moment the Durva grass entered his stomach, the heat and the burning sensation completely subsided. Lord Ganapati was so happy at the marvel of this divine creation of the Creator! Durva grass seemed so insignificant amongst the created, and yet, so profound were its benefits. Ganapati declared that in future whoever worshipped him with the offering of Durva grass would earn his grace and blessings for sure.

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Rameswaram – Dakshina Kashi

Sri Rama, Seeta and Lakshmana were almost nearing the end of the fourteen years of exile in the forest. There was just one more year remaining. At that juncture, Ravana came and abducted Seeta and took her away with him to Lanka, his kingdom. Rama and Lakshmana came down South searching for her and met the Vanaras in Kishkindha. Hanuman, the son of the wind-God crossed the ocean, found Seeta in Asokavana and consoled and assured her of coming back with Rama and the Vanara army. He came back, reported everything to Lord Rama, and then they all proceeded to the tip of Bharat. A bridge had to be built across the ocean for them to move ahead.

At this point of time, Sage Agasthya came and suggested that Rama should worship and invoke the blessings of Lord Sankara before the construction of the bridge across the ocean. Agasthya Muni remembered that Lord Sankara had promised that He would come to the South when Sri Rama invokes Him. The auspicious muhurtha (time) was fixed for the pooja. Rama summoned Hanuman to his side and asked him to go to the Himalayas and bring the Shiva linga from none other than Lord Sankara Himself. Hanuman immediately started off. However he got delayed enroute. The auspicious time was almost approaching. To prevent further delay, Rama made a Shivalinga with his own hands from the sand available near the ocean. The Shivalinga was duly consecrated there.

Sage Agasthya officiated as the priest and the pooja was conducted precisely in the time chosen. By then Hanuman came back with the Shivalinga from Kailash. The pooja was already over. Hanuman was very disappointed that the Linga he had brought was not consecrated and wanted the same to be installed instead of the one made of sand. Rama agreed to this provided Hanuman can remove the Shivalinga which he had made. Hanuman immediately came forward, coiled his tail around the sand Shivalinga and tried to remove it, but it would not move. He tried again and again and finally fell down on the ground.

Hanuman then realized that it was His Lord, Sri Rama Himself who had with His own hands very lovingly made the sand Shivalinga. How can any might and strength disrupt it? Completely and totally humbled, Hanuman prostrated at the Lord’s feet and begged for His forgiveness for trying to move the Shivalinga which had been worshipped by the Lord Himself. 

Lord Rama consoled Hanuman and told him that his efforts would be rewarded. He said that alongside the sand Shivalinga that He had made, the Linga that Hanuman had brought would also be consecrated. The Linga that Rama had made would be called as Ramanatha, and the Linga that Hanuman had brought would be known as Vishwa Linga or Vishwanatha. This holy place would be known as Ramanathapuram – the Kashi of South – “Dakshina Kashi”. And for the full benefit of the worship and pilgrimage undertaken, the devotees and pilgrims must FIRST have darshan of Vishwa Linga brought by Hanuman and only then offer worship at the altar of Ramanatha. And also a pilgrimage to Kashi is incomplete without Ramanathaswamy darshan!

Lord Rama says: “No one else is so dear to Me as Shiva. They who behold Lord Rameswara will, on quitting the body go directly to My abode. And anyone who performs abhishekam to Lord Ramanatha with the sacred waters of Ganga will attain liberation and merge totally with Me. Whoever adores Lord Ramanatha with intense faith and total devotion will be blessed by Sankara Himself with Rama-bhakti. And he who has a glimpse of the bridge (Setu) built by Me across the ocean will surely cross the ocean of worldly existence without any difficulty” ~ Sri Ramacharitmanas by Goswami Tulasidasji

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Sri Vidya Upasaka: Dikshitar

Muthuswami Dikshitar (1775 – 1835) was one of the greatest Musician-Saints and is one among the Carnatic Music Trinity, the other two being Saint Thyagaraja and Shyama Sastri.

Dikshitar’s father was Ramaswami Dikshitar who was a Sanskrit scholar and an accomplished musician living in Tiruvarur in Tamilnadu. When Dikshitar turned twenty five, the great Chidambaranatha Yogi of Varanasi visited their house and requested Ramaswami to send Dikshitar with him for further education. His father agreed and Dikshitar went to Varanasi. He was initiated into “Sri Vidya Upasana”, and his Guru told him to constantly worship Sri Annapurneswari, the Bestower of material needs (Bhukti) as well as liberation (Mukti). He mastered the scriptures, the science of mantras, astrology, music, and was an expert in playing the veena. He came under the influence of Hindustani classical music and Western band music.

After a few years, the teacher told him that it was time for him to go back home because he had learnt all that had to be learnt. The young disciple asked the teacher what was the proof that he had learnt everything. The teacher asked him to go to Mother Ganges and take a dip. If his learning was complete, She would reward him. He went to the Ganges, took a dip and invoked Her. Mother Ganges was there in front of him with a beautiful veena in Her hand. She handed it over to him. It had “RAMA” inscribed on it and was different from the normal veenas. The tail end of the veena which is called ‘yaalimukha’ is turned upwards. In normal veenas it is turned downwards. This veena that Dikshitar used is even now preserved in their ancestral home.

With the blessings of his teacher and with this unique veena gifted to him by the Mother of Knowledge, Dikshitar travelled back. He arrived at Tiruttani, one of the famous six abodes of Kartikeya in Tamilnadu. Dikshitar was sitting and meditating on the Lord on the steps of the temple, when Lord Kartikeya came in the disguise of an elderly man, asked him to open his mouth and put sugar candy into his mouth and disappeared. At that very moment, he composed a beautiful kriti on Kartikeya with the mudra (signature) GURU-GUHA. Kartikeya also known as GUHA had come to him as his GURU.

He has composed songs on almost all deities, all pilgrimage centres and brought into the kritis the uniqueness and speciality of them all. Along with Sangeeta sastra, he incorporated the “mantra sastra” into his songs and therefore to render them with correct pronunciation and bhava, with a little understanding of its meaning will bring all prosperity to the singer as well as the listener – singing of his keerthans is equivalent to chanting the mantras.

Instances of Dikshitar bringing relief and solace to individuals as well as to the community through his keerthans are many. With a Kriti in raga Amruthavarshini, he brought the rains down on the parched land of Ettayyapuram (Tamil Nadu). He also brought health back to his disciple Tambiyappan by warding off the evil effects (graha dosha) of Jupiter, by composing a kriti on that planet. 

On the eve of Deepavali in 1835, after he had finished Devi Puja, he had a vision of Sri Annapurneswari and sang “Ehi Annapurne” – his last kriti. He remembered what his Guru had told him and knew it was time for him to leave his body. He asked his disciples who had gathered there to sing his composition “Meenakshi me mudam dehi” (Meenakshi bestow upon me Your grace) in the Raga Gamakakriya. When they sang the lines: “meena lochani pasha mochani” (O! Fish-eyed One, who cuts asunder the knots of bondage), he asked them to repeat these phrases once more. As they were repeating them, Dikshitar uttered “Shive pahi, Shive pahi, Shive pahi” and left his physical body to merge eternally with the Mother of the Universe whom he invoked and worshipped all his life. 
His compositions called “Kamalamba Nava-avarana” Krithis which are full of mystic significance are rendered even today with great religious fervour during the Navaratri festival.

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