Bhagavadgita Pages, Chapters 1 to 18
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Parvati's Penance, Brahma's Waywardness and Siva's Grace
Once upon a time Parvati, in an impulsive act of playfulness, came from behind and covered the three eyes of Siva, thereby sinking the universe in darkness and destruction. Million of years passed from just that covering of the eyes of Siva, which was only half a wink Covering the eyes is covering of the Sun, Moon and Fire. All the living beings died, except the Suuris (immortals of heaven), who came to Sambhu and prayed to rejuvenate this world back on its feet. Upon hearing this, Lord Siva asked Parvati to leave his eyes alone and uncovered. Parvati relented and the universe became bright. Siva kindly looked at Parvati and put the blame on her for the destruction of the universe. Siva’s destruction follows a pattern and a plan, but Parvati’s act brought on an unexpected destruction. The Lord suggested that she should perform expiatory rites on the banks of Kampa (Palar River) under a mango tree in the city of Kanchi in South India. During the period of separation from Parvati, Siva would remain as Parabrahman, undivided without attributes (Nishkala and Nirguna). Parvati went to Kanchi and performed all the rites. She shed her jewels and clothes and wore tree barks and Rudraksa beads. She gleaned predial corn in the company of deer and satisfied her hunger with the gleaned corn. She smeared herself with ash and forwent saffron and sandal paste. She bathed three times a day in the clear waters of River Palar. She made a Linga with sand and worshipped it reverentially. She showered gifts on visitors. In summer she sat in the middle of five fires; during rainy season she slept on the bare ground; during winter she remained in the water. She worshipped Sand Linga with Nyasa (assignment of various parts of the body to different deities with deity-specific Mantras).
Siva decided to test her patience, endurance, and reverence. He sent a flood of the river down her way. The other devotees warned her but she would not leave the banks of the river for she was in the middle of meditation. She asked the other devotees to leave the banks and stayed cupping her palms around the Sand Linga close to her chest. The floods came, battered, and soaked her; yet she did not let go of the Sand Linga; she held it so hard against her that her nipple left an impression on the Sand Linga which looked like a scar on the Linga. As she clutched the Linga close to her chest, she became tremulous, sweaty, and bashful and felt an arousal in her. Then came a voice from heaven saying to let go off the Linga for the floods receded. The voice continued to boom and said that the Linga will attain greatness, become the object of worship by Suras, and bestow boons to the devotees. The voice continued: I will take a splendorous form of Arunachala here to help the Siddhas on earth. Runa in “Arunachala” means a bunch of sins; Aruna is expiation of all sins. (Aruna also means red and Arunachala is Red Mountain.) The Siddhas, Gandharvas, and Yogins will leave Kailasa and Meru mountains for Arunachala.
Siva continued to speak:
Brahma and Krishna (Vishnu) were my amsa (fragment); they were fighting for supremacy of the universe, while I was the Paramatma. I had to appear as the fiery Lingam to impress on them that I was the Supreme Being. I complied with their request to become the immobile Linga in the form of a mountain—Arunachala.
Sambhu-Siva asked Parvati to go to Arunachala to meet Gautama, the foremost devotee of Lord Siva. He handed over the Linga to the Devas assembled on the banks of Kampa and advised them to worship the Linga which received impressions from her nipple and bangles, destroys all sins and brings good fortune. So saying, she left for Arunachala to meet Gautma. When she arrived at his hermitage, he was not there for he went to forest to gather sacrificial twigs, Kusa grass and fruits. Parvati was received by the devotees. Knowing from the devotees that Gautama had gone to the forest, she entered the hermitage and received fruits and roots as a token of reverence and respect for the guest. As soon as she entered the hermitage, it became a mansion with furnishings set in jewels. As Gautama was coming towards his hermitage, he wondered about the crowd, the parked vehicles, and the effulgent mansion. By his divine vision, he found out that he was graced by the arrival of Gauri (Parvati). He thought that her arrival was the fruit of his penance.
When Gauri saw the old sage and devotee of Sambhu, Gautama, she joined her palms in respect and bowed her head. Gautama thought it was unusual for the Mother goddess to do the bowing to a lesser soul; he eulogized her saying that she came to protect the devotees. He offered a seat made of Kusa grass, Pādya and Arghya. (Pādya is offering of water to a guest to wash the feet and Arghya is worshipping of the guest with flowers, water, dūrvā grass, unbroken grains of rice.) Gautama received permission to sit after the preliminary performance of rites to Parvati. He was very thrilled to note that Siva sent Parvati herself to visit with him. Parvati eulogized him saying that he was the foremost among Siva’s devotees, who had mastered the Agamas that flowed from the mouth of Siva. She asked him to describe the greatness of the Acala (mountain) and Sambhu.
Gautama felt honored to recite the glories of Siva and the mountain.
Even million mouths of Brahmanas are not adequate to describe the greatness of Arunachala. Brahma, Vishnu, the Moon, the Sun, the Fire god, the guardians of directions, worship Siva of Arunachala to attain the eight siddhis. All others adore Siva for destroying their sins and fulfill their wishes. The yogins who meditate on Arunādri, the fiery column, attain Sāyujya mukti (union). Once his supremacy was shown to Brahma and VIshnu, they requested Siva to become the immobile Linga (Arunādri) which is worshipped to the accompaniment of Dundubhi drums, songs and dances. Ninety-six Brahmas came and went and the last Brahma sprouted from the navel of Vishnu and created the worlds.
Indra, the chief of gods, requested Brahma to create the most beautiful damsel who could ruin the penance of the Yogins, so that he could keep his preeminence. Brahma himself was bitten by love upon seeing a damsel of such beauty and grace. He wanted to touch her, but the damsel gave him a bow, quickly moved away from him and circumambulated him. Brahma could not take his eyes off her, but could not see her to his right, left, and behind; immediately he, by his creative power, developed four more faces in all four directions just to feast his eyes with her beauty and grace. The celestial beauty transformed into a bird and flew away, but Brahma changed into a bird and chased her. She flew to Arunachala (Red Mountain) and sought refuge at the feet of Lord Siva. She said, “O my Lord, Brahma and Vishnu could not find your head or feet when you appeared as fiery Linga. Please give me refuge at your feet.” She appeared very flustered, she was in agony, her heart was pounding, her feet were shaking, and her face was etched in fright. As she stood on the Red Mountain helpless, a hunter rose from Arunachala’s peak (Immobile Linga, the Red Mountain). He had the appearance of clouds outlined by diffuse luster, carrying a bow and arrow at the ready. Brahma came face to face with the hunter and soon Brahma’s delusion lifted. Brahma regained his sense and composure and bowed his head down to Sonādri. Showing contrition, Brahma eulogized Siva by saying, "Obeisance to you Sambhu, the wielder of Pināka bow (Rudra-Siva’s bow). You took the form of a mountain and are always in the service of your devotees. Please destroy my body for I am a sinner. Make another Brahma to carry out my functions.” Merciful moon-crested Siva addressed Brahma, “I cannot change what has been assigned to you. Persons in power and high position are subject to character flaws like Rāga (attachment). I suggest to you that though you may be far away, worship this fiery Linga, Arunachala, and seek its help to overcome your flaws. All sins of speech, thought, and deed will perish by circumambulation of Arunachala, prostration, worship, Smrti (remembering Siva), and praise. It is difficult to see me in Kailasa, Mount Meru, or Kula mountains. I am the Red Mountain and it is easy for people to see the peak, destroy their sins and gain vision born of knowledge. Brahma from the past took his bath in Puskara lake and washed his sins off. You too take a bath in Puskara lake, circumambulate me, hold your palms together in reverential worship of me and practice silence. You are the soul of the universe and you will be free of your flaws.” Puskara lake is still present near Ajmer in Rajasthan and known from the days of Mahabharata. God Brahma’s temple is there.
The lotus-born and lotus-eyed Brahma took his bath in the lake, worshipped Lord Siva, practiced Yama and Niyama, destroyed his sins and thus obtained restitution of his former status as the creator of the universe.