“The scholarly hold this narrow view of you—that you are the sun, the moon, fire, air, water, space, earth, the Self. But who knows the things that you are not?” — Pushpadanta
“Nada tanu manisham shankaram….” sang Tyagaraja, the Carnatic saint-composer, in an immortal ode to Shiva or Shankara, the Lord of Auspiciousness.
“I salute you, with my head and my mind, for you are the embodiment of Nada (sound) and the essence of the Sama Veda. The sapta-swara or the seven notes, Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni emerge from your five faces—Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Tatpurusha, Ishana and Aghora.” Tyagaraja’s chosen deity was Ram, and his usual language of composition was Telugu, but here he employed some stunning Sanskrit epithets for Shiva.
Pushpadanta, a Gandharva, composed the Shiva-Mahimna Stotram, a string of lyrical verses in praise of Shiva, where he noted, “The scholarly hold this narrow view of you—that you are the sun, the moon, fire, air, water, space, earth, the Self. But who knows the things that you are not?” Shiva is the bestower of the most auspicious boons upon the Gods in heaven, despite the fact that his own possessions are seemingly inauspicious—the bull, a wooden hand-rest, an axe, a tiger skin, serpents, a human skull and ash smeared on his body. Shiva is beyond all delusions caused by the mirage of worldly life and therein lies his greatness.
Ravana, the ten-headed demon king of Lanka, whose pursuit of power was rivalled only by his legendary devotion to Shiva, realised that a different state of mind is needed to comprehend that sublime reality. “When will I be able to worship that eternal Shiva from a position of detached indifference towards a snake or a garland, precious gems or a clod of earth, friends or foes and a blade of grass or lotus-shaped eyes?” “Samapravartika kada sadashivam bhajamyaham?” he queried, in his famous composition, Shiva Tandava Stotram.
In the Vedas, obeisance is offered to Shiva in the form of Rudra. Curiously, the supreme ascetic is described as the wealth of the household and guardian deity of the home (vastavyaya cha vastupaya). Shiva as Rudra is worshipped as the sacred Om and the source of happiness in this life and in the hereafter. He confers bliss in this life and in the one beyond. The Rudram Chamakam, a powerful hymn from the Yajurveda, says that he is worshipped because he is auspicious—Shiva—but also because he is more auspicious—Shivatara—than any other thing.
Venerable seers or power-crazed demons, saintly musicians or divine minstrels, homemakers or office-goers—everyone connects with the Shiva within. The lyrics may differ and the settings may change, but the heart thrills with the instinctive realisation that we dance to an auspicious music deep within our souls—something very Shiva-like. – The Asian Age, 26 February 2014
» Raji P. Shrivastava is an IAS officer in Punjab.