The Earth-Illumination-Trumpets of Divinity’s home, part 3
Arjuna visits five sacred placesThis story is about Arjuna, who was the third of the Pandava brothers. He wanted to go on a pilgrimage. Everybody knows that if you embark on a pilgrimage and if you pray and meditate at certain sacred places, then you get special blessings from the cosmic gods and goddesses. In Arjuna's case, he wanted to acquire the power to destroy his enemies.
Arjuna set out alone. There were five very important places of pilgrimage on the shores of the southern sea that he wished to visit. He went to each of these famous places but was extremely disappointed in each place, for he could not find even one person praying and meditating. "Something is wrong," he said. "Either I have come to the wrong places by mistake or something has gone wrong with these holy places."
After visiting the fifth and last site, Arjuna started on his homeward journey. His mind was filled with sadness. He had not gone very far when he saw a sage meditating. Arjuna approached the sage and said, "O sage, I have just visited the five sacred places of pilgrimage. How is it that nobody was praying and meditating along the banks of the rivers there?"
"There is a special reason," answered the sage.
"Please enlighten me as to the cause of this mystery," requested Arjuna.
The sage told Arjuna, "Here is the reason. If you go there, you are supposed to bathe in the river before you begin your worship. But as soon as people enter into the waters, a terrible creature comes and devours them. It lives inside the water. Once you go into the water, you can never come out again. This happens at each sacred place. That is why nobody goes there to pray and meditate anymore. They are afraid. They know that they must first take a bath in the waters, and they do not want to be killed by those water creatures."
"Oh, is that the reason?" said Arjuna. "Then I will go back and see for myself. I am not afraid!"
Arjuna went to the nearest site and entered into the water. Immediately, an enormous crocodile caught him in its jaws and began pulling him down. The crocodile wanted to devour Arjuna, but Arjuna had tremendous strength and he began wrestling with the crocodile. A great struggle took place under the water, and finally Arjuna defeated the crocodile. He came out of the water dragging the crocodile behind him. As soon as the crocodile emerged from the river, it changed into a most beautiful apsara, or divine nymph.
Arjuna was astonished. "How is it possible?" he cried. "You fought with me so fiercely in the form of a crocodile and now you have become so beautiful!"
The nymph bowed to Arjuna. "You have saved me, you have saved me! Now I am begging you to release the four other crocodiles. They are my friends."
"How did this fate befall you?" asked Arjuna.
The nymph replied, "Once a great sage was meditating at one of the sacred sites. He was meditating so intensely that the cosmic gods became worried. They asked us to disturb his meditation, for otherwise he would surpass them in spiritual and occult power. We obeyed those great cosmic gods and came before the sage. But when we tried to disturb his meditation, he got furious and cursed us to take crocodile incarnations. He said that we would be forced to live here in the rivers of these five sacred places, killing and devouring all the pilgrims who entered into the water. We would have to remain here until somebody who was very religious and, at the same time, extremely powerful came to visit the sacred places. The sage told us that we would not be able to devour this man. He would fight with us and defeat us. Then, when he brought us out of the water, we would once again become apsaras. We have waited so long for your coming! Today you have saved me and I am so grateful to you. Please, please save my friends also!"
Arjuna knew that he had to release the four other nymphs from their sad fate. He went to each place, entered into the water and fought with the huge crocodiles that attacked him. One by one, he defeated them all and brought them out of the water. In this way, he was able to release them from the curse of the sage and give them back their beautiful forms.
The origin of Vishnu's Sudarshana ChakraThis is the story of how Vishnu's Sudarshana Chakra came into existence. The asuras, or demons, were extremely bad. They always tortured the cosmic gods. At one time, the cosmic gods were suffering so much from the attacks of the demons that they went to see Lord Vishnu. They wanted to seek his help in defeating the demons.
Vishnu said to them, "I do not have enough power to defeat or destroy the demons. I must seek help from Shiva. I will ask him to give me a special weapon that will help me defeat the demons."
When Vishnu went to Shiva, he found Lord Shiva in trance. Vishnu did not want to disturb Shiva's meditation, so he started praying and praying to Shiva with the hope that one day he would come out of his trance.
Every day, for years and years, Vishnu prayed to Shiva, meditated on Shiva and chanted Shiva's name very devotedly. He offered one thousand lotus blossoms to Shiva every day. Each time he offered Shiva a lotus blossom, he would chant Shiva's name.
This went on for such a long time and still Shiva remained rapt in trance. Poor Vishnu was helpless! The gods were being mercilessly tortured by the demons and he was unable to save them.
Finally, after many long years, Shiva came out of his trance. Vishnu's joy knew no bounds. He ran to gather one thousand lotus blossoms so that he could worship Lord Shiva and ask for a special boon.
Shiva had already decided that he would grant Vishnu the boon, but first he wanted to play a trick on Vishnu. He secretly went to the spot where Vishnu had placed the lotus flowers and stole one flower. Now there were only 999 flowers.
After making all his preparations, Vishnu began to worship Shiva most devotedly. One by one, he offered the lotus flowers and chanted Shiva's name. When he came to the end, he realised that one flower was missing. He had only counted 999. That meant he had to go and find one more lotus. Instead of doing that, he immediately plucked out one of his eyes and placed it before Shiva.
When Shiva saw that Vishnu had such devotion for him, he said, "I will grant you anything that you ask for."
"Please give me something that will help me to conquer the asuras," said Vishnu.
Shiva replied, "I give you this round disc. It will help you to conquer all your enemies. No matter how many demons come to attack you and the other gods, you will be able to defeat them all with this disc."
The name of the disc was the Sudarshana Chakra. When Lord Krishna took incarnation, Vishnu gave him this chakra, because Krishna was the embodiment of Vishnu. Krishna could immediately use the chakra at any time; it was his own property. Sri Chaitanya also used the Sudarshana Chakra a few times. He was able to invoke it and it would come to him. When he wanted to kill Jagai and Madhai, for example, he invoked it. These two ruffians saw it coming from Heaven and became extremely frightened. Before it reached them, they surrendered to Sri Chaitanya.
The Sudarshana Chakra is not thrown. With will-power it is sent against the enemy. It rotates very, very fast after leaving the finger and chases the enemy. The chakra itself is round and has something like the points of arrows all around its edge. It has tremendous occult and spiritual power to destroy everything. Nobody can stand against the Sudarshana Chakra.
The power of Lord Shiva's nameThis story is about one particular husband and wife. Although it is from our ancient Puranas, in many ways the story sounds absolutely like twentieth-century American life!
The husband was from the Vaishya, or merchant, class. He was a very rich trader and he used to travel from village to village. One day, he was returning home all alone when he saw a most beautiful woman by the side of the road. He fell in love with her instantly and began meeting with her frequently. People came to know that he was mixing with this woman and they started speaking ill of him. It was too much for his poor wife.
She pleaded with him, "What are you doing? People are saying such evil things about you. Please do not bring shame upon our family! We have been happily married for so many years. We have such beautiful children. Please do not give it all up for this woman."
Unfortunately, the husband refused to listen to his wife. He continued seeing the woman and even visited her house. For years and years the wife tolerated her husband's misbehaviour. Finally, she threatened him, "If you will not give up your bad life, then I will do the same thing. I will find a boyfriend!"
The husband did not take his wife seriously. He felt it was acceptable for him to lead an undivine life, but he could not believe that his wife would do the same. He simply disregarded her threat.
The wife was furious. She was ready to kill her husband. Finally she decided that she would carry out her threat and lead an undivine life. She thought that this would make her husband realise how badly he had treated her and he would give up his girlfriend.
The wife found a boyfriend and began inviting him home. She wanted to teach her husband a lesson. Both husband and wife were now enjoying an undivine life. One day the husband came home only to discover his wife's boyfriend in the house. The husband was infuriated! He struck the boyfriend and wounded him so severely that the boyfriend had to be taken to the doctor. The husband thought that was the end of the matter. After such a thrashing, he was sure the boyfriend would not dare to return.
Unfortunately, the wife started going to the boyfriend's place. During the day the husband would be with his girlfriend, and at night he would come home only to find that his wife was somewhere else. What a story!
This went on for several years, and then the wife's boyfriend lost interest in her. He found somebody to take her place. The wife was very sad and disturbed. "O God," she cried bitterly, "for him I gave up my husband and this is what he has done to me! He has found somebody else!" Then she said to herself, "Ah, it is because I am too old. I am not as beautiful as I was before. That is why he does not want to see me. I cannot regain my lost beauty and I can never get back all the years that I have wasted leading such an undivine life. What am I going to do with my life? I know that I will die soon. Perhaps it is too late for me to become spiritual, but let me see. Let me try to pray and meditate for the brief time that I have left on earth."
The wife left her home and began wandering at random from place to place, praying and meditating. One day she came upon a temple dedicated to Lord Shiva, with a pond in front of it. There, people were reciting verses from the scriptures about Shiva.
She saw a man standing by the pond and she asked him, "What are those people saying?"
"They are praising Lord Shiva," he replied. "These are verses from the scriptures about Lord Shiva's greatness and kindness. Lord Shiva forgives each and every person on earth. There is nobody whom Lord Shiva does not forgive."
"Will he forgive me?" she asked eagerly.
"You heard them chanting, did you not?" said the man.
"Yes, I heard them chanting."
"That means you are already forgiven."
"But I have not prayed to Lord Shiva."
"It does not matter," the man assured her. "Even if one hears Lord Shiva's name, one is forgiven. You have been standing here for a long time and you have heard them chanting Lord Shiva's name over and over, so Lord Shiva has definitely forgiven you."
"How will I know that I have been forgiven?" the wife asked. "I am so bad! I have done so many wrong things in my life."
The man explained, "You will see that you have been forgiven when you die. Your soul will go to Lord Shiva's region, his loka."
"I will not go to hell for the bad things I have done?"
"No, no, no! Now that you have heard Lord Shiva's name, you will go directly to Heaven, I promise you."
In the course of time the wife died and her soul did go to the highest Heaven, as the man had said. She was so happy in that realm.
After some time, she began to make enquiries about her boyfriend, who had also died. The denizens of Heaven said, "He was such a bad fellow! His soul has gone to hell and he is experiencing tremendous suffering."
"Can you also tell me about my husband?" she asked.
"Your husband and your boyfriend are in the same category," came the reply. "But since your husband started this wrong movement, his soul is suffering even more powerfully than the soul of your boyfriend. Your husband is the worst culprit, so we have sent him to a particular hell which is infinitely worse than all the others."
The wife began begging the Heavenly beings, "Please, please, can you not do something to help my husband? After all, we were both equally wrong. It is only by the Grace of Lord Shiva that I am here. I just heard his name at a temple and I was forgiven. It does not seem fair that I should be enjoying Heaven, while my husband should be suffering so much. After all, we were happily married for such a long time. How can I bring my husband's soul to Heaven? I am ready to pray and meditate. Please tell me what I should do."
"Nobody will dare to go into that lowest hell," said the Heavenly beings. "There is nothing we can do."
"If I pray and meditate, will it make any difference?" asked the wife.
"Yes," they said. "You can certainly pray and meditate. Who knows, one day Lord Shiva may forgive your husband as he forgave you."
So the wife started praying and meditating most fervently. After some time, a messenger from Lord Shiva came and said, "Lord Shiva is very pleased with your sincerity. He knows what you want and he will grant you the boon. If you want to descend into the lowest hell to bring back your husband, he will send someone with you. One of the celestial musicians will accompany you. As you were exonerated by hearing Lord Shiva's devotees chanting his sacred name so devotedly and soulfully, so will your husband be freed from his sins by hearing this musician sing the praises of Lord Shiva. Then you and your husband will be able to stay together in Heaven."
The wife was overjoyed. She took the celestial musician with her to that worst possible hell. When they reached that unbearable place, the musician sang many songs in praise of Lord Shiva. Hearing them, the husband was absolved of his wrongdoings and he went with his wife to live in Heaven. Because of Lord Shiva's compassion and forgiveness, these two were accepted into Heaven.
In India, people still believe that no matter what kind of life you lead, as long as you hear people devotedly praying to Lord Shiva or singing songs in praise of him, all your sins will be washed away.
Lord Krishna meets RadhaWhen Krishna was a little boy of four or five, his father, Nanda, took him to the field where the cattle were grazing. Krishna wanted to spring a surprise on his father, so he created a severe thunderstorm. It began to rain heavily and the trees were tossing wildly.
Although Krishna was responsible for the storm, he pretended that he knew nothing. He started crying and screaming, and he clung to his father for protection.
Nanda was trying desperately to protect his child and also the cattle. He found that he could not manage to do the two things simultaneously, and so he was in a terrible predicament. He had to save his dearest child and again, he had to save the cattle. Nanda could see no way to bring both the cattle and the child home safely.
All of a sudden, a most beautiful woman appeared. Nanda was very relieved to see this unknown woman who had come at such a crucial moment. "Would you kindly take care of my child?" he asked. "I must take the cattle home now. Then I will come back. I am sure that you will be able to protect my son."
"Do not worry. I will definitely take good care of your child," the woman assured Nanda.
Nanda departed for home with the frightened cattle. When Krishna and the woman were alone together, Krishna did something extraordinary. He created a most enchanting scene and took the form of a youth. This youth was dark-skinned; he wore an orange cloth and on his forehead there was a peacock feather. In his hands, he held a flute which he was playing so hauntingly. Krishna looked at the woman and asked her, "Do you remember this incident, when we were in Heaven?"
The unknown woman was Radha, who was Krishna's dearest beloved.
Radha replied, "I do remember this incident. It is very vivid to me." Krishna was showing Radha a scene from their life together in Heaven before they took incarnation on earth. He wanted to remind Radha of their eternal oneness.
The time was fast approaching for Krishna's father to come and take his son home. Krishna stopped the performance in Heaven and became a little child again. He started crying pitifully for his father to come and claim him. After some time, Nanda had still not appeared and Radha became very worried. She was wondering what to do when she heard a voice telling her to take the child to Nanda's house.
Radha was so sad and miserable that she had to return Krishna to his parents after being reunited with him on earth. She was afraid that she would not be able to see him anymore. But the voice told her, "Take the child back to Nanda and Yashoda. If you listen to me, I assure you that you will be able to go and see your Lord Krishna every evening. You will meet him and he will play his flute for you. A part of your heart will always remain with him."
At that moment, there appeared Brahma, the Creator. For 60,000 years he had been praying to the Highest only to have a glimpse of Radha. In his meditation, he had seen Krishna and Radha together on earth and he was deeply moved. So he came personally to see Radha, who was the embodiment of the Universal Force.
Radha obeyed the inner message that she had received from the voice and took the child back to Nanda's house. After that, she used to come and visit Krishna every evening.
That is one version of how Lord Krishna and Radha met for the first time. There is another version of the story. In this second version, it is believed that Radha's father was a very rich king. When Radha was still a little girl, he decided it was time for her to get married. He made all the necessary arrangements for her to marry a neighbouring prince.
But Radha did not want to get married; she wanted only to be with Krishna. So she took her soul out of her body and kept only a portion of herself, a shadow of her real existence, inside her body. The prince for whom she was intended married the shadow.
Radha transported her soul to Nanda's family because she knew that Lord Krishna was being brought up there. She took birth in Nanda's family, and she and Krishna became brother and sister, closer than the closest.
Kartikeya and the five princessesOne day, when Kartikeya was three years old, his mother, Parvati, took him with her to the river. Kartikeya was playing happily in the reeds that grow by the side of the river. Parvati thought she would leave him there for a few minutes while she went home to do something.
Alas, when she came back, Kartikeya was nowhere to be found. Parvati was so upset and worried. She searched and searched for him, but to no avail. Finally, she was forced to return home without him and give Shiva the sad news. Shiva was heartbroken that their dearest child was missing.
What actually happened was this: while Parvati was absent, five princesses passed by. They saw the little child playing in the reeds and they could not conquer their temptation. He was so divinely beautiful! They took Kartikeya back to their palace and cared for him as their own.
Now, these particular princesses were very spiritual. Because of their prayer and meditation, the cosmic gods would sometimes visit them in person. One day, soon after they had taken Kartikeya, four or five cosmic gods came to their palace.
"Where did you get such a beautiful child?" asked the gods. "We know that all of you are unmarried."
"We abducted the child," confessed the princesses.
"How could you do such a thing?" cried the gods. "To whom does the child belong?"
"We do not know whose child he is," the princesses answered truthfully. "We simply saw him playing in the reeds and we could not resist taking him. He looked so charming! Now we are bringing him up."
"How much suffering the poor parents must be going through!" lamented the gods. They added, "All right, since you do not know who his rightful parents are, he can stay here. But let us make him very powerful."
The cosmic gods started teaching Kartikeya archery and all the other arts of fighting. As the years passed by, Kartikeya became extremely skilful and powerful. The cosmic gods were so pleased with him. They declared, "We are more than satisfied with your progress. We have taught you so many things and you have learned them very well. You are undoubtedly the strongest warrior. In skill, you have surpassed even us. We now declare you to be the commander-in-chief of the cosmic gods."
Soon the news reached Shiva and Parvati that a newcomer had been made the supreme leader of the cosmic gods. "They are saying that his strength is unparalleled," remarked Shiva to his wife. "I understand that all the cosmic gods have helped him."
"Then let us go and see him," suggested Parvati.
When Parvati saw Kartikeya, she felt at once that this was her long-lost son. Shiva, as usual was hesitant. He doubted that this brave warrior could be the beautiful little son whom he had lost so many years before. But Parvati was convinced. She begged Shiva to make enquiries about Kartikeya's background.
Shiva and Parvati learned that Kartikeya had been raised by five unmarried princesses who had found him playing all alone in the reeds by the side of a river. When the princesses described the location of the reeds, Shiva cried out, "That is the exact place where we lost our child!"
This is how Kartikeya became commander-in-chief of the cosmic gods and was finally restored to his grief-stricken parents.
Radha's one-hundred-year curseOne day Radha came to learn that Krishna was talking at great length with one of the gopis named Brinda. Radha became furious. She fully intended to scold and insult both Krishna and Brinda.
Brinda heard that Radha was burning with anger, and she was filled with fear. She did not know what the consequences would be and so she committed suicide.
Krishna happened to be with one of his dearest friends, Sridhama, when Radha arrived to give Krishna his scolding. Sridhama was always for Krishna, and he could not bear to hear Krishna insulted. Sridhama faced Radha and said, "If you scold my Lord even once, I shall curse you."
"It is I who am cursing you!" said Radha, her voice shaking with anger. "You have to take incarnation in a very low family, and you will suffer enormously."
Sridhama immediately responded, "Radha, I am cursing you. For one hundred years you will not be able to meet with my Lord. There will be a great separation for one hundred years!"
Radha and Sridhama exchanged their terrible curses and both the curses came true. In Radha's case, it is said that she was with Sri Krishna for the first eleven years of Krishna's life. Then Krishna left Brindaban and stayed in Mathura and other places for one hundred years. He was a king and a warrior. It was during this time that the battle of Kurakshetra took place and Krishna became the charioteer of Arjuna. Afterwards, Krishna retired and Radha came to be with him for the last fourteen years of his life. According to the Purana that contains this version, Sri Krishna lived for a total of 125 years.
If this story is true, and Krishna's lifespan was 125 years, then the story of the hunter whose arrow pierced Krishna's foot cannot be valid. It is said that this hunter was responsible for Krishna's earthly departure.
Once the battle of Kurukshetra was over, Krishna's son, Samba, was instigated by some relatives to misbehave. As a result, he was cursed by three great sages and Krishna's whole family was destroyed. The curse pronounced on Samba was preceded by the curse of Gandhari. She felt that Krishna could have prevented the war altogether.
In this particular version of the story, Radha does not re-enter Sri Krishna's life at all after their childhood together in Brindaban. Of course, there are some great Indian scholars who say that Radha did not even exist! They say it is all in the imagination-world. So many volumes have been written about the non-existence of Radha!
I am reminded of our greatest Vedantin scholar, Shankaracharya. He went from one end of India to the other, only to preach his philosophy that the world is unreal. People asked him, "If the world is unreal, as you say, why are you wasting your time going from place to place? From your room you can declare that the world is unreal. But we feel that this world is real."
Shankaracharya's answer was, "If I do not go from place to place and offer the message that the world is unreal, people will not hear my philosophy. You live in one place and your friends live in another place. I must also visit your friends to share my realisation with them."
Again, his critics asked, "If this world is unreal, why are you wasting your time and energy? Just pray to God to take you away!"
Shankaracharya said, "No, I cannot do that. God is asking me to tell people that the world is unreal."
There are so many funny, funny stories like this in our Indian history. I find them so entertaining and illumining. In the case of Sri Krishna, who is actually going to know what happened so long ago? Historians say that he lived five thousand years ago; but, according to me, he lived nine or ten thousand years ago. That is my inner feeling.
What we do know is that the supreme Lord Krishna is ever-transcending. Right from his very birth, he performed miracle after miracle. Even today, thousands of years later, his consciousness is guiding us, illumining us and protecting us in unimaginable ways.
Shiva leaves Parvati behindOne day Shiva wanted to go and visit Mount Mandara. He was in a terrible rush, but Parvati was not ready. Finally Shiva decided to leave without her. Some apsaras and gandharvas, or celestial musicians, followed him.
When they reached the destination, Shiva began to feel sorry that he had not waited for Parvati to accompany him. So he sent Nandi back to bring Parvati.
Meanwhile, Parvati was sulking. How could Shiva go without her? When Nandi arrived, she said to him, "You have come to get me, but I am still not ready and I do not know when I will be ready. You can go and tell Shiva that I am not ready." Parvati was very sad and depressed.
Nandi went to inform Shiva that Parvati was still not ready. This time Shiva told him, "Nandi, go back and wait for her. No matter how long it takes, wait for her. You have to bring her here."
Nandi returned to Parvati again and waited and waited for her to finish getting ready. In the meantime, some apsaras and gandharvas wanted to fool Lord Shiva. The apsaras were the main instigators. One of them took the form of Parvati and one of the gandharvas took the form of Nandi. They looked exactly like the real Parvati and the real Nandi.
This particular apsara and gandharva appeared before Lord Shiva. The false Nandi said, "I have brought Parvati," and the false Parvati added, "Yes, my Lord, I have come." Shiva was very, very happy. He thought they were the real Parvati and Nandi.
O God, in a few minutes' time, the real Parvati and the real Nandi arrived, and there was great confusion. The second Parvati insisted that she was the real one and the first Parvati insisted that she was the real one. A fight broke out between the two sides, but the real Parvati and the real Nandi easily defeated the false ones.
Then Lord Shiva, with his infinite compassion, forgave the false Parvati and the false Nandi.
Who is the greatest: Brahma, Vishnu or Shiva?Our Indian trinity is composed of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is the Creator, Vishnu is the Preserver and Shiva is the Transformer. According to some, Shiva is the Destroyer, but we say Transformer.
Once it happened that pride entered into Brahma. He said to his devotees, "From now on, you have to consider me as the highest Absolute. I am not of the same standard as Vishnu and Shiva. What do they do, after all? Vishnu just preserves and Shiva only deals with demons. But I am the Creator."
Brahma's devotees bowed to him, saying, "You are the highest."
As they were praising Brahma, Vishnu appeared. "What are you saying?" he asked the devotees.
They replied, "Brahma has informed us that he is the highest and we are repeating his words."
"It can never be!" exclaimed Vishnu. "He just creates, but I take the trouble of preserving. My task is far more difficult because it goes on for years and years. My patience, compassion and forgiveness far surpass Brahma's act of creation. It takes very little time to create, but to preserve the creation goes on indefinitely. I am the one you should be praising as the highest!"
Brahma's devotees did not agree with Vishnu's reasoning at all. They stated Vishnu's case to Brahma, and then Brahma and Vishnu began quarrelling and fighting. Their dispute went on and on.
The four Vedas could not brook this kind of conflict. They took the form of four divine beings and stood in front of Brahma and Vishnu, who were engaged in bitter argument. The Vedas said, "We feel that Shiva is by far the best of the trinity. You two are quarrelling and fighting, but he is far above all this. Only ordinary human beings quarrel and fight in this manner."
At that moment, Lord Shiva was passing by. "What is going on?" he asked.
Vishnu summed up the whole story: "Brahma thinks that he is the greatest and I think that I am the greatest."
Now it was Shiva's turn. "Neither of you is the greatest and highest," he said. "I am the greatest and highest."
Vishnu surrendered. "I cannot go on arguing. I will gladly proclaim that you are the greatest," he declared.
Shiva was highly pleased with Vishnu, but Brahma strongly opposed Shiva. He said, "I am undoubtedly the greatest. You deal only with ghosts and demons. You do not take care of your physical existence. You wear skulls around your neck. You do not believe in creation!"
"Enough!" shouted Shiva. "I am no longer going to tolerate your insults. I challenge you to a fight!"
As Shiva prepared to fight, a being came out of his body and said, "I will fight for you." Brahma and this being struck each other very hard, but the being was finally able to cut off one of Brahma's heads and Brahma fell down dead. Originally Brahma had five heads, but this being removed one of the five.
Seeing Brahma lying lifeless on the ground, Shiva felt sad. "After all," he said, "Brahma was once upon a time my friend. What have I done? This being and I are responsible."
So Shiva revived Brahma, but Brahma now had only four heads. Brahma immediately cursed the being: "The head that you have cut off will always remain on your hand."
This is how Brahma's fifth head became stuck to the hand of that being, whose name was Nandi.
Another version of the story says that the head became stuck to Shiva's palm. When Shiva lies down, it can be seen there.
Yet a third version says that Nandi went from one place to another trying to dislodge Brahma's head from his palm. Finally he went to Krishna, who advised him, "Go to Benares. It is the most sacred place of all. There the very sanctity of the place will enter into your palm, and you will see that this head will come off your hand."
Nandi listened to Krishna's advice and went to Benares. As soon as he arrived in that sacred city, lo and behold, the head of Brahma left him.
Shiva was very pleased with Nandi for winning the fight with Brahma. He said to Nandi, "I am so satisfied with you. You were able to kill Brahma. You are extremely powerful. I am compelling you to stay with me. From now on, you will be the leader of all the demons and ghosts that are my subjects."
That was how Nandi became Shiva's chief attendant.
Shiva insults his wifeThere was an asura who wanted to become immortal, so he prayed and meditated for many, many years. Finally Brahma appeared before him to grant him a boon, and the asura asked for the boon of Immortality.
Brahma said, "I cannot grant you that boon, but at least this much I can do for you: you will not be able to be killed by any male."
The asura was very happy because he would now become the strongest and most powerful of all the great fighters. He immediately invaded Heaven and threw Indra out. Then he began destroying Heaven and expelling all the cosmic gods one by one.
The cosmic gods hurried to Brahma and pleaded, "What have you done, what have you done, my Lord? Now you have to save us!"
Brahma said, "I am the culprit. I granted the boon, but now I do not have the power to protect you. I have to go to Shiva. Only he can save you from this predicament. Let me go and ask Shiva what can be done."
So Brahma went to Shiva and explained the whole situation to him. He said, "I gave this asura the boon of becoming invincible. Now he has thrown Indra and all the other cosmic gods out of Heaven. There is only one way he can be defeated, and that is by a female. Can you not provide a very powerful female to kill this asura?"
Shiva thought for a few moments. "It is a very difficult task," he said at last, "but I will try my best. I will see what I can do for you."
While Shiva was wondering how to solve this problem, Parvati happened to walk by. Now, Parvati was extremely beautiful and her complexion was very fair. All of a sudden, for some unknown reason, Shiva addressed her as Kali. As soon as Parvati heard her husband calling her Kali, she got furious.
"Why are you calling me by that name?" she screamed. "You married me because I was so beautiful. Now why are you casting a slur on me? Have I become dark? Am I no longer beautiful? I am so disgusted with you! Who asked you to marry me? I am not going to stay with you. If you think that I am dark-skinned, I will leave this instant!"
Shiva made no attempt to retract his words, and so Parvati left him and entered into the forest. She began praying and meditating and practising very strict spiritual austerities. One day a tiger came near her as she sat meditating. It wanted to kill and devour her. Upon seeing the tiger, Parvati thought, "How kind this tiger is! I am meditating here all alone and it has come to protect me." She entered into the soul of the tiger and, out of sheer gratitude and love, removed all the tiger's ferocious qualities. The tiger remained by her side and became her most favourite devotee.
Parvati continued meditating on Brahma. At long last he came to see her. He said, "I am so pleased with you. Now what can I do for you?"
"I wish to have a better complexion," said Parvati. "Shiva has called me Kali. What an insult! That means my skin is no longer beautiful. I cannot bear to be called dark. I want to be more beautiful."
"All right," said Brahma, "I will grant you this boon. From the cells of your body a dark being will come out. It will be quite black. When your body is rid of this being, you will become beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful. From now on you will be known as Gauri, she who has the most beautiful complexion."
Immediately, a very dark and very powerful being came out of the cells of Parvati's body. It took the form of a female and Brahma endowed it with all kinds of spiritual and occult powers. This being fought against the asura and defeated it. Then Indra and all the other cosmic gods went back to Heaven and lived again in perfect joy. Meanwhile, Parvati returned to Shiva and they were very happy together once again.
The unparalleled beauty of the goddess ParvatiOnce the goddess Parvati wanted to become beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful. She was already quite beautiful, but her present beauty did not satisfy her. She wanted to become beauty non pareil.
Parvati knew that this kind of beauty could be acquired only by virtue of intense prayer and meditation. She decided to leave her husband, Shiva, and go into seclusion so that she could practise spiritual disciplines without interruption.
Before leaving, she asked Nandi not to allow any woman who looked like her to enter Lord Shiva's place. She said, "Many times my Lord has been deceived by women who take my form and try to approach him. You have to be absolutely sure that it is I who have returned, and nobody else. Otherwise, I am sure that in my absence some women will try to fool you."
After issuing her strict instructions, Parvati withdrew into the forest for an indefinite length of time. All her jewellery and lovely garments she left behind so that she could give her full attention to prayer and meditation.
A few months later, an asura or demon, who happened to pass by Shiva's place, noticed the gigantic gates outside it. The demon asked one of the guards, "Whose place is this?"
"It is Lord Shiva's place," the guard replied.
"I would like to be admitted," said the demon haughtily.
"It is absolutely forbidden," said the guard. "I have received special instructions from Parvati and nobody may be admitted."
Outwardly the demon pretended to be detached. "All right," he said, "if you do not allow people to enter, what can I do?"
Inwardly he was seething with rage. He went home and came back to the gate a few days later. This time he took the form of a tiny creature. It was something like a snake. Because this creature was so tiny, it was able to pass through the gate unnoticed by the guards. It was almost invisible to the eye. Once it was inside Shiva's home, the creature assumed the form of Parvati. She was beautiful beyond description.
When Shiva saw his wife standing before him, he was filled with joy. He came forward to embrace her but, as he put his arms around the false Parvati, the demon suddenly resumed its old form. The demon attacked Shiva and a terrible fight took place.
Eventually Shiva gained the upper hand and the demon lay dying on the ground. With his last breath, the demon said to Shiva, "You have killed me, but I am warning you. One day my brother will come and kill you. He will take Parvati's form and kill you. He is much stronger than I am."
It was well known that this demon did not have a brother. His threat was all lies. He wanted Shiva to destroy the real Parvati when she returned from the forest.
The problem of the false Parvatis went on for many, many years. Just as Parvati had foreseen other beings took her form and tried to fool the guards. Sometimes the guards refused to admit them and, at other times, when they were able to enter successfully, Shiva recognised them. Shiva did not want to be fooled a second time.
After a long time, one Parvati came and requested admittance. She behaved so much like the real Parvati that the guards opened the gate. She entered and started walking towards Shiva. Shiva immediately suspected her. "O God," he sighed, "another one has come to fool me."
Shiva prepared to defend himself once again. This time, from his body, countless beings emerged to destroy the false Parvati. But to Shiva's great surprise, countless beings also emerged from the body of this particular Parvati. A huge battle raged between the two sides.
As Shiva gazed at the many beings who were fighting for Parvati, he realised that only the real Parvati could have this kind of spiritual power.
"You are my real Parvati!" he cried, throwing down his weapons. Shiva advanced towards her. As he came nearer, he noticed that his wife was now much, much more beautiful than she had been previously. Because she had prayed and meditated for so many years, she had become beauty unparalleled.
Can you imagine, a divine cosmic goddess, a supreme goddess, dying for beauty! It is no wonder that all women crave beauty at every second of their lives. It all started with our supreme goddess, Parvati.