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Maha Shivaratri is the most important day for the devotees of Lord Shiva. This year, Maha Shivaratri falls on the 13th of February according to the Gregorian calendar. As per the south Indian calendar, the chaturdashi day of the Krishna Paksha in the Magha month is celebrated as Maha Shivaratri. On the other hand, the monthly Masik Shivaratri that falls on the Phalguna month is called Maha Shivaratri in the North of India. But both the days fall on the same day and the difference lies in the naming traditions in the different areas of the country.
Lord Shiva is known as the Destroyer among the Trimurtis - Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and Lord Maheshwara. But to say that destroying is the only thing that Lord Shiva is responsible for would be wrong. The personality of Lord Shiva shines with many facets. He is the ascetic who is drowned in meditation and he is the wild god who smears himself with ashes from the crematorium.
He is the ultimate dancer in the form of Nataraja and he is also the one who burns miscreants with just a look from his third eye. On one hand, he is the perfect lover in the form of Umapathi and on the other, he is the one who adorns himself with bones and snakes.
With such a multi-faceted personality comes a wealth of legends and stories, many of which are unknown even to the devotees of Lord Shiva. Today, we will be listing a few of these obscure and mysterious stories. Let us know how many of these stories you knew beforehand. Also, tell us the stories that you think we have missed.
The Smiling Lord Shiva Under The Feet Of Goddess Kali
When you look at the image of Goddess Kali dancing upon Lord Shiva, you see that the Lord has a beatific smile on his face. It is puzzling as Lord Shiva is always portrayed as angry and furious when faced with such situations.
The legend says that Goddess Kali was brought forth by Goddess Durga for the destruction of the Demon called Rakthabeeja. After Goddess Kali killed the demon, her blood lust could not be controlled and she went on a rampage. All the living beings, gods and demons were powerless in front of the fury of Goddess Kali. All the beings prayed to Lord Shiva to help stop the frenzy of his consort in the form of Goddess Kali.
Lord Shiva realized that it would be impossible to reason with Goddess Kali when she is in this ferocious form. He simply lay down in the path of the Goddess. Goddess Kali came and was wrecking havoc where ever she set her foot. But when she stepped on Lord Shiva, she realized that something happened. This caused her to look down. There under her feet, she saw her husband lying with a smile. This caused her to snap out of her anger. It is said that the Goddess was full of guilt and regret and has her tongue sticking out as a sign of it.
Lord Shiva As Hanuman
Lord Hanuman is often called "Rudra avatar". This is because Lord Hanuman is thought to be a part or "ansh" of Lord Shiva. It is said that the Ansh of Lord Shiva was carried by the wind God to the Queen Anjana and she became Lord Hanuman's Mother. It is said that Lord Shiva wanted to serve Lord Maha Vishnu but it was not possible to do so in his original form. So, he took birth as Lord Hanuman and served Lord Rama who was the Avatar of Lord Maha Vishnu. Such was Lord Hanuman's devotion to Lord Rama that even today; the worship of Lord Rama is incomplete without the mention of Lord Hanuman.
The Story Of The Amarnath Caves
The Amarnath cave is one of the most mysterious places of worship in the whole world. The Shiva Linga made up of ice inspires awe and intense devotion in the hearts of the devotees. The story of the origin of the cave is just as mysterious.
It is said that Goddess Parvati wanted Lord Shiva to tell her the secret of immortality. Lord Shiva took her to the Amarnath caves as he wanted a secluded place where no one can hear the Amar Katha or the stories of immortality. It is said that as the Lord sat down on the deer skin seat and told the secrets of immortality, a couple of dove eggs were accidently concealed under the deer skin. These eggs later hatched and it is said that the doves were immortal. Even today, the devotees who make a trip to the amaranth caves claim to have seen the pair of immortal doves.
The cave was lost and found a couple of times through history. It is said that once, a huge flood covered the valley of Kashmir. Sage Kashyap drained the flood waters turning them into numerous rivers and streams. Sage Bhrigu then stumbled upon the Amarnath cave on his way to the Himalayas. When the cave was lost again, a shepherd accidently stumbled upon the cave. Here he met a sage who gifted him a bag of coal. When he went home, he saw that the bag of coal had turned into gold. The shepherd then went back to thank the sage but he was nowhere to be found. Instead, he found the Shiva Linga made from ice. Since then pilgrimage is made by hundreds of devotees to pay respect to Lord Shiva every year.
How Nandi Became Associated With Lord Shiva
As the legends go, once Goddess Surabhi (the mother of all the cows) gave birth to a number of calves. The milk produced by the Goddess flowed and flooded Lord Shiva's home. This made Lord Shiva very angry. To assuage the anger, Goddess Surabhi offered Lord Shiva her son Nandi. Lord Shiva gladly accepted Nandi and Nandi has remained a constant companion to him ever since.
It is said that if you whisper your wishes into Nandi's ear, he will help them to be fulfilled with the blessings of Lord Shiva.
Lord Vishnu Received His Sudarshana Chakra From Lord Shiva
Once, Lord Vishnu was worshipping Lord Shiva with a thousand Lotus flowers. To test his devotion, Lord Shiva secretly hid one lotus flower. When the time came to offer the thousandth flower, Lord Vishnu was shocked to see that he did not have any more flowers. He did not want his worship to fail. So, he picked out his own eyes and offered it to Lord Shiva. Lord Vishnu is known as Kamal Nayana not only because his eyes are shaped like the petals of the lotus flower but also because he used his eyes instead of a lotus flower.
This act pleased Lord Shiva immensely and he gave Lord Vishnu the Sudarshana Chakra.
Why Lord Shiva Smears Ash On His Body
Once there lived a sage who was very pious. He performed austerities in worship and lived by consuming only the leaves of plants. Once as he was cutting plants for his worship, he accidently cut his finger. To his surprise, his finger bled sap like that of plants instead of blood. The sage was elated as he considered that this was the result of his piety. He was singing and dancing saying that he was the most pious living thing in the world.
Lord Shiva came to the sage in the guise of an old man. He asked the sage the reason for his joy. When he learnt of the reason, the Lord said that all living things turn to ashes once they die. So, if you were the most pious being, you would bleed ash. Saying this, the Lord cut his finger. Lo and behold! His finger bled ashes. The sage's pride was broken and he understood that it was Lord Shiva himself who had come to make him realize his folly.
Since that day, Lord Shiva smears ashes on his body as a symbol of the ultimate truth. All that is, was and will be, will one day turn to ashes. It is foolishness to become proud of what you have in the physical world.
The Test Of Parvati
It is said that Goddess Parvati performed many years of worship and meditation before Lord Shiva blessed her with accepting her hand in marriage. There is one story that is often not told when the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati is recounted.
Before Goddess Parvati got married to Lord Shiva, Lord Shiva disguised himself as an old man and approached the Goddess. He told her that it was foolish to marry Lord Shiva. He told her that Lord Shiva lived the life of a beggar and had nothing to offer the beautiful and gentle Parvati.
These words enraged the Goddess. She furiously asked the old man to go away and told him that she would marry no one but Lord Shiva whatever be the case. Hearing this, Lord Shiva assumed his original form. They were then married with great pomp and splendour.