Three Different Accounts of the Origin of Adhikāranandin (Nandikeśvara)

2015 | 447 words

Most of this is quoted from “Elements of Hindu Iconography” Vol.II p2 by T. A. Gopinatha....

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Three different accounts are found of the Nandikeśvara, who is also known as Adhikāranandin. His name means “Lord of Nandi.” and is an epithet of Śiva.


a) The Śiva-mahāpurāṇa

According to the Śiva-mahāpurāṇa, he was the son of the ṛṣi Sālaṅkāyana; the following account is given of him by this authority: Sālaṅkāyana, who was long without a son, was doing penance under a sāla tree in a place called Sālagrāma. Appreciating his austerities, Viṣṇu appeared before him and asked him to request for any boon he desired. The ṛṣi prayed that he may be blessed with a son of great virtue. Immediately after this request was made, a person sprang from the right of Viṣṇu, who resembled Śiva in every way. He was given the name Nandikeśvara. The purāṇa adds that this was the forty-ninth birth of Nandikeśvara.


a.2) A second account

A second account of the birth of Nandikeśvara runs as follows: in the Tretā-yuga, a ṛṣi named Nandi was performing a severe penance on the peak called Muñjavān on the Mandara mountain. Śiva pleased with the devotion of Nandi presented himself before the ṛṣi. The latter requested Śiva to grant him the boons that he should have unshakeable faith in and love for Śiva, as also that he should be made the head of the gaṇas. Śiva granted him the boons with pleasure and isappeared. Indra and the other gods were overjoyed to see the bliss that befell the ṛṣi Nandi and praised him for his good fortune.


b) The Liṅga-purāṇa

The Liṅga-purāṇa has a third account of the origin of Nandikeśvara. A blind ṛṣi named Silāda was practising penance with a desire to obtain an immortal son, not born of human beings. Indra becoming pleased with the austerities of this ṛṣi resolved to fulfil the ṛṣi’s desire and approuched him and told him that no one but Śiva could grant him what he wanted and directed him to address his penances to that deity. He did as advised by Indra, and Śiva pleased with him, promised that he would himself be born to the ṛṣi as his son; thereby he intemded to satisfy Brahmā also who was desirous of Śiva taking a human incarnation. After some time, Silāda was engaged in a sacrifice (yāga); a lad proceeded from the room in which the ṛṣi Silāda was performing the yāga; he looked precisely like Śiva, with a jaṭā-makuta on his head, three eyes and four arms.

He was carrying in his hands the śūla, the ṭaṅka, the gadā and the vajra. Because Silāda became pleased with the fulfilment of his desire by the appearance of this, his son born not by human agency, Śiva gave the lad the name Nandi and disappeared.

Then Silāda and his son Nandi repaired to the former’s āśrama. There the boy lost his superhuman form and became quite like any ordinary mortal. Though feeling sorry for the change, Silāda performed on his son the usual ceremony such as upanayana, when the boy attained the seventh year of age; he soon became well versed in the Vedas. Some time after two ṛṣis named Mitra and Varuṇa came to the āśrama of the ṛṣi Silāda as his guests; these gazed intently at Nandi and perceived through their mental vision that the life of the boy was to come to an end in one year more. They informed this sad news to the father of the boy. The ṛṣi and his father Sālaṅkāyana sank in despair on hearing the prognostication of their guests, and swooned. But Nandikeśvara, though internally perturbed, began to meditate upon Śiva so intently that the latter appeared to him and took hold of him in his arms and threw round his neck the flower garland which was hanging round his own neck. Forthwith the boy was changed into a being endowed with three eyes, ten arms and appearance which exactly resembled Śiva. The latter blessed this metamorphosed Nandi to be free from old age and death and also anointed him as the head of his gaṇas and married him to Suyaśa, the daughter of the Maruts.


c) The Nīlamata Purāṇa

There is a similar story as the one found in the Liṅga-purāṇa above. To quote verse 1070-72a: “In former times, there was a Brahmana named Silada who had no son. O king, he went to Nandi mountain and in order to get a son (he) propitiated the Great God, by eating the powder of rocks for one hundred years. Due to compassion, the God of the gods, gave to him as a son, his own Ganesa Nandi possessed of great strength.”


d) Other sources

He is mentioned is various other sources.

Rāmāyana: The name Nandikeśvara, ‘the tawny coloured dwarf’ and a follower of Śiva occurs in the Rāmāyaṇa (V. 17, Sec. 16 of the Uttara-kāṇḍa). There he is stated to be another manifestation of Śiva (apara tanuh) and that when he was keeping guard over the Kailāsa, Rāvaṇa (the lord of Laṅkā and of the Rākṣasas) came driving in his aerial car and wanted to cross the abode of Śiva. But he was promptly stopped by Nandikeśvara. Upon this Rāvaṇa made contemptuous remarks concerning the monkey-face of Nandikeśvara. Incensed at the insult offered to him, he cursed Rāvaṇa that beings possessing the same shape as himself and of similar energy (that is, monkeys) would destroy the race of Rāvaṇa.

Bhāgavata-purāṇa: During the yāga that Dakṣa-prajāpati was performing, he spoke tauntigly of Śiva. Nandi grew angry at the insult offered to his lord Śiva and pronounced maledictions against Dakṣa and the other revilers of Śiva.

Viṣṇudharmottara-purāṇa: The Viṣṇudharmottara gives the following description of Nandikeśvara. He should have three eyes and four arms and a red complexion. His garments should be made of tiger’s skin; in one of his hands there should be the triśūla and in another the bhindi; a third hand should be held over his head and the fourth held as though he is commanding a host of people. His gaze should suggest that he is seeing objects at a great distance and regulating the large crowd of devotees resorting to offer worship to Śiva.

Basava-purāṇa: The Basava-purāṇa was written after the time of Śrīpati Paṇḍita. The name Nandi is mentioned: “It is said there that at one time Nārada reported to Śiva that, while other religions were flourishing, the Śaiva faith was with few exceptions dying out among the Brahmins, and so it was decaying among other castes also. Lord Śiva then asked Nandi to get himself incarnated for taking the Vīra-śaiva faith in consonance with the Varṇāśrama rites”

Garga Saṃhitā: He is mentioned as one of the thousand names of Balabhadra (elder brother of Kṛṣṇa) in the portion of this text called the Balabhadra-sahasranāma.

kālañjaro brhat-sānur darī-bhṛn nandikeśvarah |
santānas taru-rājaś ca mandārah pārijātakah ||

He is Kālañjara (kālañjara) and Brhat-sānu (brhat-sānu). He stays in a mountain cave (darī-bhṛt). He is Nandikeśvara (nandikeśvara), the santāna tree (santāna), the king of trees (taru-rāja), the mandāra tree (mandāra), and the pārijāta tree (pārijātaka).

Śrī Garga Saṃhitā, VIII.13.77


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