by J. L. Shastri | 1970
This page relates “shiva manifests himself as a column of fire in the battlefield” as found in the Shiva-purana, which, in Hinduism, represents one of the eighteen Mahapuranas. This work eulogizes Lord Shiva as the supreme deity, besides topics such as cosmology and philosophy. It is written in Sanskrit and claims to be a redaction of an original text consisting of 100,000 metrical verses.
1. Dear children, hail to ye. I hope the universe and the race of the deities, under my suzerainty, flourish in their respective duties.
already known to me. This agitation on your part is like a redundant speech.
4. In that very assembly the lord announced his desire to go to the battlefield of Hari and Brahmā and accordingly issued His directive to a hundred of the commanders of his attendants.
5-6. Different kinds of musical instruments were played to announce the start of the journey of the Lord. The commanders of the attendants were in readiness fully bedecked in their ornaments, seated in their respective vehicles. The lord, consort of Ambikā, mounted the holy chariot shaped like Oṃkāra from front to the back and embellished m five circular rings. He was accompanied by his sons and Gaṇas. All the devas, Indra and others, followed.
7. Honoured suitably by the display of banners of various colours, fans, chowries, scattered flowers, music, dance and the instrument players, and accompanied by the great goddess (Pārvatī), Paśupati (Śiva) went to the battle-field with the whole army.
8. On espying the battle, the lord vanished in the firmament. The play of the music stopped and the tumult of the Gaṇas subsided.
10-11. The flames emitted by the two weapons of Brahmā and Viṣṇu burned the three worlds. On seeing this imminent untimely dissolution the bodiless form of Śiva assumed the terrific form of a huge column of fire in their midst.
12. The two weapons of fiery flame potential enough to destroy the entire world fell into the huge column of fire that manifested itself there instantaneously.
13. Seeing that auspicious wonderful phenomenon assuaging the weapons they asked each other “What is this wonderful form?”
14. “What is this column of fire that has risen up? It is beyond the range of senses. We have to find out its top and bottom.”
15. Jointly deciding like this, the two heroes proud of their prowess immediately set about assiduously in their quest.
16-18. “Nothing will turn up if we are together”. Saying this, Viṣṇu assumed the form of a Boar and went in search of the root. Brahmā in the form of a swan went up in search of the top. Piercing through the netherworlds and going very far below, Viṣṇu could not see the root of the fiery column. Utterly exhausted, Viṣṇu in the form of a Boar returned to the former battle-ground.
19. Dear one, your father, Brahmā who went high up in the sky saw a certain bunch of Ketakī flower of mysterious nature falling from above.
20-21. On seeing the mutual fight of Brahmā and Viṣṇu, lord Śiva laughed. When his head shook, the Ketakī flower dropped down. Although it had been in its downward course for many years, neither its fragrance nor its lustre had been diminished even a bit. The flower had been intended to bless them.
22-23. (Brahmā said) “O lord of flowers, by whom had you been worn? Why do you fall? I have come here to seek out the top, in the form of a swan.” (The flower replied) “I am falling down from the middle of this primordial column that is inscrutable. It has taken me a long time. Hence I do not see how you can see the top.”
24-25. “Dear friend, hereafter you must do as I desire. In the presence of Viṣṇu you must say like this. O Acyuta, the top of the column has been seen by Brahmā. I am the witness for the same.” Saying this he bowed to the Ketakī flower again and again. Even falsehood is recommended in times of danger. So say the authoritative texts.
26. (Returning to the original place) on seeing Viṣṇu there, utterly exhausted and lacking pleasure, Brahmā danced with joy. Viṣṇu, in the manner of a eunuch admitting his inability(to a woman), told him the truth (that he could not see the bottom). But Brahmā told Viṣṇu like this.
27-28. “O Hari, the top of this column has been seen by me. This Ketakī flower is my witness.” The Ketaka flower repeated the falsehood endorsing the words of Brahmā in his presence. Hari, taking it to be true, made obeisance to Brahmā. He worshipped Brahmā with all the sixteen means of service and homage.
29. The Lord taking up a visible form in order to chastise Brahmā who practised trickery, came out of the column of fire. On seeing the lord, Viṣṇu stood up and with his hands shaking with fear caught hold of the lord’s feet.
30. It is out of ignorance and delusion about you whose body is without a beginning or an end that we indulged in this quest prompted by our own desire. Hence O, Sympathetic Being, forgive us for our fault. In fact, it is but another form of your divine sport.
31. “O dear Hari, I am pleased with you, because you strictly adhered to truth in spite of your desire to be a lord. Hence among the general public you will have a footing equal to mine. You will be honoured too likewise.
32. Hereafter you will be separate from me having separate temple, installation of idols, festivals and worship.”
33. Thus, formerly, the lord was delighted by the truthfulness of Hari and offered him a footing equal to his own even as the assembly of the devas was witnessing the same.
Footnotes and references:
Ṣoḍaśopacāra: The sixteen acts of homage to a deity are men tioned in ŚP II.25-29. They are differently enumerated elsewhere:
āsanaṃ svāgataṃ pādyamarghyamācamanīyakam |
madhuparkācamanasnānaṃ vasanābharaṇāni ca |
gandhapuṣpe dhūpadīpau naivedyaṃ vandanaṃ tathā |
Tantrasāra enumerates 64 Upacāras.