THE STORY OF SHIVRATHRI FROM SHIV PURAN
THE GLORY OF SHIVRATHRI FROM SHIVA PURANA
NARRATION AND COMMENTARY
BY DR SURUJRATTAN RAMBACHAN
The following narrative on the glory of Shivrathri is told in the Shiv Purana. In this Katha, we are reminded of a hunter who was cruel, but who had a change of heart for the better, as a result of which his sins were destroyed. Of course, the essential message of this Katha is that one can be redeemed from one’s sinful tendencies by making sincere efforts to change one’s habits. The Lord is never asleep to the sincere efforts of devotees to change. In fact in Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna advises in Chapter 6, Verses 5 and 6:
UDDHARED ĀTMANĀ’ TMĀNAM
ĀTMAI’VA HY ĀTMANO BANDHUR
ĀTMAI’VA RIPUR ĀTMANAH
BANDHUR ĀTMĀTMANAS TASYA
ANĀTMANAS TU SATRUTVE
“Let a man raise himself by his own self, let him not debase himself. For he himself is his friend, himself his enemy.”
And in Chapter 9, Verses 29 and 30, Sri Krishna has declared:
API CET SUDURĀCARO
BHAJATE MĀM ANANYABHĀK
SĀDHUR EVA SA MANTAVYAH
SAMYAG VYAVASITO HI SAH
“Even if a man of the most sinful conduct worships me with undeviating devotion, he must be considered righteous, for he has rightly resolved.”
KSIPRAM BHAVATI DHARMĀTMA
NA ME BHKTAH PRANASYATI
“Soon does he become a man of righteousness and obtains lasting peace. O Kaunteya, know for certain that my devotee never perishes.”
And so, in the Shiva Purana, the Holy Sages asked Suta the great disciple of Vyasa, “Please relate to us the story of the glory of Shivrathri.” In addition they also inquired as to whether there were any great benefits to be derived by anyone who performed the rites of Shivrathri even without full knowledge that they were so doing (unconscious worship). The following story is from Shiv Purana.
There was a hunter by the name of Gurudruha. He had a very large family. He was strong, ruthless and engaged in many cruel activities. Every day, he would go into the forest to hunt and kill the deer, but in the forest he also committed theft and hurt many persons. From childhood, he was a cruel person and no auspicious actions could be attributed to him.
Once it was the day of Shivrathri, but this wicked fellow who was staying in the forest for the purpose of hunting did not know of it. On this particular day, he was pressed for food by his wife and parents who were oppressed by starvation. Into the forest he went trying to secure a deer, but as fate would have it, the animals were scare. Night descended upon him, but yet he did not encounter any game. As such, he became extremely worried as to how he would feed his hungry parents as well as his wife and children, He began to lament.
“What shall I do? Where shall I go? Nothing has been obtained by me. What will be the fate of my family? I need to go home with something in my hand. I cannot face them empty handed”, he lamented.
Though a cruel man, he loved his family. He felt the pain of their hunger and also felt a deep sense of responsibility to feed them. And so, he persisted in his long wait for some animals to appear.
Nearby, he heard the flow of water and thought that he should keep vigil there, for surely an animal or two would come for water. Thinking thus, the hunter climbed a Bilva tree, also taking with him some water to drink as he waited. Many hours passed, but there was no sight of any animal. At last, while it was yet the first part of the night, a thirsty deer (hind) came to the pond springing and jumping timidly. The hunter was delighted to see the deer and immediately fitted an arrow to his bow to kill it.
As he did so, some water from his container got spilt and a few leaves from the branch of the Bilwa tree upon which he was sitting also fell down. Unknown to him, under the Bilwa tree was a Lingam of Lord Shiva upon which the water and the leaves had fallen. This became according to Shiv Purana, his worship for the first part of the night, for which worship some of his sins were dissolved.
On hearing the noise, and seeing the bow and arrow in the hands of the hunter, the deer became frightened. It became very distressed on seeing the hunter and began to question him.
“O hunter, what is it that you propose to do? Please speak the truth to me.”
The hunter replied:
“O hind, my family is starving today. I shall satisfy their hunger by killing you.” As he spoke, the deer noticed the cruel look on the face of the hunter and began to ponder what might be done to save herself.
She then replied to the hunter with a high level of intelligence. “I am blessed that my flesh would be used to satisfy the hunger of others. What greater merit can I have through this body? O hunter, it is impossible to expatiate on the merits of a person who helps others even if he takes 100 years.”
The words of this deer reminds us of a verse from Ramayan where Jamavan reminds Hanuman as to why he had taken birth (Avatar).
KAHA RICHESA SUNAHU HANUMĀNĀ
KA CHUPA SĀDHI RAHEHU BALAVĀNĀ
PAVANA TANAYA BALA PAVANA SAMĀNĀ
BUDDHI VIVEKA BIJŇĀNA NIDHĀNĀ
KAVANA SO KĀJU KATHIN JAGA MĀHIM
JO NAHI TĀTA HOI TUMHA PĀHIM
RĀMA KĀJA LAGI TAVA AVATARĀ
SUNATAHI BHAEU PARBATĀKĀRĀ
“Listen O mighty Hanuman, why do you remain silent? You who are so valorous. You who are the son of the Wind God and as strong as your father, you who are a storehouse of intelligence, discretion and spiritual wisdom.”
“What undertaking is there in this world my friend that is too difficult for you to accomplish? It is to serve Sri Rama’s purpose that you have come down upon earth.” Tulsidas says, that on hearing these words Hanuman grew to the size of a mountain.
The hind lectured to the hunter on the merit of service through the use of the body but then said to him, “My infant fawns are in the Ashram. Allow me to return and entrust them to the care of my sister or my husband and I shall then come back. Please do not for one moment believe that I am lying to you. I shall undoubtedly return to you.” And to convince the deer of her good intentions, she said “The earth stays steady through truth. The Ocean is steady through truth. The water flows steadily through truth. Everything is founded on truth.”
You will probably recall the words of Sri Rama in Ramayana about truth.
DHARMU NA DUSARA SATYA SAMĀNĀ
ĀGAM NIGAM PURAN BAKHĀNĀ
MAI SOH DHARMU SULABHA KARI PĀVĀ
TAJAY HUHU PURA APAJASU CHĀVĀ
SAMBHAVITA KAHU APAJASALĀHU
MARANA KOTI SAMA DĀRUNA DĀHU
TUMHA SANATATA BAHUTA KO KAHAOO
DIYAY UTRU PHIRI PAAT KA LAHAOO
Here Sri Rama is speaking to the Chief Minister. “There is no principle, no value higher than truth. For me truth is the ideal, the absolute and the ultimate reality. I am convinced that this is the position of all the scriptures. Here, I have been given an opportunity to stand for truth. Why should I not? To a person who is highly esteemed the loss of esteem is equal to death,” said Sri Rama. One of the pillars of Hinduism is the adherence to truth (satyam).
The hunter was loathe to accept the proposal of the hind but again the hind spoke to him.
“O hunter, I am going to take the following vow. If I do not return to you, let me be smeared with the sins that accrue to the following people: a Brahmin who sells the Vedas, one who does not offer Sandhya prayers, women who transgress the commands of their husbands, an ungrateful person, a person who is adverse to Siva, a person who ill treats others, a person who violates virtue, a person committing a breach of trust and a person who deceives others.”
The hunter accepted the promise of the hind and allowed her to leave. The statement of the hind forcefully reminds us of the words of Sri Rama to Sugriva and Hanuman about the kind of person who is able to access him. In Sundara Kanda, discussing the arrival of Vibhishana, the Lord Sri Rama declared:
SAGUNA UPĀSAKA PARAHITA
NIRATA NĪTI DRDHA NEMA
TE NARA PRĀNA SAMĀNA MAMA
JINHA KEM DVIJA PADA PREMA
“Those men who worship my personal form and devote themselves to doing good to others, who firmly tread the path of righteousness and are steadfast in their vow and love the feet of the Brahmanas, are dear to me as my own life”.
The delighted hind drank water from the pond and went to its hermitage. By this time the first part of the night had come to an end and the hunter had not had a wink of sleep. In the meantime, the sister of the hind not seeing her sister hind became distressed and came in search of her. It too was thirsty.
On seeing the hind, the hunter drew the bow and was about to shoot the arrow. As before, water and Bilwa leaves fell on the Lingam below the tree. It unconsciously became his worship for the second part of the night. The Shiv Purana records, “It was pleasing to the hunter.”
The hind noticed that the hunter had fixed the arrow to the bow and on questioning the hunter, he again indicated that he was about to kill her to feed his family. The second hind then turned to the hunter and said.
“O hunter I am blessed, my life is fruitful. A service can be rendered thought this evanescent body. But my fawns are in the house. Allow me to go and entrust them to my husband and I shall then return.” The hunter became angry and threatened to kill the hind. Then hind then swearing on the oath of Lord Shiva said:-
“O hunter, listen I shall explain. If a person breaks his words, he forfeits his merits. If I do not return, let me be smeared with the sins that accrue to such people who forsake their legally wedded wife and cohabit with another, who transgress the Vedic virtues and follow an imaginary and fictitious cult, who prefers to be devoted to Vishnu and censure Shiva and who add insult to injury.”
The hunter was moved by the words of the hind and allowed her to go. The hind drank water and diligently went to its hermitage. By that time records the Shiv Puran, the second part of the night had come to a close. The hunter had not had a wink of sleep. When the third part of the night arrived, the stag was worried, and not having seen the hind return went in search of the hind. The hunter saw it standing on the path leading to the water.
On seeing the stout stag, the hunter was delighted. He fixed the arrow to the bow and was about to kill it. While he attempted to do this, a few of the Bilwa leaves again fell on the Lingam as the Shiv Puran records because of his ‘prārabdha’. In this way due to his good fortune the worship of Shiva for the third part of the night was completed. Shiva‘s merciful nature was evident in this.
The Shiv Puran records that the hunter was fulfilling his prārabdha karma. Karma means action. Prārabdha karma are the fruits of one’s past actions that are now being enjoyed in this present body. There are three aspects of Karma-Sanchita Karma, Prarabdha Karma and Āgami Karma. In the Upadesa Sāram of Ramana Maharishi, we get a very beautiful series of verses on Karma and its effects.
KARTURAGNAYA PRAAPYATE PHALAM
KARMA KIM PARAM KARMA TAJJADAM
KRITIMA HO DADHAU PATANAKARANAM
PHALAMA SHASVATAM GATINIRODHAKAM
ISHVARARPITAM NECCHAYA KRITAM
CHITTASHODAKAM MUKTI SADHAKAM
“Karma must ever yield its proper fruit. For thus it is so ordained by God Himself. Then is Karma God? No for it is itself insentient. Of karma, the results must pass away. Yet it leaves seeds which in turn sprout forth and throw the actor back into the flood of Karma’s ocean. Karma cannot save. But acts performed without attachment solely for the service of the Lord will cleanse the mind and indicate the way which leads at length into the final goal.”
The hunter was very blessed! Every human being must try to appreciate why they find themselves in certain places and at certain times. If you find yourself in a place which is immoral and where the temptations to engage in unethical behaviours are great, then this is an opportunity to grow spiritually, by rejecting such an environment, refusing to be tempted. If you find yourself in a satsangh, then know that you are receiving the fruits of your good karma, and you should proceed to take advantage of the opportunity to grow spiritually. In the Ramayana we are told that (association) communion with the saintly is as a result of merit attained by past actions.Share on Facebook