Let us become nobler

Sanskrit word 'Arya' or 'Aryam' stands for nobility. Let us implore everyone to become noble, the Arya or Aryam. Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Jews, communists or capitalists, rich or poor, clever or dumb, weak, meek or bully. Uncomfortable perhaps are they with other, threatening peace. Ray of hope for the world is ‘include-all’ ideas of ancient Indian wisdom popularly known as Hinduism. Only they knew how to celebrate individuality of each person. Aryas respect ideas of others, respect way of worship of others, help others and become a noble citizen of this wide and varied world. Idea behind this blog is to bring out those ideas and help each of us become better than what we are. 'N' in the 'Aryan', by the way, was a mistake made by colonial 'experts' who wanted to underplay and undermine the culture and religion of those who they clandestinely enslaved.





Thursday, June 23, 2016

0- Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi, A story of Shiva and Me.

Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi, A story of Shiva and Me.


(A decade ago after a trip to Tibet, Nepal and India, I wrote down my impressions. It was not meant to be a book, however after it was read by some, it was suggested that if it gets published, interested persons can use it. However I thought (and still think) that the narration was more of a personal quest into Bhagavan Shiva and that it may not interest a wider audience. Therefore instead of commercially publishing it, I thought of placing it on a website of Publishing house Harper Collins’s website known as Authonomy.com. It remained on their website for people to review my narration for many years as “Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi, a story of Shiva and me”. However, last year, when Harper Collins shutdown Authonomy.com and I realized that some people still wanted to read my account, I decided to place all 26 chapters of that travelogue on this blog. Reader views and comments are welcome)

0          Table of Content

 


 

2          He Died, He Simply Died Without So Much As a Whisper
http://nmsresolution.blogspot.com/2016/06/2-kailash-kathmandu-kashi-travelogue.html

 

3          Bhagavan Shiva, Is He a Simple God ? Or a Perplexing One?
http://nmsresolution.blogspot.com/2016/06/3-kailash-kathmandu-kashi-travelogue.html

 

4          Hindu Idea of God, Gods and More Gods
http://nmsresolution.blogspot.com/2016/06/4-kailash-kathmandu-kashi-travelogue.html

 

5          Shiva-Puran, Ancient Text of Shiva-Stories / Digression into Quran / Back to Shiva-Puran / Shiva – Parvati Romance / Digression into Bible / Back to Shiva-Parvati
http://nmsresolution.blogspot.com/2016/06/5-kailash-kathmandu-kashi-travelogue.html

 

6          Shiva-Linga ‘Unmanufactured’ Entity Shiva-Linga / Shiva-Raatri or Maha-Shiva-Raatri: A Unique Festival
http://nmsresolution.blogspot.com/2016/06/6-kailash-kathmandu-kashi-travelogue.html

 

7          Mount Kailash Geography, History / Sacred to Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs and Bons / Best Time to Visit Mount Kailash
http://nmsresolution.blogspot.com/2016/06/7-kailash-kathmandu-kashi-travelogue.html
 

8          Kathmandu, First Camp / Swayambhu Temple, Signature of Nepal / Budha Nilakanth: Bhagavan Vishnu on Serpentine Bed / Boudha Nath Stupa, World’s Biggest Buddhist Temple / Patan-Lalitpur, Home of Fine Arts / Darbar Square and Kumarika Temple / Pashu-Pati-Nath Temple / History of Pashu-Pati-Nath Temple
http://nmsresolution.blogspot.com/2016/06/8-kailash-kathmandu-kashi-travelogue.html

 

9          Nepal – Tibet Border Towns Kodari and Zangmu, Friendship Bridge
http://nmsresolution.blogspot.com/2016/06/9-kailash-kathmandu-kashi-travelogue.html

 

 

10        Nyalam, Town for Acclimatization with Thin Air And Lack Of Oxygen
http://nmsresolution.blogspot.com/2016/06/10-kailash-kathmandu-kashi-travelogue.html
 

 

11        Saga, Town with Army HQ, Medical Clinic and Shower-Shops / Feeding Dead to Birds, Zoroastrian Tradition in Tibet
http://nmsresolution.blogspot.com/2016/06/11-kailash-kathmandu-kashi-travelogue.html

 

12        Town of Paryang, Ibex Skulls, Bones and Horns
http://nmsresolution.blogspot.com/2016/06/12.html

 

13        Manasarovar or Manas-Sarovar: First-Dip on West-Shore / Dream Miracle / Great King Mandhata, First Emperor 5500BC / Ashwamegh or Rajasuya Yagna – Campaign for Human Upliftment / Sage Dalabhya, My ancestor: Doctor Surgeon Philosopher
http://nmsresolution.blogspot.com/2016/06/13-kailash-kathmandu-kashi-travelogue.html
 

14        Rakshas Taal - Demon Lake of Raavana-Fame

 

15        Darchen, The Base Camp for Mount Kailash / Stree-Rajya: Government by Women / Mount Nandi, Ashta-Pada and Jain Connection / Tears Miracle

 

16        Mount Kailash Day 1 Derapuk / Yama-Dwaar (Death-Door) ! ! / Fire Accident and a Brave Sherpa / Darshan Miracle: Bhagavan Shiva and Mata Parvati

 

17        Mount Kailash Day 2, Zuthulpuk / Shraavani-Purnima: Holy Thread and Raakhi / Trek Begins, Day 2 Around Kailash / Gauri Kund

 

18        Kailash Trek Day 3

 

19        Manasarovar Once Again; Opposite Shore / Miraculous Reverberations

 

20        Return Journey – Quest Continues

 

21        Nepal - India Border Towns Bhairahawa – Sanauli

 

22        Gorakh-Pur (Goraksh-Pur) / Gita-Press Gorakh-Pur – Humble Slap on Charity-Mongering! / Goraksh-Nath (Gorakh-Nath) Temple

 

23        Kashi (Varanasi) / King Divodas / Kashi-Vishwa-Nath Temple, Ghats and Ganga-Aarti / Durga Mata Mandir, (Monkey temple) / Tulasi Manas Mandir (Saint Tulasi Das Temple) / Sankat Mochan Mandir (Hanumaan Temple) / Benaras Hindu University Campus, ‘Island of Tranquility’ / Modern Kashi-Vishwa-Nath Mandir / Kaal-Bhairav Mandir, Fanatic Aurangzeb Terrified ? / Ramakrishna Mission Home of Service / Pandaas, Rituals Performers-Record Keepers: A Vanishing Tribe

 

24        Saranath, “Saranga-Nath” the Protector of Peacock / National Emblems: Ashok Chakra and 4 – Lions / Sacred to Buddhists and Jains

 

25        Born, Anew / Bhagavan Shiva, No More Perplexing / You Are What You Think /

Method of God Contemplation: Art of Becoming a Better Being

 

26        In Conclusion / In Acknowledgement / In Confession / In Miracles / In Recommendations / Pre-Trip / During Trip / After Trip


---------------------------------------------------------
 

1- Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi, A story of Shiva and Me.

(A decade ago after a trip to Tibet, Nepal and India, I wrote down my impressions. It was not meant to be a book, however after it was read by some, it was suggested that if it gets published, interested persons can use it. However I thought (and still think) that the narration was more of a personal quest into Bhagavan Shiva and that it may not interest a wider audience. Therefore instead of commercially publishing it, I thought of placing it on a website of Publishing house Harper Collins’s website known as Authonomy.com. It remained on their website for people to review my narration for many years as “Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi, a story of Shiva and me”. However, last year, when Harper Collins shutdown Authonomy.com and I realized that some people still wanted to read my account, I decided to place all 26 chapters of that travelogue on this blog. Reader views and comments are welcome).

Chapter 1.  Preface

Once I began writing my impression after expedition into the geographic territories of Bhagavan Shiva and my personal mental territories, what emerged was a travelogue, or so it was I presumed. However, Nipun, who is himself a writer on Hindu history felt that it was a story with a plot where expedition was just an excuse. That it appeared to have an agenda made me think, why not place it before the world audience.

 

Description of the places visited may some time take a back seat when I have found something unusual or of profound importance to talk about. Besides history-geography and general socio-political scene, it tells a lot about Hinduism, Bhagavan Shiva and that unique perspective of idol worship that is completely unknown to rest of the religions. Idol is not a simple instrument of concentration as most have assumed, but something more profound. A tool. A tool for human evolution into a better and powerful human. An attempt is made to underline for double-emphasis certain less known facts and so also refute certain misinformation that seems to have somehow seeped into our knowledge banks.

 

Not many works cover these three, Kailash-Kathmandu-Kashi, important Shiva destinations in one book. And none of the travelogues covering Indian pilgrimage destinations, even those written by some of the well known, have delved upon what could be more profound motivation behind Hindu pilgrimages. “Washing away sins” is valid but grossly over-simplified, perhaps for want of any other ‘sensible’ explanation. They can not be faulted, Hinduism when viewed from non-oriental-prism can often provide confusing spectacle.

 

It is intriguing and even significant that holy Mount Kailash and holy Lake Manasarovar (Manas-Sarovar) are quite different than other places of worship. In here one does not find temple, deity, priest, or any whatsoever man-made-structure and paraphernalia. Simply nothing exists - not even enough Oxygen to breathe – just an Attribute-less (Nirguna), Formless (Nirakaar), all-pervading, omnipresent God in the vast expanse of nature. That very same God who appears before His devotees in various forms, assuming shapes and attributes (becomes Sagun-Sakaar) to fit into the image His devotees worship to!

 

Alps, though large, occupying quarter of the western Europe is in comparison, only a tiny mountain range; its highest peak Mont Blanc at 15,784 ft (4,810 m), was the height at which we had to actually walk miles after miles in Himalayas. Dolma-La pass is at 15,900 feet above sea level! Altitude sickness manifests in different ways to different people but safe to say that anyone with even any minor illness, handicap or health inadequacy is bound to experience those magnified several times over. However, the rest of the destinations are not difficult to endure. Kathmandu is in the midst of lush green Himalayan valley in Nepal and Kashi, known also as ‘Varanasi’ is on the fertile flat plains of River Ganges. Saranath is just a stone’s throw away from Varanasi and Gorakhpur fall in natural route from Kathmandu when travelling by land to India.

 

Despite life-threatening nature of pilgrimage to Kailash-Manasarovar, it has attracted literally millions of people for thousands of years. Interestingly however, number of people who visited Kailash progressively diminished owing to terrible disruption of social and religious lives of Indians due to persistence invasions and occupation by the hordes of foreign invaders from west and north-west and religious persecution unleashed by them. Subsequently, it became so rare to visit Kailash that until just before a century, Kailash was known only among a select few Hindu, Buddhist and Bon followers and was visited by handful of sanyasis , monks, adventure-bugs and determined pilgrims. Believe it or not, but in fact, mountain’s identity was unknown to geographers of the ‘civilized’ world until ‘discovered’ by Swedish explorer Sven Hedin as late as in 1908. Its perception as a feasible pilgrimage was almost absent in the general public psyche until beginning of twentieth century. However the other destinations covered in this travelogue were not obscure for visitors. Kashi, was a destination for highest learning of Sanskrit and has been visited by many for thousands of years. Its temples, enriched with the donations of pilgrims also attracted foreign invaders who had scanty respect for the traditions of India. The city was attacked several times in last thousand-plus years. Destroyed and rebuilt several times, the city was burned, pillaged and its residents massacred several times over. Kashi is perhaps the most ancient of the world cities, continuously inhabited since ‘pre-historian’ times, not withstanding the claim to same fame by other cities such as Damascus, Delhi, Athens, Jerusalem, etc. In case of Kathmandu, also an ancient city, it did face brutal attacks from invading foreign rulers; however it’s hard to reach mountainous location kept it relatively safe.

 

Since Mount Kailash, is considered a permanent abode of Hindu God Lord Shiva and His family and since Kathmandu is a place where he is said to have lived once and as for Kashi, it is a city that He craved to live in and kept dear to Him due to quality and characters of its inhabitants who were indulgently nurtured and educated by King Divodas, it has become necessary that my travelogue tries to familiarize God Shiva to the readers along with some relevant truths from Hinduism.

 

At what stage in my life Lord Shiva became my quest can not be accurately pinpointed. But seed must have been casually sown while watching my parents humming the famous three-word Sanskrit mantra “Om, Namah Shivaay” (O, God, I reverently bow to Bhagavan Shiva) during their morning prayers or perhaps during their repetitive utterances while moving beads of rosary. I do not recall if any of my parents actually ‘taught’ me that mantra. I too used to repeat this mantra sitting in front of a picture of Lord Shiva with childlike total trust in Him. Fortunately or unfortunately, as I grew from childhood to adolescence under the spell of ‘modern education’, the new-age science and rationalism, my childlike trust slowly gave way to its playful neglect and skepticism. By the time I had passed my teens, I become a hardened atheist and Lord Shiva became a subject against which I could debate with any Shaivaite (person or group who practice worshipping of Bhagavan Shiva) and turn him into a nonbeliever. For a long time I romanced with atheism and various shades of communism. Stalin and Mao seemed to be guys to go to for solving every problem, until one day my thought process took a turn in opposite direction. The story in this book begins from that stage.

 

Most writers use the term ‘Lord’ before the name ‘Shiva’, perhaps in the sense of God. They mean, Shiva to be a ‘Lord’. In actual fact, in Hinduism, there is no scope of any ‘Lord’ or ‘Malik’. A lord who ‘owns’, who ‘controls’ who ‘orders’, who gives ‘commandments’ or whose instructions are inviolable and if violated, ‘punishment’ follows; an individual is a slave or a subordinate who can never be his equal. In Hinduism, man is free to act (or not act) and decides his own destiny and is potent enough to rise to same eminence to who he worships. Lord Shiva should ideally be called as ‘Bhagavan’ Shiva. The English word ‘Lord’ or the Arabic-Persian-Urdu word ‘Malik’ has lead to a somewhat distorted understanding of Hindu concepts of God. This travelogue hence tries to use more appropriate word ‘Bhagavan’ in its text. However the word ‘Lord’ is purposefully used in its title for the reader to make a smooth transition from what he or she knows. Word ‘Lord’ has a lot of goodwill in religious domain, and rightly so, therefore, I have absolutely no quarrel with it. As the word Bhagavan also exists in the official dictionaries, why not use the available more appropriate English word? English language is in many ways like Indian culture, always eager to embrace others.



 

Excitement of seeing new places, exhilarating sense of adventure in the desolate empty expanse of Tibet and hope of self-discovery in that absolute calmness propelled my wife Poonam and me to this journey. There was one more powerful incentive especially to us and hopefully it would become so to the reader of this book. Thrill of experiencing part of that cosmos where at one time Gods , Devas , Yakshas , Gandharvas , Apsaras , Rishis (enlightened sages), legendary kings etcetera had roamed, where we believe some of the divine beings do still live and or frequently visit in their direct, indirect or ethereal selves. Many individuals, places and events, central to Indian culture and religion are associated with this part of the Himalaya and the plains of Ganges. To imagine their exalted personalities, to imagine intensity of their work, especially that work which compelled even Gods to seek them out. We thought the possibility of experiencing the same or similar supernatural phenomena as experienced by many previous visitors could become our bonus prize. We were not disappointed. We did experience some, first hand!

 

Unexpectedly, this trip also turned out to be a family discovery trip in which I got to know my ‘Gotra’-giver, that is, my earliest ancestor. Also it took me to my later ancestors, their city and their work. A canvass of 10,000 years?

 

If purpose of life according to Hindu philosophy is the ‘self-development’ then I must confess that I learnt many things enduring this travel and then, even more writing this travelogue. I hope the readers would experience more than what I could when they visit these places. My ultimate purpose is not merely to add geographic and touristic knowledge but to increase spiritual and self capital of the reader.

 

 

 

 

.                                                                                                  Nilesh Madhusudan Shukla

 E-mail: NileshMShukla@gmail.com

    Blog: www.nmsresolution@blogspot.com
 

2- Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi, A story of Shiva and Me.

(A decade ago after a trip to Tibet, Nepal and India, I wrote down my impressions. It was not meant to be a book, however after it was read by some, it was suggested that if it gets published, interested persons can use it. However I thought (and still think) that the narration was more of a personal quest into Bhagavan Shiva and that it may not interest a wider audience. Therefore instead of commercially publishing it, I thought of placing it on a website of Publishing house Harper Collins’s website known as Authonomy.com. It remained on their website as "Kailash Kathmandu and Kashi, a story of Shiva and me",  for people to review my narration for many years. However, last year, when Harper Collins shutdown Authonomy.com and I realized that some people still wanted to read my account, I decided to place all 26 chapters of that travelogue on this blog. Reader views and comments are welcome)

Chapter 2.  He died. He simply died without uttering a word


My guru-like uncle, Labhshanker just died. A hale and hearty man, chatting with me, he on a couch and me on a sofa, facing each other, just breathed his last. Not even a whisper came to his lips to alarm me. It was summer of 1972; I was a final year student, pursuing Electronics Engineering. My uncle normally lived in Gujarat and had just come previous day to visit us in Mumbai. We were talking about Vietnam War; about capitalism, communism, corruption, atrocities on Vietcongs[1], nightlife of Saigon[2], Nepalm bombs, anti-personal mines, dynamites, herbicide ‘Agent orange’ used by US army for clearing forests, infrared night-vision gears, propaganda through VOA[3], Izvestia[4], Pravada[5] and politics of cold war adversaries. Uncle was a scholarly upright gentleman, held rank at M. Sc. with Mathematics and Physics, but had even more interest in Sanskrit and Indian Philosophy. In his own words, “would prefer to be called a Vedanti” instead of any other description. Vedanti is a person who follows Vedic Philosophy, the original brook of thoughts that shaped Hinduism. There are four Vedas. Among them, the Rik(g)-Veda has distinction of being world’s oldest literature. We were still chatting when he suddenly fell silent and lifeless; he was still in same sitting posture across me, his back towards the windowed wall and face towards me, unperturbed. Event was so peaceful, apparently so impressively painless and so quick, that I could never have believed had I not been the witness. I was 21, a self-styled rebel, who found flaws in everything, be it politics, society or religion. Sometime before this incident, before we went into discussion of cold war between communists and capitalist, I had discussed my disagreement with our family tradition of Shiva worship. First step towards any worship is acceptance and submission to the object of worship; in our case, to Bhagavan[6] Shiva. This begins with chanting Om, Namah Shivaay’ (O, God, I bow to Bhagavan Shiva). As a descendent from a Shaivite family, I saw my parents do it and I too did from my early childhood, instinctively looking at my parents. But now, it was a different, I was ‘thinking’ and had become a ‘rational’ ‘scientific minded’ ‘educated’ adult with a liberty to live my own life. Even so, I did not rebel ‘loudly’ with my elders but was always happy to get an opportunity to air my views in discussions. One does not want to hurt people’s, especially of loving parents and respected elders, sentiments.

 

It is not expected that I could question chanting of this 3-word-mantra. But rebel in me considered it silly and senseless to chant Om, Namah Shivaay’. Why should one? Obviously, many did find my stand outrageous but happily, as Hinduism does not approve any action (or inaction) to be a heresy or blasphemy, I was safe from being haunted and branded a kaafir despite this (and many other) sacrilege. In my family everyone traditionally worships Shiva. That being so, unthinkable was this question, it should not even arise. A beautiful picture of Bhagavan Shiva in a wooden frame adorned our Pooja (worship) room. Since my late teens I however, could not bring myself to say ‘Om, Namah Shivaay’. I was too proud. I do not discount a craftily hidden elephantine ego underneath the rebel-hood, that prevented my submission to any ‘ism’ or any God. Why should I ‘bow’ to Shiva? And why should He even want me to bow to Him, especially if He really is a God; surely it is disgrace to His godhood if he is that petty so as to want us, ordinary mortals, to sing His songs and demand our submission. Response of philosopher uncle to my question was two simple sentences. One: “there is no need for you to chant ‘Om, Namah Shivaay’, if you do not want to”. Two: “but as the word ‘Shiva’ in Sanskrit and all other Indian languages means, “Kalyaan-Kaari” (Force for betterment, good or Goodness), what harm is it, Nilesh, if you were to utter, “O God, I bow to the force of betterment”. That’s it; he left rest for me to work out. In hindsight, I think, it was his brilliant move…a rebel in me would certainly latch on to the idea of ‘betterment’. And I did; my mind being heavily preoccupied in those days not only with Vietnam, but also with, Apartheid regimes of South Africa, Rhodesia, blacks of America and applicability of any known ism including ancient Indian wisdom to overcome those and other problems faced by the humanity. My uncle died on that fateful day but idea germinated then remained alive, kept me still interested in re-looking and researching on the ancestral practice of Shiva worship. My search is not yet over but it did inspire me to expand my search by traveling to Kailash, the abode of Bhagavan Shiva where He lives with His family and His ‘army’. My wife, Poonam[7], on the other hand has been a consistently so devout a Shiva worshipper from very beginning; needing no re-looking and who always wanted this trip, even before I could think of it. Thus we became natural partners in this Himalayan adventure and I think, we, were very well rewarded.

 




[1] South Vietnam based resistance force inspired by communist North Vietnam
[2] Capital city of then South Vietnam
[3] American Broadcasting Service: ‘Voice of America
[4] Erstwhile Soviet Union’s Propaganda Publication
[5] Soviet Union’s Propaganda Publication
[6] Word Bhagavan, (pronounced Bhagavaan) has many more aspects then what is conveyed by English word ‘God’. However, for practical purposes, it is not wrong to read ‘God’ wherever the word Bhagavan appears.
[7] Her actual passport and school certificate name is Purnima, No one knows when, how and why she is known as Poonam and who got it changed. An unsolved family mystery!

3- Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi, A story of Shiva and Me..

(A decade ago after a trip to Tibet, Nepal and India, I wrote down my impressions. It was not meant to be a book, however after it was read by some, it was suggested that if it gets published, interested persons can use it. However I thought (and still think) that the narration was more of a personal quest into Bhagavan Shiva and that it may not interest a wider audience. Therefore instead of commercially publishing it, I thought of placing it on a website of Publishing house Harper Collins’s website known as Authonomy.com. It remained on their website as "Kailash Kathmandu and Kashi, a story of Shiva and me", for people to review my narration for many years. However, last year, when Harper Collins shutdown Authonomy.com and I realized that some people still wanted to read my account, I decided to place all 26 chapters of that travelogue on this blog. Reader views and comments are welcome)

Chapter 3.  Is Bhagavad Shiva a simple God or a perplexing One?


We are funny. We want our God to be merciful and kind and nothing more, never mind our meanness. He should not outsmart us. He should either not see our ‘crimes’, if seen, should preferably ‘ignore’ them; if really un-ignorable, He should give pardon; if unpardonable, give only a ‘black-point’ but spare punishment; if punishing is inevitable, award a minimum punishment. No wonder, the ‘pardoning types’, Jesus Christ and Bhagavan Buddha evoke abundant ‘love and respect’. They did not hit back. Roman Governor Pontius Pilate did not suffer for crucifixion of Jesus Christ. He lived his life as smoothly as ever. Jesus did not do anything against him or Jew conspirators. God’s son simply ignored them giving them benefit of doubt: “they do not know what they are doing”. Thankfully, in the Buddha country, kings and their subjects could never bring themselves to kill any Godly person in their known history.

 

We want our Gods to be pardoning types. Why not? In this sense, Bhagavan Shiva among other Hindu Gods fits that bill somewhat. To His devotees He is “Bholey Nath”, the ‘Innocent God’, easy to ‘please’ and easy to get pardon from.

 

Other Hindu Gods are somewhat ‘different’, they cannot be ‘outsmarted’. Bhagavan Rama did not pardon kidnapper of Sita nor was pardoned Kamnsa or Jarasangh by Bhagavan Krishna. These Gods are too smart, they question you. But Bhagavan Shiva, will trust your ‘sorry’ and boons are yours for asking. Bhagavan Shiva, therefore, is known as ‘Bholey Nath’. However, if you do succeed in making Him angry, His one glance through His Third-Eye would finish you in a split second.

 

If one was to read stories spun around Him, He seems to be a God that is ‘naïve’, ‘un-tricky’, ‘simple’, ‘easy to please’, ‘easy as pleasing a simpleton’. Every Hindu knows Him to be a God who grants the boons readily. His expectations are minimal. He does not need any elaborate offerings. He gladly accepts simple water as an offering and that 3-worded simple prayer said with a pure heart is sufficient to get His empathy. No wonder everyone loves Him!

 

Bhagavan Shiva demonstrates ample simplicity and austerity stretching almost to incredulity.  Leave alone luxuries of life, He does not possess a piece of cloth so much as to cover Himself. His home is a door-less, ceiling-less, wall-less mountain Kailash. He is one God that does not discriminate and rule out any individual, however good, bad or ugly he or she may be. His temples spread across world are open 24x7 and are open to everyone. No exception. Bhagavan Shiva, makes it easier and simple for his devotees, He is at a beck and call of His genuine devotees.

 

For innocent, simple devotees, he comes as a simple, unsophisticated God, however the moment one decides to take a further journey into understanding Bhagavan Shiva, one hits difficult terrain, more difficult than trek to Mount Kailash. Keep no false hopes, understanding Him is hard. Nearly an impossible task but indeed one that is worthwhile, even half way through.

 

Bholey-Nath kind of knocks us off balance upon closer look. Notice array of things around Him, many of them weird, perhaps irrelevant. Consider the aspects that are associated with Him! Seemingly so irreconcilable that, if it does not numb a stranger, it should surprise us.

 

Look at these stark contrasts: On one hand He is Bholey-Nath, but far from being simpleton, he is considered God of intellect, knowledge and wisdom earning him another name “Dakshina Murty” (The one who gives wisdom). He is the God of destruction and yet he is said to be the kindest among all Gods and said to be easiest to please and that is why known as “Ashutosh”Dina Nath”, “Maha-Deva”, “Pashupati Nath”, “Vishwa-Nath” (Easy to please God, God of Poor, Great God, God of all beasts, God of the world). If on one hand His life is so austere; he does not posses even a piece of garment, how is it that He is God of all arts, crafts, music, drama and dance, the ‘Nataraj’(God of acting). On one hand He is said to be God of Yoga, the ‘Yogeshwar’, the master of all senses, and yet He is said to possess uncontrollable rage; loses His temper at throw of a hat, earning him the terrible name ‘Rudra’ (Very Angry God). He has annihilated Cupid Kama-Deva, (Hindu Deva of passion, who travels on a parrot and has roses for arrows to conquer the target. Whoever is hit by his arrow unfailingly falls in love). Anyone would therefore assume Him to be against love and passion, however Himself, He is said to be in a perpetual passionate union with his wife Parvati, occasionally shown her to be sitting on His lap. Everyone, even all Gods have two eyes; He has three (thereby known as “Tri-Netra” (three-eyed) or “Virupaaksh” (distorted-eyed).  All other Gods are shown as either male or female, Bhagavan Shiva, however is said to have half the body of male and half the body of female (thereby known as “Ardha-Nari-Nateshwar” (Half-Male-Female-Great Dramatizer-God).

 

These contradictions apart, for me it became hard to understand, leave alone appreciation, his necklace of human skulls, His love for the cremation grounds and Graveyards, His army of terrible Ghosts, a crescent moon (moon of the second night after new-moon) on his head (Therefore called as ‘Chandra-Shekher’ or ‘Chandra-Mauli’), His sprinkling of ashes of burnt corpses, His cloth-less naked body (earning him the name “Dik(g)amber”-meaning “having four horizons of four directions as garments”), Snake coiled around His neck (earning another name: “Nagendra”-God of snakes), matted locks of hair on His head (hence also named as “Jatadhar”-having matted-locks) through which spouts the holy River Ganga (Also known by Anglicized word ‘Ganges’), in one hand He has a lively musical instrument, the Drum but a deadly trident in the other  and last but not the least, His symbol represented by Shiva-Linga[1], often described as representing male and female genitalia elements in ‘cosmic’ union.

 

What is this if not bewildering, mystifying and incomprehensible? I guess, a lot of intrigue surrounds Bhagavan Shiva as He comes to us from an extraordinary antiquity. He is even mentioned in the world’s oldest text, Rig-Veda. A verse famously known as “Maha-Mrutyunjaya[2] (at 7-59-12 RV) is extremely popular with the believers and is credited with unfailing powers that precludes devotee’s untimely death upon its regular chanting. Rig-Veda is estimated to have been scripted around 3000 BC; a time when according to the historians, man began writing. However, if one was to consider literary quality of words and that India lived mainly on oral traditions, one can easily estimate antiquity of the content of this verse and its addressee to much earlier period.

 

I can understand that some mystery or inexplicability may remain owing to yet undiscovered science or inaccuracies of History. When, for an easy comparison, I mull over the fact that Bhagavan Buddha, Bhagavan Krishna and Jesus Christ even if much more recent in the chronological order than Bhagavan Shiva, a lot of abnormality and implausibility, remain attached to Them. Is it any wonder than, when our moment is so far apart from the moments described in the ancient Shiva-scriptures that it can sometimes become difficult connecting with the traditions of Bhagavan Shiva. However on the other hand, enough information is available for a devotee to worship Bhagavan Shiva in a meaningful way. Mercifully, more than that, Bhagavan Shiva, allows a lot of direct experiencing of Him that it soon renders irrelevant and meaningless, our trying to find logic and reason in the stories woven around. However for researchers, a lot of text, oral traditions, astronomical connections, ancient structures, caves, repeatedly renovated temples over centuries and other data exist to work on and arrive at ‘sensible’ reconciliation suitable for modern-day man. Not withstanding ‘irreconcilability’, a lot of people have had direct experiences of Bhagavan Shiva. Some of them, as we did, in our Kailash expedition, can be experienced by many. Well guided lessons can help reconcile all aspects and things, even the weirdest of things, as it happens to me before starting out writing my story. I am not claiming any great knowledge or accomplishment. I am just writing what I have sensed, felt and understood for myself. Reader is an independent body-soul-mind instrument and will have to discover for himself. His discovery can be even more tantalizing.

 

Discussion on Bhagavan Shiva can not be complete without including His wife Parvati. If Shiva is father, Paravti is mother, Mata in Indian languages. The Mata Parvati. In Her case too, my skepticism prevented Her early recognition, until one day it hit me as if with a thunderbolt. I do not recall with accuracy when and how, but remember distinctly what the content was. Probably it was during my morning prayers when I was fresh from momentous trek in Himalayas during which, my wife and me had reached the origin of River Yamuna[3] and River Ganga[4], as also ancient temples of Kedar-Nath[5] and Badri-Nath[6] nestled at a height of around 10-11,000 feet. Mata Parvati is said to be daughter of Mountain Himalaya where these holy places are situated in the mountainous Indian state of Uttara-Khand. It was around five years before my travel to the Mount Kailash.

 

In the sudden flash of awareness, it dawned upon me as to how infinitely intelligent Mata Parvati was. She insisted on choosing that apparently dreadful ascetic for husband. She had understood vain and short-lived nature of the worldly things, relationships and attachments. She could recognize, where most people are expected to be clueless, the timelessness of the ultimate intelligence, ultimate love and ultimate creativity that God is and She maintained Her undivided longing for Shiva until He recognized intensity and understanding behind Her wish. If Mata Parvati’s devotion to Her husband-to-be was intense, it became even more after wedding and was reciprocated by Bhagavan Shiva. These thoughts have not left me since then. I know, Both knew it when I had my miracle on the north face of Mount Kailash.

 

I assume, Mata Parvati was perhaps latently in my consciousness, thanks again to my parents. My dad used to fondly call my mom as ‘Uma’, not because ‘Uma’ is also a name of Mata Parvati, but as an appropriate nickname derived from her proper name ‘Urmila’. For me, probably on account of my mom being occasionally addressed as Uma, somehow or the other, Parvati may have been firmed up in my little mind as Mata (Mother-Goddess) during childhood. I must honestly admit though, certainly it did not connect with any conscious reverence to Mata Parvati at that time and remained so until that sudden flash several decades later.

 

Not withstanding semblance of clarity on Mata Parvati, the Bhagavan Shiva remained an unsolved mystery; He is simple for ordinary like us and profound for extra-ordinary, who can take the arduous task of understanding Him.

 




[1] Symbol or sign
[2] Sanskrit Verse, Om, Tryambakam Yajamahe, Sugandhim-Pushti-Vardhanam, Urvarukmiva-Bandhanat Mrutyor-Mukshiya-Mamrutat”, simplified, would mean: O God, Three-eyed, you have nourished me (through my life), like a fruit (as a tree does to fruit) let me be liberated as (painlessly as) a ripe fruit detaches from its stem. This verse also gets repeated in the Yajur-Veda.
[3] Place is known as “Yamanotri” and is reachable after a specially difficult trek
[4] Location known as “Gangotri” reachable by Himalayan road, built and maintained by Indian Border Security Force.
[5] In the Himalayan Town of Kedarnath, reachable after a longish and difficult trek
[6] In the Himalayan town of Badrinath, reachable by road built and maintained by Indian Border Security force.

4- Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi – A story of Shiva and me.

(A decade ago after a trip to Tibet, Nepal and India, I wrote down my impressions. It was not meant to be a book, however after it was read by some, it was suggested that if it gets published, interested persons can use it. However I thought (and still think) that the narration was more of a personal quest into Bhagavan Shiva and that it may not interest a wider audience. Therefore instead of commercially publishing it, I thought of placing it on a website of Publishing house Harper Collins’s website known as Authonomy.com. It remained on their website as "Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi – A story of Shiva and me", for people to review my narration for many years. However, last year, when Harper Collins shutdown Authonomy.com and I realized that some people still wanted to read my account, I decided to place all 26 chapters of that travelogue on this blog. Reader views and comments are welcome)

Chapter 4.  Hindu Idea of God, Gods and More Gods.
 
From the time man began to think, he has wondered about God. With all the abilities at his disposal, when he could not find out how or who made the world around him, helpless against life and death and amazed at powers of nature and its limitless expanse, he realized existence of something beyond him. He has since then never stopped his struggle to find that ‘unknown’. To begin with, he invented word or words to signify Him, different in different languages. In English, the ‘God’. As man delved on this subject deeper and deeper, he realized it was impossible to understand God using his limited knowledge. Our knowledge, however much would be still lesser than the creator of the knowledge. How can one reach limitless with limited?

 

Hindus thought of God in terms of ability and qualities. God was very powerful. Man too is powerful but not as much as God. God has infinite amount of love. Man too has power to love, albeit much limited than God. Man realized that in every sphere, be it knowledge, power, wealth, love or goodness, the God was far-far ahead of him. So much ahead, that God is unreachable for him.  Hindus would mean the same thing but would say ‘almost unreachable’, because as per them, with enough effort (any)one can reach Godhood. Thus a man is on the ladder somewhere near the bottom and the God is at the top.

 

A Hindu respects all those persons who are ahead of him on this ladder because they are nearer to God then him. He must revere those who have strived and reached lofty heights. Those are ‘Fortunate-ones’-translated: “Bhagavan”. Everyone who has achieved lofty heights is closer to “God” than the person who is at a lower step on this ladder. For us, ordinary mortals, who are still struggling with our beast within, everyone who may be anywhere between ourselves and God on this ladder is exemplary and worthy of respect. Conversely, any one who is below us on the ladder too is worthy of consideration as he too possesses potential to go up and who knows, his speed may be faster and may even go ahead of you. The hunter in the story of Shiv-Raatri, almost went from bottom to top.

 

If a man who is not familiar with Hinduism was to ask a question to a Hindu: “Do you have one God or many Gods”. He would get a reply that “Essentially we have one God, but also we have many Gods” Everyone on the ladder is either God or worthy of becoming God one day. Hindus like to call all of them as Bhagavan. And remember this too: all those on the ladder even if they may be so close to God, also know that still God is a long way ahead.

 

Hindu idea of God is so completely different than what is understood by followers of Abrahamic[1] faiths, that unless it is absorbed before venturing into any books on India, Hinduism or allied topics, it would not only prevent appreciation of the big-picture-idea that Hinduism is but could lead to confusion and apathy towards philosophical grandeur of ancient Indic thoughts.

 

Hinduism, world’s oldest religion, gives full freedom to its followers to believe, partially believe, not believe and even oppose all or any of its philosophy or ritual. It encourages its follower to think and come to any conclusion that satisfies his inquiry. Terms such as blasphemy or heresy are unknown to Hinduism. Its followers follow various different paths of worship. Hindu Scriptures say that there are 330 million Gods and in the same breath they say that there is only one God.

 

In Abrahamic faiths, God is a creator of universe, who owns us, gives laws, monitors everyone, rewards persons of good conduct and punishes offenders. And no man can ever become God. And He has a rival ‘Satan’, making for two centers of power governing world affairs. And that God has created this universe whose mastership has been given to man. On the contrary, in Hinduism, God does not own a man, although He is the creator-sustainer-destroyer and yet He does not expect subservitude from mankind. Hindu God does not give ‘ten commandments’, man is free to think, act (or not act) and decides his fate by his own Karma, not needing God to play administrator. Man can even reach Godhood by cultivating divine virtues. There is nothing that is absolutely bad or absolutely good; both elements are simultaneously present in every thing in varying proportions. Every situation is meant for learning for man and becoming incrementally perfected from one moment to the next and that life is a school from where any individual (Hindu or otherwise) can and will graduate into eventually becoming God himself. God expects man to develop, grow up, climb the ladder and become as perfect as Him. That is what Moksha is, the ultimate goal of a Hindu. Grow up to be good as God. And there is no rival power to God. Everything is his manifestation. One power centre. Relationship a man share with God is the same relationship every object, human, animal, plant or mineral shares with God. Human is no master of universe, but if he does understand; only a caretaker who would ensure no abuse, be it of humans, animals, plants or minerals.

 

For Hindus, God permeates through whole universe and also it envelopes all, making everything divine, animate or inanimate. the whole universe and its every part are divine for him. Therefore he sees Gods everywhere. In humans, animals, trees, stones, water, lakes, mountains, rivers, seas and in every other thing, visible or not, including own-self. A guarantee to the world that Hindus would protect the environment so long as they continued to respect ethos of their ancestors. Today Hindus are torn between their ethos and pressures of modernity which encourages consumerism leading to indiscriminate exploitation not only of natural resources but also of human capital. As of now, despite rapid economic activity, India’s ecologic footprint is, thankfully, considerably small. Hindus, in the meanwhile, have lost some of their God Consciousness in wake of ‘benefits’ of modernity, commercialization and exposure to foreign faiths for who, ‘monkey-god’ ‘tree-god’ and ‘holy-cow’ are too strange and must be ridiculed routinely. Modern faiths have not been able to keep open mind to see if there exists any merit in these customs when berating them as pagan or idolatry. (Index of Ecological footprint for India stands merely at 1.06 hectors as per data of 2008-2009, thus ranked at 108. On the other hand wasteful nations have bigger footprints. For instance, with 12.22 hectors USA ranks at 2 and United Arab Emirates with 15.99 hectors has the dubious distinction of being number 1, the world’s biggest ecological footprint. Per capita consumption of electricity of Canada is highest at 16,995 kwh as compared to 704 kwh of India. If the entire world population of 6.8 billion people were to adopt a lifestyle of USA, it would need a planet 3 times as big as earth with comparable mineral and other resources and having land surface area of 830 million square kilometers. (470 million sq km is the total area of earth including oceans) On the other hand, if one was to adopt life style of current India, we need only half the earth.)

 

For all practical purposes, one can use the word ‘Bhagavan’ in place of God, and in that sense it is the closest match with Abrahamic God. However strictly speaking, in Hinduism, there is something that is even beyond God or Bhagavan. Ancient Hindu philosophers were not satisfied by just attributing the unexplained as ‘God’. They delved deeper to discover what is known as ‘Brahman’, ‘the ultimate truth’ or ‘the ultimate reality’ (Do not mistake the word Brahman for similar sounding word ‘Brahmin’). Bhagavan is an entity of or from impersonal Brahman, but possesses an identifiable ‘personality’. The Supreme ‘God’, Brahman is one, the only one and nothing exists beyond that one. But this ‘one’ is not a ‘person’, not ‘a man upstairs’. ‘Brahman’ by its very definition indefinable! Impossible to fully define as it is beyond all senses thus impossible to see, hear, feel or know in any way by our senses. It can also be said that everything put together in the universe and beyond is Brahman. Thus Brahman can be said to be present in many ways, forms, fully or partly, and every those entities are called Gods. Any thing or any non-things ‘thought’, ‘emotion’ ‘space’, ’time’, ‘sound’, ‘light’ too are Brahman and are potentially ‘God’ upon realization of its divine content. Therefore every being, thing or non-thing is qualified to be called a God, when that divine content rises to fore. In other words, all manifestations are potentially Gods and are addressed as such when that manifestation becomes predominantly divine. Therefore, when a saintly person is addressed as Bhagavan, it conjures disbelief in others but does not surprise a Hindu. Entry to the ‘Bhagavan-Club’ is not closed in the Hindu domain. In this book, we would consider Bhagavan and God as interchangeable terms.

 

The word Bhagava(a)n, literally translated means ‘Possessor (Vaan) of Fortune (Bhaga)’ (in the sense of luck, quality, virtue, richness etc) and the word is independent of gender. Thus no bias when it comes to divinity; Bhagavan is equally applicable to male or female forms. We are all fortunate in one way or the other.

 

Let us consider a few examples of Gods in Hinduism. One, the creator and controller of universe (in the sense, generally understood in Abrahamic faiths) is God. If split into its trinity components, all three, Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, the creator-sustainer-destroyer respectively are also Gods. (Shiva is known as Mahesh, the Great God). These three reincarnate at different times and those incarnations too are Gods. Many male and female associates, spouses and other relatives (only if they have matured enough such that divinity radiates by itself from them. If not they are not yet in the ‘Bhagavan-Club’) too are known as Gods. Even, mortal saintly people too are known as Gods. Mother and father also qualify to be called Gods by their children and so also a teacher by his or her pupils. A verse in the holy Bhagavad Gita says that the spark of greatness in whatever one sees in the universe is a form of God. Thus anything and everything that impresses an individual is a God for him in more or less way; for a small child, his mother is everything, therefore a God for him. To consider all these as Gods is blasphemy in Abrahamic faiths but not a bit surprising to Hindus. It is so hard to inculcate even a fraction of divinity by us mortals that anyone who has attempted becomes divine for us. Anyone who has worked and gone nearer to divinity is good enough for us ordinary mortals to respect him as God. A Hindu appreciates how afar we ordinary mortals are from the lofty heights of love, truth, bravery, selflessness etc virtues acquired by those exalted individuals and certainly they deserve to be called as Bhagavans or ‘Gods’.

 

Over and above these Gods, Hindus have a large pool of non-human or part-human-part-animal forms of Gods that are venerated (one may even use the word ‘worshipped’). Behind each form and its worship, one finds something to learn and grow further in divinity, up the great ladder.

 

Essence of every thing, such as fire, water, wind, rain, space, time etc are also known as Gods (some call them Deva or Demi-Gods); Stars, planets and satellites too are Gods, such as Sun-God, Saturn-God, Moon-God etc. Among animal and plant kingdom too exist many Gods and other equally venerated entities. On specific occasions, cows, bulls, turtles, eagles, peacocks, roosters, crows, swans, tigers, lions, elephants, snakes, mice etc are venerated; Banyan tree, Piple tree, fruits of Coconut tree, Rudraksh (Elaeocarpus) tree, Beetlenut tree, leaves and fruits of Bilva-tree (Aegle Marmelos Tree), Tulasi (Basil) Plant, etc are considered worthy of veneration owing to certain ‘divine’ contents in their makeup which help in our quest of divinity.

 

All these apart, in Hinduism, man has liberty to choose his relationship with God. Some may venerate by knowing him as creator, as all-knower, as provider of everything, as father, as mother, as brother, as friend, even as lord. Every relationship is acceptable. However in relating God as lord the worshipper assumes him to be His slave and therefore Hindus recognize this relationship as a contradiction. A slave, by definition can not possess the free will (His owner’s will is his will) whereas God has given us the full play of exercising our free will. Even if one wants to forfeit God’s gift, and even if one wants follow God’s will, how is one to know what is His will? When we hear so rampant an expression “God’s will” by even those who have hardly anything Godly in their lives, it seems God has freely distributed His power of attorney! For a Hindu, who knows, it is rarely “God willing”. They can not cheapen God’s will.

 

Gods and divine things are venerated by Hindus. Veneration done with rituals is known as ‘Pooja’. Veneration is appreciation an acknowledgement and takes various form depending upon the worshipper. It can be by meditation, hymns, chant, songs, dance, art, spreading message of love etc. Once we know what the word ‘Bhagavan’ (God) and what the word ‘Pooja’ signifies to a Hindu, it helps us to peek into Indic stories in a better way.

 




[1] Judaism, Christianity and Islam

5- Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi – A story of Shiva and me.


(A decade ago after a trip to Tibet, Nepal and India, I wrote down my impressions. It was not meant to be a book, however after it was read by some, it was suggested that if it gets published, interested persons can use it. However I thought (and still think) that the narration was more of a personal quest into Bhagavan Shiva and that it may not interest a wider audience. Therefore instead of commercially publishing it, I thought of placing it on a website of Publishing house Harper Collins’s website known as Authonomy.com. It remained on their website  as "Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi – A story of Shiva and me" for people to review my narration for many years. However, last year, when Harper Collins shutdown Authonomy.com and I realized that some people still wanted to read my account, I decided to place all 26 chapters of that travelogue on this blog. Reader views and comments are welcome)

Chapter 5.  Shiva - Puran, Ancient Text of Shiva-Stories Shiva/ Digression into Quran / Back to Shiva-Puran / Shiva – Parvati Romance / Digression into Bible / Back to Shiva-Parvati


 

Ancient Indian scripture-texts are classified as Vedas, Upanishads, Purans, Itihaas, Sutras etcetera based on their content and the source. They are storehouse of ancient episodes, information on dynasties, on cultural life, morals, ethics, experiences and knowledge of all kinds, secular, spiritual, religious, moral, historical, geographic, scientific etc.

 

There are several Purans, each covering one or the other God. Shiva-Puran is one among about a hundred minor and major Purans and is full of amazing tales of Bhagavan Shiva.

Digression into Quran


 

No connection with the subject of this book, however it seemed irresistible not to notice and then not to write about close rhyming between the words “Quran” (Islamic religious scripture) and the word “Puran”.  Rhyming has intrigued me for many years and am led to fantasizing with two ideas to explain what appears to be a strange coincidence which in reality may be by design. Etymologists would not agree with me, and they could be correct because according to them, the word ‘Quran’ is derived from Arabic root-word (قرأ)‘qara'a’,  which means ‘read’. The Archangel Gabriel commanded ‘Iqara'a’ (أقرأ ) to Prophet Mohammed, asking him to ‘read’ or ‘recite’.

 

So on the face of it Sanskrit word ‘Puran’ can have no etymological connection with ‘Quran’. However if one was to assume (or discover) any Indic connection with Prophet, a world of possibilities open up. Consider these two:

 

One: ‘Quran’ as a strategic ‘avatar’ of word ‘Puran’ to distinguish it from original inspiration and yet maintain religious authoritativeness of the written word. Remember, Purans were authoritative religious documents for a large section of civilized population of world during pre-Islamic times.

 

Or, Two: The word ‘Quran’ as having emerged from Sanskrit original word ‘Karna’ meaning ‘Ear’.

 

Let me explain.

 

First hypotheses: When new religions are established, they need their unique holy books and distinct names for those books. If one was to view Puran, it would be found that many subjects discussed within Quran and Purans have a close match if viewed in a broader sense, not withstanding wide differences and outright opposite content in words and spirit.

 

How to select a word or how to change existing word that should be unique and yet can infuse undertone of authority? This question may have exercised minds at that time. Any word that is similar to ‘Testament’, ‘Tohra’ or ‘Bible’ could not be a choice, after all Islam rose from followers of Those books and needed to demonstrate the difference from them. ‘Puran’ was handy enough which conveyed “Religious Authority”. However there was one problem with the word ‘Puran’. Because Arabic script does not have letter “P”, Arabic-speakers could not pronounce “Puran” as we do in English and most other languages of the world. Thus the word “Puran” is naturally un-pronounceable by speakers of Arabic language. This handicap was put to advantage. Simply replace unpronounceable ‘P’ with something suited to local tongue. And ‘Q’ of ‘Qitab’ meaning ‘Book’ was a good replacement. Thus Quran, a strategic Avatar of ‘Puran’.

 

Second Hypotheses: Sanskrit, ‘Karna’ to be a root word for Quran seemed possible to me because ‘read’ as a root word for Quran is far fetched, firstly in its origin, Quran was spoken by angel Gabriel and heard by Prophet Mohammed. Since it was a revealed wisdom, it could have been perhaps be called as ‘revealed’, ‘received’, ‘heard’ or ‘Through-Ear’.  Prophet was illiterate, he himself could not read a written word, so ‘hearing’ had more importance. Even ancient Indian scriptures have that connotation when they refer to “Shruti” (Shruti means ‘Heard’). Thus there is a precedent.

 

From this viewpoint, now, look, how well Sanskrit word ‘Karna’, meaning ‘Ear’ seems a promising fit. Remember, if ‘Karna’ was to be written in Arabic script, it would be written as three distinct alphabets Qaff, Raa and Nuun قرن and would be pronounced as ‘Qaran’, even ‘Quran’. In English or most other languages, one can pronounce Sanskrit word ‘Karna’ with R and N joined together, in Arabic, due to language architecture limitation, R and N have to remain separate - There is no way to write ‘Karna’ in Arabic since there is no provision of joining R with N. Therefore Sanskrit word when written in Arabic, would lend itself to pronouncing as ‘Qaran’.

 

Present day accepted Arabic spelling of Quran has an additional alphabet ‘a’, and written as قرآن

 

normally pronounceable as ‘Qaraan’, marginally different than ‘Qaran’ The ‘u’ in the

 

pronunciation of ‘Quran’ does not appear in the  written script yet by convention what is written

 

as Qaraan is pronounced as Quraan. If one really wanted to pronounce word ‘Quran’ as ‘Quraan’,

 

it should be written in Arabic as  كوران

 

However both hypotheses lack one important ingredient; could India have influenced Arabs who were geographically some 2000 km away? Well, historians know that Arabs had very close ties with India through maritime links and silk-route links. We also know Arab names such as “Al Hindi’, “Al Rams”, “Ramallah” etc. Also we know that Prophet has in his teachings, advised his followers to use Indian incense Oud, that is obtained from Agar-Trees grown in Indian north-eastern states such as Assam etc. Arabs took Indian spices, medicines, game of chess, even decimal system to Europe many years ago before the advent of Islam. Some people have even suggested that Islam’s holy shrine the Ka’bah is somehow connected with Bhagavan Shiva from a few unusual traditions that smacks of Hinduism. For instance, one, Muslim pilgrims revere one specific corner-stone near the entrance of the Ka’bah. This stone is known as ‘Hajre Aswad’, and stands out by a beautiful silver frame fixed around it, two, Hindu-style circumambulation (Parikrama) around the Ka’bah by pilgrims, three, Hindu style unstitched white garment wrapped around their bodies and four, the draping and cleaning rituals of Ka’bah. Perhaps remnant of pre-Islamic tradition observed at Ka’bah when it was used as a place of worship by Arabs of Mecca and surrounding towns before advent of Islam. It contained many idol of Gods and is known in Arabic as ‘Baitullah’ or ‘Bait-al-Allah’, meaning “House of God”, (Bait=House, Allah=God).

 

Do these prove Indic connections? Leaving further deliberations to etymologists, archeologists and historians let me return to Shiva-Puran.

Back to Shiva-Puran: Shiva – Parvati Romance


 

Shiv-Puran is one of the major Purans and a solid document, in its current form, consisting of 24,000 verses, 6 sections and 260 Chapters. It is said that initially it contained 100,000 verses before it was made into its current abridged form by great sage, Vyas, (also known as Ved-Vyas, he being compiler of Vedas) and taught it to his disciple Romaharashana. He in turn repeated it as a talk during his dialogue with sages who lived in the forest known as ‘Naimish-Aranya’ in response to their enquiry about Bhagavan Shiva. Thus on the scale of antiquity, the history covered in Shiva-Puran is much older than the time of its narration.

 

One among many interesting anecdotes and ‘stories’ is a romantic Shiva-Parvati tale, in a nutshell, as follows: 

 

In a complex plot hatched by Gods to arrest the menace created by a devil Tarakasur, they needed Bhagavan Shiva’s son. Only he could end Tarakasur. Gods therefore desired that Bhagavan Shiva gets married and produces a child But this is an impossible task as Bhagavan Shiva is in deep meditation in Himalayas. However a maiden, Parvati, sees Him and falls in love with Him. She cared for Him when He was deep in meditation. On the other hand, this situation provided Gods with a great window of opportunity. If Bhagavan Shiva can be made to consider Parvati favorably, perhaps their dream can come true. ‘Conspiracy’ is hatched. Cupid (Kama Deva, God of Love), is order in action. On the other hand, neither Shiva nor Parvati are aware of the designs of Gods. Kama-Deva creates a romantic climate for love to germinate and succeed. All of a sudden it is spring-time, complete with singing birds, bees sweet smelling flowers and rest of the paraphernalia. Disturbed from his meditation and suspicious of something amiss, apparently aware neither of being tended by a hopeful maiden nor of Kama-Deva’s action, when He opens His eyes, He notices a beautiful maiden nearby and Kama in hiding behind nearby foliage, ready to hit Him with his love-arrow. Bhagavan Shiva becomes angry at impropriety of Kama Deva and to stop him in his tracks, hurls fire from third-eye. Kama-Deva, instantly burns to Ashes.

 

Parvati, unaware of presence of Kama-Deva, is shocked to the core and freezes in fright seeing angry man she was tending to and Kama turning into ashes. She was in utter disbelief and terrified by His temper.  Disappointed, confused, she goes back to her house, losing every hope of reaching heart and mind of Bhagavan Shiva. After a while, during course of a visit by Narad[1] Muni[2] to her parents’ home, upon seeing dejected Parvati, he suggests Her to undertake severe pursuance by meditating on Shiva, so strongly and so single-mindedly that Bhagavan Shiva has to pay attention to Her. It goes on for many[3] years. She gets so engrossed in His longing, at one stage even she does not care even to eat, Her body becomes frail, earning Her a nick name ‘Aparna’ (Who does not eat anything not even a leaf). Bhagavan Shiva is not unaware; He is never unaware when a devotee remembers Him. He sends His helpers to verify Her spiritual knowledge and intensity of her quest. All the informants come back with positive report. Then Bhagavan Shiva himself goes to Parvati in the shape of a Brahmin[4] boy and asks her reasons for terrible austerities that She is observing. She, in a child like innocence, replies that She was seeking to marry Shiva. The Brahmin boy laughs out aloud at her ‘stupidity’ and tells her as to what an irony that beautiful women like her wants to marry a recluse. It defies senses that anyone in right mind can even ever think of marrying that ugly man. What a repulsive and terrible man has she chosen! Boy says that Shiva has horrifying appearance, if seen at night, one would die of fright, no one knows when He was born and no one even knows who His father and mother is, He wanders among dead, among ghosts, His wild temper is legendary and He is so utterly carefree, does not even wear a loin cloth. Who can want this type of man for husband and what happiness can He ever give you anyway? To this, Parvati replies, ‘you have made me angry by denouncing my love. However, yet I am not cursing you because among all your wicked sentences that you have uttered, I have seen one line of truth and praise, that His birth, that His father and that His mother is unknown. Precisely because He is birth less, He would be deathless too and therefore I want him as my husband.’ Satisfied with her brilliant reply and seeing her firm resolve, boy in the end reverts to His original form and accepts Parvati as his wife.

 

Well this is a Puranic tale, even may be a history, perhaps garnished with a poetic modifications from a very distant time. Indeed this story does not have any recognizable hallmark of history as we know it therefore let us not debate its historicity, we need only to read from it, its messages as best as we can; that: God would not allow us to manipulate Him, God can be called; when called with fervor, He does come; He always listens; have clarity in your quest; He can test our resolve; if at some stage we might meet with disappointment, some ‘Narad’ at that time will come to show direction; better among the people deserve tougher test paper; ultimately, in this world, nothing is more important than God; Once you are with Him, you may not prefer to detach from Him; etcetera.

Digression into Bible


 

Modern man is obsessed with the history, with dates, chronologies, and lineages. These, no doubt, are important but in India, they think, more important is the message. It is ironical, modern men have chosen to ignore messages of many spiritual masters. Take Jesus Christ for instance: in this world with nearly half the population worshipping him and swearing by him, how come man still kills a man and how come he does not love his neighbor, how come he covets neighbor’s wife and how come he does not give tunic to the man who asks for his shirt?

 

And however much obsessed we may be with history, the truth still appears far away despite our skills at recording events. Take Jesus Christ for example, an event that happened merely two thousand years ago. Birth of a divine child and yet no one knows with accuracy his date of birth; speculations are rife if it was 25th December or was it 6th January or was it some time in September-October?  Biblical records have recorded the time of his birth as the time when “Cattle was out for grazing”. Do we know year of his birth? Again the speculations are rife, placing the year from 0 to 6 BCE. Do we know who his biological father was? Certainly not; we only know a carpenter named Joseph was his foster father who was married to Jesus’ mother. Do we know who was mother, yes, Mary, but we are not sure how; because she was a ‘virgin’. And we even do not know where and how Jesus spent crucially formative years of his life as a youth. Where was Jesus between age of 12 and 30? History has no record of his ‘lost years’. Although the Roman government of the day had executed him, there are no official records to confirm a date of the sentence and no one knows his exact date of death, was it Friday or a Thursday? And what was the month. (Refer to various books and internet on this subject to ascertain existence of the controversies around life of Jesus). History obsessed we have failed on both the counts; neither our history is accurate nor do we have learnt the messages from masters. And in any case, even if the historical records were not available or that they were false, the substance of the words of Jesus would still be potent enough. With or without historically accurate records, let us read and benefit from the messages of masters.

 

Back to Shiva-Parvati


 

Mata Parvati was certainly a formidable thinker who took her arguments to their logical conclusions and had courage to live by them. How else did she recognize Bhagavan Shiva and had her unequivocal yearning for Him, even though He appeared exactly as described by that Brahmin Boy. Ultimately They wed, Their marriage celebrations described at length in the Shiva-Puran and lived, still live, happily ever after on mount Kailash. There, Mata Parvati, Bhagavan Shiva, Their both children, Bhagavan Ganesh and Bhagavan Kartikeya, their ‘army’, their ‘vehicles’ Bull, Mouse and Peacock are said to live permanently.

 

Bhagavan Shiva and Mata Parvati, despite their ‘Bhagavanhood’ love each other passionately. Their married life is epitomized as ideal and till this day Hindu men and women seek inspirations and blessings from them.  Mata Parvati could put across her views and intelligently argue out her case when required in discussions with Bhagavan Shiva. A mother of a brilliant child knows how difficult is it to deal with them without scuttling their minds. For Mata Parvati, both her sons were extra-ordinarily gifted, how would she have managed them, especially during long meditational trips of Bhagavan Shiva, single handedly? In the times of crisis, Devas and mortals have sought her to save them from demons. She has in turn taken forms of fierce goddess and saved innocents and oppressed while annihilating the demons. As for her eyes for romance, one should read Shiva-Puran first hand. In India, even the folk-songs, hundreds of them, are dedicated to their love stories and especially girls and women observe austerities (Vratas) to please Mata Parvati for her divine assistance in search for a good husband. Famous Navaratri festival, a festival of nine nights, is especially meant for praying at three forms of Mata, the intellectual as ‘Saraswati’, nourisher as ‘Laxmi’ and the protector as ‘Durga’.

 




[1] Name of a wandering Sage, who is considered as a great devotee of Bhagavan
Vishnu (Narayana)
[2] Sage
[3] As per the text of Shiva-Puran, 3000 years!
[4] Brahmin is the name given to that class of people in ancient India who engaged themselves in learning and educating others. Due to this ability, they were generally teachers, priests, advisers etc. Brahmin’s child is taught strict physical and mental discipline and to live austere life, learning various arts, sciences, grammar etc and serve the society. Brahmins lived a frugal life, dedicated to the society. Brahmin is one among the four Varnas (Castes) of Hindu caste system.