by Swami Krishnananda
The Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana is filled with glorious stories of all the gods and divinities. That is why the Bhagavata is considered as a god by itself. It is a divinity in its own scope. To have Srimad Bhagavata in one’s house is to plant God Himself in the altar of one’s residence.
In the fourth skandha we have the glorious katha of Siva and Sati, which will strike us with wonder and consternation. When Brahma was about to create the world, from him the four Kumaras Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana, Sanatkumara were manifested for the first time. The moment they were born, Brahma told them to assist him in creation. The Kumaras said, “We would rather concentrate our minds on the Supreme Being than engage ourselves in creation.” Brahma was in a state of discomfiture at the total disregard that they paid to his request. He was annoyed, and anger burst through his forehead. But as these Kumaras were equally powerful due to their centralisation in God Almighty, this anger could not be directed towards them; and since Brahma could not swallow the anger, he released it. At that moment, a fiercely roaring being arose from his forehead, demanding an immediate abode for itself. It cried out. Then Brahma said, “Oh, Rudra!” Because it cried the moment it was born, it is designated as Rudra one who makes roaring sounds, and yells and shouts.
Brahma said, “Help me in creation.” Instantly, this being created an endless variety of demoniacal creatures which were frightening even to Brahma’s eye. Brahma said, “Please stop your creation!” “Then what shall I do?” asked Rudra. “I shall give you an abode. Go there, and keep quiet. Don’t do anything at all.” Then Brahma named him Siva, Rudra, Bhava, and many other names, and also gave him the Saktis; and Rudra, who is Siva, retired to Kailasa. He did not interfere with anybody.
One day, when Brahma was holding his audience, all the gods were seated, and Siva also was seated there. At that time, Daksha, who was also a progeny of Brahma, entered the hall. In honour of his great entrance into the hall, all the gods stood up in obeisance. But Siva did not get up. He remained seated, minding not the coming of Daksha. Incidentally, Sati, the daughter of Daksha, was married to Siva, so Siva was Daksha’s son-in-law. But Siva showed utter disregard for his father-in-law and did not rise from his seat when all others stood up offering obeisance. This enraged Daksha, who stood with uplifted arms and said, “Oh, you gods! Please listen to what I am saying. Here is an idiotic fellow seated in the audience of the gods. Shameless is he. He has no respect for anybody. He wanders about half-naked and lives like a beggar. To him I gave my daughter; what a mistake I have committed! Shame to those with him in this audience!” Daksha went on shouting like this for a long time, and all the gods shut their ears because they could not hear all this. Siva also heard all the abuses poured upon him by Daksha, but he did not utter even one word. He just walked out of the palace and returned to his abode in Kailasa, where he lived with Sati.
One day, Sati observed the celestials travelling in some direction in their aerial cars. She looked up and asked, “Where are the gods going?”
“You don’t know?” asked one of the gods, “How is it that you do not know? Your own father is performing a glorious yajna, to which he has invited all the celestials, and we are all going there. How is it that you, his daughter, do not know?” Sati was in great chagrin that an invitation had not been extended to Siva. She was disturbed that her father had ignored both her and Siva, but as he was her father she told Siva, “I want to go to my father’s yajna.”
Lord Siva said, “It is not proper for you to go there.”
“Why?” she asked.
“Daksha does not like me. He has no regard for me, and therefore your going there is not proper,” replied Siva.
But Sati said, “No, he is my father.”
“He may be your father, but he hates me, so you should not go if I am not going. I am not responsible for the consequences.”
“What consequences? I shall take care of myself,” she told him.
“I am telling you again, it is not good for you to go there. You will not gain anything by it, and this adventure will not end in anyone’s happiness. I advise you not to go.”
“No, I must go,” she insisted.
“I don’t think I should send my attendants to take you there. It will be highly improper for me,” said Siva.
“I shall go with my own attendants!” Sati collected all her attendants and marched, under the impression that she, being the divine daughter of this great Daksha, will be highly honoured in the midst of all the gods.
With great expectations of glory before her, she went to the yajna and stood at the gate. She expected someone to come and receive her, but nobody looked at her. For fear of Daksha, no other god would utter a word. Of course, her mother and associates came and hugged her but she rejected their greeting, perhaps because her father was not concerned with her. She looked here and there. “What is happening? How is it that no one is receiving me?” Sati thought. Then she remembered the words of Siva. “I disregarded him, and came here. Now neither can I stand here, nor can I go back to him shamefacedly.” She expected somebody to come. Nobody came. Time passed like this, and the yajna was going on. The gods turned their backs to her. It was a very serious situation.
Sati stood up and loudly proclaimed in a ferocious language, “Due to the impropriety of this yajna, where the great master Siva is not invited, it cannot be called a divine sacrifice because the chief divinity itself is not present. Fie upon you all gods! Shamelessly you have attended the yajna of this irresponsible Daksha, whom I no longer regard as my father. Siva is being disrespected. The two words ‘si’ and ‘va’ are sufficient to give salvation to people, and such a divinity is being disregarded here. Is this a divine sacrifice? Are you gods? Have you any sense? You did not invite Lord Siva, and you come and sit here at the feet of this terrible person whom I shamelessly called father. I am sorry that I have been born to him.”
Sati sat, with great sorrow burning her body. She sat in a state of yoga, invoked agni from within herself, and the yoga within burned her. Flames came up and consumed her. All were shocked. What is this that has happened? They had nothing to say this way or that way. All were wondering what to do. There was nothing that they could do, nothing that they could say. They were shocked, nothing but shocked.
News reached Lord Siva. He could have opened his third eye and burnt Daksha, but he had something else in his mind. He pulled a hair from his head and struck it on the ground. A fierce giant rose up. “Order, master!” said the giant.
“Go and destroy the yajna of Daksha,” said Siva.
With the fierce retinue of Rudra, this giant called Veerabhadra rushed to the sacrificial area of Daksha, and when this fierce onrush of militant demoniacal forces entered the yajna, the ritviks, the priests performing the yajna, were frightened. They immediately invoked a force into the fire, by which they created a counterforce which rose up by the millions and attacked Rudra’s retinue. There was a tussle between the two forces, but suddenly Veerabhadra overcame all the opposition and severed the head of Daksha.
Rudra came to know all this. He was mad with rage. He ran, holding the body of Sati, and rolled all over like a crazy person, as if he was dancing the final Tandava of destruction before him. The whole world was terrified because nobody knew what he was going to do. He would not stand in one place. He ran from place to place the whole creation, as it were holding Sati’s body, and he looked as if he was inebriated and had lost his sense. He was conscious only of Sati’s dead body, and was moving fiercely like a whirlwind, like a tornado, like a tempest.
All the gods were frightened, and went to Lord Vishnu: “Please do something. Everything is in danger. He is not going to leave this body; and what he will do finally, nobody knows.” Then Sri Vishnu, Narayana, released his sudarshana chakra, which sliced Sati’s body into little pieces; and because of the ravaging movement of Siva, the pieces were scattered and fell in seven different places. It is believed that all the spots where parts of this body fell are sakti sthalas, and even today they are worshipped in various parts in this country.
Then the gods, including Brahma, went to Siva. Vishnu greeted Siva and said, “Calm down. Please pardon this man Daksha. His behaviour was due to ignorance, and you should not punish an ignorant person. Calm down. Bless him. Let him be allowed to continue his yajna. After all, he is a foolish person, and are you going to be so enraged at the foolishness of this man?”
Then Lord Siva calmed down. But how could the yajna continue when Daksha’s head had gone? So a goat’s head was brought and fixed on Daksha, and he was enlivened to the person that he was. He immediately realised his mistake and prostrated sashtanga namaskaram before Lord Siva, and chanted the Rudra mantra, Namakam and Chamakam. Some people humorously say the mantra was made by uttering words cha me, cha me, because goats make that sound! The yajna was completed. Brahma, Vishnu, Siva blessed the yajna, and everything went on well.
Here, in the tradition of the pantheon of gods according to the Epics and the Puranas, Lord Siva stands preeminent. He is not an ordinary god. It is impossible to describe what kind of person he is. He is a person who wants nothing for himself.
Lord Siva’s name also occurs in the Mahabharata. One day, when Arjuna was seated with Bhagavan Sri Krishna at the close of the day’s battle, Arjuna queried Krishna, “Master, may I ask you a question?”
“Yes, ask,” replied Krishna.
“When I was engaged in battle with Drona and Karna, I saw some vague being moving about, not touching the ground. It was sometimes visible, sometimes not visible. It had ashes on its body, a serpent on the neck, and a trident in hand. I could not make out what it was. It was an illusion before me. At the time I could not speak about this because I was engaged in war, but I remember this incident now and want to ask you what it was that I was seeing there.”
Sri Krishna said, “You are a blessed man to have that vision. It was Bhagavan Sankara imself, invisibly moving in the battlefield to help you. Otherwise, even with all your archery, with all your might and name, knowledge and power, do you believe that you can face people like Bhishma, Drona and Karna? They are all a hundred times stronger than you. Siva, in is compassion, came uninvited to bless you because of your goodness. He did not engage in battle, and did not come to wage war with the Kurus, but is very presence was enough to paralyse the strength of all the Kurus. The very odour emanating from is body was enough to cow down everybody and make them lose all their strength. Such is the glory of Siva, the great Sankara Bhagavan, and you had is darshan. Blessed you are, Arjuna! He is ashutosh immediately pleased. Ask, and it is given immediately. You did not call him, but he knew that you require help. Unsolicited, the great master, the great god, comes to you.”
This is Mahadeva, Sankara, Rudra, Siva. He was in the air, moving about without touching the ground. The point here is is blessings. Sankara bhagavan ki jai! Here we have the central issue, practically, of the fourth skandha of the Srimad Bhagavata among many other things into which we will not enter here due to paucity of time.