Ever since I decided to write a blog along with writing books, I’ve been trying to figure out the topic to begin with. Many ideas kept swirling in my mind, but I wasn’t able to find the “perfect” one. Then yesterday night, before going to bed, it finally occurred to me - why not to start with the inspiration behind my first two books. My first book is titled “Neelkanth” and soon-to-be-released second book is “The Wielder of the Trishul”. So yes, who other than Lord Shiva, my companion in this journey!
Next, I was faced with a tougher question. What can I possibly say about Lord Shiva that isn’t already told or spoken about? So, instead of narrating anything about him, I decided to express my journey with the Lord.
When I was young, I admit that Lord Shiva scared me. My first remembrance about him was that he is the only God with a Third Eye and whenever he gets very angry, he will open it and burn everything. Shiva’s Tandav dance depicts his violent nature. He is referred as the Destroyer among the Trimurti. All this was coupled with his physical appearance - an ash-smeared ascetic with snake coiled up around his neck and a mighty Trishul in his hand. So, I kind of associated anger and destruction with him. Also, he lives far away from civilization in the icy-cold Mount Kailash of Himalayas. Aghoris, who are known to engage in post-mortem rituals, are his devotees. His wedding procession had ghosts, ghouls, devils and demons accompanying him; it was beyond me. This was all pretty overwhelming to a young kid.
As a child born in the 80s, I grew up hearing tales of Ramayan and watching Ramanand Sagar’s tv serial Ramayan. I still remember that this series was my companion when I was struggling with JEE preparations. I would watch one episode daily and enjoy it thoroughly. The memories of Ram’s captivating smile, Hanuman burning Lanka, Angad putting his foot down, Laxman fighting with Meghnad and Ravan's laughter are still fresh. So, I was drawn very close to Lord Vishnu, a God born as human and leading a life full of sacrifices, fighting wars with insurmountable odds and making hard choices.
Later, in my college days at IIT Bombay, I was fortunate to watch Mahabharat. The heart-wrenching story was liberating in the sense that it put forth numerous difficult situations which the gods faced. The epic conveys that life is tough for humans as our destinies are intertwined and no one can escape karma. Here again, Krishna, an avatar of Lord Vishnu, was leading the way.
For some reason, I felt Lord Shiva was absent from these epics which were focussed on Lord Vishnu’s avatars. Though it can be said Ram and Ravan were both strong devotees of Lord Shiva and, perhaps, Lord Hanuman was an avatar of Lord Shiva, but it wasn’t that straightforward.
It was during my job years and my preparation for Civil Services at Bengaluru, I was drawn to Lord Shiva. Like most aspirants, I started visiting the temple close to my home, once every day. The preparation of Civil Services required extreme patience, determination and focus. Going to a temple definitely helped me calm my mind and gave me the strength to do the hard work that the examination demanded. I grew very close to Lord Hanuman and he became my bridge between Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva.
Around that time, I got a fresh perspective on Lord Shiva from Devdutt Pattanaik’s books and Amish’s Shiva Trilogy. It was then I understood what the Destroyer actually stood for. Lord Shiva is a spiritual concept as the destroyer of evil and ignorance. He is the Bholeshankar who is magnanimous and treats everyone alike. He wears ash to remind us the reality of soul and our foolishness in getting enamoured by physical beauty. He is best described by the phrase Satyam-Shivam-Sundaram. Yet, his most captivating story is of Samudra Manthan. When the poison came out of the churning process, there were no takers for it. No one was capable of handling it, or knew, what to do with it. It threatened to destroy everything. Then, Shiva, an uninterested party in the process, without fearing for his life, decided to bear the brunt of the evil, which eventually turned his throat blue. This gave him the name Neelkanth. So, Shiva is the bearer of the Visha (an anagram of his name, a coincidence?). He does the difficult tasks when everyone else fails. So, my Shiva is the Dark Knight - the one who does, what no one can!
Right now, we are fighting the Third World War against an enemy we can't see. A war very different from the first two. We are facing the brunt of coronavirus, which may be an outcome of our uncontrolled growth, or born out of our cruelty on other lifeforms. At this time, we need Lord Shiva, the Dark Knight, to lead us out of this mayhem. In this hour, our doctors, scientists and public service officials are the Dark Knight who are daily risking their own lives to save humanity from this onslaught. Many people are helping total strangers in arranging beds, medicines, oxygen, etc. My salute to them. To me, they are my Shiva.
Om Namah Shivaay.
Image Source: IndiaTV News
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