Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The joy of Shiva - good wishes of Mahashivaratri महा-शिव-रात्रि !

वन्दे शम्भुं उमा-पतिं सुर-गुरुं वन्दे जगत्कारणम्
वन्दे पन्नग-भूषणं मृगधरं वन्दे पशूनां पतिम् ।
वन्दे सूर्य-शशांक-वह्नि-नयनं वन्दे मुकुन्द-प्रियम्
वन्दे भक्त-जनाश्रयं च वरदं वन्दे शिवं शंकरम् ॥

vande shambhum umA-patim sura-gurum vande jagat-kAraNam
vande pannaga-bhUShaNam mRiga-dharam vande pashUnAm patim |
vande sUrya-shashA~Nka-vahni-nayanam vande mukunda-priyam
vande bhakta-janAshrayam cha varadam vande shivam sha~Nkaram ||

vandé shambhum umā-patim sura-gurum vandé jagat-kāraṇam
vandé pannaga-bhūṣhaṇam mṛiga-dharam vandé pashūnām patim |
vandé sūrya-shashāṅka-vahni-nayanam vandé mukunda-priyam
vandé bhakta-janāshrayam cha varadam vandé shivam shaṅkaram ||

This classic mantra in praise of the Great Lord, mahAdeva (महादेव), the Great Time (mahA-kAla महा-काल) is a good source for various names of Shiva (शिव) which also define its attributes for the form-meditating devotee.

Let us see them one by one.

The -am at the end of all the words makes them the object of 'vande', that is, I [give] praise to the "...-am"

The root verb 'sham' (शम्) means to pacify, calm down, even be tired, suppressed, to destroy. Shiva in his rudra (रुद्र violent) form destroys the bad and in its benign form brings peace, calmness of a yogI (योगी). The same root is in the name sha~Nkara (शङ्कर) which mean that which does 'calming', that is, brings calm, peace, good.

We saw in an earlier post the name umA (उमा), for pArvatI (पार्वती). When the beautiful young princess, daughter of himAlaya (हिमालय) decided to win over shiva by her beauty and service she failed miserably. In the process, even kAma (काम), the god of desire was burnt alive, forever without a body. He was henceforth called ananga (अनङ्ग) - one without a body.

This made pArvatI even more determined and she chose the path of the ascetics. When she made her decision known, her mother menA (मेना) cried out in anguish - 'u mA' उ मा (oh! no.). And hence pArvatI got her name as 'umA'.

Of course, when the divine lady were to penance, as tough as she did that she even stopped eating fallen leaves (for which she was called a-parNA अ-पर्णा, without leaves), the divine god can't resist for too long. Convinced of her devotion, shiva finally weds her. And hence he is called 'umA-pati' = husband of umA (उमा).

He is also called the guru of the gods themselves. The divine beings are called devatA (देवता) or deva (देव) and are the multi-faceted manifestation of the same divine principle, somewhat like the Greek gods. There are many occasions when they all go to Shiva for help. The most dreaded times of the churning of the celestial ocean produced, as its first output, the poisonous halAhala (हलाहल), which was like a black dense liquid that suffocated everyone. Whenever I think of this, the image of oil and gas extraction comes to my mind. How poisonous natural oil is as is, it destroys beaches, soil, water everything. The same oil when tamed and purified properly is the greatest boon of modern age!

So, when halAhala was suffocating everyone, it was Shiva who drank it up and stopped it in his throat, and got a new name - nIla-kaNTha (नीलकण्ठ blue throat-ed).

While devotees of various forms of the same divine principle claim that their favorite (iShTa इष्ट) deity is the one and all, cause of the creation etc., we must understand it properly, without bias.

The 'concept' of Shiva is that of change, the transformer. Change being time, he is called mahA-kAla, the Great Time. And hence, he is the cause of the universe. Nothing is beyond Time. All things happen in its domain.

His association with Time is unambiguous - snake, moon, the Sun and Moon as his two eyes, and his very name mahA-kAla (Great Time) all suggest that shiva is the paramount concept of time and change.

The snake is another symbol of Time. Even the symbol of snake eating its own tail, that Kekule saw in his dream, helped him think up the molecular structure of Benzene, one of the major breakthrough of organic chemistry. Shiva has wrist bands, necklaces, arms bands of such snakes. While other sophisticated gods have golden jewelry to adorn them, Shiva has the raw nature embodied in him. The river ga~NgA, the snake, the bull, the tiger skin, living on snow mountains, the ashes, the primordial instrument of Damaru (डमरु twin drum) - all are evidence of Shiva manifesting in the creation! The TIME is in everything. Everything is transforming every moment, and this is Shiva!

mRiga-dhara, pashUnAm pati
Shiva represents the force of life, he sustains the living beings. He represents fertility, the regenerative force. This is important to remember, because people mistakenly think he is the destroyer! He is the transformer, old to new, new to old. The support of all life force, animals. His symbol of lingam (लिङ्गं) and his ride the bull, both represent the regenerative force of life, without which there would be no such discussions possible! Growing up with synthetic values make people wonder about the forms of Shiva.

This comes back as him representing Time. He is called tri-netra (त्रि-नेत्र), tryambakam (त्र्यम्बकं) - the three eyed. Sun and Moon are his two normal eyes - marking the movement in the physical world, day and night. The third eye is the eye of knowledge, the fire that burns the dead junk of desires, removes the darkness of ignorance and shines inside out. It is the eye with which he destroyed kAma-deva (or desire).

May the Great Lord bless you on mahA-shiva-rAtrI महा-शिव-रात्रि !

See this older post for more Shiva mantras.

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and now the language aspects of the shloka -

वन्दे = vande = i praise

शम्भुं = shambhum = to the shambhu

उमा-पतिं = umA-patim = to the husband (pati) of pArvatI (umA)

सुर-गुरुं = sura-gurum = to the guru of the gods (sura)

जगत्कारणम् = jagat-kAraNam = to the cause (kAraNa) of the world (jagat)

पन्नग-भूषणं = to the who who has ornaments (bhUShaNa) of serpents (pannaga)

मृगधरं = to teh sustainer (dhara) of living beings/animals (pashu)

पशूनां पतिम् = pashUnAm patim = to the protector (pati) of animals (pashu)

सूर्य-शशांक-वह्नि-नयनं = to the one whose eyes (nayana) are the sun (sUrya), moon (shashA~Nka) and fire (vahni)

मुकुन्द-प्रियम् = to the one dear (priyam) to viSHNu (mukunda)

भक्त-जनाश्रयं = to the refuge (Ashrya) of the devoted (bhakta) people (jana)

च = and

वरदं = to the giver (-da) of boons (vara)

शिवं = to the auspicious (shiva)

शंकरम् = to the one who does (karam) good (sham)

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(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
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  1. beautiful work.Are you in pune?

  2. Very good explanation of the shloka.
    A beautiful blog: different aspects that you have covered is great.
    Thanks very much!
    But I am finding it difficult to accept your etymology of Uma: U ma? really?

    1. Kumara-sambhavam 5:28 - derivation of aparNA
      Kumara-sambhavam 1:26 - derivation of pArvatI and umA
      ( उमेति मात्रा तपसो निषिद्धा पश्चादुमाख्यां सुमुखी जगाम |)

  3. Very thoughtful and useful blog. A true tribute to Godess Sarasvati.

  4. I must say, you have done tremendous work, keep doing it please.

  5. I must say you have done tremendous work please keep doing it.

  6. Systematic explanations.


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