Saturday, February 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Arunachala

The Birth of Arunachala

The Legend of the Linga

The legend of Shiva Linga or Lingodbhavamurthy is deeply related to Mahashivaratri. The legend narrates the story of vain search by Brahma and Vishnu to discover the Aadi (beginning) and the Antha (end) of Lord Shiva. The legend thus proves the supremacy of Lord Mahadeva over other Hindu Gods and explains why the lingam is believed to be one of the most potent emblems in Hindu ideals. The story is stated in the three of the puranas - the Kurma Purana, the Vayu Purana and Shiva Purana

The Legend
According to Puranas, once the other two of the triads of Hindu Gods, Brahma and Vishnu were fighting over each other’s prowess. Horrified at the intensity of the battle, the other gods asked Shiva to intervene. To make them realize the futility of their fight, Lord Shiva assumed the form of a flaming Linga in between Brahma and Vishnu and challenged both of them by asking them to measure the gigantic Linga (infinite pillar of light representing Shiva).

Awestruck by its magnitude, Brahma and Vishnu decided to find one end each to establish supremacy over the other. Lord Brahma took the form of a swan and went upwards while Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Varaha - a boar and went into the earth towards nether land. Both searched for thousands of miles but neither could find the end.

Lord Vishnu got exhausted and surrendered Himself to the infinite pillar of light.

On his journey upward, Brahma came across Ketaki (screwpine) flower. Exhausted and bewildered with his search to find the uppermost limit of fiery column, Brahma made Ketaki assent to lie that he had seen the top of the column where the flower had previously resided. Accompanied by his accomplice, Brahma confronted Vishnu and asserted that he had indeed discovered the origin of the cosmic column.

At this point, the central part of the pillar split open and Shiva revealed himself in his full glory. Overawed, both Brahma and Vishnu bowed before him accepted lord Shiva’s supremacy. Lord Shiva also explained to Brahma and Vishnu that both of them were born out of him and that the three were then separated out into three different aspects of divinity.

However, Lord Shiva was angry with Brahma for making a false claim. The Lord cursed Brahma that no one would ever pray to him. (This legend explains why there is hardly any Brahma temple of significance in India.) Lord Shiva also punished the Ketaki flower for testifying falsely and banned her from being used as an offering for any worship.

Since it was on the 14th day in the dark fortnight of the month of Phalguna that Shiva first manifested himself in the form of a Linga, the day is extremely auspicious and is celebrated as Mahashivaratri - the grand night of Shiva. To celebrate the occasion, devotees of Lord Shiva fast during the day and pray to the Lord throughout the night. It is said that worshipping of Lord Shiva on Shivaratri bestows one with happiness and prosperity.


In this story Lord Vishnu represents the ego of man and Lord Brahma the intellect. Lord Shiva represents the Undying Supreme Self.

The story means that unless the Ego and the Intellect surrender themselves to the Supreme Spirit, It does not reveal its true glory.

After having seen the bewitching form of Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma prayed to Lord Shiva to manifest Himself in a more approachable way so that people can worship Him.

The Lord granted their wishes by stating that He will hence forth be visible to the entire cosmos as the Arunachala Hill.

As we all identify ourselves with our body, so too the Supreme Self has identified itself with Arunachala Hill. The human mind craves for forms and hence the Hill stands as testimony to the fact about the Supreme Self.

Logically speaking no date can be attributed to the happening, but faith is the backbone for all beliefs.

Since it is that day the Lord took the Form of Arunachala, the coming Mahashivaratri is the Birthday of Arunachala.


"I am seldom found in Kailash, Kasi or my various dwelling places in Kula mountians. I myself am Arunachala. On seeeing the peak of which people will not only have the benefit of having their eyes but also the destruction of all sins and the acquisition of the vision born of knowledge.’

Skanda Mahapurana Chapter 5 vv. 70-71

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