Śiva Gīta

Śiva and Pārvati riding on the bull Nandi, to the right a kinnāra (celestial horse-headed musician), and in the background are two male attendants. Nandi is adorned with encrusted necklaces in gold. Southwest Deccan, possibly Thanjavur or Arcot, ca. 1820; VAM

The Śiva Gītā forms a part of the Uttara-Kaṇḍa of the Padma Purāṇa and is an account of the advice given to Lord Rāma by Pārvati, narrated by Sage Sūta, based on Advaita philosophy. Once, when Śiva accompanied by Satī, both seated on Nandi, were wandering the Earth, they came across Rāma in the Daṇḍaka forest [daṇḍakāraṇya] while He was in search of Sitā, who was abducted by Rāvaṇa.

Śiva and Pārvatī, seated in a miniture shrine on the back of white, bejewelled Nandi. Śiva sits in lalitasana with Pārvatī seated on his left thigh and carries a damaru and a mriga (gazelle). Company school; c. 1820 Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu; British Museum

The Śiva Gīta begins with Rāma surrendering to Sage Agastya, who initiates Rāma to the Virāja Dīkṣā, based on the Virāja āgama. Agastya teaches Rāma the Śiva Sahasranāma (the thousand names of Śiva), to chant day and night in order to obtain the Mahāpaśupata astra from Śiva, used to destroy his enemy and get dear Sita back. He instructs Rāma to behold the most beautiful celestial god Rudra, the eternal and Supreme, ever blissful and beneficent, meditate upon him, and observe the Pāśupata vrata.

Rāma then goes to the sacred Ramagiri on the banks of river Godāvari, installs a Śiva Liṅga and observes the vrata by smearing his body with vibhūti and wearing rudrākṣa. Rāma propitiates the Liṅga by performing abhiṣeka with the holy waters from Gautamī (Sindhū or Godāvari) and offering the Lord wild flowers and fruits.

Seated on a tiger skin, Rāma begins reciting the Śiva Sahasranāma, day and night, living only on fruits for a month, on leaves alone in the subsequent month, living on water alone in the third month and as Śiva had not appeared, started the fourth month by living only on air.

Suddenly, Rāma heard a tremendous sound, frightening like the tumult of the oceans at the time of deluge, resembling the noise generated by the churning of the ocean with the Mandāra mountain. Bewildered, Rāma thought it to be a demon, and, the supreme warrior that he was, stood up, stringing his bow. Rāma aimed all the divine and powerful weapons he possessed at the direction of the sound. But the sanctified arrows and weapons released by Rāma, the ruler of the world, were swallowed up by that power, just like rain falling into the sea. Rāma’s bow, quiver, and the leather cap protecting his thumb slipped from his hands. His eyes closed, Rāma, the King of the world, surrendered unto Śankara, uttering loudly the thousand names of Śambhu.

In a moment, Rāma’s power went cold like that moon. He opened his eyes to behold a most wondrous sight:

Śiva the ascetic, bare-chested and hair matted, bearing the crescent moon on his head, holding his trident as his other hand pats the haunches of his faithful bull Nandi. Pārvati is by his side under a blossoming tree on Mount Kailāśa. Punjab Hills, possibly Garwhal, Circa 1810–1830

Rāma saw the bull (the vāhana of Śiva) beautified in every way as if it were a lump of white butter emerging from the churning of the ocean of ambrosia (milk). Rāma saw the bull, with its two horns capped with gold and resplendent with the emerald green, with its looks lustrous as a sapphire, its neck covered with a short piece of wool. The bull was adorned by a cloth encrusted with gems, accompanied by cowries and the tintinnabulation of small bells attached to it. Rāma saw Mahadēva, the Supreme Lord, seated on that Nandi, his form pure like the crystal, splendrous like millions of suns and cool like millions of moons. Rāma saw Śiva, wearing a tiger skin, adorned by a serpent as a sacred thread, embellished in every way, bearing matted tawny hair that glowed like lightening. Rāma saw the blue-throated lord (Nīlakaṇṭha), three-eyed, donning the moon on his head, with ten arms shining with an assortment of weapons.

Śiva & Pārvati, Nandi below. Andhra Pradesh, ca. 1760; V&A Museum

Rāma beheld the Lord, youthful, the foremost among Puruṣa-s, along with Mother Pārvati, seated gracefully, with a countenance resembling the full moon, whose form was like a garland of blue lotuses. Pārvati was decked with pearl ornaments, resembling the star-studded night sky, whose gait was slow by virtue of bearing the weight of breasts high as the Vindhyā mountain. Rāma saw Parvati, the goddess most exalted, the nature of existence, conciseness and bliss; whose waist made one question its existence; bedecked with divine ornaments and anointed with sandalwood paste. Her eyes shone like the petals of a blue lotus, her lips beautifully reddened by the partaking of betel leaves, her body aglow from the embrace of Lord Śiva.

Rāma also saw all the Gods, mounted on their respective vāhanas, their arms lustrous with their various weapons, chanting hymns of the Sāma Vēda, surrounded by the guardians of the eight quarters, also accompanied by their consorts. Rāma could hear the chorus of divine hymns to Śiva from the Śri Rudram, recited by groups of kinnāras and Brāhmaṇas. Nārada was in the heavens, playing his vīṇa while a group of celestial nymphs like Rambha performing nrtta (dance with footwork and gestures) and nrtya (dance movements conveying the meanings of words). Praising Śiva, his words filled with overwhelming joy, Rāma prostrated before him.

This sets the stage for context, and the words spoken to Rāma form the rest of the Śiva Gīta.

Source: Śiva Gīta by PV Sundaram


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