Vrat-Festivals | Vrat
|Shiv Raatri Kathaa|
(1) Story of a Mouse
(2) Story of the King Chitrabhaanu
Since the King had the gift of remembering the incidents of his previous birth, he said to the sage: "In my past birth, I was a hunter in Vaaraanasee. My name was Suswar. My livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. One day I was roaming the forests in search of animals. I was overtaken by the darkness of night. Unable to return home, I climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a Bel tree. I had shot a deer that day but I had no time to take it home. I bundled it up and tied it to a branch on the tree. As I was tormented by hunger and thirst, I kept awake throughout the night. I shed profuse tears when I thought of my poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously awaiting for my return. To pass away the time that night I engaged myself in plucking the Bel leaves and dropping them down onto the ground. The day dawned. I returned home and sold the deer. I bought some food for myself and for my family. I was about to break my fast when a stranger came to me, begging for food. I served him first and then took my food.
At the time of death, I saw two messengers of Lord Shiv. They were sent down to conduct my soul to the abode of Lord Shiv. I learnt then for the first time of the great merit I had earned by my unconscious worship of Lord Shiv during the night of Shiv Raatri. They told me that there was a Shiv Ling at the bottom of the tree and when I dropped the leaves of that Bel tree, they fell on that Ling. My tears which I had shed out of pure sorrow for my family also fell onto the Ling and bathed it. And I had fasted all day and all night. Thus did I unconsciously worshipped the Lord. "I lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for long ages. Now I am now reborn as Chitrabhaanu."
(3) Story of a Hunter-Lubdhak
"The devotee observes strict spiritual discipline in the day and worships Me in four different forms in the four successive Prahar, each made up of three hours of the night. The offering of a few Bilva leaves is more precious to me than the precious jewels and flowers. He should bathe me with milk at the first Prahar, with curd at the second, with clarified butter at the third, and with honey at the fourth and last Prahar. Next morning, he should feed Braahman first and break the fast after the performance of the prescribed ceremonies. There is no ritual, O Paarvatee, which can compare with this simple routine in sanctity. Just hear, My Beloved, of an episode which will give you an idea of the glory and power of this ritual.
"Once upon a time, there lived a hunter named Lubdhak in the town of Vaaraanasee. One evening he was returning home from the forest with the game birds he had killed. He felt tired and sat at the foot of a tree to take some rest. He was overpowered by sleep. When he woke up, it was all thick darkness of night. It was the night of Shiv Raatri but he did not know it. He climbed up the tree, tied his bundle of dead birds to a branch and sat up waiting for the dawn. The tree happened to be my favorite, the Bilva tree. There was a Ling under that tree. To keep himself awake lest he falls down if he slept, he continued to pluck Bilva leaves and dropped them down. They were all falling on my Ling. The night-dew trickled down from his body. I was highly pleased with involuntary little gifts of the hunter. The day dawned and the hunter returned to his house.
"In course of time, the hunter fell ill and gave up his last breath. The messengers of Yam Raaj arrived at his bedside to carry his soul to Yam. My messengers also went to the spot to take him to my abode. There was a severe fight between Yam’s messengers and my messengers. Yam's messengers were totally defeated. They reported the matter to their Lord. Yam Raaj presented himself in person at the portals of my abode. Nandee gave him an idea of the sanctity of Shiv Raatri and the love which I had for the hunter. Yam then surrendered the hunter to me and returned to his abode quickly. Thus the hunter was able to enter my abode and ward off death by simple fasting and offering of a few Bilva leaves, however involuntary it might be because it was the night of Shiv Raatri. Such is the solemnity and sacredness associated with the night”.
Paarvatee was deeply impressed by the speech of Lord Shiv on the sanctity and glory of the ritual. She repeated it to her friends who in their turn passed it on to the ruling princes on earth. Thus was the sanctity of Shiv Raatri broadcast all over the world.
(4) Story of an Other Hunter
There used to be a hunter named Rurudruha. He was not at all righteous. In fact, he was quite evil and cruel. He killed many deer and he was also a robber and thief. Naturally, Rurudruha knew nothing about Shiv Raatri Vrat. But it happened so that on one day which was a Shiv Raatri day, the hunter's parents, wife and children felt very hungry. They asked Rurudruha to go and get some meat so that they might eat. The hunter went to the forest to kill deer, but could not find any. It was already evening and no game was to be seen. Rurudruha found a small pond and decided that he would keep a vigil there. Sooner or later, some animal was bound to turn up to drink water there. He climbed up onto a Bilva tree that was by the side of that pond. And in case he should feel thirsty, he kept a pot full of water next to him. There he waited, and waited, and waited.
Soon a doe (she deer) turned up to drink water. The hunter picked up his bow and arrow and as he did so, the tree shook and a few Bilva leaves fell on a Ling that was right under the tree. Bilva leaves are sacred to Shiv. Some water also spilled from the pot and fell on the Ling. Rurudruha did not know this. But the doe had seen the hunter. "Don't kill me right now," said the doe, "My children and husband are at home. Let me go and bid them farewell. When I return from home, you may kill me." The hunter was in no mood to let the doe go. Does an animal return to be killed? But the doe took an oath and Rurudruha let her go.
After a short while, another doe turned up to drink water. The two does were sisters and both of them married to the same deer. As before, the hunter again took his bow and arrow to kill them, that the tree shook and again a few Bilva leaves fell on the Shiv Ling and some water spilled on the Ling. The doe saw the hunter and said, "Wait for sometime before you kill me. Let me say goodbye to my husband and children." The hunter was reluctant to let the doe go, but the second doe also took an oath that she would return. So Rurudruha decided to wait.
After the does had gone, the deer turned up to drink water. And when the hunter picked up his bow and arrow, some Bilva leaves and water again fell on the Ling. The deer said, "O Hunter, let me go now. I will come back and you can kill then. I wish to bid adieu to my two wives and children." And the deer also took on oath that he would return to be killed and Rurudruha let him go.
After some time had passed, the two does and the deer came to where Rurudruha was. Each said, "Kill me and spare the others. They need to stay alive to look after the children." The baby deer had also accompanied their parents. They said, "Kill us. We don't wish to stay alive without our parents. The hunter was so surprised at these developments that the tree shook again and again some Bilva leaves and water fell on the Ling.
Shiv now took pity on Rurudruha and removed all evil thoughts from his mind. The hunter spared the deer. Shiv himself appeared before Rurudruha and said, "From now on your name will be Guha. You will be so blessed that Raam will become your guest." This story demonstrates that even if Shiv Raatri Vrat is performed unconsciously, great Punya is obtained.
The family of the dear ultimately became transformed into the Mrigashiraa Nakshatra with the star Sirius behind for the hunter.
(5) Story of Vednidhi
It so happened that the same dancing girl came to the king's court to dance, and he noticed the same bangle which he gave to that Braahman, on the girl's hand. He found out about that bangle as from where she got it. The girl told him that the bangle had been given to her by Vednidhi. He took the bangle from her and called the Braahman. He said to him, "Do you remember the golden bangle that I had give you? Can you please return it to me? I need it." The Braahman did not know anything about the bangle so hurried home and asked his wife for the bangle, but it could not be found anywhere and they realized that it was Vednidhi who had stolen it. Vednidhi was banished from his parents' house.
Now Vednidhi wandered around here and there and begged food so that he might eat. One day, he did not get any food at all. That day happened to be Shiv Raatri. But Vednidhi didn't know this. He saw several people going to Shiv's temple with all sorts of offerings, including food, in their hands. The evil Braahman thought that he might be able to steal and eat this food. He followed the devotees to the temple and waited till they fell asleep. When they had slept, Vednidhi crept up to the place where the offerings had been placed. All food was kept right in front of the Shiv Ling. It was very dark there and Vednidhi could not see very well. A lamp was burning and the shadow of the lamp fell on the Shiv Ling. Vednidhi tore off a piece of cloth from his clothing and stuffed it into the lamp so that it might burn better. The flame rose and the shadow on the Ling was removed. But when Vednidhi was about to steal the food, the devotees awoke. They gave chase to the thief and shot at him with arrows. These arrow struck Vednidhi and he died.
Yam's messengers arrived and wanted to take the evil Braahman to hell. But Shiv's messengers also arrived there and they would not permit Vednidhi to be taken to hell. The Braahman had fasted on Shiv Raatri day, he stayed awake at night and he had removed the shadow from the Ling. These were acts of the faithful, even if they had been performed unconsciously. Vednidhi's all sins were forgiven.
(6) Story of a Shiv Bhakt
Ved Shaastra just say that killing a calf or cow is a sin. There the situation is not analyzed, instead, they just declare the doer of such Karm resulting in such a death as a sinner. So, even though the Bhakt had no clue that the calf was standing there or that the bundle would roll down over it and kill the calf, he was claimed a sinner. He was very much saddened with the awkward situation he was facing. He was an ardent Shiv Bhakt and hence went to a Shiv temple to seek solace. He prayed to Shiv to show him a means to compensate the so-called sin with a Parihaar (Praayashchit) since he was not mentally or physically involved in it.
Shiv, being very compassionate to his Bhakt, replied in an astral voice (Divine voice) that Ved Shaastra might have certain norms, people would trust that only; but will not know the height of his Bhakti and his constant chanting of ‘Om Namah Shivaaya’ and the powers of Naam Smaran. For Shiv, the Bhakt was pure hearted and his Mantra Smaran or ‘Om Namah Shivaaya’ wiped away the sin of the ignorant act. He believed the words of that Divine voice and proclaimed openly that he was no more a sinner. There were many Vaidik scholars in that place and they did not agree with his claim because he did not do any Parihaar apparently and hence wanted him to prove that his sin was washed away. He was polite, innocent and ignorant; otherwise, he could have counter questioned the people to prove that he committed a sin. He was confident in his Bhakti and just asked for a day to prove his state.
The Bhakt was sure that Shiv would heed to his situation and went back to
the same temple. He prayed to Shiv again and said that he was totally
convinced with his Divine words that he is eluded from any sin, but for
the world to believe it he requested the almighty to enact a scene. Shiv’s
words as Divine was again heard by the Bhakt with some instructions for
him as follows:
Shiv assured him that the Nandee would eat the grass and the incident would elevate him to a staunch Shiv Bhakt.
People were curiously waiting to see as what would happen in a day. All eyes were at the activities of the Bhakt – watching him cut and bundle the grass. He called all the people who blamed him as a sinner and instructed them to do as said by Shiv - to feed some grass to the Nandee idol in front of the Shiv sanctum in the temple. He also guaranteed the people that the stone Nandee would eat the grass given by them. People divided into groups mocking and talking differently at the extraneous behavior of the Bhakt. There was one rational group that was ready to agree to the Bhakt’s request on a basis that if the Nandee ate the grass they would trust that he was no longer a sinner, and if otherwise, he would be called a sinner. Gradually, everyone came forward to give a try and was astonished when the stone idol (Nandee) happily ate all the grass that was fed to it. All were astounded at the happening and declared that the Bhakt was not an ordinary person but Mahaan (Great).
This Nandee idol has its mouth wide open and is named after the incident as ‘pullu vaangee thindra Nandee’ (Nandee that ate grass). It is situated in a Shiv Temple in Kanjanoor near Kumbaakonam. This temple is where Preeti for Shukran is performed. Shiv and Paarvatee are addressed as Agneeshwar and Karpgambal here. There are still many in and around that temple that do not know the story behind the naming of the Nandee.
--A stone idol eating
grass is an untruth, if analyzed from practical sense, but Bhakti Bhaav
has made the impossible happen means, untruth has become a truth.
(7) Story of a Nishaad
In due course of time, when he died, he was seized by the myrmidons of Yam. When Shiv's attendants saw them taking him they fought with them and liberated him from them and he became a sinless attendant of Shiv together with his dog in this way. He collected merit without knowing it; If a person does with full knowledge (what the Nishaad did without knowing), the merit is inexhaustible. The Agni Puraan expressly mentions the hunter Sundar Senak. The whole chapter of Garud Puraan is quoted in the Varsh Kriyaa Kaumudee.
(8) Story of Another Kiraat
There lived a wicked Kiraat named Chandra who killed fish by catching them in his nets and killed also many animals and birds. He had a wife who matched him in his cruelty. Thus passed many years. One day, he ascended a Bilva tree taking water in a quiver, desirous of killing a wild boar and passed the whole night without sleep, keeping a watch, and threw down many Bilva leaves which fell on a Ling at the root of the Bilva tree. He also rinsed his mouth with water from the quiver that fell on the Ling. In this way, he worshipped Shiva in all ways, viz.., he bathed the linga with water, he worshipped the Ling with numberless Bilva leaves and he kept awake the whole night and was without food that day. He alighted from the tree and began, after reaching the tank, to catch fish. Because he did not return home that night, his wife also went without food and water and passed that night in anxiety. In the morning she came to the forest with some food for her husband and, seeing her husband on other side of the river, she placed the food on the river bank and crossed the river. They both bathed in the river, but before the Kiraat could reach the food, a dog came there and ate all the food. When the wife wanted to kill the dog, the Kiraat whose heart was softened, persuaded his wife to desist from killing the dog. By that time it was noon (on Amaavasyaa), and Shiv's attendants came there to take both the husband and wife, as he had worshipped (though unknowingly) the Ling and as both had fasted on the 14th. The Kiraat and his wife reached Shiv Lok.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 09/30/13