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The man from the egg, p.4
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       The Man from the Egg, p.4

           Sudha Murty
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  Amused, Shiva made another attempt, merging his body with Parvati’s—one vertical half of the body was Shiva’s and the other half was Parvati’s. Bhringi, though, realized what the lord had done, and so he went around half of Shiva’s body and exited through the belly button.

  Parvati was completely distressed by now. She cried out, ‘Foolish Bhringi, you don’t understand, do you? Shiva and I are like father and mother to the world. We are more important together than individually. Isn’t it vital for our children to have both parents? A child gets his nerves and skeleton from the father, while the blood and flesh come from the mother. Shiva and I are inseparable. Worshipping only Shiva or me individually is nothing but incomplete reverence. As you have degraded the role of the mother, from now on you will only have your nerves and your skeleton; your blood and flesh will disappear. Your appearance will be so ugly and horrifying that people will always remember how you chose one between the mother and the father.’

  The sage realized his mistake and asked for forgiveness. In time Parvati forgave him, and Bhringi became a guard at Shiva’s abode along with Nandi.

  This incident inspired the worship of Shiva as Ardhanarishvara, the form of half-man and-half woman. Sculptures of this form can be seen in many places in India; it is particularly well depicted in cave two of the Badami Caves in Karnataka.

  Folk Tales

  The Gift of Life

  Sage Mrikandu and his wife, Marudmati, were faithful devotees of Lord Shiva. One day, they prayed to him earnestly until he appeared.

  Shiva asked the couple, ‘What do you desire?’

  ‘We want a child,’ they replied in unison.

  Shiva thought for a moment and said, ‘I will give you a choice—you can either have a son who is extraordinary but will only live till the age of sixteen or a son who will live a long life but will always be a burden to you.’

  The couple considered the choice carefully and said, ‘We’d rather have a good son for a short duration than a bad one who will stay with us forever.’

  Shiva smiled, blessed them and vanished.

  Mrikandu and Marudmati soon had a beautiful child, whom they named Markandeya. He was a good son, a wonderful student and a compassionate boy. He grew up to be a great devotee of Shiva.

  As the days and years rolled past, Mrikandu and Marudmati grew more and more depressed. Every now and then, they would curse the moment they had made that fateful choice. ‘Maybe we should not have asked for a child at all. Having a son like Markandeya and losing him will be too painful,’ they would say to each other sadly.

  Markandeya was aware of his impending death, yet he continued to live his life in the best way possible and remained devoted to Shiva.

  On the morning of Markandeya’s sixteenth birthday, Mrikandu and Marudmati clung to their son and cried bitterly. Markandeya looked at them with love and said gently, ‘I could not have had better parents than you. I have been fortunate to be born in your home.’

  Bidding his sorrowful parents goodbye, Markandeya headed to Shiva’s temple. He embraced the shivalinga and began chanting the Panchakshari mantra.

  As the time of death was fast approaching, Yama sent his assistants to fetch the young lad. When they reached the temple, they found Markandeya lost in meditation, his arms around the shivalinga. Fearing Shiva’s wrath, the assistants did not dare disturb the boy and went back.

  Yama decided to perform the task himself. He went charging to the boy on his black buffalo and threw a noose around his neck. The rope, however, landed on the shivalinga instead.

  A furious Shiva appeared in front of Yama, ready to fight. ‘How dare you put a noose around me?’ he thundered.

  Yama hung his head in surrender.

  Shiva offered to let the matter go but only if Yama returned without claiming Markandeya.

  The god of death agreed and Markandeya’s life was spared, much to the joy of his parents.

  Markandeya’s story represents the belief that the Shiva Panchakshari mantra can turn the tide.

  This incident is said to have happened in the temple town of Thirukkadaiyur in the state of Tamil Nadu.

  Markandeya eventually resided in a place now known as Markandeya Tirtha, which is on the way to Yamunotri, the source of River Yamuna. He is said to have written the Markandeya Purana there, one of the eighteen major Puranas.

  The Innocent Hunter

  Kannappa was an orphan boy, who had been brought up by a gang of hunters in the forest. He had no formal education—the only thing he knew was how to survive, hunting and eating his kill and sustaining himself on fruits from the forest and water from the river.

  One day, he lost his way and chanced upon a stone structure on a riverbed. People were walking in and out of it, carrying flowers, fruits and coconuts. The structure was a temple, but Kannappa had never seen one before and so was curious to know more about it.

  He waited until almost everyone had left for the day. Finally he saw a young boy coming out of the stone building and decided to speak to him.

  Kannappa asked him many questions in his crude language. ‘What is this building called? Why are people bringing things with them and leaving them inside?’

  The boy was surprised at his ignorance and baffled by his questions, but still tried his best to answer them. ‘This is the temple of Lord Shiva. People come here to offer fruits and flowers to him. They ask Shiva for whatever they desire and Shiva listens to all their prayers.’

  Kannappa immediately wanted to visit the temple. The boy showed him the way inside and told him about the shivalinga.

  Kannappa asked the boy innocently, ‘This shivalinga . . . does it give us whatever we ask for?’

  ‘Yes, that’s what we believe,’ he said. ‘It is getting dark now—I must get home.’ And he went away, leaving Kannappa alone.

  Hesitantly, Kannappa entered the temple. He sat down in a corner and wondered how a stone could give anyone what they wished for. So he decided to test it.

  ‘O Shiva, please let me hunt enough prey so that I do not remain hungry. I don’t have any fruits or flowers to offer you. But if you give me the prey, I will share it with you. I promise I will not cheat you,’ he declared.

  The next morning, Kannappa went hunting. He searched for prey all day but did not find any. Hungry and frustrated by late afternoon, he was sure that the boy at the temple had lied to him. Still, he continued the hunt. Just as evening fell, he spotted two rabbits coming out of their burrows and killed them. Since he had promised the lord that he would share his prey, he went to the temple with one of the dead rabbits.

  It was late and the temple was deserted. Kannappa entered and said out loud, ‘Please come and take your share, my lord. This is for you.’

  He sat and waited till it was dark but the lord did not appear. Kannappa began feeling hungry and sleepy, and decided to leave the rabbit in the temple. He entreated Shiva to take the promised share once more before heading home.

  When people came to the temple the next morning, they found the dead rabbit in front of the shivalinga. The devotees were very upset. ‘Who has brought this here? How dare they desecrate our temple?’

  The dead rabbit was thrown out.

  The next day, Kannappa went to hunt for his meal again, but this time he had no luck. He thought, ‘I should go to the temple tonight and ask Shiva how he enjoyed his rabbit meal.’

  To his surprise, there were hordes of people at the temple that night. It was the night of Shivratri, but how was the orphan hunter boy to know that?

  Kannappa looked around and noticed the young boy he had spoken to praying to Shiva inside the temple. Since he was not used to being around so many people, he decided to wait and climbed a bael tree nearby. It was a long wait and, having nothing better to do, he started plucking the leaves off the tree and throwing them to the ground. Unknown to him, there was a small shivalinga under the tree, which had not been worshipped for a long time. The bael leaves fell on this shivalinga.

ile, the Shivratri festivities inside the temple continued. People sang bhajans and worshipped the lord with flowers and fruits.

  Kannappa was enchanted by the bhajans, and slowly started singing along and chanting the Panchakshari mantra.

  The night turned into early morning and the devotees departed from the temple. Kannappa climbed down from the tree and entered the inner sanctum.

  He saw that Shiva’s eyes, on the shivalinga, had red marks on them. They were probably just from the kumkum or the small red flowers that the people had offered, but Kannappa was sure that Shiva was having trouble with his eyes. He felt sad for what he perceived as Shiva’s sorry state and wanted to help him. ‘Poor Shiva!’ he thought. ‘He lives here all alone and has no one to take care of him when he is sick. He doesn’t even get a meal until the devotees visit him.’

  Kannappa had seen the devotees pouring water on the shivalinga the night before. ‘The lord must be feeling cold. Perhaps he is shivering,’ he thought. ‘After all, he is only covered with leaves!’

  So he asked Shiva, ‘What can I get you, my lord? Maybe some food or medicine? How can I serve you?’

  Shiva did not answer him.

  ‘Oh, no!’ thought Kannappa. ‘The lord must indeed be very, very ill, for he is unable to reply!’

  Immediately, he went to the forest, fetched some medicinal herbs and applied their paste on the red marks. But nothing happened.

  ‘Oh, no! I think he has gone blind! I must give the lord one of my eyes to help him get better. That will surely make him happy!’ exclaimed Kannappa, his heart pure and true.

  He picked up the trident and pointed it towards his right eye, balancing one leg on the shivalinga and the other on the ground.

  The boy was illiterate, had no knowledge of mantras or of the proper ways of worship, but his devotion knew no bounds. Just as he was about to pierce his own eye, Shiva appeared with his consort, Parvati. Unknowingly Kannappa had fasted on Shivratri, worshipped the lord with bael leaves and proved that his heart was untainted. And so Shiva was pleased.

  ‘You have won me over with your innocence,’ said the lord, smiling. ‘People promise me things all the time but they forget to keep their word the moment they get what they want. You, on the other hand, treated me like a fellow human being, and that is very rare indeed. From now on, you will be considered my greatest devotee and your name will forever be associated with mine. May you live for many, many years.’

  The temple is still around, in the town of Srikalahasti in Andhra Pradesh.

  The Girl That God Took

  A long, long time ago, there lived a rich man in a small village named Koluru in Karnataka. He was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and would visit the temple every morning with a tumbler of milk as offering. His wife passed away early and he only had a daughter—a sweet, good-natured girl named Kodagusu.

  Every morning at the temple, the man would chant the Shiva Panchakshari mantra five times. Then he would drink the milk he had brought with him and take the empty tumbler home. Kodagusu would greet her father at the door, take the tumbler and wash it so that it would be clean and ready for her father the next day. This routine continued for several years.

  One day, the man had to travel to another village for work. He said to Kodagusu, ‘My dear daughter, for years I have made an offering to the lord every day. Shiva has always protected and helped us, and I don’t want to upset him. So make sure you go to the temple tomorrow on my behalf and offer the lord a tumbler of milk.’

  Kodagusu agreed, and her father left in peace.

  The next morning, Kodagusu took a bath, combed her hair and put on a pretty dress. She heated a little milk, adding sugar, poured it into the tumbler and carefully carried it to the temple. She garlanded the shivalinga and placed the milk in front of the deity.

  ‘O Shiva,’ she said, ‘my father, who is a great devotee of yours, has asked me to bring this milk to you. Please accept this offering and drink it.’

  She sat for some time in a corner of the room, waiting for Shiva to turn up for the milk, but nobody appeared and the tumbler of milk remained full.

  ‘Maybe Shiva has not heard my request,’ she thought and repeated aloud, ‘I am Kodagusu, daughter of your beloved follower who offers you milk every day. Please drink it as soon as possible because I have to go home quickly and leave for school.’

  She waited for another five minutes, but there was still no sign of Shiva. ‘Perhaps he’s feeling shy because my face is unfamiliar. I’ll give him some privacy,’ she thought, and went out.

  Kodagusu waited outside for some time and then went back in to check if the offering had been accepted. The milk was still untouched.

  Now she started to worry. ‘If Shiva does not drink the milk and I take it back, my father will scold me. Why isn’t the lord listening to me?’ she wondered.

  She sat in front of the shivalinga and cajoled the lord, ‘Please drink the milk. You need it to remain strong. I even added some sugar today so it tastes quite sweet. I’m sure that you will like it. Please don’t get me into trouble—have the milk! If you drink it today, I will bring you laddoos tomorrow.’

  She heard nothing but silence.

  Helpless, Kodagusu began crying. Time ticked by and morning turned to noon. Shiva remained where he was and Kodagusu filled the air with her occasional bouts of sobbing. She was scared of her father and tired of the obstinate god. Overcome by frustration, she started hitting her head against the shivalinga. ‘Lord, am I doing something wrong? What am I supposed to tell my father if you don’t accept our offering?’

  Her pleas reached Shiva’s ears on Mount Kailash. His heart was moved by her innocence and he emerged from the shivalinga.

  Kodagusu was ecstatic to see him. She smiled brightly and exclaimed, ‘You look very different from your pictures—so kind and so . . . normal. Tell me, why were you hiding for so long?’

  Without waiting for a response, she continued, ‘Well, never mind that now. I am glad you are here. Please drink this quickly and give the tumbler back to me.’

  Shiva promptly drank the milk and handed her the empty tumbler. Kodagusu thanked him and ran all the way home. The god watched her for some time with affection and then went back to his abode.

  After reaching home, Kodagusu washed the tumbler, grabbed her bag and hurried to attend the remainder of her school day.

  In the evening, her father came back from his journey tired but happy. The trip had been fruitful and he had made a good business deal. While resting, he thought, ‘Shiva is great! I had a good day thanks to his blessings. Perhaps I will offer him some laddoos tomorrow as a show of my gratitude.’

  At that moment, he remembered the task he had assigned to his daughter and turned to her. ‘Kodagusu, did you take some milk for the lord today?’

  ‘Yes, I did, but Shiva took hours and hours to come! I had to cajole and plead and scold him until he finally drank the milk! Father, you don’t take so much time when you go to the temple. Maybe Shiva listens to you easily because you are older than I am and he knows you. Maybe I am just too young and it takes a long time for him to hear my request.’

  Kodagusu’s father was taken aback. ‘Child, come here and sit down,’ he said. ‘Tell me again what you just said, but slowly.’

  Kodagusu narrated the incident in detail.

  The man could not believe it. He knew that his daughter never lied, but how could Shiva really emerge from the shivalinga? He thought, ‘Was there someone in the temple who looked like Shiva and fooled my young daughter into giving him the milk? The poor thing! She has most definitely been duped. Let me ask her to take the milk to the lord tomorrow and follow her to see what happens.’

  The man did not sleep well that night.

  The next morning, he said to his daughter, ‘Here, take this milk and go offer it to the lord in the temple.’

  ‘Father, please come with me. I will show you how long he takes to appear. He’ll make me late for school again!’

‘No, Kodagusu, off you go to the temple now. I will go some other day,’ he said.

  The girl nodded obediently and left with the milk.

  Quietly, her father followed her to the temple, stood behind the door and peeped in. Just like the day before, Kodagusu greeted the lord and asked him to drink the milk, but no one appeared. She pleaded for some time but to no avail.

  Kodagusu looked around the temple—it was completely deserted. By now her father was convinced that some passer-by had indeed seized the opportunity to pose as Shiva and drink the milk. Upset, he came out from behind the door and scolded his daughter, ‘Shiva did not come here yesterday! It was someone pretending to be him. You, my little girl, fell for his antics like a big fool!’

  ‘No, it was Shiva,’ said Kodagusu earnestly. ‘I am absolutely certain. His neck was blue and he had long curly hair. There was a half-moon on his head and he was holding a trident. When he smiled at me, I noticed the rudraksh necklace around his neck. I gave him the milk, Father. He is real. I am not lying!’

  But her father refused to believe her.

  Kodagusu was heartbroken by his lack of faith in her. She hugged the linga desperately and called out to Shiva. ‘O lord, please come and reveal yourself. If you don’t, my father will think I am a liar. You are the only one who can prove the truth to him. I don’t deserve to be scolded for a lie that I haven’t told.’

  Suddenly, there was a thunderous noise and the shivalinga opened. Shiva emerged from it and embraced Kodagusu. Then he looked at her father and said, ‘Children are innocent. I don’t want anyone to test her again or compel me to come here when she calls out to me. She will stay with me forever.’

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