Make your own free website on Tripod.com

Shivratri

Legends Of Lord Shiva

Home
Shivratri Rituals
Legends Of Lord Shiva
Shiv Chalisa and Aarti

Link Back To Shivratri Page

The Story Of King Chitrabhanu

In the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhishma, whilst resting on the bed of arrows and discoursing on Dharma, refers to the observance of Maha Shivaratri by King Chitrabhanu. The story goes as follows - Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu was observing a fast with his wife on Maha Shivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of the king. The sage asked the king the purpose of his observing the past. King Chitrabhanu explained that he had the gift of remembering the incidents of his previous birth. The king said to the sage that in his previous life he was a hunter in Varanasi and his name was Suswara. His only livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. One day while roaming through forests in search of animals he was overtaken by the darkness of night. Unable to return home, he climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a Bael tree. He had shot a deer that day but had no time to take it home. So he bundled it up and tied it to a branch on the tree. As hunger and thirst tormented him, he was kept awake throughout the night. He shed profuse tears when he thought of his poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously waiting for his return. To pass away the time that night he engaged himself in plucking the Bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground. The next day he returned home and sold the deer and then bought some food for himself and his family. As he was about to break his fast a stranger came to him, begging for food. He served the food first to stranger and then had his own. At the time of his death, he saw two messengers of Lord Shiva. They were sent down to conduct his soul to the abode of Lord Shiva. He learnt then for the first time of the great merit he had earned by the unconscious worship of Lord Shiva during the night of Shivaratri. The messengers told him that there was a Lingam at the bottom of the tree. The leaves I dropped fell on the Lingam. His tears shed out of pure sorrow for his family, fell onto the Lingam and washed it. He had fasted all day and all night. Thus, unconsciously he worshiped the Lord. At the conclusion of the tale the King said that he lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for long ages and now he has reborn as Chitrabhanu.

According to a legend in the Ramayana, King Bhagirath once left his kingdom to meditate for the salvation of the souls of his ancestors. He observed a penance to Brahma for a thousand years, requesting Ganga to come down to earth from heaven. He wanted her to wash over his ancestors ashes to release them from a curse and allow them to go to heaven. Brahma granted his wish but told him to first pray to Lord Shiva, who alone could sustain the weight of her descent. He then prayed to Lord Shiva who agreed to allow Ganga to descend on his head. After meandering through Lord Shiva's thick matted locks Ganga reached the earth. According to a modified version, what reached the earth was just sprinkles from his hair. This story is re-enacted by bathing the linga. The love of water, the primary element of life, is also remembered in this ritualistic action.

According to another legend in the Shiva Purana, once Brahma and Vishnu fought over who was the superior of the two. Horrified at the intensity of the battle, the other gods asked Lord Shiva to intervene. To make them realize the futility of their fight, Lord Shiva assumed the form of a huge column of fire in between Brahma and Vishnu. Unable to cross it, they decided to find one end each to establish supremacy over the other. Brahma assumed the form of a swan and went upwards. Vishnu as Varaha went into the earth. Though they searched for thousands of miles, neither could find the end. On his journey upwards, Brahma came across a Ketaki flower wafting down slowly. When asked where she had come from, the Ketaki flower replied that she had been placed at the top of the fiery column as an offering. Unable to find the uppermost limit, Brahma decided to end his search and take the flower as a witness. At this, the angry Shiva revealed his true form. He punished Brahma for telling a lie, and cursed him that no one would ever pray to him. The Ketaki flower too was banned from being used as an offering for any worship, as she had testified falsely.