Essays About Shaivism

History, Philosophy, Beliefs and Practices of Shaivism,

Saints and Devotees of Lord Shiva

Shiva Devotee

Who is saint? He who lives in God the or the Eternal, who is free from egoism, likes and dislikes, selfishness, vanity, mine-ness, lust, greed and anger, who is endowed with equal vision, balanced mind, mercy, tolerance, righteousness, cosmic love and who has divine knowledge is a saint. Saints and sages are blessings to the world at large. They are the custodians of superior divine wisdom, spiritual powers and inexhaustible spiritual wealth. Even kings bow their heads at their lotus-feet. King Janaka said to Yajnavalkya: “O venerable sage, I am grateful to your exalted Holiness for obtaining the ancient wisdom of the Upanishads through your lofty and sublime instructions. I offer my whole kingdom at thy feet. Further I am thy servant. I will wait on thee like a servant”. Such is the magnanimous nature of saints and sages. Their very existence inspires others and goads them to become like them and attain the same state of bliss as achieved by them. Had it not been for their existence, there would not have been spiritual uplift and salvation for you all. Their glory is indescribable. Their wisdom is unfathomable. They are deep like the ocean, steady like the Himalayas, pure like the Himalayan snow, effulgent like the sun. One crosses this terrible ocean of Samsara or births and deaths, through their grace and Satsanga or association with them. To be in their company is highest education. To love them is highest happiness. To be near them is real education.

They wander from village to village and disseminate divine knowledge. They move from door to door and impart wisdom. They take a little for their bare maintenance and give the highest education, culture and enlightenment to the people. Their very life is exemplary. Whether they deliver lectures or not, whether they hold discourses or not, it matters little.

Saints and sages only can become real advisers of kings because they are selfless and possess highest wisdom. They only can improve the morality of the masses. They only can show the way to attain eternal bliss and immortality. Sivaji had Swami Ramadas as his adviser. King Dasaratha had Maharshi Vasishtha as his adviser.

Study the lives of saints, you are inspired at once. Remember their sayings, you are elevated immediately. Walk in their footsteps, you are freed from pain and sorrow. Therefore, the book ‘Lives of Saints’ must be your constant companion. It must be in your pocket. It must be underneath your pillow.

Do not superimpose defects on them on account of your Dosha-drishti or evil-eye. You cannot judge their merits. Be humble and sit at their feet. Serve them with your heart and soul, and clear your doubts. Get instructions and practise them in right earnest. You will certainly be blessed.

Every school, every college, every boarding house, every jail, every institution, every house, should have a saint for their guidance. Saints are in abundance. You do not want them. You do not wish to approach them. You do not wish to serve them. You do not aspire for higher things. You are perfectly satisfied with some broken shells and glass-pieces. There is no thirst or spiritual hunger in you for achieving higher, divine knowledge and inner Peace.

TThere is no caste among saints and sages, Do not look to their caste. You will not be benefited. You cannot imbibe their virtues. In higher religion, there is neither caste nor creed. Cobblers, weavers and untouchables had become the best saints. Wisdom and Self-realisation are not the monopoly of Brahmins alone. South Indian Brahmins pay respects and give food only to the Brahmin Dandi Sannyasins. This is a serious mistake and grave blunder. What a sad state! That is the reason why saints do not visit South India. Punjab, Sindh and Gujarat have devotion to all saints. Hence, they move in these parts and people derive much spiritual benefit from them.

May this world be filled with good saints and sages! May you all attain the supreme goal through their Satsanga and advice! May the blessings of saints and sages be upon you all!


Markandeya was a great devotee of Lord Siva. His father Mrikandu performed rigorous austerities to get a son. Lord Siva appeared before him and said: “O Rishi, do you want a good son who will die in his sixteenth year or a bad and foolish son who will live for a long time?” Mrikandu replied: “O my venerable Lord, let me have a good son”.

The boy came to know about his fate and began to worship Lord Siva whole-heartedly with intense faith and devotion. The boy entered into deep meditation and Samadhi on the day decreed as the day of his death. The messengers of Lord Yama were not able to approach him. Hence, Yama himself went to take away his life. The boy prayed to Lord Siva for protection and embraced the Linga. Then Yama threw his noose round the Linga and the boy. Lord Siva came out of the Linga immediately and killed Yama to protect the boy. Lord Siva was called Mrityunjaya and Kala-kala from that day.

Then the Devas approached Lord Siva and said: “O adorable Lord, salutations unto Thee. Pardon Yama for his mistake. O ocean of mercy, bring him back to life”. Then Lord Siva brought Yama back to life at the request of the gods. He also conferred a boon to the boy Markandeya that he should live for ever as a boy of sixteen years of age. He is a Chiranjivi. In South India, even now men and women bless a boy when he does prostration to them: “Live as a Chiranjivi like Markandeya”.

Through Tapas and meditation you can achieve anything in the three worlds.

The Story of Rishabha Yogi

This story is related in seven chapters in the Brahmottara Kanda of Skanda Purana.

Mandara, a Brahmin of Avanti was a man of great erudition. But he lived with a prostitute named Pingala. Rishabha, a great Siva Yogi, was the guest of Mandara one day. Both Mandara and Pingala served the Yogi with intense faith and devotion and obtained his grace.

After some time both of them died. Mandara was born as the son of Vajrabahu, the king of Dasarna. When he was in the womb of his mother Sumati, the other wives of the king gave poison to Sumati on account of jealousy. Both the child and Sumati became very sick. They could not be cured of their illness. They were abandoned in the forest by the order of the king.

They were taken by a rich merchant through the grace of the Lord and were protected by him nicely. The child grew worse day by day and died. The mother was wailing bitterly over the death of her son. Now Rishabha appeared on the scene, consoled the mother and imparted her philosophical instructions. But she could not be consoled. Then the Yogi touched the dead child with the Bhasma of Siva. The child came back to life. He made the mother and son quite healthy and beautiful through his Yogic powers. He gave the name Bhadrayu to the boy and taught him the Siva Kavacha. He gave him a sword, a conch and the strength of ten thousand elephants. He gave him also the Bhasma of Siva. Then the Yogi left the place.

Bhadrayu and Sunaya, the son of the merchant, lived together happily. Bhadrayu heard that his father had been deposed and imprisoned by Hemaratha, the king of Magadha. He went with Sunaya, defeated the enemies and freed his father, all the ministers and the queens who had been imprisoned by the king of Magadha. He left the king of Magadha and his retinue as prisoners in the possession of his father and returned home. He did not reveal his identity to his father. The father admired the valour of the boy and expressed his keen sense of indebtedness to the boy. Thus Rishabha, the great Siva Yogi showed his grace to Bhadrayu who as Mandara, had once served him with faith and devotion despite his loose living.

Chitravarma, the king of Aryavarta had a daughter by name Simantini. Chandrangada, the son of Indrasena, the son of Nala and Damayanti of Nishadha, married Simantini. Chandrangada was drowned in Jamuna soon after marriage, while he was sporting in a boat. The Naga girls took Chandrangada to Takshaka, their chief in Nagaloka.

Simantini learnt from an astrologer of the court that she would become a widow in her fourteenth year. Therefore, she got initiation into the worship of Lord Siva on Mondays and at Pradosha, from Maitreyi, wife of the sage Yajnavalkya. She continued the worship even after she became a widow.

Takshaka sent Chandrangada back to the banks of Jamuna as he wished that he should live with his wife. One evening on Monday, when Simantini went to the river for taking a bath, she met her husband.

Chandrangada defeated the enemy king who had deposed his father in his absence and replaced his father on the throne. Simantini and Chandrangada were reunited by the grace of Lord Siva.

Simantini used to adore and give presents to Brahmins and their wives every Monday in honour of Lord Siva and Parvati. Two Brahmin boys approached the king of Vidarbha for getting money for their marriage. The king asked the boys to be dressed as man and wife and go to Simantini. He did this in order to test the devotion of Simantini. The boys acted accordingly. Simantini laughed and adored them as Lord Siva and Parvati. One of the boys become a woman. The father of the boy who had become a woman by the power of Simantini requested the king to help him out of the trouble. The king prayed to Parvati. Parvati refused to interfere with the act of Her devotee, but promised a son to the father of the boy. The two boys had to marry and live as husband and wife.

Simantini had a daughter by name Kirtimalini. This Kirtimalini was really the prostitute Pingala who had obtained the grace of Rishabha, the Siva Yogi, by serving him with great devotion. Rishabha went to Chandrangada and asked him to marry Kirtimalini to Bhadrayu. The Siva Yogi related the whole story of Bhadrayu to Chandrangada. Chandrangada gave his daughter Kirtimalini to Bhadrayu in marriage. He invited the father of Bhadrayu to the marriage. When Vajrabahu saw the son-in-law of Chandrangada, he found him to be the very boy who had defeated the king of Magadha and given him his kingdom. The story of the mother and son, Sumati and Bhadrayu, was related to Vajrabahu. Vajrabahu took his queen and son with the daughter-in-law to his kingdom.

The great Siva Yogi Rishabha, reunited his devoted worshippers Mandara and Pingala. Though they led a loose life they were saved and made happy through the grace of the Siva Yogi, Rishabha. One day Bhadrayu went to the forest. He heard the cry of a Brahmin’s wife, who was being carried away by a tiger. The king tried his level best to save the woman but could not kill the tiger. The Brahmin abused the king and said: “O timid king, you have no valour to kill the tiger. What sort of king you are!” Bhadrayu promised to give anything including his wife to the Brahmin. The Brahmin demanded the queen. Bhadrayu gave his queen to the Brahmin and prepared himself to enter the fire and lose his life which was not worth living thereafter.

Then, Lord Siva and Parvati appeared before the king who was a great Siva-Bhakta and said: “We have done this to test your strength and Dharma”. Thereupon, Lord Siva gave Siva Sayujya to Bhadrayu, Kirtimalini, their parents, the Vaisya and his son, according to the request of Bhadrayu and his wife. The Brahmin’s wife was once again brought to life and they both received the blessing of Lord Siva.

The story clearly reveals the glory of Siva Bhakti, the greatness of Siva Bhaktas, the importance of Siva Puja on all days, particularly on Mondays and in Pradosha, the hour just at sunset.


Pushpadanta was a great devotee of Lord Siva. He was the chief of the Gandharvas. His teeth were like the petals of the jasmine flower. Hence he was called by the name Pushpadanta, ‘flowery toothed’.

Pushpadanta had the power of moving in the air. He used to collect flowers from the garden of king Vahu at Banares, in order to worship Lord Siva. As he had the power of moving in the air, the gardeners were not able to detect him. The gardeners suspected that some mysterious being with some supernatural powers, was stealthily plucking the flowers of the garden. They made a device to catch him.

They scattered some flowers which had been offered to Lord Siva in different places in the garden. They thought that the mysterious being would tread on the flowers. /p>

AAs usual Pushpadanta visited the garden to pluck flowers. He walked on the flowers which were scattered on the ground. He unconsciously insulted Lord Siva and lost his power of moving in the air. He was caught by the gardeners and brought before the king.

Pushpadanta recited a hymn to Lord Siva to propitiate Him and free himself from the fear of the king whom he had offended by the theft of the flowers. He again obtained the power to move in the air through the grace of Lord Siva.

This celebrated hymn is known by the name ‘Mahimnastava’. It is full of sublime, soul-elevating thoughts. It is sung daily in the Siva temples of Northern India, during evening prayers and Arati. This hymn touches the heart of all. It is sonorous, rhythmical and musical and full of profound devotion. You should get this by heart and repeat it daily. You will attain supreme, immortal, blissful abode of Lord Siva.

Kannappa Nayanar

Tinnanar, known as Kannappar, was born of Nagan, the king of the Vyadhas (hunters), in Uduppur, in South India. King Nagan was a great Bhakta of Lord Subrahmanya. From his boyhood, Tinnanar was well trained in the skill of a hunter and archery and in his prime age, he had to assume the reins of government which his old father bestowed on him. One day, Tinnanar went out for a hunt with some of his followers. While wandering in the forest they came across a hog, escaping from a net. They, at once chased the hog for a long time, up and down the hills. After a long time, Tinnanar killed the hog and as they were much tired due to the long chasing, they at once arranged to cook the flesh of the animal and it was removed to another place in the Kalahasti Hill which was nearby. While walking towards the hill one of the followers of Tinnanar suggested to him to pay a visit to Kudumi Thevar, the presiding deity of the hills, and they proceeded to have Darsana of the Lord on the hill.

While climbing up the hill Tinnanar felt as if some great burden which was on him uptill now, was gradually diminishing and he decided now to go to the temple nearby, have Darsana of the Lord there and then to take their meals. As soon as he came near the temple, to his great joy he saw a Siva Linga. At the very sight of Isvara, he was transformed to an embodiment of love and devotion and extreme joy. Like a mother who met her child that was missing for long, Tinnanar was merged in deep feeling of divine ecstasy and Prem. Ha! What a boundless and inexpressible and illimitable joy and exhilaration he had at the very sight of Lord Siva! He began to cry, weep and shed tears of joy and love towards the Lord. He forgot everything about his meals and his followers and even his own body.

He felt very much for the loneliness of the Lord on the hills without being protected against the animals and others that might do harm to Him, and he decided to keep watch over the temple throughout the night against any danger from animals or evil-doers. On seeing that the Lord was hungry, he at once ran out to prepare meals for the Lord out of the meat he had got by killing the hog. He carefully took the flesh, tasted it and thus selected the pieces which were palatable and roasted them. The remaining portion he threw away as bad. Then he proceeded towards the river to fetch water for the Abhisheka and. he got the water in his mouth. On the way, he plucked some flowers and kept them in the locks of his hair. With these preparations he entered the temple, removed the old flowers that were lying on the Lord by shoe, did Abhisheka with the water in his mouth and decorated Him with the flowers he had on his locks of hair. Then he offered the Prasad of meat to the Lord. Finishing all these, with bow and arrow in his hand he kept a keen watch over the temple by standing in front of the temple throughout the night. Early in the morning, he went out for hunt to bring Prasad for the Lord.

When Tinnanar left for hunting, the temple priest, Sivakasariar, an earnest and sincere devotee of Lord Sankara, came to the temple and to his great surprise and disappointment, saw bones and flesh all round the Lord and the decorations have been spoiled. But he could not identify the man who has done such an act, and meddled with the sanctity of the place. So uttering the necessary Mantras, he cleaned the place and performed his usual Puja for the Lord and recited the prayers. After the Puja he closed the temple and went out.

Tinnanar now returned with the Prasad of meat and flesh and as before, he removed the old decorations done by the priest, decorated in his own way as usual, and offered Prasad. At night, he kept vigil and keen watch over the temple. Early in the morning, he went out to bring Prasad. Thus he was with the Lord serving Him for five days and in spite of the entreaties of his parents to come home, he persisted in remaining with the Lord and Lord alone.

Sivakasariar, who was vexed with the incident being repeated day by day, complained to the Lord and requested Him to put an end to these mishappenings. Lord Siva appeared in the priest’s dream and narrated to him what was happening in the temple during the absence of the priest and told him also that what all actions Tinnanar was doing was only out of pure, unsophisticated love that he bore towards the Lord. Further, the Lord said: “I welcome, and rather I am immensely pleased with the mouthful of water by which he is doing my Abhisheka. This has greater value to Me than by the Tirthas of the Ganga. Whatever action that is performed out of pure and deep love and faith, I merit it with greater value than those rituals and austerities done by the Vedic injunctions”. Then Lord Gangadhar asked the priest to come to the temple next day and hide himself behind the Mufti and witness what Tinnanar does.

Tinnanar, after bringing the Prasad, arranged in his own usual way for the Abhisheka and decoration of the Lord. Now Lord Siva willed that the priest, Sivakasariar should see and feel the degree of devotion and faith that Tinnanar was having for Him. So, while Tinnanar was doing the Puja and offering the Prasad of meat, to his great astonishment, he saw the Lord shedding tears of blood, in the right eye. He got perplexed and was at a loss to know what to do. He ran hither and thither to bring some leaves for stopping the bleeding but found they were of no use. He wept bitterly, cursed himself for being unable to stop the bleeding from the eye. At last, a plan came to him. He at once plucked out his right eye with his arrow and fixed it on the right eye of the Lord. To his great joy and ecstasy, he saw the bleeding stopped. While he was dancing in divine ecstasy for having cured the bleeding, all on a sudden, he perceived that the left eye also was bleeding. Though he was overtaken by surprise and sorrow, the previous plan came to him and he decided to pierce his left eye with his arrow with the intention of plucking it out and fixing it on the left eye of the Lord. But when his both eyes were gone, how could he see the bleeding on the left eye of the Lord so as to stop it by fixing his own eye? Hence, in order to identify the left eye of the Lord, he first fixed it up with the shoe on his right foot, and began to pierce his own left eye with the arrow in his hand. But Isvara will not be so cruel as to see His Bhaktas suffer so much. On the spot, the Lord appeared and addressed Tinnanar as ‘Kannappa’ and stopped him from plucking out the left eye. He was much pleased with the filial devotion and staunch faith that Kannappar had for Him and kept him by His right side.

The above story of Kannappar is illustrative of the highest degree of devotion and faith that was evinced by the Bhakta towards Lord Siva, even though he was a hunter by caste and never cared for the rituals and austerities by which the Lord should be worshipped. It was only mere love and intense devotion to the Lord that bestowed on him the greatest boon from the Lord, i.e., Self-realisation. It is only a matter of six days that he performed the Puja ceremonies to the Lord in his own way, but the amount of devotion and love he had to the Lord, was boundless.

May the blessings of Kannappar be upon you all! May you all attain the highest goal of human life by following the example of Kannappa Nayanar, the great South Indian Bhakta of Lord Siva!

Sirutonda Nayanar

Paranjotiar of Tiruchettangudi was general under the Chola king. He was skilful in all the methods of warfare and had won many a war for the Chola king. In spite of the fact of his being a general, his devotion to Lord Siva and Siva Bhaktas was increasing. As a Bhakta of Lord Siva, he was noted for his humility and he was aptly named Sirutonda Nayanar. He left his post of general and spent his lifetime in worshipping Lord Siva and serving and feeding Siva Bhaktas. Never a day was known when he took food without feeding Siva Bhaktas. Such was the intensity of his devotion. In this way, he was happily living with his wife and a son, Seeralan by name.

Once, it happened that Lord Siva in the guise of Vairavar came to his doors for Bhiksha. Just at that moment, Sirutondar had gone out to get some Siva Bhaktas for feeding. Vairavar waited for a while and there came Sirutondar returning from his quest of Sadhus, quite disappointed as he found none to feed with. To his great joy Vairavar was waiting at his doors. Now Vairavar, expressing his wish to dine in his house, informed him that he would do so provided Sirutondar complied with his wishes. On getting his consent, Vairavar told him that he required the cooked flesh of a boy of 5 years old with robust health and without any deformities of mind and body. Though at first the Bhakta was bewildered in getting the thing required, at last happily decided to offer their own son, Seeralan, for the feast of Vairavar.

Both the wife and husband hurried up in preparing the required meals, the mother keeping her son on the lap and the father cutting the throat, and every limb was cooked except the head. Even this part was nicely prepared after getting the consent of Vairavar. When everything was prepared, Sirutondar and Vairavar began to take their meals. But at the moment Vairavar stopped and refused to take food unless Sirutondar got his son by his side for eating. Though Sirutondar told Vairavar that his son would not serve the purpose at that hour, still Vairavar insisted. Sirutondar got up and with increased devotion and staunch faith in Him, went outside his house and called out the name of his son, Seeralan, as if his son was coming from school. But to his astonishment, his son responded to his call and was coming down the other end of the street as if from school. With his son, he entered the house. But now, neither the cooked flesh not Vairavar were to be seen. What a dismay? Instead, Lord Mahadev appeared on the scene with His consort Parvati and Lord Subrahmanya by His side, blessed both the husband and wife for their intense love towards Him, and took Sirutondar and his family along with Him. Such was the reward for the Bhakta who offered his son’s flesh for the feeding of the Sadhu.

May you all develop intense love and faith to the Lord! May the blessings of Sirutondar be upon us all!

Lord Siva’s Mother

In ancient days, there lived a rich merchant named Dhanadatta in Karikal in South India. He had no child. He worshipped Lord Siva. He had a daughter through the grace of the Lord. The child was called by the name Punitavati. Punitavati came to be later on called by the name Karikal Ammaiar also. She is counted as one amongst Nayanars (the famous Siva Bhaktas of South India).

Punitavati was very intelligent, beautiful, pious. She chanted the names and praise of Lord Siva. She applied holy ash to her forehead.

She married Paramadatta, the son of a rich merchant at Nagapattam. Paramadatta also was beautiful and intelligent. He possessed good character. He lived in his father-in-law’s place with the permission of his father.

Punitavati used to feed with intense devotion and joy, the Bhaktas day and night and hear them singing the names of Lord Siva. She always remembered the utterance of the Vedas: “Let the guest be a God unto you—Atithi devo bhava”. She and her husband took the food that remained after serving the devotees, as if it were nectar.

One day, a wandering mendicant came and gave two ripe mangoes to Paramadatta. Paramadatta gave them to his wife and attended to his business. A devotee came and asked Punitavati to give him something to eat as he was very hungry. The food was not ready. So she gave him one of the mangoes and some milk.

Paramadatta returned home and took his food. Punitavati served him with mango fruit that remained. Paramadatta found it very delicious. He asked her to bring the other fruit also. She prayed to Lord Siva. Immediately, a mango fell into her hands. It looked exactly like the one served before. She gave it to her husband. He found it a thousand times more palatable than the first one. He asked Punitavati: “My beloved Punitavati, where did you get it from?” She narrated everything. Paramadatta said: “Get me another”. Punitavati got another mango in the twinkling of an eye.

Paramadatta was struck with awe and wonder. He understood that his wife was a beloved devotee of Lord Siva. He reflected within himself: “I am a great sinner. I have treated a great devotee of Lord Siva as my servant. I cannot consider her as my wife any longer. It will be a great sin to leave her alone. But what to do now?”

He was in a dilemma. Finally, he resolved to part from her. He told his wife that he was going out on professional business. He obtained her permission and proceeded to Madurai. He settled there and married another wife. The second wife gave birth to a daughter. Paramadatta named her Punitavati.

Punitavati was anxiously awaiting the return of her husband at the promised time. She had no news of him. She became very miserable and unhappy. After some time, she came to know about the whereabouts of her husband. She proceeded to Madurai and met her husband.

Paramadatta welcomed her with intense joy and prostrated at her feet. He said to his wife: “I am a worldly man. I am passionate and greedy. You are a goddess. I cannot take you now as my wife. Pray, pardon me”.

Punitavati replied: “My lord, I have preserved my youth and beauty for your sake only. As you do not want me, I shall seek my Lord Siva now.”

She distributed all the jewels to those assembled around. She worshipped the pious Brahmins and shook off all the flesh by the power of Yoga and looked as a mere skeleton. She marched northward. /p>

She came to Mount Kailas. She thought it a sin to walk with one’s feet in the holy Himalayas. She moved on her head through the power of her austerities.

Parvati asked Lord Siva: “Who is that person, O Lord, who is coming towards us?” Lord Siva replied: “That pious woman is My Mother, who nourished My devotees”.

Lord Siva got up, moved a few steps forward, welcomed Punitavati and said: “My dear Mother, are you keeping fit?”

Punitavati fed the devotees like a mother. The Lord makes no distinction between Himself and His devotees. He has said: “The devotees form My heart and I, theirs. They do not think of anyone other than Me and I other than them”.

The supreme Lord abides in the hearts of all beings. Therefore, the guests deserve worship. The Srutis declare: “Atithi devo bhava—Let the guest be your God”.







Source: Reproduced, with the general permission, from Lord Siva and His Worship, WWW edition 2000, By Sri Swami Sivananda © The Divine Life Trust Society