I remember with gratitude the blessings of His Holiness Mahamandaleswar,
Parama Poojya Vidyanandagiri Maharaj of hallowed memory,
of Kailash Ashram, Rishikesh,
He made available to devotees an excellent exegesis of the great paean in Hindi..
But for His Divine blessing, I could not have attempted this arduous task.
Pushpadanta was a king of the divine species of Gandharvas, renowned for their powers of delectable singing. This Gandharva used to steal flowers for his daily worship of the Supreme Being, Lord Shiva from the flower gardens of a king’s flower gardens. Once the king came to know about this. He caused ‘nirmalya’ to be thrown in the Gandharva’s way in order to spell ruin on him. It is believed that ‘nirmalya’ flowers used once in worship, when crossed on the way, would render the transgressor lose all his brilliance. Unknowingly, Pushpadanta walked over the strewn flowers and suffered the loss of his brilliance. He was shocked, but being a blessed devotee, he realized why that happened. He composed his monumental Shivamahimna Stotram in expiation of his sin. Pleased, Lord Shiva blessed him and Pushpadanta regained his brilliance. The recitation of this great paean, or listening to it sung by a devotee would absolve the listener of his sins and leads him to the refuge of the Supreme Being, Lord Shiva.
Compositions describing the glory of Lord Shiva can never be exhaustive for His Power and Glory are is impossible to describe in all their infinite variety. Even angels and deities would find it a baffling task. Still composers like me are free from blame for attempting in total devotion the impossible. Inspired by the Supreme Being, I offer this at His feet.
The Vedas themselves are unequal to describe in entirety the nature and qualities of the formless divine and the divine with form, nirguna and saguna. But the devout and the blessed, learned or lay, who contemplate and realize the Supreme Being cannot desist from singing Your praise in humility, which endears them to You.
O Lord! The rich treasure of Vedas, the most sublime, musical and nectar-like would fill with wonder even Brihaspati, the preceptor of the angels and deities. With Your blessing I venture to attempt to sing Your manifold powers and glory. My attempt itself is inspired by Your Divine grace and I draw courage and strength from the mere thought of Your compassion.
O Shambhu! The ever auspicious and doer of good, giver of all! You are the splendid combination of the three attributes, sattwa, rajas and tamo gunas and the unique one combining in Your self the three deities entrusted with the three acts of Creation, Sustenance and Destruction. The thickheaded and the faithless attempt to mislead people around presenting the glorious and the most beautiful beliefs and grace as disagreeable.
Atheists and the dull-witted with their garrulousness and devious logic doubt and question as to how it would be possible for one without a body, substance or equipment to create sustain and destroy three worlds. With no understanding they prattle and mislead the ignorant and the weak-minded.
O Mahadeva! The faithless tossed by doubts ask as to how You could create the fourteen worlds with neither implements nor substance.
The faithless unbelievers wonder as to how to choose among the various darshanas (systems of philosophy like Sankhya, Yoga etc) and doctrines like Paashupata in Shaivism and Pananchraatra in Vaishnavism, little realizing that all paths lead to the one and only ultimate goal, the absolute peace which You are! Don’t the sacred Ganga and all the rivers run to the same destination, the ocean?
Wouldn’t You strike all the angels and deities aghast with Your extraordinary richness and limitless divine powers! The wealth of your tantra powers is in Your persona with an old bull for your mount, axe, tiger hide, sacred ash, serpents, cot-leg, skull-cup for your appurtenances. You bless deities like Indra with treasures of divine powers! Those with devotion to You are not enticed by or attracted to the mirage of affluence and bliss.
O Slayer of Demon Tripura! Some call the world one without beginning and end. Some say it is not transient; some say it real, some say it is unreal. All these surprise me but through these very beliefs I sing your praise without any hesitation or shyness. For the garrulous also happen to be stubborn.
O Gireesa! Your form with effulgent brilliance, Your pervasive light and inconceivably limitless hugeness could not be assessed or seen even by Brahma and Vishnu who tried to see the top and the bottom of the shape. They could find neither the end nor the beginning. But when once they sent up ardent prayers didn’t You in Your infinite love for the devout reveal Yourself! For those who seek refuge in you wholehearted and with a sense of total surrender there could never be any dearth of Your blessings!
Lord of the Mountain! Ravana conquered all the three worlds and made himself invincible, with no enemies or contenders. With his itch for battles and victories, he had twenty shoulders and ten heads. With intense and unwavering faith he offered his own heads as offering to you. Was not that the reason for his prowess and courage!
With his extraordinary devotion and worship and the powers You bestowed on him, Ravana could shake Your abode, the Kailash mountain. But didn’t You, with the tip of Your little finger, when you crushed him, he could not find shelter. The one ungrateful would be enticed in moha, the undesirable sinful attachment.
O Wish fulfilling Deity! It was with Your grace that the demon Banasura could subdue even Devendra, who had limitless wealth and power. Being obedient toYou would lead anyone to sublimity and height of glory.
O three eyed Supreme! While the deities and demons were churning the ocean up came kalaakoota, the dire and deadly poison that would have burnt all the three worlds. With Your compassion You swallowed it in and retaining the poison in your throat saved the creation with the result that Your throat turned blue and left a stain there. You were given
the appellation of Neelkanth, the blue throated one. That very stain marks You out as the greatest, the most powerful and noble. That very stain is extremely praiseworthy for it could dispel the fears of all the deities and save all the worlds.
O the Lord of the Universe! Manmadha, the love deity, the one who for the victory of the universe could shoot his arrows on anyone, remained just a memory for You burnt him down by opening Your third eye for belittling You by thinking that You would be won over by his proud arrow. Little did he realize that You were jitendriya, the one who conquers his own sensory organs.
While You were at Your cosmic dance, Tandava Nrutya, with the tread of Your feet, suddenly the earth and the sky fall into utter befuddlement. In Vishnu’s realm, space, the stars and planets break down when Your huge club-like shoulders hit them. With the strokes of Your matted plaits of hair, the borders of Indra’s kingdom, heaven, suffer often. Saviour of the Universe! The Tandava You perform for welfare surprisingly creates the contrary effect.
The effulgence of the flow of the Holy Ganga pervades and is reflected as little flakes of foam exceedingly brighter than the very stars. Those little droplets in the shape of the oceans built the world as a circular group of islands. This is proof of Your Divinity, Your extra-ordinary power and glory.
With Earth as chariot, Brahma as charioteer, Sumeru Mountain as the bow, the Sun and the Moon as wheel and Vishnu as arrow You charged to kill the demon Tripurasura. Was any help or any appurtenances really necessary for You to blow away that demon, a mere straw! Was it not Your whim to play giving Your obedient followers a sense of participation!
O Destroyer of Demon Tripura! While Sri Mahavishnu was worshipping Your feet as usual with a thousand lotuses, he suddenly found that he was short of one lotus. That very moment, in his sublime and unparalleled devotion he plucked the lotus of his own eye and offered it to complete the worship. Was it not for that, pleased as You were, You had given him the charge of the sustenance of all the three worlds and blessed him with the Sacred Discus, the powerful weapon, Sudarshana Chakra!
Parameshwara! You are ever ready and eager to bestow the fruit for performing fire rituals like Yagnas and Yagas as soon they come to completion: not the one who leads the performance or presides over the ritual. All those who have faith and all those true believers truly believe that the bestower is the Supreme Being, You. Without worshipping You nothing can be gained by the mere performance of a jad, lifeless, ritual. With the knowledge and understanding of the Vedas and shastras, performances according to those in firm faith in You alone Your blessing.
Parama Shiva! You are the one gives refuge to those without any other hope for the mere asking. Prajapati is the lord of those wearing the body performing fire rituals with competence and skill. With sages and seers as the conductors with strict adherence to the scriptures, with Brahma and other deities as audience and spectators, the performance by Daksha came to nothing. The simple reason is that Daksha Prajapati failed in his duty of offering worship to You, the Supreme Being. When basic duty is forgotten, would not the performance fail to end in utter destruction!
O the Supreme Maintainer of the Holy Law! Once Brahma was enamoured by his own creation Sandhya and wanted union with her. The damsel with a sense of shame transformed herself into an animal. When Brahma himself took the form of an animal, did You not in Your frightful ire take a bow and arrow to discipline him? This led to Brahma taking the form of the star Mrigashira in the firmament and still You as a skilled marksman stand close to him as the star Arudra observing him.
Paragon of discipline and acme of self-control! When Paravati, naturally the most beautiful, was aided by Manmadha who shot his arrow, in a trice You reduced him to ashes. Then, impressed by her devotion, You made Parvati, arthangini, Your half. What if the unknowing think that You are uxorious!
O Destroyer of desires foul! Playing blissfully in a graveyard with souls unearthly, ash-smeared, wearing an animal hide, a mendicant with a skull in Your hands, You are seemingly inauspicious. But are You not the one who blesses devotees with the fruit they pray for! For your devotees Your appearance and appurtenances are ever auspicious and welfare giving.
O Mahadev! I realize that You are the very form of that very bliss, which those performing praanaayaama as laid down in the scriptures to retain the movement of life force with the universal soul experience personally. Those who experience that bliss have their eyes filled with tears and their bodies have divinely caused horripilation. In such a blessed state of mind they would be taking dips continuously in the lake of nectar with inward bliss.
O Deva! The learned see in You (ashtha moorti) the eight icons. You are Wind, You are Water, Your are Sky, You are Earth, You are Fire, You are the Soul and so on in the constricted vocabulary at their disposal. It can be more appropriately declared that there is absolutely nothing in this vast universe that is not You, Your creation or Your manifestation.
Oh Deva! Refuge to the seekers! Omkara, the pranava naada inheres the three sounds ‘a’ ‘u’ and ‘m’; the three Vedas, Rig, Yaju and Sama and the three states of Wakefulness, Dream and Sleep as also Creation, Being, and Destruction. The sound also includes in itself the Creator Brahma, the Sustainer Vishnu and the Destroyer Shiva. OM thus perceived represents YOU in all Your effulgence and power.
O Mahadev! Only the Holy Scriptures and the Vedas can describe You fully. You are the basis for creation, bhava, destroyer sarva, the and one who punishes and disciplines, rudra, the lord of the beings, pashupati, the annihilator of ignorance and sin ferociously, ugra, the ones dealing out strong and frightful punishments, mahaan, bheemaa and eesaana. By the eight names seers and saints like Narada and the scriptures like the Vedas rightly extolled You. I am too small and insignificant to describe You exhaustively. I prostrate and offer my salutation toYou as the form of effulgent light.
O Lord! My salutation to You. You are very near and very far too: near to the knowing ones, jnaanis and far, far away to the ignorant and faithless, pervading the entire universe. You are the tiniest among the tiny and the most voluminous among the voluminous: I offer salutation toYou again and again. O Three eyed one! O the most pristine! O the one without beginning or end! I saluteYou again and again, the One and All, the Present and the Non-present and the Complete and Perfect and the Supreme too!
O Deva Deva! I salute You who creates as Brahma all the animate, those with chaitnaya and those without it becoming a personification of rajo guna, the attribute of passion. I salute you who bless all creation as Vishnu with Your satwa guna, the attribute of kindness and compassion. I salute You who as Rudra becomes a personification of tamo guna, the attribute of Darkness. I salute You Perfect and the Greatest, becoming one or the other at Your will, going beyond the tri gunas, the three attributes mentioned above. You are both the One with (gunas) attributes and (nirguna) the One without any attribute.
O the bountiful one! I am susceptible to disease, just a bubble to burst any moment, weak, subject to various kinds of infliction (aadi vyaadhis), one utterly poor in deserts and ineligible for anything, Meekly I prostrate before You the One transcending gunas and the One with limitless powers and effulgence. Utterly scared, I seek solace in devotion to You by submitting this paean as a flower at Your glorious feet.
O Maheswara! The goddess of Saraswati would ever be scripting Your delectable divine qualities endlessly using the ink mixing the blackness of the Anjanadri (Black Mount Anjana), in the oceans (abdhi), with the earth as the ink container, the branches of the Wish-fulfilling (Kalpa taru) tree as pen.
Chandrasekhara, Chandramouli, the deity who wears the crescent moon on the head, the One sung about and lauded extensively by sacred sages and seers, is described in this lovely song of praise shiva mahimna stotra by the emperor of Gandharvas, the consummate poet Pushpadanta in Sanskrit in a metre called laghu vritta.
The one who reads with a clean conscience this paean to the pristine and flawless Being every day with devotion would be bless with health, wealth, fine offspring, fame and long life in this life and in proximity to the Supreme Being in the life to come.
Singing of this paean in a devout frame of mind gives fruit more valuable than ‘daana’ giving away wealth etc., and cows in charity, performing arduous tapas (contemplation) or performing elaborate fire rituals. Even shodashi kaLaa upasanaa (contemplation and worship of the sixteen forms of ‘divine radiance’) do not stand comparison with repetition of this paean.
Pushpadanta’s devout song-offering extolling Parama Shiva’s power and glory and descriptions of His form, nature and attributes is replete with incomparable beauty
Sankara is the deity incomparable with none above Him. There is no song of praise greater or more welfare bestowing than this. There is no chant or hymn, no incantation, which excels AUM. There is no principle (Tattwa) which can excel guru, the preceptor.
O Mahadeva! Wearing the Crescent Moon on your crown You are at the top of the list of deities! The emperor of Gandharvas called Pushpadanta, when incurred Your wrath for transgressing the nirmalya, forfeited his powers of withdrawing by his gift of Vanishing. Caught in a tight corner in a moment he composed this paean and You in Your infinite mercy restored his powers.
Those who recite or read the song of praise extolled by the sacred seers and sages with folded hands in supplication as a gesture of salutation and with heart-mind-feeling would obtain salvation and get the greatest good fortune of staying in proximity to the Divine Supreme.
His devotees would delight Sarva bhoota pati, the Lord of All Beings, by singing this hymn with complete devotion.
May Sadaashiva, the ever auspicious and the ever desire fulfilling, be compassionately inclined towards us all!
AUM TAT SAT