In honor of Shivaratri, a story from The Ramayana:
Once upon a time, in India...
Fresh off his victory over Indra, Ravana’s ten heads could barely contain his ego. “If heaven crumbled beneath my fists, I can easily destroy the god of destruction,” he reasoned. He headed directly toward Mount Kailash convinced he could best Shiva.
Approaching Mount Kailash, Ravana’s progress was impeded by a huge wall. Ravana stopped, confused.
A voice boomed like thunder. “No one is allowed on Mount Kailash while Lord Shiva sports with Parvati.”
Ravana’s ten heads scanned ten directions for the owner of the voice. Looking up, he saw the face of a bull poking through the clouds. The obstacle was not a wall, but Shiva’s bull, Nandin.
“Indra and the gods in heaven cower at my shadow. They run in fear at the sound of my voice. You are nothing but a steak waiting to be cooked for my dinner. Move before I call for my cook.”
Nandin scowled. “I could impale you on my horn and parade your dripping body through the streets of Lanka as easily as I swish flies with my tail. But Grandfather’s boon must prove true.” Nandin’s face twisted, contorted, blurred, then reformed as the face of a monkey. “Animals with faces like mine will mark your downfall.”
Ravana’s left eye and left arm throbbed. If he could not go up the mountain to Shiva, perhaps he could bring Shiva down the mountain.
“I will see you on my table, steak.” Ten heads spat at Nandin.
Ravana dug his twenty hands into the ground at the base of Mount Kailash. With little effort, he lifted the mountain over his ten heads and began to shake it.
At the summit of the mountain, Parvati held Shiva, shaking with fear. The great god Shiva smiled. He knew just who was responsible for this interruption, and he knew that he could not prove Brahma’s boon untrue.
But he could still teach Ravana some manners.
Shiva pressed his big toe ever so slightly into the ground, forcing the entire mountain back into place. Ravana was trapped. His immeasurable strength was nothing compared to Shiva’s.
Ravana knew he could not just wait until Shiva got bored and decided to do something else. The Lord of Meditation knew patience. The Lord of Meditation was also the Lord of Destruction. With Shiva pissed off and patient, Ravana was going nowhere for a very long time.
Shiva gets pissed off very easily, yet his mood can be changed very easily. Shiva appreciates a good song.
Ten heads hold a huge ego, which is bad, but they can sing a beautiful chorus. No one knows what song Ravana sang. If I was telling the story, and I am, I would say that he sang my favorite song about Shiva:
“Hara Hara Mahadeva Shambho, Kashi Vishvanatha Gange.”
After a hundred years of hearing this song beautifully repeated, Shiva’s anger subsided enough for him to lift his toe, freeing Ravana. Ravana quickly beat feet.
Back in Lanka, considering himself safely out of Shiva’s earshot, Ravana declared (quietly, because he did not really believe he was out of earshot) that he faced Shiva and Shiva did not kill him, so Ravana must have won. His ten heads told this story to each other so many times that Ravana believed it. Satisfied that he bested the God of Destruction, Ravana considered himself the undisputed lord of the world.
While Ravana sang under Mount Kailash, the gods approached Vishnu.
“Brahma refuses to change his boon,” they whined, rubbing their bruised bodies. “You must do something.”
Vishnu thought. He knew Brahma’s boon protected Ravana against death from gods and celestials, but he did not ask for protection from humans and animals.
“Fear not. I have remembered what Ravana has forgotten. I will assume a human form, taking on all the limitations of the flesh. I must also assume the limitations of the human mind, forgetting my divine essence. I have put into motion a plan that will cause the destruction of the rakshasa Ravana.”
Vishnu disappeared from heaven and appeared in the womb of Kausala as the seed that would grow into Rama. The rest of the gods, not wanting to be left out of the fun, disappeared from heaven and appeared as seeds in the wombs of millions of monkeys and bears.
Back on Mount Kailash, Shiva sat in meditation, focusing on the one sound. That sound was RAMA. Like the Cheshire Cat, Shiva’s form faded away.
In Kishkindhya, a little monkey was born, the product of the union of Vayu, god of the wind, and Anjana, a beautiful monkey. Instead of crying, the baby monkey took his first breath on Earth and said RAMA.
|Arunachala Hill--considered to be an earthly incarnation of Lord Shiva|