Shiva Maha Purana
The Shiva Purana has twenty-four thousand shlokas. These are divided into six samhitas or sections. The names of the sectiosn are jnana samhita, vidyeshvara samhit, kailasa samhita, sanatkumar samhita, vayaviya samhita and dharma samhit. Each samhita is further subdivided into chapters (adhyaya). Jnana samhita has seventy-eight chapters, vidyeshvara samhita sixteen, kailasa samhita twelve, sanathkumar samhila fifty-nine, vayaviya samhita thirty and dharma samhita sixty-five.
The Shiva Purana was recited by Veda¬vyasa’s disciple Romaharshana, alternatively, Loma-harshana.
Romaharshana and The Other Sages
There were many sages who lived in a forest named naimisharanya. One day, these sages accosted Romaharshana and said, Romaharshana, you are blessed. You have taught us a lot, but we are still not satisfied. You have had the fortune of studying under Vedavyasa and there is nothing that you do not know, past, present or future. Tell us about Shiva, we do not know very much about Shiva.
Romaharshana replied, I will relate to you that which you want to know. And I am not going to make anything up. Many years ago, the sage Narada had wanted to find out about Shiva from his father, Brahma. Whatever Brahma had instructed his son. I am going to relate to you.
At the beginning of creation, there was nothing in the universe. The universe was not there either. It was only the brahman (divine essence) which was everywhere. The brahman was neither hot nor cold, neither thick or thin. It had no beginning and no end.
There was water everywhere. Lord Vishnu manifested himself in his great form and slept on the water. While Vishnu was sleeping, a lotus flower (padma) sprouted from his navel. It had many petals and its stem shone like a thousand suns. From the cells of the lotus Brahma was born. He began to wonder, There seems to be nothing around except for this lotus. Who am I? Where did I come from? What am I supposed to do? Whose son am I ? Who made me?
Brahma thought he might find the answers to these questions if he explored the lotus a bit. Perhaps he ought to try and find the centre of the lotus. Brahma descended down the stem of the lotus and wandered around for a hundred years. But he could not find the flower’s centre. He then decided that he might as well go back to the cell from where he had been born. But despite wandering around the stem for another hundred years, Brahma could not find the cell. By then he was so tired that he gave up and rested.
Suddenly he heard the words, Brahma, perform tapasya (meditation).
Brahma meditated for twelve years. When the twelve years were over, the four-armed Vishnu appeared before Brahma. In the four hands Vishnu held a shankha (conch shell), a chakra (a bladed discus), a gada (mace) and a padma. Brahma didn’t know who this person was and he asked, Who are you?
Vishnu didn’t directly answer the question. Instead, he replied, Son, the great Lord Vishnu has created you.
Who are you to call me a son? demanded Brahma.
Can’t you recognize me? came the reply. I am Vishnu. It is from my body that you have been created.
But Brahma was not convinced. He began to fight with Vishnu.
While they were thus engaged in fighting, a shining linga (Shiva’s image) arrived on the scene. It seemed to have no beginning or end.
Vishnu said, Brahma, let us stop fighting. There is a third being here now. What on earth is this linga? And where did it come from? Let us try and find out what this is. You adopt the form of a swan (hamsa) and go up. I shall adopt the form of boar (varaha) and go down. Let us try and find the extremities of this linga.
Brahma agreed. He became a whilte swan and flew up. Vishnu became a white boar and went down. They looked for four thousand years, but could not find the end of the linga. So they returned to where they had started off from and began to pray. They prayed for a hundred years. After the hundred years were over, the sound of om was heard and a being with five faces and ten arms appeared before them. This was Mahadeva or Shiva.
Vishnu said, It is good that Brahma and I have been fighting. It is because of our fight that you arrived.
Shiva replied, We are all three parts of the same entity and have been divided into three. Brahma is the creator. Vishnu is the preserver and I am the destroyer. There is another being named Rudra who will be born form my body, but Rudra and I are really one and the same. Let Brahma create now.
Shiva disappeared and Brahma and Vishnu gave up their forms of a swan and a boar.
There was water everywhere. In the water, Vishnu created a huge egg (anda). He then himself entered the egg in his huge form.
Meanwhile, Brahma started to pray. From the powers of his meditation he created several sages (rishis). Kardama, Daksha and Marichi were among them. Marichi’s son was Kashyapa. Daksha had sixty daughters and thirteen of them were married to Kashyapa. The children of Kashyapa and these daughters became adityas (gods), daityas (demons), danavas (demons), trees, birds, snakes, mountains and creepers. Thus was the world populated.
A being named Rudra, who was none other than Shiva himself, was also born from Brahma. Rudra lived on Mount Kailasa. Daksha’s daughter Sati was married to Rudra.
But Daksha and Rudra did not like each other. Daksha arranged a yajna (sacrifice) and he did not invite Rudra to attend this sacrifice. Although Sati was not invited either, she went to attend the ceremony . But Daksha insulted her so much that Sati gave up her life in protest. This so angered Rudra that he sent his companions to destroy the sacrifice, disrupt the ceremony, and kill all the gods who had gone to attend it. This was done. But Rudra was subsequently pacified and brought the dead gods back to life. The sacrifice was completed. Sati herself was reborn as the daughter of the mountain Himalaya and his wife Menaka. She was known as Parvati and she was again married to Rudra or Shiva.