The Shiva Purana also known as shiv puran is an ancient religious text that is devoted to the Hindu god of destruction, Shiva. The puran is originally thought to have consisted of 1, 00,000 verses spread over 12 chapters. However, the existing text, after abridgement from Sage Vedavyasa, consists of 24,000 verses only. It is said that Vedavyasa taught the verses to his disciple Lomaharshana (also known as Romaharshana) who later recited it to sages that wanted to expand their knowledge of Lord Shiva.
The Significance of Shiva Purana
The significance of the Purana is narrated within most texts using what look like propaganda tales of caution. Such tales are most likely later additions that were included in the Purana through oral or written reproductions of the text. These narrations outlining the importance of reciting Shiv Purana highlight how people in misery were able to find peace, prosperity and moksha just by reading the Shiva Purana. For those that are reading the Purana to gain a better insight into the story of the Lord Shiva might be bitterly turned off by such propaganda narratives.
However, in terms of the Hindu religion itself, the Shiva Purana is priceless as it narrates the origin of the universe, the origins of Lord Shiva himself and every tale related to Him. For Shivaite Hindus, the text provides them with the knowledge they need to understand their deity and the principles He is supposed to have taught his disciples.
The actual story contained in the Shiva Purana begins with Romaharshana reciting the tales of the Lord to other sages. The story of the lord begins with the creation of the universe, the Holy Trinity, the gods and every form of life on earth. Important points in the plotline deal with the marriage of Shiva and Sati, the killing of the demon Tarakasura, the incineration the God of Love, Parvati’s “tapasya” and her subsequent wedding to Shiva.
The birth of Kartikeya and the creation of Ganesh, the destruction of Tripura, the story of Sita and the Ketaki Flower, the significance of the jyotirlingas and important of various tirthas specific to Lord Shiva, the stories of Ravana and Rama, the bestowing of pashupat astra or Arjun, the story of the Shivarati Vrata, etc. In the epilogue, the sages are gratified and thank Romaharshana for the recitation. Then Shiva himself appears in front of the listeners, donated the Purana to his devotees along with a bull and gold and returns to Shivalok.
The Purana is a class of literature that treats of ancient religion, philosophy, history, sociology, politics and other subjects. It is an Encyclopaedia of various branches of knowledge and ancient wisdom. It has been defined as a class of literature that contains material on the topics of Creation, Dissolution of Manus, Ages of Manus, Genealogies and the History of glorious kings. For dealing primarily with these subjects it has been called Pancalaksana a little that was incorporated in the Puranas themselves and had become popular by the Fifth Century A.D., for it was included by Amarasimha in his lexicon 'Amarakosa'. But as the process of interpolation continued, the Pancalaksana definition was found inadequate. The Puranic redactors adopted a Dasalaksana definition that suited the contemporary text. Still the dynamic forces were at work and the process of insertion, modification and abridgement went on and it was soon discovered that the Dasalaksana definition too fell short of an actual fact. It was found that the puranas contained certain aspects that were not covered by any of the five or ten characteristics. Besides some of the characteristics covered by the Pancalaksana or Dasalaksana definition were not found in certain Puranas.
In fact the Purana as a class represents the different phases and aspects of life of diverse ages. It is impossible to adopt a standard definition for the class of literary composition that contains heterogeneous phases and aspects. Moreover, a definition framed on the numerical basis of points is bound to be imperfect.
The Puranas are divided into two classes the Mahapuranas and the Upapuranas. Each class consists of eighteen puranas. Thus the number of the Puranas is thirty six. The Mahapuranas are classified into different categories Vaisnava, Brahma, Saiva etc. in proportion as they accord preferrential treatment to Visnu, Brahma, Siva and others. Sivapurana, as its title signifies is a Saiva Purana. It derives its designation from the fact that it eulogises the glory and greatness of Siva, describes the ritual and philosophical principles of Siva cult, embodies descriptions, sermons and dissertations on the greatness of his divinity, recounts his emblems, attributes, exploits and incarnations, narrates legends on the origin and importance of his phallic image and dwells upon the merit of installing and consecrating that image. In brief, Siva-purana is a sacred treatise of Siva's legends and ritual.
The extant text of Sivapurana is arranged into seven Samhitas designated as Vidyesvara, Rudra, Satarudra, Kotirudra, Uma, Kailasa and Vayaviya. The second of these, Rudrasamhita, is divided into five sections, viz. Creation, the narrative of Sati, the biography of Parvati, the birth and adventures of Kumara and Siva's battles. The seventh Samhita-Vayaviya- has two parts (Purvabhaga and Uttarabhaga). It is called Vayaviya, for though it was recited by the Suta at the Naimisa Forest, it was originally proclaimed by Vayu at the advent of Svetakalpa.
According to the records of the Vayaviya, the original Sivapurana consisted of twelve Samhitas. That is to say, in addition to the extant seven there were five more Samhitas viz. Vainayaka, Matr, Rudraikadasa, Sahasrakoti and Dharma. The complete group of twelve Samhitas comprised one hundred thousand Slokas. But five of the group were dropped in the course of reconstruction and abridgement of the puranas. The extant Sivapurana is an abridged edition and comprises twenty-four thousand Slokas. The redaction was made by the sage Krsna Dvaipayana Vyasa himself.
As previously stated, the Mahapuranas are eighteen in number. The Puranic scholars are agreed upon the authenticity of the seventeen Mahapuranas but in regard to the eighteenth there is a difference of opinion. Most of the Puranas include Sivapurana in the list while a few others substitute Vayu for Siva. The substitution of either was inevitable, for the traditional number had to be maintained. Therefore some voted in favour of Siva, some in favour of Vayu. Neither of the parties could agree which of the two was actually a Mahapurana.
Now let us examine if any solution could at all be possible. We know that Sivapurana is divided into seven Samhitas, one of which is the Vayaviya. We have the testimony of Sivapurana itself that the original Sivapurana consisting of one hundred thousand slokas wad abridged into twenty-four thousand slokas. On the strength of this evidence it cannot be unreasonable to suppose that there was a proto-Sivapurana and a proto-Vayaviya. It is not unlikely that there was a close affinity between the extant Vayupurana and the proto-Vayaviya or that the extant Vayupurana is a recension of the proto-Vayaviya and thus a part of Sivapurana itself. Solution lies in assuming identicality of the two on the basis of this suggestion, not in accepting the one and rejecting the other.
Sivapurana has all the characteristics of a Mahapurana. According to the ancients, a Mahapurana contained five main characteristics that concerned either early religion or traditional history. Of these the origin of the universe (Sarga) is an important feature of every religion. As a Mahapurana and a sacred work of Siva cult, Sivapurana possesses this important trait. It discusses the origin of the universe which it traces to Siva, the eternal god who though devoid of attributes that still an inherent Energy which manifests itself in the form of three principles Sattva, Rajas and Tamas personified as the three deities Visnu, Brahma and Rudra. The three have their respective energies called Laksmi, Sarasvati and Kali, in collaboration with whom they create, maintain and dissolve the universes.
According to this account, the work of creation is entrusted to Brahma who creates the cosmic egg is insentient at first but when Visnu pervades it, it goes in motion. Then different kinds of creation are evolved out of it.
Sivapurana classifies creation in three categories: Primary, Secondary and Primary-Secondary. The three categories are arranged in the following table.
According to Sivapurana, the ninefold creation was unable to proceed on the work of creation. The mind-born sons of Brahma refused to obey the creator and remained celibate. Then out of his body Brahma produced eleven sons: Marici from the eyes, Bhrgu from the heart, Angiras from the head, Pulaha, Pulastya, Vasistha, Kratu from his breath, Atri from his ears, Narada from his lap and Kardama from his shadow. When still the creation made no progress, Brahma divided himself into two-one half in the form of a woman and the other half in the form of a man. In that half from of a woman he created a couple Svayambhuva Manu and Satarupa who complied with the wished of the creator and began the work of creation.
After all, the creation of the universe is not a permanent feature, for all creations end in dissolutions which is turn give place to re-creation. The description of this process constitutes one of the five main features of a Mahapurana. Sivapurana takes up this topic but withholds details.
The process of dissolution is complicated, for several dissolutions occur before the universe is completely dissolved. As the puranas relate, a creation lasts for a day of Brahma equal to the age of fourteen Manvantaras. At the end of each Manvantara, there occurs dissolution. Thus a day of Brahma contains fourteen dissolutions. But these are partial dissolutions. At the end of fourteen Manvantaras, equal to a day of Brahma that lasts for a kalpa there occurs a great dissolution. Thus during the life of the creator several creations and dissolutions take place. There occurs a complete dissolution when the creator has completed his life-time. The elements are dissolved and merged into the body of the creator. The creator takes rest for some time and then starts the process of recreating the Universe. Thus we have a series of dissolutions and re-creations succeeding each other.
The description of the ages of Manus (Manvantaras) is another characteristic of a Mahapurana. Sivapurana mentions fourteen Manus by name. They are Svayambhuva, Svarocisa, Uttama, Tamasa, Raivata, Caksusa, Vaivasvata, Savarni, Raucya, Brahma-Savarni, Dharma-Savarni, Rudra-Savarni, Deva-Savarni, Indra-Savarni. Each Manvantara comprises 4,32,00 human years or 1/14th day of Brahma. The fourteen Manvantaras make up one whole day of Brahma. Each of the fourteen Manvantaras is presided over by its own gods, seers and king. This scheme of Creation and Dissolution repeats itself from one age of Manu to another and is described in all the Mahapuranas. Sivapurana is no exception to the rule.
In the Pancalaksana character of the Mahapurana, genealogies and deeds of glorious kings play an important part. The Sutas were the custodians of genealogical records which they learnt by rote and which they recited at sessional sacrifices in exchange for the gifts they obtained from their patrons. But in the course of oral transmission from one generation to another some interpolations entered in these records. There were traditional variations too, for different versions existed in different families of the Sutas. When the records were incorporated in the Puranas, the interpolations and the traditional variations also settled therein. This explains the difference that exists in the genealogical records of the Puranas.
Pargiter has prepared a list of royal genealogies on the consensus of versions occurring in the Puranas. On comparing this list with that of Sivapurana we find a market difference. By way of illustration: (i) Pargiter's list of Ayodhya dynasty places Kakutstha as the direct descendant of Vikuksi-Sasada while in Sivapurana Kakutstha is the immediate descendant of Ayodha who is not mentioned in Pargiter's list. (ii) Arinabha of Sivapurana is substituted by Anenas in Pargiter. (iii) After Purukutsa Pargiter mentions Trasadasyu, Sambhuta, Anaranya, Trasadasva, Haryasva, Vasumanas and Tridhanvan. These names are omitted in Sivapurana which mentions Trayyaruni as the immediate descendant of Purukutsa. Siva-Purana mentions Anaranya, Mundidruha and Nisadha after Sarvakarman or Sarvasarman while these are omitted in Pargiter. Instead Pargiter mentions a series of eleven kings who are not found in Sivapurana at all.
With these variations, Sivapurana proceeds with the statement of genealogies and deeds of glorious monarchs. But the statements are meager, for Sivapurana is not interested in furnishing details. Still in regard to the solar dynasty of Ayodhya it supplies a detailed information. The genealogical records of this dynasty are arranged chapterwise in three groups: (1) from Manu to Satyavrata (ii) from Satyavrata to Sagara (iii) from Sagara to Sumitra. There is another sort of grouping also based on the sequence of time. The dynasties from Iksvaku to Marut belong to the past. The reigning period of Marut, father of Agnivarna, is called the present time when this purana is said to have been written. The reigning period of the Kings from Agnivarna to Sumitra is called the future time that presupposes the existence of this work.
The genealogical lists are interspersed with the deeds of some illustrious monarchs. For it is a characteristic of the Mahapurana to record the deeds of some famous kings. Usually the deeds comprise the personal history of the ruler but are sometimes related to the conditions of his reigning period. Sivapurana is interested in the records of the solar dynasty of Ayodhya ad as such it recounts the deeds of some monarchs of that house. Of these Kuvalasva-Dhundhumara, Satyavrata-Trisanku and Sagara figure prominently. The accounts of Vikuksi-Sasada, Bhagiratha, Nisadha, Hiranyanabha and others occupy a secondary place.
The above analysis clearly demonstrates that Sivapurana possesses the conventional characteristics of a Mahapurana in common with its other colleagues. These entitle it to the status of a great purana. But its real greatness lies in expounding the philosophical background of Siva ritual. The Purana conceives Siva as the eternal principle, the supreme god, the cosmic soul, the support of all existence. But the ignorant aspirant bound in the meshes of illusion goes in quest for knowledge and imagines that his Lord has a personal form possessed of attributes distinct from his self, who in moments of distress responds to his prayers and bestows grace. The devotee, then aspires for spiritual enlightenment and takes to ritual for self-purification. Sivapurana enjoins several rites of worship and acts of homage, comprising a series of physical and spiritual practices in accompaniment with the Tantra, Yantra and Mantra appliances. He starts with the threefold devotion viz. hearing, glorifying and deliberating the attributes of God a process that requires, according to Sivapurana, the same steady attention as in the sexual intercourse. In this connexion Rudrasamhita mentions eight means for attaining mental concentration and spiritual enlightenment. Further the aspirant is asked to control the six cakras located in the spinal canal called susumna that lies between Ida and pingala-two of the vessels of the body. That is possible only by taking recourse to the means of knowledge, by the purification of six pathways, the performance of traditional rites and yogic practices The aspirant has to pass through this series of activities before he reaches another state of experience wherein he finds a perfect accord between his own self and his personal deity, yet there is an awareness of separateness form his deity till he reaches the last state of experience wherein all distinctions are obliterated and his self unites with his godhead.
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