Lord Shiva and Rishi Dadhichi
Rishi Dadhichi is one of the foremost sages in the Hindu mythology. Having been born in the family of Bhrigu, he is credited with the creation of the Prasna Upanishad. It is however his connection to Lord Shiva that makes him all the more interesting. The most powerful thread that joins Lord Shiva and Rishi Dadhichi is the Goddess Adi-Shakti in her avatar as Sati and then as Parvati. Located in the Misrikh region of Naimisharanya, close to the modern day city of Lucknow, Rishi Dadhichi’s ashram was the abode of refuge for Sati as she grew up through childhood. Away from her prejudiced and vain father, King Daksha, Sati learnt from Rishi Dadhichi about the subtle balance of power between the creators and their creations. She learnt that Shiva was an inimitable part of the Hindu tridev, and that the continuation of the process of life ad evolution of time was not possible unless the principles of creation, preservation and destruction came to bear upon all of the universe.
Shiva’s asceticism and its underlying meaning was first made clear to Sati by Rishi Dadhichi. Shiva was not a deranged begger. Roaming in tiger skin and smeared ash all over himself- Such severe avoidance of materiality was only symbolic of disillusionment and consequent escape from the snares of the material world. Trappings of wealth, power and manifest authority serve to blind the best of humans, and Brahma’s human son Daksha was no exception. He found Shiva’s apparent lack of wealth and rustic appearance unacceptable. However on the insistence of his father Brahma he had reluctantly allowed the marriage of Sati and Shiva.
To appease his sense of affront however, Daksha went on to plot and subsequently insulted Shiva by not not inviting him on a Yajna and then by publicly lampooning Shiva and Sati at his Yajna. The first person to have strongly objected to this impunity on Daksha’s part was Rishi Dadhichi. He was also the first one to leave the great gathering called by Daksh for said Yajna.
After the passing away of Sati, and her reincarnation as Parvati, Rishi Dadhichi made it his personal point to visit the Parvat Naresh (King of Mountains) Himvan to train his daughter in the ways of Shiva worship. Owing to his great devotion, Shiva had blessed him with a boon that had transformed his very bones into thunder. Shiva also taught the spirit of the Mahamrityunjay Mantra to Dadhichi, hitherto unknown to any other mortal. Dadhichi was also gifted the boon of knowing about the secrets of the creation of the world and the universe. These are knowledge that Dadhichi had passed on to Devi Parvati, with the help of Goddess of Wisdom-Goddess Saraswati. It is through Goddess Parvati’s later avatars that a lot more positive things happened in the future to extol the virtues of Shiva and Shakti.
The most influential lesson though that one may draw from the example of Lord Shiva and Rishi Dadhichi is the event where Rishi Dadhichi’s power of Bhakti for Lord Shiva reaches its zenith. The Demons under the leadership of Vritasura, one of the sons of Danu- the mother of the Danav Race, had earned the boon of being immune to all conventional weapons made of steel, iron and wood. The Devas faced crushing defeats at his hands and the King of Gods Indra had his jaws broken, such was the power of Vritasura. Desperate, the Gods went to Lord Vishnu for advice. Lord Vishnu told them, Vritasura could only be slain by weapons forged by the bones of a powerful sage. Unsure about which sage would willingly give up his life for Indra, the Gods asked for further guidance. Lord Vishnu named Rishi Dadhichi as the most suitable candidate.
Indra was troubled to go to Rishi Dadhichi for he had on a previous occasion challenged and beheaded Rishi Dadhichi for teaching the Madhuvidya (the knowledge of reinstating life in a dead body) to the Ashwini twins (Gods of sunrise and Sunset, who brought prosperity to men and removed obstacles). The Ashwini twins had saved Dadhichi using the Madhuvidya. Indra was uncertain if Rishi Dadhichi would curse him and make his life more miserable on account of his request. Rishis were known to have the power to curse Gods to terrible plights.
Given his predicament however, Indra was out of options and had to go to Rishi Dadhichi. Lord Shiva and Rishi Dadhichi were so evenly in sync with the principles of asceticism that the great Rishi agreed to give up his life for the greater good. His bones, he said, would be better off as weapons of Gods rather than being buried somewhere in the ground. Dadhichi used his boon of invincibility from Lord Shiva to help Indra, despite Indra’s prior affront, because it was the greater good that was at risk from the menace of Vritasura. Such forms of ultimate sacrifice can be made only by those who place absolutely no value on their own person, considering even their bodies as matter that would eventually be subject to decay, therefore not worthy of being clung to. The relationship between Lord Shiva and Rishi Dadhichi tests the latter’s resolve to the fullest and he wins moksha with his perseverance and dedication to the divine will.