The Hindu cosmology holds that time runs in a spiral pattern. Cycles get repeated but the point of origin and the point of conclusion never meet. According to this belief, creation has happened on earth for six times already, followed by destruction and that we are slowly but steadily heading towards the end of the seventh and final cycle called the Kaliyuga. Lord Shiva and Kaliyuga share an interesting connection as Lord Shiva serves his role as the destroyer of worlds.
The Vishnu Puran, the Shiva Puran and the Linga Puran- religious Hindu texts that record the lives and feats of various Gods and Goddesses, make a significant claim that the world shall soon come to an end. We are currently living in the year 2013. The Mayan calendar seemed to have predicted that the world was going to end with the closure of the year 2012. We have managed to live on however and all talk about Armageddon and judgement day seems to be thwarted as of now. Nevertheless there are a few things that came off of this fear of imminent annihilation- A lot of people actually got along with reading the literature available on the end of the world and globally certain facts seem to have commonalities. For instance, almost all world religions speak of a great flood that wiped out the last civilization that ruled earth and how fire and brimstone shall cause the end of this world, paving a way for a newer and bolder world in its stead
How much truth is there in such prophecy, one cannot decipher but there are a few things that do raise much question and very many of them are related to Lord Shiva and the Kaliyuga. A cursory study of Lord Shiva reveals that apart from being addressed as the destroyer, Lord Shiva is also known as the ‘Bhootnath’ or the Lord of the Pancha or when the five, elements that constitute all of creation. Earlier when human kind’s potential for destruction extended only to conventional warfare, the security of the world had not been in too much if a risk. Now however, things have changed. With the advent of the nuclear energy, human kind is perfectly capable of destroying everything, everywhere, at the flick of a button.
The more alarming facts however, happen to be what are called the signs of the end. Almost every day we get to see and read in national and international news about the new reaches of barbarity that human beings are capable of unleashing upon each other. Robberies, rapes and murders are the order of the day and add to that the new menace of Terrorism. Almost every world religion is interpreting these to be the tell tale signs of the nearing end, especially so when natural calamities like tsunamis, earthquakes, famine inducing droughts and devastating thunderstorms causing floods are increasing in frequency.
The Hindu scriptures have been seemingly pointing out the coming of such events for over four thousand years! Is there really the end of the world on the horizon? If it is, can we try to protect ourselves through any specific means? What exactly do the Hindu scriptures say that makes the information more reliable than many other literatures available on the doomsday?
Read on Lord Shiva and Kaliyuga Part 2 here.
Various online websites have an annoying habit of reproducing matter that they find in sites that are similar to theirs and do not bother to provide citation of their sources, effectively indulging in plagiarism. It is our objective to provide information from verifiable sources so as to be able to engage in serious and meaningful debate even on matters of religion, especially because logically speaking, faith without introspection is sparsely more than superstition. In our last article Lord Shiva and Kaliyuga Part 1, we had discussed the most commonplace of signs, symbols and assumptions people make about doomsday in most world religions and said that Lord Shiva and Kaliyuga share a special connection.
In his article, Lord Shiva and Kaliyuga Part 2, let us look at some of facts that make us talk of this connection, both from a spiritual and secular perspective.
Renowned and distinguished French Indolgist and one of the foremost Orientalist scholars – Alan Danielou, a friend of luminaries like Stravinsky, Jean Cocteau and Nabokov spent more than two decades studying Indian music and philosophy. Inspired by Shaivite Hinduism, he wrote a book entitled ‘While The Gods Play’ which was first published in the USA in 1987. In his book Danielou quotes extensively from the Shiva Purana, Linga Purana and the Vishnu Purana- quotations one can easily verify from any of the many Hindu Shaivites around the world, in case Sanskrit is inaccessible to him/her. These scriptures categorically speak of the following things:
a) They re-affirm that the role of Shiva as the Destroyer and say that when the end comes, Shiva himself shall come to earth to carry out the dance of destruction.
b) They give the example of the destruction of the three cities of Maya by Shiva in his Pashupati Nath avatar
c) They cite the spiral form in which time progresses, with every civilization following its course of birth, adolescence, maturity and destruction
d) They hold that the end of the fourth and last Yuga or time sphere is the Kaliyuga and its end had begun since 1939 C.E and shall be completed by 2442 C.E
e) The reason for the end shall be the general loss of integrity of people and the destruction of the Dharmic ways of life in favour of a Godless, amoral, puritanical existence.
The significant contribution that Danielou makes to these theories is the comparison he makes between these ideas and the ideas of Armageddon described by Christian Gnostic gospels and those popular in the Greek tradition. He links the Greek God Dionysius with Lord Shiva and suggests that the end may be stalled only by returning to the Shaivite fold.
Scholarly as Danielou’s work is, it is also polemical. As such we need to look into the finds he has made with more objectivity and try to arrive at a more balanced and rational interpretation of the texts. Before we embark on that exercise, we need to ask ourselves what is the purpose that we shall serve by giving this topic any more of our time? Clearly this topic raises popular questions about the end of days and the destiny of the human race, but is that reason enough to imagine this exercise is anything more than yet another one of those hysteria inducing piece?
Unfortunately, I cannot answer that question. It shall be up to individual readers to decide. I am compelled to share what I have learnt and think about this topic, and if you have given my words a read so far, I would like for you to read it through to the end before you make up your mind. So I shall go ahead and write Lord Shiva and Kaliyuga Part 3
In our last article entitled Lord Shiva and Kaliyuga Part 2, we had discussed the major points of critical enquiry made by renowned French Indologist and Sociologist Alain Danielou, (in his book ‘While The Gods Play’, first published in the USA in 1987) regarding the connection between Lord Shiva and the end Kaliyuga as mentioned in the Shiva Puran, the Vishnu Puran and the Linga Puran. We ended by asking ourselves the reasons that could prompt us to read on and think about this connection.
In this article, Lord Shiva and Kaliyuga Part 3 let us take the talk forward.
So Danielou suggested that following Shaivite Hinduism is the only way to avoid the gruesome end awaiting all of us. Clearly that sounds like propagation of a religion, no different from the threats of the fire and brimstone and eternal torment that other proselytising books talk of. It is therefore important to re orient our perspective. To do so, we must look into the story of Maya and Lord Shiva’s Pashupati Avatar.
The story goes that the Asuras were pious devotees of Lord Shiva. One of their most spiritual Kings- Maya prayed to Lord Brahma to earn the power to become an architect like Lord Brahma but for the world he wanted to build for Asuras. Lord Brahma granted his wish and Maya built three massive cities. The first city was built of bronze and was situated on earth. The second city was located in the sky and was made of silver. The third city was made of gold and it was located in heaven. Maya’s sons prayed to Lord Brahma again and asked him to make the cities impregnable fortresses that could only be destroyed by a single attack by nobody created by Lord Brahma that too only when the cities aligned vertically in a single row, which would happen for a single time every one thousand years.
All Asuras from everywhere gathered in these three cities and began living peacefully in accordance with the direction of the Dharma Shastras, worshipping Lord Shiva piously as always. The Vedic Gods who were Aryans, became jealous of the success of the Asuras. The Vedic religion was in danger of being swept off the face of creation so they went to Lord Vishnu and asked him to destroy the cities of Maya. Lord Vishnu told them he could not do so and that if at all the Devas were to succeed in their endeavour, they must convince Lord Shiva to destroy the cities. For he was not created by Brahma and he alone had the power to destroy all three fortress cities in one strike.
The Devas prayed and tried to propitiate Lord Shiva, a powerful demon army arose from the fires of the Yajna offered to Lord Shiva. The Devas sent this army to attack Maya’s cities but they were ineffectual against the might of the Asura armies who fought with highly advanced weapons that could harness the powers of the sun.
Lord Shiva simply told the Devas that as long as the Asuras followed the path of Dharma, he would not do anything to destroy them. Frustrated, The Devas went back to Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu thought for a while and then brought forth a being clad in robes with a shaved head and instructed him to go to the cities of Maya and teach the Asuras a new religion. A religion that said there was no heaven or hell and that all of one’s pious deeds and wicked deeds were accounted for during one’s lifetime through pleasures and pain, representing heaven and hell respectively. This religion would also propagate the principles of non violence and peace, deriding the scriptural rituals of martial prowess and sacrifices. It would encourage followers to not worship the Shiva Linga and abstain from the pursuit of sensuality, advocating a life of severe austerity and abstinence.
The monk gathered a few followers and taught this new religion to the Asura Kings of the three cities. The wily Narad- sage among the Devas, pretended to be a follower of the new religion, which helped convince the Asura kings. The Asuras stopped following the ways of Dharma Shastras, and abandoned the eating of meat and adopted non violence as their motto. As a result they lost their impressive martial prowess, weakened physically and abstinence wore off their considerable mental faculties. Finally, they stopped worshipping Lord Shiva out of a sense of puritanical shame. Rampant corruption and moral bankruptcy reigned supreme. The stratification of caste collapsed, Asuras inter-married and degenerated steadily with the atheistic and shallow becoming rulers over the learned. This entire process took about a thousand years.
The three cities aligned vertically and the Devas beseeched Lord Shiva once again to destroy the cities. Lord Shiva set one condition. He said all Vedic Gods must accept his suzerainty and the Shaivite mode of life should never be questioned by any Vedic God. The Devas agreed, albeit reluctantly. They pooled their power and forged weapons and a chariot for Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva realized that the Devas felt He could not do much without their aid. Upon reaching the cities Lord Shiva disembarked from the chariot and abandoned all the weapons of the Devas. Then he summoned all animal life in existence, who completely honoured him as the Supreme Being. He was the Lord and master of all living and non living beings. The Devas and their plot against the Asuras were meaningless for Lord Shiva. His will and intent was inscrutable. He smiled and shot an arrow towards the three cities of Maya. In an instant the cities were reduced to ashes, destroying everything and everyone in them. The Devas were aghast at the display of such absolute power, wielded so casually. Lord Shiva proved to them that to Him, the cycles of time and the process of creation and destruction were all the same.
Now if we manage to separate the myth from the philosophy we realize one simple truth that all of these stories and theories are trying to give us. Whether the world is about to be destroyed at the end of the Kaliyuga in 2442 C.E is immaterial. Whether or not the destruction shall be brought about by fire or flood, provoked by sinfulness and selfishness is also immaterial. All things that begin will always end. Lord Shiva was worshipped by the Dravidian races in India before the Aryans came in with their Vedic Gods. Hinduism appropriated Shaivism to establish cultural hegemony over the Dravidians. Even as they did so, they made sure to give Shiva the position of prime importance in the Hindu Pantheon.
The only thing that matters is that we realize Shaivism does not favour violence or non violence, religiousity or secularism, it does not believe in good or bad. The world is not divided into the Manichean black and white. Diversity and difference along with perpetual change is the only constant. How one must act one’s role in life must be decided by the use of compassionate rationality. It is the only way we can fulfil our objective of being human. We may err, but that is better than to pontificate self-righteously. Nobody has seen the future, and there is no reason to besmirch the present thinking about the future because that is only as effective as cribbing about the past.
Om Namah Shivay!