Lord Shiva’s Damru is basically a small drum that is often seen tied to his trishul. It is in tune to the this instrument that Lord Shiva indulges in his cosmic dances of creation and destruction. Unlike the larger drums, Shiva’s Damru can actually be played by the Lord even as he dances without having to break steps. In other words it is an instrument that compliments the art form of dance. Why though is this symbol of such importance one may wonder!
The secret to its importance lay in the realm of metaphors. Shiva’s Damru manages to create cosmic rhythm. As such, it influences the movement of energy in the universe. the balance established thereof is responsible for the proper functioning of the universe. Away from the religious interpretation, if one were to look at the point being made through the metaphor of Shiva’s Damru, the message would come out fairly simply:
Human beings are capable of creation and of destruction. Most things we create using our ability to either improve upon things that exist in nature or those we derive purely from our imagination, we act in the way of Gods. Art then lends to human beings the stature and power of Gods. This power must be used with temperance and balance lest we allow ourselves to live in chaos. Such chaos comes into being when we use the power of science for destructive purposes by making weapons and armaments. The very same potential for creation also allows man to inent cures of difficult diseases and build machines and programs that can not only help us achieve superhuman feats but also inspires the lives of the future generations to outperform the previous.
Here the concept of art must be understood as being akin to that of science insofar as both are literal manifestation of the human ability to create, therefore the importance on maintaining the crucial balance and control.
Shiva’s Damru also serves the purpose of evoking action. The booming of a drum is facilitated by the mechanics of echo. The sound “boum” or the word”bamm” is often used as a prefix to Shiva’s name as “Bhola”. “Bamm Bholey!” then is a common address for Lord Shiva. In Sanskrit the word “Bamm” also refers to space or the fifth element that constitutes creation after air, earth, fire and water. The playing of Damru represents his mastery over the art of creation and that of negation because space is simultaneously symbolic of everything and of the void from which all things are said to have been created. It is little wonder therefore that the vedas fail to describe Lord Shiva and have to end up calling him “neti- neti” (or not this – not this)
We can see therefore that Lord Shiva’s Damru is an instrument that encompasses within it many of the principles that are implicitly associated with Lord Shiva and his position of power and influence not only in the world of religion but also in that of the secular world where his example may be seen in terms of a complex metaphor that places a lot of importance on the human potential for creativity and the subsequent responsibility of temperance.
The Sanskrit word ‘Om’ is perhaps the most significant word in Hindu mythology. It stands for everything and nothing, it is used to address every God and Goddess, yet by itself it means nothing. It is the primary invocation for any and all holy chants. This curious, liminal characteristic of the word makes it relevant to Lord Shiva, more than any other deity because Mahadev represents infinity and eternity alongside a limitless void. How then is the Shiva Omkara special? When chanted, the word ‘Om’, a form of primal energy is said to originate from the navel, rising upward through the lungs and into the vocal chords till it finally comes to the throat and exits through the mouth. Modern science is only beginning to understand the importance of healing and rejuvenation through sound therapy. Groundbreaking studies are being made that have reported how plants and animals grow faster and become more productive in terms of yielding fruits and milk respectively when exposed to certain kinds of sounds. What scientific discourse is discovering now had been put into use by sages and learned men of India thousands of years ago!
The ‘Omkara’ or the sound of ‘Om’ is very similar to the Sanskrit word ‘Vyom’ which means space- the fifth and final element that constitutes the universe. The vastness of space is still a matter of major inquiry in the scientific community even though mankind has already managed to travel to space. It is only now that we are beginning to understand the immensity of our universe and our relative insignificance not only as a species but also as a planet. Thousands of galaxies and millions of star systems have been identified yet we are no closer t finding out the actual extent of the universe. Astrophysicists only have theories to make assumptions, whether it be the Big Bang Theory or the latest Higgs Boson particle, we have presumptuously called the ‘God particle’.
This ultimate expanse cannot be plotted. The void or ‘Vyom’ encompasses everything. In other words, it fits one of the description given to Lord Shiva thousands of years before the advent of science. This is not to question the validity of scientific thought but when one thinks about it one realizes there are things beyond the reach of human comprehension. Once again this thought takes us back to thinking all about the Shaivaite philosophy which depicts the Hindu god Shiva as a formless or ‘Nirguna’ entity. Almost all the sects of Shaivism concur on the belief that Shiva the destroyer also operates in the ways that is beyond human comprehension. Lord Shiva’s ‘leela’ or divine will, ensures that humans gain knowledge and wisdom even as the same ‘leela’ conceals knowledge and challenges the human senses and mind.
The third eye of Lord Shiva if opened can turn to ashes, anything that stands in its field of vision. The same eye when shut, allows Shiva to look within and meditate, generating the cosmic power that runs all of creation. Interestingly the word Lord Shiva chants when He meditates is ‘Om’. As He does that, He invokes the power of all Gods and Goddesses at the same time.
The ‘Shiva Omkara’ therefore has immense value both in the spiritual and scientific context, operating literally and metaphorically, signifying everything conceivable and non-conceivable, representing the awesome power of Lord Shiva.
The story of Shiva and Jallandhar is one of the most spiritually loaded episodes in Hindu mythology. It talks of the relationship between teacher and disciple and those between power and morality pitted against the backdrop of aggrandisement and over arching lust for greatness.
The narrative begins when the spiritual advisors of the Devas, Dev Guru Vrihaspati is found absent from the court of the King of Gods, Lord Indra. Indra sends messengers demanding that Vrishaspati attend court immediately. The messenger finds the Dev Guru deep in meditation in front of a Shiva linga. He tries to interject but fails to break Vrihaspati’s meditation. He reports this to Indra who visits Vrihaspati and with temerity wakes him from his meditation. He asks the reasons for Vrihaspati’s neglect of his court and his explicit commands. Vrihaspati refuses to answer Indra’s impertinence and offers to resign from his post as the spiritual advisor of the Devas. Adamant, Indra forces the question of comparison be addressed to decide which among them was the superior. They mutually decide to let Lord Shiva be the judge of their dispute.
Enroute to Kailash, the abode of lord Shiva, the duo meet the Avdhuteshwar Avatar of Lord Shiva. In this form, they fail to recognize Shiva and Indra attempts to first talk to the incarnation, hoping to convince it to walk out of their way to Kailash. The avatar does not respond except in violent, incomprehensible growls. Interpreting this as disrespect to his authority, Indra first lambastes, then decides to smite the stranger with his mace. At this point Shiva’s third eye opens and a fierce flame envelops Indra. Recognizing the stranger to be Shiva, Vrihaspati beseeches Him to pardon his student. He urges Indra to beg for forgiveness. Frightened out of his wits, Indra begs Shiva for forgiveness. On account of Vrihaspati’s sustained Bhakti towards himself, Shiva chooses to pardon Indra. The energy released by the third eye however cannot be taken back so Shiva redirects it at the ocean. Crashing into the ocean, the energy transforms into a child and begins to torment the God of the Sea. Brahma comes to his rescue but is unable to contain the child with such awesome power. He summons Daityaguru Shukracharya (spiritual leader of the demon clans) and entrusts the child to his care due to the latter’s experience with moulding violent demon children. Shukracharya names the boy Jallandhar- (one who is born of the ocean).
Jallandhar grows up to become a fierce warrior under the tutelage of Shukracharya. He quickly learns and then exceeds his teacher’s skills in warfare. Shukracharya designates him the King of Daityas and sends him off to conquer the three realms of underworld, earth and the heavens. The humans and Gods flee from the might of Jallandhar as he goes about his conquest. Demon kings willingly accept his suzerainty. Jallandhar’s victory march continues unabated. Until one day, Jallandhar spots Goddess Parvati. Her beauty and power astounds him and he resolves to make her his wife. Overcome by lust, he approaches Parvati, who promptly rejects his advances swearing by her marriage to Lord Shiva. Accustomed to winning anything he set his heart to, Jallandhar refuses to take ‘No’ for an answer. He threatens to destroy Lord Shiva and goes to visit his teacher Shukracharya for advice.
Shukracharya was Lord Shiva’s devotee and disciple. He refuses to help Jallandhar in the pursuit of such an act of sacrilege. Jallandhar threatens to dismiss him from the position of Daitya Guru. Without a guru, Shukracharya knew, demon kind would perish. Therefore in the greater interest of demon kind, he decides to accompany Jallandhar in his campaign against Kailash.
Before launching an all out assault against Kailash, Jallandhar audaciously asks Shiva to give up Parvati. She tries to seduce Parvati with the luxuries of his palace and the title of being the Daitya Samraggi (Queen of Daityas) instead of having to lie the life of an ascetic in the cold, unforgiving weather of Kailash. Shiva is angered beyond his ability to contain himself. He unleashes Veerbhadra against Jallandhar. The Shiva Ganas (followers of Shiva) under the leadership of Veerbhadra meet Jallandhar and his forces in a battle that rages on furiously. To the utter astonishment of all lookers on, Jallandhar manages to win over Veerbhadra. Elated, he uses his demon craft and takes on Shiva’s form. He visits Parvati’s abode and tells the attendants, the war was over and He (Shiva) has vanquished Jallandhar. So saying he asks the attendants to leave him alone with Parvati. He requests Parvati to take him by hand and lead him to her chambers. Parvati is surprised to hear such a request, never having heard Shiva make such a request before. She suspects something amiss and uses her divine powers to look closely at Jallandhar and learns of the trickery. Enraged, she repels Jallandhar, who scampers away at the sheer display of power.
Goddess Parvati summons Lord Vishnu and charges him to do whatever was needed t destroy Jallandhar, for having dared to attempt defiling her Satitwa (devotion to her husband). Lord Vishnu finds himself in a double bind. The secret to Jallandhar’s invincibility to most of Shiva’s attack was his wife Vrinda, sister-in-law to Lord Vishnu. Vrinda was one of the incarnations of Goddess Sati. Through her pious Satitwa (devotion to her husband) had earned the ability to protect Jallandhar against all harm, including those that were caused by even Lord Shiva. It had now befallen Lord Vishnu to get Vrinda to give up protecting her husband. It was a difficult task but the failure at which would give Jallandhar the impunity to dishonour other women, which would also set a precedent for others to follow.
Known for his skills at deception, Lord Vishnu, for the greater good and for preservation of morality in all of creation, decides to take up the charge given by Goddess Parvati. He disguises himself as a Brahmin and reaches the outskirts of the city where Vrinda’s castle was located. Word spread that an amazing sage had come, who was a Trikaaldarshi (one able to see the past, present and future simultaneously) and could breathe life back into the dead. Worried about her husband, not having heard of him for a while, Vrinda seeks out the sage for information on Jallandhar. Lord Vishnu tells her that Jallandhar has been slain and magically makes a dead body appear that looked like Jallandhar. Vrinda despairs, convinced that the power of her Satitwa could not be futile. Lord Vishnu temporarily revives the dead body to confuse Vrinda further. Under some further, inscrutable influence of Lord Vishnu, Vrinda feels hurt and inconsolable. Appearing in his true form, the Lord blesses Vrinda that because of her love and devotion to her husband, she would continue to live on in every Tulsi plant and be venerated by other pious, Pativrata wives all through time. Even this boon does not placate Vrinda, reciting the Panchchakshara Stotra, Vrinda gives up her life and consequently attains Moksha(freedom from cycles of rebirths).
With the protection of Vrinda gone and having been tired of fighting Lord Shiva relentlessly, Jallandhar was at the end of his ropes. Lord Shiva finally took the Panchanan form (a terrible five headed avatar) and severed the head of the demon.
One can see therefore that the story of Lord Shiva and Jallandhar covers many aspects of living life. Jallandhar could not see past his desires. In so doing he dishonoured the teacher-disciple relationship, drunk with power and indiscretion, unlike Indra, refused to follow the wise counsel of his teacher- Shukracharya. Shukracharya honoured his commitment to the demon races by accompanying his delusional pupil, risking the wrath of Shiva himself. Lord Vishnu looked beyond the family connections and did what had to be done in the interest of all of creation. The greatest sacrifice of Vrinda earns her Moksha. Upon a close observation, one learns the value of all these qualities necessary for the smooth continuation and evolution of one’s life.
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.