Shiva and Jallandhar
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.