A stotra is a collection of shlokas written in the Sanskrit language. They are dedicated to a particular god and are also recited as prayers. A stotra describes the god in different in different forms.
According to the legends there lived a gandharva named Pushpadanta. Gandharvas are celestial musicians who reside in swarga (heaven) and perform at Indra’s court. Pushpadanta was an ardent follower of Lord Shiva. He loved flowers very much. Once when he passed by King Chitraratha’s royal gardens he saw that they were adorned with many beautiful flowers. King Chitraratha was also a devotee of Shiva and it was his routine that everyday he offered the flowers of his garden to LoShivard . Pushpadantacould not resist the beauty of these flowers and picked them from the garden. But that was not enough. Soon Pushpadanta started stealing flowers everyday. Consequently, King Chtraratha was left with no flowers to offer to Lord Shiva.
The king was unable to figure out how his flowers disappeared everyday as Pushpadanta had divine powers and could be invisible. At the end the king ordered that the bilva leaves be spread around the garden. Bilva leaves are considered sacred and are a favourite of Shiva. Pushpadanta unknowingly stepped on the bilva leaves. Lord Shiva became furious and he punished Pushpadanta by taking away his divine powers. When Pushpadanta realized his mistake he decided to seek Lord Shiva’s forgiveness. In order to do so he composed a long stotra describing the greatness of Shiva. Shiva became pleased and returned him his powers. This stotra came to be known as the ‘ Shiva MahimaStotra’.
After some time Pushpadanta grew very proud and arrogant of the shlokas he had written and which even the mighty Lord Shiva admired. He boasted about the greatness of his shlokas to everyone.This annoyed Lord Shiva and he decided to teach the arrogant musician a lesson. He went to Pushpadanta and told him to go to any of his temples and peak inside Nandi’s mouth. Curious, Pushpadantadid as he was told and peaked inside Nandi’s mouth. He was surprised to find his entire Stotra engraved on the teeth inside Nandi’s mouth. Then Shiva explained to Pushpadanta that he was not the author of anything, that the entire stotrahad been written a long time ago and Pushpadanta was merely an instrument through which the stotrawas released into the universe. Pushpadanta realized his mistake and became a humble and wiser being.
The Shiva MahimaStotra enumerates the greatness of Lord Shiva. In the story King Chitraratha refers to the creation of all three universes. This is nothing more than an imagination or picture created by god. Pushpadanta symbolizes Atma. This is the pure consciousness present throughout creation, which is invisible to all. By incurring the wrath of Shiva, Pushpadanta is forced to become visible in the form of a human. The only way back was by getting the blessing of Shiva. The Siva Mahimastotra gives the devotee fame, wealth and prosperity if recited with a pure heart. In the end the devotee attains Kailasha, the abode of Shiva.