There is a legend about Badrinath. This is where Shiva and Parvati lived. It is a magnificent place at around 10,000 feet in the Himalayas. One day, Narada went to Vishnu and said, “You are a bad example for humanity. All the time you are just lying around on Adishesha, and your wife, Lakshmi, is constantly serving you and spoiling you silly. You are not a good example for other creatures on the planet. For all the other beings in the creation, you must do something more purposeful.”
To escape this criticism and also work for his own upliftment, Vishnu came down to the Himalayas looking for the right kind of place to do his sadhana. He found Badrinath, a nice little home, with everything just the way he thought it should be – an ideal place for his sadhana.
He found a house there and went into it. But then he realized this is Shiva’s abode – and that man is dangerous. If he gets angry, he is the kind who can cut off his own throat, not just yours. The man is very dangerous.
So, Vishnu transformed himself into a little child and sat in front of the house. Shiva and Parvati, who had gone out for a walk, returned home. When they came back, a little baby was crying at the entrance of their home. Looking at this child crying his heart out, Parvati’s maternal instincts came up and she wanted to go pick up the child. Shiva stopped her and said, “Don’t touch that child.” Parvati replied, “How cruel. How can you say that?”
Shiva said, “This is not a good baby. Why does he land up at our doorstep by himself? There is no one around, no footprints of parents in the snow. This is not a child.” But Parvati said, “Nothing doing! The mother in me will not allow me to let the child be like this,” and she took the baby into the house. The child was very comfortable, sitting on her lap, looking very gleefully at Shiva. Shiva knew the consequence of this but he said, “Okay, let’s see what happens.”
Parvati comforted and fed the child, left him at home and went with Shiva for a bath in the nearby hot water springs. When they came back, they found the doors were locked from the inside. Parvati was aghast. “Who has closed the door?” Shiva said, “I told you, don’t pick up this child. You brought the child into the house and now he has locked the door.”
Parvati said, “What shall we do?”
Shiva had two options: one was to burn up everything in front of him. Another was to just find another way and go. So he said, “Let’s go somewhere else. Because it’s your beloved baby, I cannot touch it.”
This is how Shiva lost his own home and Shiva and Parvati became “illegal aliens”! They walked around, looking for an ideal place to live and finally settled down in Kedarnath. Did he not know, you may ask. You know many things, but you still allow them to happen.
There are many stories in the Yogic lore describing Shiva’s indiscriminate compassion and child-like response to one’s longing. Once, there was an asura whose name was Gajendra. Gajendra did many austerities and he earned a boon from Shiva that whenever he called him, Shiva was there with him. Seeing that Gajendra was calling Shiva for every little thing in his life, Narada, the ever mischievous sage of the three worlds, played some mischief with Gajendra.
He told Gajendra, “Why are you calling Shiva off and on? He is responding to every call of yours. Why don’t you ask him just to enter you and stay there all the time so that he will always be yours?” Gajendra thought that was a good idea and accordingly he worshipped Shiva. When Shiva appeared to him, he said “You must stay within me. You should not go anywhere.” Shiva in his child-like response entered Gajendra in the form of a linga and stayed there.
Then as time passed, the whole cosmos was missing Shiva. No one knew where he was. All the devas and ganas started searching for Shiva. Then after much searching, when no one could espy as to where he was, they went to Vishnu to find the solution. Vishnu looked at the situation and said, “He is in Gajendra.” Then the devas asked him how they could get Shiva out of Gajendra because Gajendra had become immortal carrying Shiva within himself.
As usual, Vishnu came up with the right kind of trick. The devas dressed up as Shiva devotees and came about to Gajendra’s kingdom and started singing Shiva’s praises with great devotion. Gajendra, being a great devotee of Shiva, invited these people to come and sing and dance in his court. This group of devas dressed as the devotees of Shiva came and with great emotion, with great devotion, they sang and worshipped and danced for Shiva. Shiva, who was sitting inside Gajendra could not hold himself back, he had to respond. So he tore Gajendra into pieces and came out of him!
Shiva is worshipped both by the gods and the rakshasas, the devas and the asuras, the highest and the lowest – for everybody he is the godhead. Vishnu himself used to worship him. There is a very beautiful story to describe how Vishnu was Shiva’s devotee.
Once, Vishnu promised Shiva that he will offer 1008 lotuses to Shiva. He went in search of lotus flowers, and after searching the whole world, he found only 1007 lotus flowers. One was missing. He came and placed everything in front of Shiva. Shiva did not open his eyes, he just smiled because one is missing. Then Vishnu said, “I am known as Kamala Nayana, that means lotus-eyed Lord. My eyes are as beautiful as any lotus. So I will offer one of my eyes”, and he immediately plucked out his right eye and placed it on the linga. Pleased with this kind of offering, Shiva gave Vishnu the famous Sudarshana Chakra.
Editor’s Note: Click here to read many more interesting stories about Shiva the Adiyogi.