Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Book Review: 7 Secrets of Shiva

7 Secrets of Shiva is another fantastic book by Devdutt Pattanaik, it reveals important tales of Shiva, Parvathy and their two children - Ganesha and Murugan. These tales, 7 in number, unravel many important details of Shiva, the destroyer - destroyer of fear of death - Yamantaka; destroyer of desire - Kamantaka and destroyer of the three worlds (me, mine, not mine) that every human creates, his own world of subjective reality (known as Brahmanda) - Tripurantaka.

To start with, there is Lingeshwara's secret that explains the symbol - Shiva Linga, then Bhairava's secret and then a chapter on Shankara's secret where we learn of how Kali - the wild and fiery goddess willingly turns into a demure householder - Gauri, hence transforms Shiva - the ascetic god, smeared with ash, clad in animal hide, both eyes closed to the external world in deep Tapa into an empathetic and compassionate Shankara whose eyes are open to engage with humanity. 

In Bholenath's secret, we learn of Shiva, the God,  innocent of worldly ways, rules of society and cultural framework. Having remained with his two eyes closed to the external world, he is completely oblivious of stringent rules that drive daily life of human beings. He defies these rules, feels these are unnecessary and only create hurdles in ultimate human realization of atma (the soul).

In Ganesha's secret, we learn of how Lord Ganesha came into existence, how his pot belly assures all devotees of material abundance and removes fear of scarcity that lurks in them.

In Murugan's secret, we learn how and why Murugan came into existence. There are many interesting tales of his birth and valor, practices involved in his worship that differ so widely from the North to South of India. As a 7 day old toddler, he wages war against demons like Taraka, Simhamukhan and Soorapadman, heralds victory and removes the fear of predator from minds of Devas and all his devotees as well. It is through Ganesha and Murugan that Shiva engages even more closely with humanity, works to help them realize infinite truth of life.

The final chapter is Nataraja's secret - explains why many in the west find it a conundrum when they observe Hindus not worshiping  Brahma - the creator but revering Shiva completely. Shiva, the destroyer is seen more as performing acts of deconstruction of evil rather than that of destroyal.

This book holds a very special place in my book shelf and I must admit that reading every chapter has shed light on many important aspects I have observed in Shiva temples. There are references in the chapter on Murugan to Skanda Purana and I now intend to read this book to get a more comprehensive view of Shiva folklore. 

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