“Great Brahma!”, said Sanaka Maharshi to the Creator, “You are endowed with a wealth of qualities. By Shiva’s grace and your kindness as the Jagadguru, I have heard from you a lot about the greatness of Arunachala. The sanctity of the place is as wonderful as it is capable of redeeming people from all sins. Would you please tell me who in the past worshipped Arunachaleswara to become the beneficiaries of His boons?”
“Although Shiva is bereft of beginning or end”, observed Sanaka, “He has settled here in the form of Arunachaleswara to bless you and Maha Vishnu for your thapas and sacrifice. It is said that mere remembrance or utterance of the bewitching name of Arunachaleswara confers fulfillment of one’s cherished desires. Drinking the nectar of His name and adherence to Shiva puja as per procedure laid down absolve one of all impurities and pollutions.”
Worhsipped by Pravathi
Moved by Sanaka’s references, Chaturmukha Brahma internally offered obeisance to Arunachaleswara and said, “Son! Once no less a person than Parvathi permitted Herself to Arunachaleswara. I shall relate the legend to you.”
“Once at the end of an audience with Brahmarshis, Devatas, Siddhas, Shiva-bhaktas and a host of others, Parameshwara chose to move into the forest with Parvathi to expose her to the soothing breeze and the salubrious climate of the area rich with with the aroma of lotus flowers. The beauty and bounty of nature was such that it brought ecstasy to both. But Parvathi who was seemingly happier of the two, with the object of bringing him under the spell of her divine love and affection, came slowly from behind and took the liberty of blocking with her soft palms Parameswara’s three eyes!”
“As Parvathi blocked the three eyes representing Sun, Moon and Fire, the whole universe was plunged in fierce and total darkness. What was just half-a-minute of blindfold bloomer of the Lord’s brilliant vision (“Nimishaardhena devasya……”) was in effect several crores of years for the worlds (“….Samvatsara Kotayaha”). The thamasic influence of Girija’s unwitting mistake of ‘leela’ with the Lord was such that the whole universe bereft of sunlight and moonlight began to contract, disintegrate and destroy itself. Maharshis lost their effulgence. The Vedas were divested of their power. All living beings were extinct. What was left over apparently was only the unmanifest God. At that time, the most celebrated among the Rishis, who were highly enlightened by virtue of their thapas, joined together and discussed among themselves the reasons for darkness and thamas that caused the untimely chaos.”
“They reasoned that in reality the Lord did not hasten or swallow time. They thought it was because Parvathi had blocked the trinity of Parameshwara’s Vision, all the three worlds had lost their thejas and faced an untimely end. The Maharshis who knew everything through their vision meditated on the Lord and offered sincere prayers. They also had submitted to Him how a momentary blockade of His thejas resulted in several years of decay of the world”
“Parameswara, on hearing their entreaties for recovery of the world, asked Parvathi to withdraw her hands from his eyes. She did so accordingly.”
“That very moment the world regained its light and everything appeared to come back to normalcy and restoration.”
“Then the liberal-minded and lovable Lord exclaimed and told Uma that although She was the mother of the universe, She innocently indulged in a misdeed without knowing the cause and effect and brought about universal destruction. While He destroyed the worlds after examining the sanctity and appropriateness of time, He told her, She had brought about an untimely destruction. He told Her that nobody would do such a thing even for fun and that no one (referring to Himself) who was a personification of kindness would blame anybody!”
Continuing, Brahma said to Sanaka, “Girija feeling very unhappy at herself for transgression of dharma, repentantly asked Sadashiva if there was a way out of expiation for her lapse. The kind Lord told her as she had herself preferred to follow a course of remedial measure in the interest of preserving universal dharma, she would do well to perform thapas in Bhu-loka which would also be sanctified. People of the Earth who watched her thapas, He told her, would have their adherence to dharma reinforced. That the secrets and subtleties of dharma were attributable to her alone is enshrined in the primordial Vedas, he told her further.”
“Japa, homa and daana done in places of sanctity in Bhu-loka bestow infinite benefits, she was assured.”
“Accordingly, Parvathi came down to earth ostensibly for thapas but really to show her maya (spell of illusion) to the world. She made a sandy linga, offered worship and went through a period of vigorous penance. Then she heard the voice of Shiva to the effect that He would stay in that very place as Arunachaleswara in thejasic form to fulfill the wishes of devotees. That name would be significant as a remover of sins and dispeller of worries. The Lord’s voice also recounted how following His assurance to Maha Vishnu and to me, He had decided to stay in this place as Arunachaleswara. He directed her to know more about Arunachala from Sage Gautama.”
“Parvathi fixed Shiva’s thejasic form firmly in her mind and offered pujas to Arunachaleswara chanting Vedic hymns for the benefit of all.”
“After having darshan of Arunachaleswara in the august presence of Sapta Rishis, Siddha Purushas and Devatas, consistent with Shiva’s directions, Parvathi left for Ashram of Gautama Maharshi to seek enlightenment from him regarding the greatness of Arunachala.”
The Golden touch :
“The magic of Her entry into Gautama’s ashram was such that it had instantly transformed it into an ornamental beauty of bunting and leaves, decorated archways besides a unique glow attracting the attention of the Sage who saw the story of the place from a distance as he was on his way back to the ashram. He soon came to know from his divine vision that the transformation was due to Gowri’s benedictory presence and inwardly thanked Shiva for it. He reached the ashram with his disciples with the ecstatic feeling that his thapas had borne fruit by Parvathi’s arrival”.
“Parvathi found Gautama radiant like fire and his face resplendent with thejas. She found him mentally reciting the Rudra mantras of the Vedas dear to the Paramatman. As soon as she saw the Mahatma who was ripe with age in contemplation of God, with folded hands she started to offer prostration to him.”
Illusion and reality
“Taken aback by the unusual stance of the Mother of the Universe, Gautama stopped her and offered prostration himself. Then he told her how the glory of her deed brought about illusion and reality and how it defied description of even her closest devotees. It was a real wonder, he told her, that the Lord because of his overwhelming kindness to His bhaktas had sent her to Arunachala with the avowed intention of protecting them. That showed He intended to prove the efficacy of bhakti to the world.” It was indeed a calculated move to highlight the greatness of Arunachala!
“Devi said it was her fortune that the Lord directed her to meet him in preference to all His great thapasvis. While she was keen on knowing all about the greatness of Arunachala straight from the sage, she was also keen on performing thapas in Arunachala for getting Parameswara’s grace.”
“Gautama, on the other hand, observed that her desire to know something about Arunachala was nothing but a pretension of ignorance about Arunachala which was again a product of Sadashiva’s maya. He told her, however, as she was keen on knowing the glory of Shiva and His nama-sankirtan, one who would relate or hear about the greatness of Shiva and Arunachala would get as much blessing as from frequent chantings of all the Veda Mantras.”
Brahma said to Sanaka, “The greatness of Arunachala, Gautama told Parvathi was a matter of wonder rendered supreme by Shiva’s boon; the way the Arunachala linga was manifested itself here was beyond the description of a billion tongues. In essence, he said that the yogis who carried on with the mental contemplation of Sri Arunachaleswara would achieve liberation and the highest planes of spiritual elevation.