Devi assumed the role of Mahishasuramardini – as Durga and put an end to the life of the mighty rakshasa. Although there was widespread jubilation of a justifiable nature, Parvathi’s calculations and conclusions were different. Addressing Durga, she said, “Vindhyavasini! As a result of your unique accomplishment, my thapas reached its fitting finale without impediments. However, since the asura who has been killed was a Shiva bhakta, you have to go through a process of self-purification.”
Gautama Maharshi advised Durga to have a dip in the underground waters of Arunachala. Durga wielded her powerful sword to bring the waters to the surface. The waters sprang up to form a tank called Khadga theertha. She bathed in the serene and pure waters, offered prostrations to Arunachaleswara and chanted prayers with efficacious mantras.
The purified Devi then stood before Parvathi. Then Parvathi told Gautama that she was primarily responsible for Durga getting rid of Mahishasura. “Having asked Durga to kill him” Parvathi said to Gautama”, I must go through an appropriate purificatory ritual to be prescribed by you.”
Taken aback, Gautama said. “Devi! You are responsible for the creation, protection and destruction of all the worlds. In the whole universe, the remembrance of your name is itself purificatory as remover of sins.
The jyotirlinga of Arunachala
However, you want to follow the rules governing mortals. Great people never violate the rules they themselves make and impose penalties on others. In order to rid you of your apparent mental penalties impurity, I shall give a prescription for you to follow: the jyotirlinga of Arunachala is a celebrated one and the mountain is endowed with full thejas on the full moon night ruled by Krittika. There is nothing greater than sevas to Arunachala and thapas in this region. Devi! All your aspirations will be fulfilled by darshan of the divya jyoti (divine light) of Arunachala.”
Parvathi immediately set out for Shiva puja as enjoined by the Sage. She looked absolutely radiant and golden as the auspicious tithi of Krittika Pournami set in. She carried on rigorous thapas amidst a circle of fire. Very late in the evening, over the peak of Arunachala an extraordinary and resplendent jyoti became visible. It was being worshipped by Brahma, Vishnu, Indra and all the Devatas and Maharshis who had specifically assembled there in anticipation of witnessing the incomparable jyoti.
Parvathi was wonder struck by the great divine jyoti of Arunachala which was shedding enormous light without oil, fuel or mantle. She undertook a pradakshina and offered prostrations at every step singing praises of Arunachalaswara:
“Glorious Arunachaleswara! Prostrations to your effulgent form that has got the Meru mountain as your pedestal and Mt. Kailas as your residence. You are worshipped by all the Devatas. You are ever as bright as the rising sun! Prostrations to you as the Lord of Arunachala and as the personification of kindness. You are the cynosure of neighbouring eyes! You are the architect of Manmatha Vaibhavam; you are none other than the great Narayana who did the celebrated dance on the hoods of Kaliya. Victory to you! You are the one indulging in evening dances with delight. You are sought after by Devatas, Gandharvas, Siddhas and the Vidyadharas and worshipped by them. You are the father of Gananatha and Shanmukha but beyond the ordinary reach of mortals!”
Parvati thus offered various prayers to the jyoti in which her mind was immersed. Maheswara observed this and by withdrawing the divine light form, he emerged as the handsome Vrishabhadhwaja and appeared before the pure frame of Parvathi. Then Saraswati joined Brahma, Lakshmi joined Narayana, Shachi joined Mahendra and the whole congregation including dikpalakas, celestials and a host of others collected around Maheswara.
Parvathi was overjoyed at seeing the Lord after a long lapse of time and separation. She felt ecstatic and nervously and apprehensively touched the feet of the Lord in veneration.
Real unity and apparent diversity of Gods:
Then Mahadeva got down from his Vrishabha vehicle, and asked Her, “Devi! Why are you apprehensive without a reason? As you are worshipped by one and all, I also greet you with folded hands! Don’t you know there is as much identity of immemorial antiquity between us as between night and moon? Why this strange innocence for you? Whither your delicate body? Whither thapas and samadhi states befitting the hard and able-bodied? I am Narayana, you are Lakshmi. I am Brahma and you are Saraswati. You are Varuni, I am Nagendra. I am Chandra, you are Rohini. I am Agni, you are Swaaha Devi. I am Surya and you are Suvarchale. I am Samudraraja and you are Ganga. I am Meru and you are Bhu-devi. I am Indra and you are Shachi Devi. I am Manmata and you are Rati.
“Parvathi” continued Maheswara, “you are buddhi, I am Chandra. You are shama, I am Vayu. You are Prakriti, I am Purusha. You are Vidya and I am the enveloped Atman. You are sound and I stand for meaning. I am Easwara and you are my Amsam. It is as a result of your will and command that the whole creation has its birth, existence and death with prescribed regularity. you should not perceive any differences in me as others do. We are both Chidanandatmas. You have assumed a body of your own free will and volition.”
In order to dispel her apprehensions about their oneness, Mahadeva took her in arms and seated her immediately close to himself. As a result of the union, the figure of Ardhanareeswara emerged with a clear vertical line of demarcation at the centre, appearing as white as camphor on one side and reddish-orange like Sindhooram on the other side. It was indeed a sight and a strange phenomenon. In the right portion belonging to Easwara, his looks of hair, the diadem in the bifurcated necklace, the crescent of moon, etc., and in the left portion belonging to Parvathi, one of the ear-rings, one of the leg ornaments and a radiant body adorned by a single sthana – were the salient features.
Arunachaleswara and Apeeta-kuchamba:
Easwara said to Parvati, “Because you left for thapas leaving Shanmukha behind as a child still in need of milk, you have to stay with me here as Apeethakuchamba. May all people worship you as Apeethakucha and me as Arunachaleswara and get the blissful benefits of Heaven and salvation! May Durga who manifested from your amsam as Mahishasuramardini also stay here for fulfilling devotees mantra-siddhis. May a mere dip in the sanctified Khadga theertham free people from diseases and sins. May Maharshi Gautama attain by your grace everlasting fame befitting his thapas. May the Sapta Matrukas also be presiding deities for the seven worlds and stay here for the well-being of the universe. The Commanders-in-chief, namely, the Bhairavas, Kshetrapalakas, etc., will also permanently stay in this Aruneswara. You also stay here as Arunamba- as a symbol of supreme kindness”.
In accordance with the reputation that as a result of the sanctified stay of Shiva Parvathi in Arunachala, the devotees prayers and efforts are invariably fulfilled, whoever listens to or reads the glorious legend culminating in the magnificent manifestation before Parvathi of Arunachaleswara will win over his inner adversaries like desire, anger etc and attain everything including salvation.
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