Once the Rishis wanted to know from Suta Maharshi, the repository of the vignettes of Vedanta, the secret about any jyotrilinga kshetra (apart from Arunachala) the knowledge of the greatness of which would promote the quality of bhakta in one. The repository replied that the jyotrilinga of Mahalinga which had the reputation of being the champion of the weak and as the protector of devotees would engender rare bhakta in anyone. He proceeded to relate the strange story of a Shiva bhakta who had conquered the senses, assimilated all the Vedantic doctrines and who ruled as the King of Ujjain.
The gem of a King!
Once a member of Shiva’s entourage called Manibhadra, respected by all, liberally gave away a beautiful gem equal in greatness to the legendary gem called Chintamani. The gem was shining brightly and radiating brilliance like the rays of the Sun. Whoever thought about it, offered prayers to it, had darshan of it or even heard about its greatness used to receive unexpected favours, as gifts from the gem. It had the rare quality of turning base metals like copper, lead etc, and even stone into gold by virtue of the very touch of its brilliant rays.
King Chandrasena, devoted to Shiva, used to wear the Chintamani on his neck. All other kings who had seen Chandrasena glowing like the Sun god among Devatas with the gem adorning him developed jealousy. They could not reconcile with the greatness of one who was the cynosure of all neighbouring eyes. Rendered intellectually but impoverished with this veil of illusion, they all conspired to snatch the gem by various calculated designs and plans.
Chandrasena had abiding faith in Mahakala. He was constrained to reject all requests to part with the gem. The kings felt insulted by his firm negative response. They therefore decided to embark on a warring expedition against Chandrasena. On a certain day as per plan, they pooled all their army resources and attacked Ujjain from all its four entrances on all the four sides.
Chandrasena came to know about the siege and immediately offered sincere prayers to Mahakaleswara. In spite of the enormous strength of the invading armies, he did not lose faith in Him and remained undaunted with singular devotion and devoid of food, he worshipped Mahakaleswara with rare concentration and firm determination to seek the Lord’s grace. The great Shiva was pleased but in order to protect Chandrasena, he thought of a plan.
At the same time, a shepherd woman who was moving about in Ujjain with her very young son happened to reach the precincts of Mahakaleswara temple. She had lost her husband. Her son was just five years old. With her son in her arms, she watched the puja of Mahakaleswara being performed by the king. Carried away by the awe-inspiring Shiva puja, she offered prostration and went home. Her son who had seen these proceedings decided to perform puja to Shiva in the same way.
The boy brought a beautiful stone and installed it in a vacant hut nearby and imagining it to be a Shivalinga worshipped it with sandal paste, decorative flowers, incense, lamp and the traditional offerings. He indulged in various dances and frequently offered prostration to the presiding deity.
It was at this time that the boy’s mother called him for lunch. He was however engrossed in worship of Shiva. Several calls by the mother proved futile and she went to her son to wean him away from puja to lunch. She saw him sitting before the linga with eyes closed and in deep meditation. Unable to disturb him, she spanked and dragged him literally and in a fit of anger threw the linga out and spoiled the puja. The boy started crying but she took him home. Unable to bear his sorrow about the abortive end given by his mother to Shiva puja, he collapsed into a state of unconsciousness for several minutes. But unbelievably, that very moment, the whole area transformed itself into a beautiful temple of Mahakaleswara and the boy saw the divine change by virtue of Shiva’s grace. The temple had golden doors in the front, artistically made kalashas, platforms studded with precious stones such as sapphires and diamonds and pillars pressed with gems and the floor appearing clean with crystalline surface besides the very linga worshipped by him glowing in the centre! The spectacle had overwhelmed him into an ocean of bliss.
He resumed his prayers and prostrations to Shiva and stayed there till the evening before returning home. His hut was looking strange in golden hue like the abode of Indra. As he entered the house, he saw his mother sleeping with jewels on her person and looking like a celestial damsel.
Awakened by him, the mother embraced the son. What she saw around was a wonder of delight. She listened to the son’s version of how Shiva showered his blessings and shared her great joy with the king who was constantly performing Shiva puja.
After the nocturnal pujas, the king paid a visit to the house of the shepherdess and her son. He and his followers saw the greatness of the divine miracle that had descended on the poor family and drew enormous courage from the incident. He embraced the boy, shedding tears of joy and chanting the name of Shiva with devotion.
There was widespread jubilation around and all those who had assembled indulged in namasankirtan of the Lord. The long night notable for its wonderful happenings, the miracles wrought by Shiva’s grace and the enthusiastic flow of the ecstatic citizens passed just like the momentary flight of a minute.
What was more amazing, however, was the plight of the kings who had besieged Ujjain. They thought among themselves amidst grave apprehensions about prospects of waging their futile war at dawn:
“This king, Chandrasena, is a devotee of Shiva. It is not possible to conquer him. He is the monarch of Ujjain, the abode of Mahakaleswara. Even the children here are great bhaktas of Shiva. Chandrasena excels them in Shiva bhakti. Any row or encounter we have with him will provoke Shiva’s wrath. And the rage of angels, let alone of Shiva, will mean our total destruction. The best step therefore will be to befriend him. Mahakaleswara will certainly be kind to us”.
Mahakaleswara is indeed the embodiment of Taapasa Manyu Rudra Devata, a form of Shiva glorified in Rig Veda Manyu Sookta and noted for destroying all forces inimical to his devotees and worshippers. The kings had therefore come to a positive conclusion. No wonder, Chandrasena’s prayers and Mahakaleswara’s grace had brought a sensational change in their vital steps. Their belligerent attitude had been conquered!
The kings got over their animosity towards Chandrasena, threw their arms, entered Ujjain with great delight and worshipped Mahakaleswara after seeking the king’s permission. Then they all paid a visit to the place where the shepherdess lived. They were unanimous in their praise for her and the fortune that smiled at her. Chandrasena met all the kings who had assembled there and extended a warm welcome to them personally. He gave seats to them befitting their status and dignity. With overwhelming delight and dismay, they showered praises on Chandrasena.
The king displayed intense devotion to Shiva as the shepherd boy was blessed by the self-manifest temple of Shiva and the Shiva linga. They took pleasure in giving many gifts to the boy who earned Shiva’s grace. They also made him the king of all shepherds in their kingdoms.
At this delightful moment, Hanuman, the thejasic leader of Vaanaraas and worshipped by all the Devatas made his appearance. All the kings stood up in respect and offered prostrations and worship to him. Hanuman received their seva and embraced the shepherd boy. Addressing the king’s, he said, “Kings listen! The jeevas have no alternative to worship of Shiva. This shepherd boy bereft of the mantra medium got fulfilment just by witnessing Shiva puja done by others. He is great among worshippers of Shiva and reputed among shepherds. He will enjoy all worldly pleasures and at the end he will attain salvation. In his family, a famous one called Nandagopa will be born. Lord Narayana will reincarnate himself as his son, with the name of Krishna. From this day, the boy will earn name and fame in Bhu-loka sporting the name of Shreekara”.
As an avatar of Shiva, Hanuman cast his kind eyes on all kings in general and Chandrasena in particular. Then he initiated Shreekara, the wise shepherd boy into the Shiva dharma, dear to Shiva, before vanishing from the midst of Chandrasena and all kings.
All the kings honoured by Chandrasena took his leave and returned to their respective capitals. Shreekara performed Shiva puja along with the pious Brahmins who had received Hanuman’s initiation. Both Chandrasena and the shepherd boy went to have darshan of Mahakaleswara. After due worship of the Lord over a period, the two attained salvation by his grace.
The Mahakaleswara Shiva linga which promotes happiness of all is a boon to the pious and the righteous. Reason: Shiva loves his devotees.
Idam pavitram paramam rahasyam sarva-soukhyadam,
Aakhyaanam kathitam swargyam Shiva-bhakti-vivardhanam.
Knowledge of the secret story of the sacred linga brings heavenly pleasures and promotes Shiva bhakti in all.