Friday, December 23, 2022

Shiva: The Mahabharata’s God of Vengeance

Shiva statue (1300 CE)

Shiva makes several appearances in the Mahabharata in the form of the fiery God who grants vengeance. The characters who are burning with the desire to annihilate their enemies invoke Shiva for strength, weapons, and warriors. The Mahabharata is a Vashnavaite text, devoted to extolling the deeds and philosophy of Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu. Shiva stands on Krishna’s side—the characters he empowers are Krishna’s acolytes. 

The first character who prays to Shiva for vengeance is Amba, the daughter of the King of Kashi. She wants to kill Bhishma. She goes to the mountains and performs austerities. Shiva appears before her and grants her the boon that she would be the cause of Bhishma’s death in her next life. To expedite Bhishma’s death, Amba commits suicide by jumping into fire. She is reborn as Shikhandi in the household of King Draupada. At the time of the Mahabharata war, Shikhandi was instrumental in the slaying of Bhishma.

The second character who prays to Shiva for vengeance is Draupada. Half of Draupada’s empire had been usurped by Drona and other Kauravas. He asked Shiva for children who would slay the Kauravas. Shikhandi was born in his family. After that two more children were born through him: Dhrishtadyumna, a powerful warrior who would behead Drona in the Mahabharata war, and Draupadi, a beautiful maiden who married the five Pandava brothers and played a pivotal role in the ensuring the destruction of the Kauravas.

The third character who prays to Shiva for vengeance is Arjuna. After Yudhishthira's defeat in the gambling match, the Pandavas were exiled in the forest. While they were living in the forest, Arjuna was instructed by the Lord of Heaven, Indra, to seek arms from Shiva. Arjuna left his brothers and Draupadi, and went to a remote part of the forest to perform his austerities. Pleased with Arjuna’s prayers, Shiva granted him the Pashupatastra weapon.

1 comment:

Ajit R. Jadhav said...

bhu! bhu! bhu!