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The Shiva Purana
by J.L.Shastri Ed.
Motilal Banarasi Das, 1930
Sri Siva Purana
by Manohara Deekshitaru
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About the Shiv Puran
A purana is a story about the deeds and life of a deity. They are part of the mythic literature of Hinduism, together with the epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Traditionally, there are 18 Puranas, and a few lesser Puranas or Upapuranas. The 18 major Puranas include the Skanda Purana, Padma Purana, Naradiya Purana, Shiv Puran, Varaha Purana, Vishnu Purana, Garuda Purana, Bhavishya Purana, Brahmavaivarta Purana, Kurma Purana, Agni Purana, Matsya Purana, Bhagavata Purana, Brahmanda Purana, Vamana Purana, Brahma Purana, Linga Purana, and Markandeya Purana.
The Shiva Purana as it exists now consists of around 24,000 slokas or verses, and is said to have been composed by sage Vyasa himself. According to the lore, the Shiva Purana originally consisted of 12 Samhitas or chapters, and 100,000 verses. However, only seven remain now, namely the Vidyesvara, Rudra, Satarudra, Kotirudra, Uma, Kailasa and Vayaviya Samhitas. Of these the Rudra Samhita is the largest and consists of five parts dealing with creation of the existence, the story of Sati and Shiva, the story of Parvati and Shiva, the birth and battles of Kumara or Skanda, and the battles of Shiva.
The seventh samhita is the Vayaviya. It has been suggested that this samhita included what has now become the Agni Purana, which was split of at some time in the past to form a separate purana.
The Shiva Purana has all the characteristics of a Mahapurana. According to the ancients, a Mahapurana contained five main characteristics that concerned either early religion or traditional history. Of these the origin of the universe (Sarga) is an important feature of every religion. As a Mahapurana and a sacred work of the Shiva cult, The Shiva Purana possesses this important trait. It discusses the origin of the universe which it traces to Shiva, the eternal god who though devoid of attributes, still has an inherent Energy which manifests itself in the form of three principles - Sattva, Rajas and Tamas personified as the three deities Vishnu, Brahma and Rudra. The three have their respective energies called Lakshmi, Saraswati and Kali, in collaboration with whom they create, maintain and dissolve the universe. According to this account, the work of creation is entrusted to Brahma who creates the cosmic egg consisting of 24 principles. The cosmic egg is insentient at first but when Vishnu pervades it, it goes in motion. Then different kinds of creation are evolved out of it.
The above analysis clearly demonstrates that the Shiva purana possesses the conventional characteristics of a Mahapurana in common with its other colleagues. These entitle it to the status of a great purana. But its real greatness lies in expounding the philosophical background of Shiva ritual. The Purana conceives Shiva as the eternal principle, the supreme god, the cosmic soul, the support of all existence. But the ignorant aspirant bound in the meshes of illusion goes in quest for knowledge and imagines that his lord has a personal form possessed of attributes distinct from his self, who in moments of distress responds to his prayers and bestows grace. The devotee, then aspires for spiritual enlightenment and takes to ritual for self-purification. Shiva Purana enjoins several rites of worship and acts of homage, comprising a series of physical and spiritual practices in accompaniment with the Tantra, Yantra and Mantra appliances. He starts with the threefold devotion - hearing, glorifying and deliberating the attributes of God - a process that requires, according to the Shiva Purana, the same steady attention as in the sexual intercourse. In this connection the Rudrasamhita mentions eight means for attaining mental concentration and spiritual enlightenment. Further the aspirant is asked to control the six chakras located in the spinal canal called sushumna that lies between the Ida and Pingala nadis. That is possible only by taking recourse to the means of knowledge, by the purification of six pathways, the performance of traditional rites and yogic practices. The aspirant has to pass through this series of activities before he reaches another state of experience wherein he finds a perfect accord between his own self and his personal deity, yet there is an awareness of separateness from his deity till he reaches the last state of experience wherein all distinctions are obliterated and his self unites with his godhead.
Lord Shiva is one of the major gods of Hinduism. He is often regarded as the First Yogi and Guru, and sometimes as the Destroyer in the Trinity (Trimurti) with Brahma the Creator and Vishnu the Preserver. Many scholars believe that there may be multiple streams of tradition in the worship of Shiva, including the Vedic god Rudra and perhaps one or more other gods of Indus Valley Civilization, Dravidian, or tribal origin. The striking figure on several seals from the Indus Valley Civilization that is seated cross-legged, surrounded by wild animals, is often regarded as a representation of a deity with Shiva-like qualities.