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Tag Archives: yama

Kala Samahara – Shiva, Destroyer of Death

Posted on June 16, 2015 by śrīcaraṇāravindaṁ
Shiva emerging from the Linga
Shiva emerging from the Linga

The vast corpus of Vedic literature refers to various sportive forms, or leela murtis, of Lord Shiva. One of the most important of these forms is that of Shiva as the destroyer of death. Kalasamhara Murti or Kalantaka Murti is the form of Shiva in the act of vanquishing the god of death and righteousness, Yama-Dharma Raja.

The Puranas tell the story of Saint Mrikandu and his virtuous wife Niyati who yearned for a child. They performed austere penances to Lord Shiva to bless them with issue. Pleased with their devotion, Shiva appeared to the couple and asked them whether they wanted a wicked son who would live till old age, or a pious son who would live until 16 years of age. They requested the latter, and thus Markandeya was born.

On the eve of his 16th birthday, Markandeya embarked on a vigil to Lord Shiva. Yama – endeavoring to take Markandeya’s life away – entered the altar, as he was deep in meditation to Lord Shiva. Yama took his noose and threw it around Markandeya’s neck. Aghast, Markandeya grabbed the Shiva Lingam and began singing to his protector.

“Oh Shiva, adorning the moon as your crown, protect me! Save me!”

With the noose tight around his neck, Markandeya hugged the Shiva Lingam. Consequently Yama’s noose touched the Lingam, and enraged Parvathi. Immediately the Lingam split and Shiva emerged. Parvathi, who resides in the left side of Shiva, kicked Yama to the ground to protect her devotee. Shiva lifted his trident and pierced Yama’s chest, leaving the God of death for dead.

Afterwards, Shiva picked Markandeya up and placed him in his lap. He asked Markandeya to request a boon. Markandeya, from the kindness of his heart asked Shiva to resuscitate Yama.

Sculpture of Kala Samhara Shiva from Tanjore Temple, resembling the bronze icon at Thirukkadaiyur
Sculpture of Kala Samhara Shiva from Tanjore Temple, resembling the bronze icon at Thirukkadaiyur

After being revived, Yama – the king of righteousness – innocently asked what he had done wrong to warrant such a gruesome death. Shiva responded that Yama’s only fault was misunderstanding Shiva’s boon to Saint Mrikandu. Markandeya was to live only till age 16, and thereafter remain immortal and ever youthful as a 16 year old.

This event is said to have occurred in Thirukkadaiyur, Tamil Nadu, where the entire story is captured magnificently in bronze. The statue of Kalasamhara Murti in Thirukkadaiyur is the reference for South Indian bronze artists who wish to capture this beautiful form of Shiva.

Since the depiction of death is deemed inauspicious within the Vedic temple, in Thirukkadaiyur the body of Yama is covered with a silk cloth and removed only occasionally. Thus most idols meant for home worship do not actually depict Yama’s death, but rather the moments leading up to it. As is the case with any powerful form of Shiva, a statue of Parvathi is often kept to the left of it to bring peace to his power.


Mahamrityunjaya Mantra – Great Death Conquering Mantra

Posted on June 19, 2013 by Kyle Tortora
Kalasamharamurti Shiva Killing Yama
Click to view this bronze statue of Kalasamharamurti; Shiva Killing Yama

The Mahamrityunjaya Mantra, can be found in the verses of Rig Veda and also recurs in Yajur Veda. Since, the Mantra is addressed to Tryambaka (the three-eyed one), it is also known as Tryambakam Mantra. The Mantra is also known as Rudra mantra (Rudra is the fiercest form of Lord Shiva) and Mrita-Sanjivini mantra.
The Mantra was revealed by Sage Markendaya and is considered as the secret mantra that has saved the sage from Yama the Hindu God of Death. There is a legend which depicts that with the power of this Mahamritunjaya Mantra, Markendaya was protected by Lord Shiva from death. Mrikandu rishi and his wife Marudmati, the parents of sage Makendeya, were great devotees of Lord Shiva and they prayed for a son to the Lord. Lord was pleased in their worship and gave the childless parents two options to choose from. They can either have an intelligent son with short life, or a son with less intelligence but with a long life.

Marble statue of Shiva killing Yama
Click to view this stunning marble statue of Shiva killing Yama

The parents opted for the first choice and their wish was granted by Lord Shiva. They were blessed with a smart baby boy, Markendeya, who was fated to die at the age of 12. Markendeya grew up with great devotion to Lord Shiva and worshiped Shiva Lingam. When he reached the age of 12, the messengers of Yama came to take the young sage, but he chanted the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra with intense devotion, which made it impossible for the messengers to take his life. This made Yama furious, he came in person and sprung his noose around the sage but, accidentally the noose fell around the Shiva Lingam. This act of Yama made Lord Shiva furious and finally Yama was defeated by Shiva. Thus, Markendeya was saved from death and this mantra came to be known as Markendeya Mantra.

Mahamrityunjaya Mantra is a blend of three Hindi language words i.e. “Maha” which means Great, “Mrityun” means Death and “Jaya” means Victory. Here, is the Mantra and its meaning:

Om tryambakam yajamahe sugandhim pusti vardhanam Urvarukamiva bandhanan mrtyor mukshiya mamritat

Translation: Om. We worship and adore you, O three-eyed one, O Shiva. You are sweet gladness, the fragrance of life, which nourishes us, restores our health, and causes us to thrive. Just as the ripe cucumber is automatically released from the creeper, may we be liberated from death, and do not withhold immortality.

Bali style Shiva Lingam
Click to view this unique Bali style Shiva Lingam

Direct Translation:
OM –Symbol of underlying reality
tri-ambaka-m — “the three-eyed-one”
yaja-mahe — “we praise”
sugandhi-m — “the fragrant”
pusti-vardhana-m — “the prosperity-increaser”
urvaruka-m — “disease, attachment, obstacles in life, and resulting depression”
iva “–like”
bandhanat — “from attachment Stem (of the gourd); but more generally, unhealthy attachment”
mrtyor — “from death”
mukshiya — “may you liberate”
ma — “not”
amritat — realization of immortality

Significance of the Mantra: It is believed that chanting the Mahamrtiyunjaya Mantra will lead towards spiritual liberation. The Mantra is so powerful that it can relieve people who are suffering from some severe disease or having the fear of sudden death. It gives high concentration power and guarantees mental peace.
How to use Mahamrityunjaya Mantra?
You can use this mantra in two ways – Chanting this mantra 108 times, daily will bring happiness and prosperity to your life. 108 times is important as it is the product of 12 (Zodiac Signs) and 9 (Navagrahas).
You can seek the help of a priest who will chant the mantra one hundred thousand times to relieve the person, who has arranged for the pooja, from the fear of unnatural death or serious disease.

Yama the Hindu God of Death

Posted on November 14, 2012 by Kyle Tortora
Yama, Hindu God of Death with Buffalo
Yama the Hindu God of Death with his vehicle, the Buffalo. Click to view statues of all the Hindu Gods.

Yama is the much-feared Hindu god of death who lives in his gloomy palace Kalichi situated somewhere in the nether regions or the Hindu Patala. He is the regent of the Southern quarter of the compass. Yama has a number of attendants to assist him in his many tasks.  In his palace he keeps a register called the “Book of Destiny” in which each person’s span of life is recorded.  This is maintained by one of the god’s attendants and the servant is predictably as gloomy of countenance as his master.  When a person’s span of life is over Yama sends some of his more robust attendants up to earth to haul the person down to his palace.  Yama is depicted as a man with dark green skin, wearing blood-red robes and with coppery eyes staring out of his grisly face.  He rides his buffalo when he is traveling and he takes his mace and noose everywhere just in case there is an emergency and someone has to be cut off in the midst of his or her life.

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