Lord Shiva is 'shakti' or power, Shiva is the destroyer, the most powerful God of the Hindu pantheon and one of the godheads in the Hindu trinity. Known by many names : Mahadeva, Mahayogi, Pashupati, Nataraja, Bhairava, Vishwanath, Bhava, Bhole Nath – Lord Shiva is perhaps the most complex of Hindu deities. Shiva has many forms, which are visible in his Panchavaktra form with five heads, a combination of all Shiva energies : Aghora (resides in the creamation grounds), Ishana (most often appears as the Shivalingam), Tat Purusha (meditating), Varna Deva (the eternal Shiva) and Saddyojat or Braddha Rudra (the old wrathful form). The last also forms the connection to the Rudraksha mala – a rosary made of the dried fruits of the Rudraksha tree.
Nandi, the Bull, is Lord Maheswara's (Shiva) gatekeeper and mount. Nandi is a Shiva bhakta (devotee) and the most important of Shiva's ganas. Like Garuda for Vishnu, Nandi too plays a major role in Shiva's life. One can see a statue of the bull, facing the Lord's idol, in most Shiva shrines. There are several temples built solely to worship Nandi as well.
Unlike Garuda, who is a lesser God, Nandi is considered a separate, powerful God, whose history can be traced right from the Indus Valley Civilisation. Dairy farming was the most important occupation then and so, the Nandi was given much respect at that time. There was also a deity, much like Shiva, who was then worshipped as the Pasupathi (the caretaker of herds).
|Just like other gods Lord Shiva has also got its own vehicle in the form of Bull (Nandi). A bull is an intact (i.e., not castrated) adult male of the species Bos taurus (cattle). More muscular and aggressive than the female of the species, the cow, the bull has long been an important symbol in many cultures, and plays a significant role in both beef and dairy farming, and in a variety of other cultural activities.It’s a herbivores animal . A common misconception widely repeated in depictions of bull behaviour is that the colour red angers bulls, inciting them to charge. In fact, like most mammals, cattle are red-green colour blind.
In bull fighting, it is the movement of the matador's cape, and not the colour, which provokes a reaction in the bull. Adult bulls may weigh between 500 and 1,000 kilograms (1,100 and 2,200 lb). Most are capable of aggressive behaviour and require careful handling to ensure safety of humans and other animals. Those of dairy breeds may be more prone to aggression, while beef breeds are somewhat less aggressive. Bulls have held a place of significance in human culture since before the beginning of recorded history.
They appear in cave paintings estimated to be up to 17,000 years old. The importance of the bull is reflected in its appearance in the zodiac as Taurus.
In some Puranas, the Nandikeswara features as one with a bull's face and human body which is similar to Shiva Himself. He is shown with four hands, two holding the Parasu (axe) and the Mruga (antelope) and the other two folded in prayer. In Sanskrit, the word for 'bull' is 'vrisha', which also means Dharma or righteousness. This is why it is considered appropriate to seek the blessings of Nandi even before bowing down to Shiva. In Egyptian mythology, Apis or Hapis, a bull-diety is worshipped as a major deity in the Memphis area. Greeks believe that Apis is an incarnation of Osiris. Romans also give Apis a divine status in their culture.
There are no accurate records of Nandi's birth. According to some Puranas, he was born from Vishnu's right side, exactly resembled Shiva and was brought up by sage Salankayana. Yet other Puranas say that he was born by the grace of Shiva to sage Silada. Nandi cursed the ten-headed asura king, Ravana, that he and his kingdom would be destroyed by a Vanara (monkey).
|Shiva and Parvati once played a game of dice, in which Nandi agreed to become the umpire. Though Shiva lost the game, Nandi declared Him the winner, as he was His favorite. Thereupon, Parvati lost her temper and cursed Nandi that he would die of a terrible and incurable disease. When Nandi begged for forgiveness and told Her he had lied only to protect his Master, Parvati relented and offered him a way of atonement and release from her curse. She asked him to offer his favourite foodstuff (grass) to Her son, Lord Ganesha, on the latter's birthday. Nandi did as he was told and was immediately released from the curse. This is also why people offer Arugampul (a type of medicinal grass) to Ganesha during prayer.
During the Samudra Manthan (churning of the Ocean of Milk) episode, Shiva swallowed Halahala, the deadly poison that arose from the sea. When Nandi saw a few drops of the poison falling to the ground, he immediately licked if off the ground. All observing were shocked and fearful of Nandi's state after consuming the poison, but Shiva smilingly assured them that the bull would not come to any harm, as he had completely surrendered his will to his lord and master, Shiva.
Nandi's white colour is symbolic of his purity and sense of justice. Even today, women worship Nandi as a bestower of fertility. — Aniket Raja