-Prof. Bal Ram Singh
Amongst the Hindu trinities – Vishnu, Brahma, and Mahesh, celebrations of Shiva related festivals are the most common, all over India, north, south, east, and west. Shiva’s forms (11 rudras) and family (Sati, Parvati, Durga with 9 forms, Ganesha, Kartikeya, Ashok Sundari, Jyoti, Mansa), even without counting Shiva-gaṇas, make him by far the most visible deity on earth.
Mahashivaratri is a festival of the spring season throughout India, and is celebrated with great fanfare from Kanyakurmari to Kashmir, and from Kalikat to Kacchh! In addition to Mahashivaratri, Aani Uthiram, Uma Maheshwar Vrata, Karthik Purṇima, Bhairava Ashṭami, and Arudra Darshanam, are other major festivals in India which honor Bhagvan Shiva. Bhagvan Shiv also takes charge of the world after Devasayani Ekādashi when Lord Vishnu goes into Yoganidrā.
The Shiva form of Rudra is more worldly, unlike the Vishnu of the Causal world, or the Brahma of the Subtle or Astral world. Shiva is married to Parvati, the daughter of Parvatraj, and has three children, Ganesha, Kartikeya, and Ashok Sundari, with all the family drama that humans also go through. Therefore, Shiva is an appropriate role model for men today, for which detailed analysis is needed for suitable and useful lessons.
For a modern context of Shiva and the family drama for the modern world, I remember an episode of Jai Ganesh TV serial that was broadcast in 1999. In this episode, Kartikeya had returned from south India for a visit to Mt. Kailash, and the young Ganesha was excited to see his sibling for the first time. He could only think of playing with Kartikeya, like hide and seek game. In the game, Kartikeya was asked to hide first, but Ganesha located him easily, for one thing, Kartikeya was too big to hide, and the other, not living in Mt. Kailash for a long time he hardly knew any secret places to hide. So, he got spotted easily. When it came for Ganesha to hide, Kartikeya couldn’t find him, despite his enormous efforts, and decided to return home to be with his father, Bhagvan Shiva.
Once with Shiva, Kartikeya got totally engrossed in the discussion about the worldly responsibilities he had taken to protect good from the evil. Ganesha ultimately realized that Kartikeya was not there looking to spot him in his hiding, and reluctantly decided to come out, and eventually headed back for home. Entering home he sees his father, Shiva, totally engrossed in his discussion with Kartikeya, so much so that he did not even pay attention to Ganesha’s entry. Ganesha was then doubly disappointed. Ganesha could not restrain himself from blurting out – ‘Father, it seems brother Kartikeya is most dear to you!’
An ordinary father will perhaps resort to something like, no, son, that is not true; he has just come for a few days to visit, so we are spending time together to catch up; or, son Ganesha, you are equally dear to me, come over and sit with me. Bhagvan Shiva said nothing of that sort, and began to state the following, in a matter of factly way.
“Son, for a father, that son is dear who follows father’s ideals!” This one statement is so impressively meaningful, that I give five stars to the dialogue writer. This reflects the foundation of India’s traditions or Paramparā, in which parents’ conduct is not based on personal attachments, or social obligations to even relatives or even progenies. Social niceties are good to use, but ultimately to state only dhārmic principles that need to be ultimately practiced.
Home is the most important place to begin learning, and the parents are the most crucial teachers in the formative years of the children. And, that is critical in early childhood to shape the values and infuse sanskāras in a child. While, a mother is naturally in a position to play a critical role in child’s education and upbringing giving sanskāras in line with the nature of child, a father plays much better role than any ācharya or teacher.
In fact, in India there is a saying or subhāshita for a long time, which is as follows:
उपाध्यात् दश आचार्य:
आचार्याणां शतं पिता ।
सहस्रं तु पितॄन् माता
गौरवेण अतिरिच्यते ।।
Which means that an ācharya (a mentor who teaches with full knowledge to his/her own conduct) is 10 times more important than a teacher who teaches through reading of books, and a father (just a father with no degree or diploma, whose conduct a child gets to observe closely) is 100 times more important than an ācharya, and a mother (whose concerns, care, and conduct is all visible and innately felt by a child) is 1,000 fold more valuable than a father. In other words, a mother is a million times more valuable for a child’s education than a teacher of history, philosophy, or mathematics. Combining the importance of the mother and father, that is parents, it could be theoretically 1 billion times more valuable than a school teacher in the education of a child.
While the mother’s importance is well placed, a father also provides the critical transition in the education of a child from home to the world. Traditionally, mother provides lessons and training according to the natural inclination of the child, father orients, guides, and polishes out the ignorance of a child regarding the world he/she is ready to embark upon through ācharyas.
Thus, an important role that parents are supposed to play must be to a standard of someone like Father Shiva, not that of a political ruling master. Parents need to familiarize themselves about the changing world, prejudices, including those with religious connotations, and about current and modern circumstances of richness in information and communication to forge alliances for the future of the children and thereby the society.
Guru Shiva can be a model for fathers of the world, who discharges his educational duties beautifully and most attentively, and we have a major lesson to learn from it. As a father, he does not mollycoddle his children, nor should any one of us. The story of Shiva replacing the ignorant head of teenager Ganesha with that of a wise elephant is a symbolic act a father is supposed discharge before the child goes out in the world or to an Ācharya for further knowledge.
Om Namah Guru Shivay!
(To be continued…..)
Editorial note – As a complementary to the Indian tradition of Nava-Durga as the ideal role model of girls and women, it is high time that boys also get to be reminded of their potential and possibilities with role models similar to Nava-Durgā. Recently, the Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA, in collaboration with Kuruom Jankalyan Sansthan in village Kuruom near Ayodhya decided to make a debut program of Ramkathā as the platform to discuss, during April 22 – May 2, 2021, the features and traits of eleven Rudras as Rudra-Manthan for guiding boys in the world to grow and realize their full potential. Rudra-Manthan series of articles will explore that possibility to promote a better understanding of the needs and to provide educational support to boys and men.
– Prof. Bal Ram Singh, School of Indic Studies, Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, MA, USA