Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Stealing from the king of thieves!

Sri gurubhyo namaha.

In my last post I had mentioned a legend (or two) associated with Kubera's ascent into the mighty ones of the Hindu pantheon. There is yet another legend associated with this that I did not mention in my last post (for fear of losing your attention!) - but now, its a new post and I am sure you will have been invigorated in the meantime.

One of the accounts for Kubera's ascent you now know (his penance for 1000 years and the subsequent boon), the other is as follows -

Before becoming a deity and the lord of wealth, Kubera was the king of Yakshas. His appearance was deformed and dwarf like and like most of the yaksha clan he was associated to a lot of evil and darkness (of the elemental world). This was the view prevalent during the early vedic period. Once, Kubera the chief of such cunning and deviant beings, decided to go on a thieving spree. He stole from many a kingdom and many feared him and his cohort of yakshas as one would a group of dacoits. On one of his such missions, Kubera decided to go and plunder the riches of a temple. And it was a temple of Shiva!

Now, not many of you would know the import (or the irony) of this - but Shiva is known as the ''King of robbers/thieves''! One of his many names describes him as the king of robbers. This even gets a mention in a few very important Shiva scriptures and hymns, most notably the Rudram (also known as the Rudraprassna), where Shiva is praised as ''TaskarAnAm pataye'' - literally, the King or lord of thieves. Why Shiva the lord of all is called the king of thieves, I will explain later, suffice it for now that Shiva is the king of thieves. And our man, Kubera went to steal from Him!!

As he went into the temple premises after scaling the outer walls, the lighted torch (like a taper, not the battery operated ones of today) he had carried with him was extinguished. In the darkness inside the temple, Kubera did not give up or lose heart. He simply tried to relight the torch. But, no matter how hard he tried to the torch simply did'nt seem to light at all. Now anyone else would have taken this as a sign or omen of some sort (it being a Shiva temple and all that), but not Kubera. He persisted in his attempts to relight the torch and get on with his mission, evil and adharmic though it might be. In his tenth attempt, he succeeded in relighting the torch!

You might be forgiven for wondering how it was possible for him to relight the torch, for you dont really know Shiva. Those who know Shiva know his penchant for the devious, twisted, strange and downright illogical! Why, Shiva is pleased with the most twisted of efforts and instantly grants boons to the seeker. I cant count the number of times when asuras (demons) and completely undeserving (in our eyes) people( not to mention the spider and the elephant) have succeeded in obtaining his grace through the most illogical efforts. Anyway, Shiva was very pleased to note that Kubera the yaksha did not give up in his attempt to steal from the ''king of thieves'', but kept on with his persistant attempts till finally, he succeded. This continuous effort in the face of obvious difficulty and this total break from the 'norm' ( a rebellious attitude) won the grace of Shiva and He was very pleased by Kubera. As a result, He gave Kubera the boon of being the lord of wealth (which is what he went to rob the temple for) and elevated him into the vast array of the many deities of the hindu pantheon!! Makes quite a change to the other story involving an arduous penance spanning 1000 years, dont you think?!

Now that we are done with the legend regarding Kubera, I would like to tell you why Shiva has been called the ''King of thieves''. Actually, I dont know if this is the only reason for the name, but it quieted my mind that has been intent on finding out why Shiva the lord of this universe has to 'steal' anything. In many hymns and stotras for Shiva He is reffered to as the King of thieves or the lord of robbers etc (like the above mentioned name in the Rudram) and I have wondered what is there in this world that is not first of all a gift of this same Shiva? Everything in the manifest and unmanifest universe is His and His alone. Though He himself stands alone in the burning ghats as His abode, and has only the trishul (trident) and a damaru (drum) in His hands, the various Gods and beings obtain great riches from the mere mention of His name (see Shivamahimna stotram for a most beautiful verse describing the glory and riches Shiva bestows on the three worlds, while He himself has nothing). What then could He possibly steal, that is not His in the first place?

The Mahaperiyaval (Sri Sri Chandrashekarendra Saraswati Shankaracharya of the Kanchi mutt), one of the most amazing and enlightened beings ever to grace this world, shared his view about this epithet of Shiva. That has been the best reply to my own questions about it to date and here I will recount it to you in my own words. He says that of all the objects and possessions in this world, the most valuable is the heart. Not gold, gems or anything else like that, they will all perish or lose their value over time - the heart though is not the same. It remains forever the most prized possession. And the beautiful Shiva steals the hearts of His devotees with only a side wise glance! And, He steals them forever! You probably dont even know where your heart is (not the physical one that pumps blood), it is hidden so deeply and it is saturated with love and He steals it as easily as Krishna stole butter from the houses of the gopis in Vrindavan! No matter how high or how low or how deep it was hidden, it doesnt matter even if the owner of the heart himself knew not its existence - He could still steal it in an instant. It is for this reason that Shiva the Lord of all is called the '' King of thieves''.

A few verses from the third anuvaka (part or section) of the Rudram along with the english meaning I include below.

Kukubhaya nishangine sthenaanam pathaye namo nama. 3.1.2.
Salutations and salutations,
To him who is the best,
To him who holds the sword,
And to him who is the leader of the thieves.

Nishngina ishudhimathe thaskaraanam pathaye namo nama. 3.1.3.
Salutations and salutations,
To him who holds bows ready to shoot,
To him who has the quiver,
And to him who is the leader of the dacoits.

Vanchathe pari vanchathe sthayoonam pathaye namo nama 3.1.4.
Salutations and salutations,
To him who cheats,
To him who is the greatest cheat,
And to him who is leader of those who steal by cheating.

Nicherave paricharaayaaranyanam pathaye namo nama 3.1.5.
Salutations and salutations,
To him who goes inside to steal,
To him who goes outside to steal,
And to him who is the leader of thieves who steal in the forest.

You might ask that if He is the lord of all, He must own the heart too already, so why should He steal it? But perhaps you need to look a bit deeper into a thing called Free Will and find out for yourself if anyone but you owns your heart.

Whatever I know or dont know, one thing I know for sure is that the ''King of thieves'' certainly has stolen my heart! Many many moons ago too it was.



Ananda said...

Fan tas tic!
Hail the "King of kings and the ruler of hearts" - Namashivayah

mooligai sidhan said...

@ Ananda
boom. Indeed, hail the king of kings and the 'stealer' of hearts!:)

raja said...

Awesome. Loved this page. As a regular chanter of Shri Rudram, I have always been stuck by these verses. But your page explained things great and that too with the credibility of the great Chandrashekara Saraswathi Swamigal.

And yes the beautiful rudra had long ago stole my heart. Shivoham Shivoham

mooligai sidhan said...

@ raja
thank you very much! Is there anyone whose heart is not stolen by Shiva??
look forward to your visits here again.