The Price of Self-Conceit, Thiruppariyalur
As we have seen and will be seeing, the Ashta Veeratta Sthalas glorify Shiva for his various valorous deeds of killing demons and protecting the general good of the world. But a deeper analysis into the significance of these deeds paints a very different picture than that of the gory demons and mighty asuras. It tells a story of how the good inside each and every one of us fights the bad and the ugly. The various samharams of Shiva, in fact, subtly represent the victory of knowledge and purity over ignorance, negative thoughts, ego, bondage, lust etc.
Of all the evil that is portrayed as being overcome by the Lord, the devil of Ego is highlighted time and again in various Sthalas. Even if a man overcomes ignorance, wealth, bad thoughts, lust and every other possible evil intention, unless he gives up his sense of ‘Aham’, he does not understand the great plans of the divine. And to those, who consider themselves to be far greater than the creator himself, nothing but destruction awaits.
The tale of Daksha is a very apt example for the doom that awaits the egomaniacs. The story of Daksha’s vain sacrifice has been dealt with before in much detail (Refer Daksha Yaaga ). Daksha was the grandson of Brahma and one of the great Prajapathis. He was a pious man and regularly performed Yaagas and Homas, invoking the devas for the welfare of the world. Daksha was blessed with a radiant girl-child, whom he named Sati. Sati, turned out to be one of the best Shiva Bhakthas ever. Even when the other girls used to play outside, she used to make a linga out of the sand and worship it. When she reached a suitable age for marriage, her great grandfather Brahma visited her and told the household that she is destined for the great lord of Kailasha alone. Following Brahma’s instruction Sati meditated on Shiva, seeking his hand and very soon won the heart of the staunch ascetic. Their marriage was celebrated amongst much pomp and show, and soon afterwards Sati left for her new icy abode.
However, the son-in-law and the father-in-law frequently met each other at various gatherings and occasions. Over the period of time, Daksha had developed a peculiar pride, an ego that he was the master of the universe and the father-in-law of Parameshwara himself. The ego did no good. He demanded respect at every place and strutted about the world. It was at one such gathering, where Daksha himself was the guest of honour, where the things went out of hands. When Daksha entered the arena, shining like a thousand suns, bright with glory, the entire assembly stood upto welcome him with their palms and bowed down. Every soul except Shiva. Daksha was furious that his son-in-law had insulted him. He did not realise the fact that if the Lord of the Universe bowed to him, it would bring only calamity on himself. In the heat of his anger he insulted Shiva, the pure, with various offensive terms and labeled him as a lower caste god. But Neelakantha maintained his calmness. Further maddened by this indifference, Daksha stormed out of the arena.
The whole world is familiar with the subsequent happenings. Daksha planned to hold the largest and the grandest sacrifice ever. He deliberately failed to invite his daughter and Shiva to the sacrifice and also refused to give Shiva his customary share in the sacrificial offerings. Sati, on hearing this, paid no heed to Shiva’s warnings and came to the sacrifice to demand justice for herself and her husband. When Daksha not only abused Shiva, but also refused to even consider Sati as his daughter, Dakshayani, distraught with the fact that she was even born to such an uncouth man jumped into the sacrificial fire and immolated herself.
Daksha, though shocked at the end that his daughter had chosen for herself, went on with the yagna. However, at the site of the yagna, various evil omens portended the arrival of a catastrophe. Time and again, Daksha’s left arm, thigh and eye pulsated. There were thunderstorms that lashed across the yaaga. The sacrificial fires died down to tiny shimmers and the howls of werewolves reverbrated across the large gathering. Every one of the assembled devas shuddered at the signs and cursed Daksha for his foolish behavior.
At Kailasha, the ganas who had accompanied Sati, poured out their woes to Shiva, a mixture of grief and anger in their voices. They had been driven out by the soldiers who had been created by the brahmanas at the yaaga. Shiva listened to the happenings, livid with rage. With the eyes the colour of blood and his Jatamakudam all gone astray, he stood up and plucked a lock of hair. He dashed it to the ground and the lock split into two. Out of one came Bhadrakali, with pointed teeth and angry eyes, eager to have a go at Daksha. Out of the other piece emerged Veerabhadra, the gory form of the lord, with eighteen arms and deadly looking weapons. They needed no words of command. With a large army of the Bhoothaganas lead by Nandi himself, they charged down to the site of the yaaga.
At the sacrifice, the army burst through the doors and killed everyone in sight. The devas including Varuna, Agni, Yama and Indra themselves, were defeated and lay unconscious. With the whole sacrificial grounds now looking like a warfield, Veerabhadra hunted for the culprit – Daksha. Daksha, white with fear, cowering at the terrifying figure of Veerabhadra, tried to dodge and hide, but to no avail. With the ease of a baby picking up a small toy, Veerabhadra lifted Daksha. He placed Daksha on the slaughtering board used for killing the sacrificial animals, and with one sweep of his sword beheaded Daksha – the master of the sacrifice, now being the sacrificial animal himself.
Even as Daksha’s corpse lay at the sacrificial field, Brahma rushed to Shiva and asked him to forgive his grandson. He variously extolled Parameshwara and laid forward the fact that the Yaaga had to be completed for the welfare of the world. Shiva, thus cooled by the soothing words of Brahma agreed to revive Daksha and complete the Yaaga. Since the head of Daksha had been burnt in the fires, Shiva ordered the ganas to behead the sacrificial goat and bring its head to him. He fixed the goat’s head on Daksha’s severed neck and with a sprinkling of water from his kamandala, he brought Daksha back to life.
The goat headed Daksha, now fell at Shiva’s feet and begged for mercy, praising the tolerance and the grace of Rishabarudan. Shiva blessed Daksha and in the very presence of Shiva, the yaaga was completed and the Poornaahuthi performed. While everyone was rejoicing the happy end of everything, Shiva alone retired back to Kailasha, deprived of his beloved, to immerse himself in meditation once more, until Shakthi takes another incarnation to join him for all eternity.
Note: The complete details of Daksha’s Yagna and its consequences appear in Canto 3 of Srimad Bhagavatham in a conversation between Vidura and Maithreya Maharishi. I have uploaded the PDF of the conversation here [Srimad Bhagavatham-Canto 3].
Located near Mayiladuthurai is yet another of the Veeratta sthalaa which glorifies this valourous deed of Mahesha at the Ilankombanaiyyal sametha Veeratteswarar shrine. Thiruppariyalur by name, the kshetra is also known variously as Keezha Parasalur, Dakshapuri etc.
Once upon a time the Devas were tormented by a powerful demon called Dharuka. All the three Trimurthis turned a blind eye to the suffering of the Devas. Vexed with the indifference, the 33 crore devas came to Keezha Parasalur and performed a penance to seek protection from the atrocities of the demon Dharuka. The Trimurthis appeared before the Devas and explained the reason for their pathetic plight. “Since you, the sons of Aditi, failed to propitiate the gods as duty required and since you remained aloof to your duties, you had to undergo the suffering for such a long time”, they pronounced. “Now, however, that you have realised the mistake, you will be saved from Dharuka in due time.” The Devas, hearing this, apologised profusely, and requested the Lords to protect them. Shiva accepted their heartfelt prayers and created Kali out of himself to kill the asura. Kali’s victorious killing of Dharuka and her resultant fierce mood is celebrated at the Kodungallur Bhagavathi shrine in Kerala. Since the Devas were taken to task for their mistakes, the sthala came to be known as Thiruppazhiyalur (Pazhi-revenge), which gradually got contorted into Thiruppariyalur.
This is considered to be the place where Veerabhadran killed Daksha and destroyed his Yagna. Hence the place is known as Dakshapuri and the lord also known as Dakshapureeswarar. The idol of Yagasamharamoorthi is once again believed to be an example of great craftsmanship and tells the tale of Daksha’s spoilt yagna.
The temple itself is very small, with only a single Prakara. One of the walls of the sanctum has a beautiful carving of Daksha worshipping the linga. The main deity is a Linga Moorthi with a square Vishnubhaga. It is believed to be a swayambu of large dimensions. A peculiar feature is the absence of the Navagrahas and the worship of Surya alone. Also famous is the Arthajaama worship that is offered at night to Bhairavar, the guardian deity of the temple. Taking part in this worship is supposed to help in the destruction of enemies and black magic.
The present day temple tank is also believed to be the site of Daksha’s grand Yagna and during times of drought, when the water dries out, the actual altar is visible at the bottom of the tank.
The annual festival takes place in Karthigai and the deities are taken around in a procession. Especially the Sundays in the month of Karthigai are held to be highly sacred and large crowds throng the shrine. Apart from this, Nangu Kaala Poojai (Four services of Worship) is observed every day to both Swami and Ambal.
Though small is size, the Sthala is great in its spiritual benefits. After all, this was the place where He destroyed the ego and pride of a very vain man and taught him a lesson for life. Visiting Thiruppariyalur will bring a change not only in your fortunes but also in your general outlook of life.