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Symbolism - Story Of Brahma Vishnu Trying To Find Beginning And End Of Shivling

One of the most popular stories in Puranas is that of Brahma and Vishnu attempting to find the beginning and end of Shivling.

Once, Brahma and Vishnu were quarrelling, each claiming superiority over the other. Annoyed by this unedifying quarrel, Shiva appeared before them as a column of resplendent fire and assured them that whoever was able to locate the origin or limit of it is greater than the other.

Vishnu earnestly pursued to trace the origin down in the form of ‘Varaha’; after a tiresome job, he found his efforts to be abortive and admitted his inability to do so.


Brahma who went up flying in the form of swan was not so modest; not being prepared to accept defeat, he falsely claimed to Vishnu that he did see the top of the blazing fire, with a Ketaki flower as witness to testify to his statement.

The all-knowing Mahadev Shiva cursed that Brahma should not be worshipped in temples, and the Ketaka flower not be used in His worship, because of the blatant lie. Finally, upon request, the column of fire assumed the shape of Lingodbhava. (Lingodbhavamurti).

The above story does not stem from any sectarian zeal ; its purpose is not to cry down Lord Brahma or Lord Vishnu. It has esoteric significance: everyone is likely to be swept off by his own ego and make tall claims. In its height of spiritual ignorance, the jiva loses all perspective and humility.

Ego-consciousness is so powerful that the jiva caught in it is not prepared to concede the smallness of a rattling ego and a little human intellect. Only the benign grace of God Consciousness can save the jiva. The sweet smelling Ketaka is perhaps indicative of the' principle of moha with attendant infatuation and wishful thinking.

SourceExcerpts from an article titled ‘Tiruvannamalai’ by K. S, Sugavanam, I.A.S. published in The Mountain Path January 1970.




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