Saturday 1 April 2023

The Bull Facing Shiva is NOT Nandi ! Secrets From Shaiva Tantra

Image: Shiva temple in University Malaya, Malaysia

What if I told you that the bull we worship in a Shaiva temple is not Nandi as per Shaiva Tantra? Shocking? Let us see why..


Lord Nandi is manifest in the form of Lord Shiva. We refer to Adhikara Nandi as the deity who has the form of Shiva, with JaTa MakuTa ( crown of matted hair ), Ganga, Damaruka, three eyes, ankusha and deer. 

Lord Nandi is the pramatha gaNa. He holds authority in allowing or disallowing anyone from meeting Lord Shiva. This is why He has the title 'adhikara'.

He is Shiva-svarupa as mentioned. Alternatively, He can be also manifest as a deity with bovine face with humanoid body ( upper limbs, trunks and lower limbs ).

Image: Adhikara Nandi.


The deity in the form of bull as a manifest animal form ( with hooves, hump, tail etc) is Vrshabha.

वृषो वृषा कृतिस् त्र्यक्शो रुद्रैक गद मानसः
साक्षात् धर्म स्वरूपश्च शुद्ध स्फटिक निर्मलः

vṛṣo vṛṣā kṛtis tryakśo rudraika gada mānasaḥ
sākṣāt dharma svarūpaśca śuddha sphaṭika nirmalaḥ

The above mantra is the dhyana shloka for Vrshabha. It describes Him as having three-eyes. In a meditative state, His heart is always on Rudra. He is the very manifest form of dharma. He is dharma devata. 

When we hold firm to dharma, we attain Lord Shiva. This is why we approach Lord Shiva through Vrshabha, who is the very embodiment of dharma.

Images above: Lord Shiva on Adhikara Nandi, found in Borobodur, Indonesia

Vrshabha Puja During Pradosham 

Image: Vrshabham at Riverside Meditation Sancturay, Gombak, Malaysia

So it is Vrshabha who gets the ritualistic bath during Pradosham and not Nandi. This is clearly described in the Shaiva Paddhati ( a manual for rituals based on Shaiva Agamas ).

सर्व विश्व रक्षा करम् धर्मम् वृषभम् प्रथमं यजेत्

sarva viśva rakṣā karam dharmam vṛṣabham prathamaṃ yajet

This verse refers to Vrshabha as the one who protects the entire cosmos as dharma. During Pradosha, we first offer our worship to this Vrshabham.

Upon performing abhisheka, alankara and puja, we then invoke and worship Lord Shiva in between Vrshabha's horns.

Video: My student Smt. Kavita reciting the Rishabha Sukta of Rig Veda, which describes Vrshabha.

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