Story Of Nandi
The bull, Nandi, is the vehicle of Lord Shiva, one of the three, most powerful gods in Hindu theology. Nandi is usually depicted in a seated position with legs folded, before Lord Shiva. The Vayu Purana has a story about Rishi Kashyap who had no children. He and his wife Surabhi longed for a child to carry on their lineage. After worshipping Lord Shiva for a long time, Rishi Kashyap’s wife delivered a baby boy. They were very happy and named the child Nandi, which means joyous.
However, some texts claim that it was sage Shilaad who had requested Lord Indra for a child who would be immortal and strong. Lord Indra then told him to pray to Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva blessed the sage and soon, sage Shilaad came across a baby in the fields and began to raise him. Some years later, Lord Varun and Lord Mitra came before Shilaad as they were happy with his worship of them. They gave him the blessing of a long life but also mentioned that his son Nandi would die young, when he was 8 years old. Nandi was 7 years at the time. When Nandi heard about this, he felt worried, knowing that his father would be grief-stricken. He decided to do penance in order to propitiate Lord Shiva. The lord was pleased with his prayers and appeared before him. He also gave him a bell necklace as a gift. Shiva said that he would remove the curse of early death for Nandi but added that Nandi would now take the form of a half-man, half-bull. After this, Shilaad and Nandi went to Lord Shiva’s abode. Shiva made him the head of the Ganas and also made him his vehicle.
Since then, bulls began to be worshipped in India as a sacred animal and one can come across his statue in temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. One of the few temples that is exclusively dedicated to Nandi is the Mahanandiswara temple at Kurnool. Here, we can find the biggest statue of Nandi in the country.
Nandi represents faith, justice, honor, virility and wisdom. Those who possess these qualities are very dear to Lord Shiva. It is believed that Nandi is the one playing the music when Lord Shiva does the Tandava. It was Nandi who killed the demon elephant, Airavat, when serving as the commander of Lord Shiva’s army. Nandi is regarded as the protector of Dharma and one who gives boons generously.
Ages ago there lived a Maharishi named Shilada who performed austere penance to please Lord Shiva to beget a son. Shilada was desirous of a self-born and immortal son. His penance continued for thousands of years. At last Lord Shiva, bestower of devotee`s boons appeared before him as was pleased with the unswerving devotion. He offered to grant Shilada his desired boon.
Manifestation of Nandi
Some days after receiving the boon when Shilada was ploughing his land, he found a baby placed on the plough. The baby was beautiful and radiant as the Sun. Seeing the baby, Shilada became terrified and frightened and tried to run away. At that instant, he heard a heavenly voice saying, `Shilada, Take this baby, it is yours. This is the baby whom you prayed for. This divine baby will make others happy and call him, Nandi`.
Nandi`s Extraordinary Learning Prowess
Hearing this Shilada became very happy; he hugged the baby and took the baby to his hermitage. He gave his love and affection and raised the baby with utmost tenderness and care. With the passing of years, Shilada taught Vedas and imparted all types of knowledge to Nandi from medicine, dancing, singing, arts, fighting and wisdom from sacred texts. Nandi was extraordinarily brilliant and extremely intelligent that he learned them all in less than a fortnight`s period.
Visit of Divine Sages
O ne day, two powerful and great sages, Varun and Mitra, paid homage to Shilada`s hermitage when Nandi was seven years old. Shilada greeted them with great reverence and served them well with good food and hospitality. Two seers were pleased by Shilada`s gesture and blessed him. Shilada presented Nandi before them and asked them to bless his son. However, they showed sadness in their expression while blessing Nandi. Noticing this, Shilada requested them to explain their changed expression on seeing Nandi.
Nandi`s Unshakeable Devotion to Shiva
The sages said with deep grief, `By the force of destiny, your son will not live for long`. Horrified at hearing this, Shilada began weeping. Nandi was not disturbed at hearing this because of his unshakeable faith in Shiva`s will. He told his father with great devotion and conviction, `Shiva will do anything to reverse my fate. He is all powerful and is the only God who can alter one`s destiny. He can do the impossible. Nothing will happen to us by his supreme grace`.
Undaunted Nandi told Shilada that he will perform severe penance to Shiva and appease him through his staunch devotion and intensity of prayers. Soon he left to do penance under the waters of River Bhuvana in quest of his fate and to seek answers from the mighty Shiva. Pleased with the unswerving devotion of Nandi, Shiva appeared before him instantaneously by the tremendous powers of his faith and meditation.
Shiva asked Nandi, ` What is that you seek from me? Nandi replied, ` I always want to remain with you, eternally`. Shiva granted his boon and said, ` Henceforth, you will stay with me. You will have a face of a bull and be the head of all my Ganas`. Since then, Nandi became the inseparable, eternal companion and vehicle of Lord Shiva.