In the eyes of Daksha, son of Brahma, who is Prajapati, lord of culture, nature is inhabited by two sets of divine beings -- the Devas, who live in the sky and the Asuras, who live under the earth. Under the earth is all the wealth that society needs -- plants and metals.
Illustration/ Devdutt Pattanaik
The Devas provide the wherewithal -- heat, light, wind, fire, rain -- to draw this subterranean wealth out. With the help of the Devas, Daksha gets access to wealth hoarded by the Asuras. For Daksha, Devas are therefore 'gods' while Asuras are 'demons'.
Daksha performs yagna to make the Devas stronger so as to defeat and kill Asuras. Daksha establishes a relationship with the Devas by offering them his daughters as their wives. This is a transactional relationship. If either the Devas or his daughters do not comply with this arrangement, he loses his temper.
Daksha gives 28 of his daughters, the Nakshatras, to Chandra, the moon god. The moon, however, preferrs only one of them, the one called Rohini, lavishing attention over her, while neglecting others. Upset, one of the Nakshatras, Abhijit, withers away in sorrow, while the other 26 daughters complain to Daksha, who curses Chandra to suffer from the wasting disease.
As the days pass, Chandra starts to wane, much to Daksha's satisfaction. A distraught Chandra turns to Shiva, the god who defeats Yama. Shiva, who is Mrityunjaya, conqueror of death, places Chandra on his forehead. This contact enables Chandra to wax once again, much to Daksha's irritation. Shiva is therefore known as Chandrashekhara, on whose head sits the moon.
Daksha takes the life of one who does not align to his rules; Shiva gives life instead and expects nothing in return, least of all obedience. The Devas therefore call Shiva Maha-deva, the greatest of gods, he who is God, hence independent of nature's laws.
Daksha does not consider Shiva to be Maha-deva. He views Shiva as the enemy who opposes him. Shiva seems to side with the Asura by giving their guru, Shukra, the secret knowledge of resurrection known as Sanjivani Vidya. Using Sanjivani Vidya, Shukra is able to bring back to life all Asuras killed by the Devas. That is why, much to Daksha's exasperation, wild nature cannot be permanently domesticated.
Eventually fields and orchards are overrun by weeds and forests season after season, children of domesticated animals remain wild and have to be broken generation after generation, rules once instituted have to be reinforced year after year. Yagnas have to be performed again and again to keep intact the crucible of culture.
What Daksha fails to realise is that Shiva does not distinguish between Devas and Asuras; he is indifferent to their station or their roles. One is not the hero and the other is not the villain. Shiva does share the prejudices that shape Daksha's thoughts.
For Daksha, obedience is virtue. He excludes those who do not obey him. Asuras do not obey him, Chandra does not obey him, Shiva does not obey him. Asuras are therefore sacrificed during the yagna; Chandra is tolerated only when he agrees to share his attention between all his wives; but Shiva is always excluded, as Shiva remains indifferent to him. Unfortunately for Daksha, his daughter, Sati, falls in love with Shiva. She is the Goddess who will break the pride of her father, and melt Shiva's heart.
The author is Chief Belief Officer of the Future Group, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article is an extract from his latest book "7 Secrets of Shiva" which has inspired the serial Mahadev appearing from Dec 18, 8 pm, on LifeOK channel.
The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper.