is a manifestation of Lord Shiva as the Supreme Naked Beggar. Bhikshatanar is the murti who asks for alms. He is smeared in white ash, forehead bears the Tripundra, the Shaiva tilaka composed as three horizontal lines with red dot in the middle; with good omen in eyes, fingers with grass to the right, with Trishula and Kapala in the left hands, nice paduka in feet, with dangling red matted hair, jatamandala or jatabhadra, disheveled matted locks, moon on head, patta, ornamental head band, deer-mrigam in the right hand, a vessel for alms in the left, with bulged belly, multiple necklaces, armlets, elbow bands, bracelets, snake tied around his waist, white yagnopavita worn across the chest, followed by love-sick women, so much describes Bhikshatana. Various Puranas describe the backdrop of Lord Shiva taking this manifestation.
In the South, Bhikshatana has a different depiction. The front arm is stretched out and downwards. It is holding a bit of grass or another plant in the kataka gesture, near the mouth of a deer who is leaping playfully by his side. The back arm is raised holding a Damaru. The front left holds a Kapala for begging. The back left hand holds a Trishula decorated with peacock feathers. The left leg is firmly rooted in the ground while right is slightly bent. He wears the wooden sandals, the Paduka or is barefoot.
His attendants, the ganas and women, often seven in number eager to embrace him, follow. These women are shown to have their cloths slipping from the loins symbolizing lust. This depiction shares much of Bhairava iconography and is linked to the forest legend. This begging iconography is also described in the Satarudriya. It is symbolic of a sustainer of the universe and life-sustaining food. Again this is uniquely from the ascetic Kapalika and Pashupata sects. Images of Bhikshatana are found throughout South Indian Shaivite temples and almost unknown in Northern Indian. Near naked, the phallus is covered either by a tiger skin loin cloth or heavily ornamented as a cover.
Sri Muruganaar’s Tiruvundyar reached up to Verse 70. As Muruganar was translating this story to Tamil he stopped at the part where Siva is to teach the rishis. Since this portion was to be in the voice of Siva as the Mahaguru, he wanted Bhagavan Ramana to complete this portion. In Murguna’s eyes, Bhagavan was a manifestation of Siva Himself. Bhagavan was compassionate to write the remaining portions. These verses narrate Lord Siva enlightening the ascetics of the Daruka Forests. As such Verses 70-137 was sung by Bhagavan. This culminated as 37 verses in Upadesa Undihyar. It was later translated in sanskrit as Upadesa Saram.
The background story of Daruka or Darukavanam Forests is this. While the Puranas describe the householder ascetics life, their tapas shows that they were following the path of ‘kamya karma.’ This mean one emphasizes on deeds and performing rituals. They were performing tapas for a long duration and prayed to Siva.
They were staunch ritualists who believed that rituals karmas were the way to ultimate Bliss. They exhibited their ignorance by performance of various kinds of yagas and yagnas –sacrificial rites to obtain siddhis – powers for both this world and the next.
They had become intoxicated by the use of mantras, yantras and tantras techniques. ‘Karma alone is of foremost importance; even God cannot prevent them from yielding fruits’ was their arrogant attitude.
So they stopped worshiping God. They were not to realize that, whatever be the deeds, is there One Who provides the doer with the fruits? How can inanimate deeds automatically give fruits. Not realizing these facts, the rishis pursued their dogma of karma.
These paths are prescribed by the Purva Mimamsa school which concerned with the interpretation and practice of Karma Kanda. This portion of Vedas relates to rituals and ceremonial rites.
In all His compassion, Lord Siva appears to purify their minds by teaching the ultimate truth. This was to make them realise that actions are born out of ignorance of one’s own nature. Knowledge is the only way to the Ultimate Reality.
So Lord Siva’s makes his advent as a Bhikshatanar-beggar. Vishnu accompanies as his wife, Mohini, glamorous girl. In this form the Lord is naked but quite enchanting. His appearance is Urdhvalinga, with an erect phallus. So was Mohini. The Naked Lord came to the street of the rishis to get alms and Mohini followed Him.
The rishis are attracted to the enchanting Mohini and started following her. They forgot all about their karmas. On the other hand the rishi pathinis, the wives, are attracted to the robust-built Siva. They forgot what they were doing, allowed their clothes to fall off and followed Him. They were also dancing, singing and love-sick.
The rishis get upset. They started to have double standards. While they were in pursuit of Mohini, they got upset with Siva as their wives have lost their virtue by following a Naked Beggar.
So they uses all the mantras and ritualistic powers to destroy Siva. They performed abhichayagam which will produce bad effects. They directed snakes, demons, tigers, fire and drum that came out of the yagna fires against the Lord. Siva was beyond defeat and made them all as ornaments. He peeled off the skin of the tiger and wore it round his waist; caught hold of the ball of fire in his left hand and held it aloft and calmed the serpent and wore it round his neck as an ornament.
By now, Lord Shiva had begun to dance in joy. This irritated the rishis because the wives started to enjoy the dance. So they set up the monster against him, He dwarfed the monster, stood on it on one leg and continued his dance. Vishnu and the others were charmed by this Ananda Tandava - Joyous Divine Dance of the Lord. Finally the forest dwellers realise Siva’s true nature when Anusuya, the wife of sage Atri enlightened the sages that the Beggar couple was none other than Shiva and Vishnu.
PASHUPATA: Shiva later returned with Parvati and eventually revealed his Supreme form and exalted the Pahupata vow – by which a man restrains his passion, becomes celibate, and roams naked smeared with holy ash, declaring that such a lifestyle would lead to moksha. The forests prostrate at his feet and beg for knowledge.
Lord Siva led the ascetics from their low level spiritual maturity. They had to be elevated gradually from the grosser methods of spiritual practice such as puja, japa, dhyana and pranayama towards the refined method of Self-enquiry. Siva takes His true form and taught that “there is only one thing here that is called the Self or God or Brahman. Whatever is seen in this dual world is only Consciousness and not different from it, and that perfect Blissful Consciousness You are.
Brahma declares that he is the Supreme Creator of the Universe in the council of rishis. Lord Shiva appeared as an infinite pillar of light and challenged Brahma. The council accepts Siva’s superiority. Brahma remains obstinate and upsets Siva. He transforms into a terrifying Bhairva and cut off one of Brahma’s heads with the flick of his fingernail. This form is depicted as Brahmashirascheda Murti. Brahma’s death is redeemed by his lifetime asceticism. Thereafter Brahma accepts Shiva’s superiority. The story does not end here.
The Shiva Purana, Matsya Purana and Skanda Purana give different reasons for the decapitation. The reason given is Brahma’s lust and incest for his daughter. However all the Puranic versions point to Brahma’s head getting stuck to Bhairava Shiva’s left palm.
It is also a sin to kill a Brahmin as this is Brahmahatya or brahamnicide. To expatiate the sin of brahmahatya, Shiva as Bhikshatana, had to perform the vow of a kapali, wondering as a naked beggar with the skull as the begging bowl. He wanders the three worlds begging from door to door accompanied by bhutas. Here again women are attracted to Bhikshatana despite his appearance, singing and dancing. He finally reaches the Daruka forest. There he shocked the sages with his ‘lewdness and nudity’ and also tempts the sage’s wives. But Bhikshatana-Shiva made them realize his greatness after they confronted them. There are various other plots related to his wanderings.
After the Daruka forest encounters, Bhikshatana reaches Vishnu’s abode. The gatekeeper, Vishvaksena refuses entry. He is killed and the corpse is impaled on Shiva’s Trishul. This is an additional sin. Kankala Murti is the form of Siva with a corpse on the Trishula. He enters Vishnu’s abode to beg for food, where one version states that Vishnu offered his own blood. The other version is Vishnu cutting an artery on Bhikshatana’s forehead and a stream of blood spurting into the begging bowl.
Vishnu then directed Bhikshatana to make a sacred trip to Varanasi to expatiate his sin. At Varanasi, Brahma’s skull falls off Bhikshatana at a place called Kapala-mochana. It means ‘liberating from the skull’ and Vishaksena’s corpse also disappears from the Trishula but he is revived to life by Shiva. Now Bhikshatana enters the sacred ponds of Varanasi. He then casts off the Bhikshatana form to return to Kailash.
This legend in the Skanda Purana narrates that Bhikshatana appears as a naked, fierce Kapali beggar. In a sacrifice hosted by Brahma, Bhikshatana appears and begs for food. He is driven away by Brahmin because they find a begger unfit to attend sacrificial rites. Bhikshatana throws his skull begging bowl on the ground and the brhmins throw it out. But other skulls appear in its place. Consequently hundreds of skulls appear and pollute the sacrifice. This compels Brahma to promise that no sacrifice would be complete without invocation to Kapalshvara-Shiva, the Lord of the Skulls.
Yogi Ananda Saraswathi