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Of the many hymns to Siva, this is perhaps the best known and the favourite. The pious Saivaite repeats it, or has it chanted to him every day and even the less devout read it during a certain fortnight in the year. The hymns in Siva's honour are familiar even to the Sudras, unlike the other prayers and mantras, which may not be repeated except by the Twice-born.

    If even the greatest of the gods, in offering praise,
    The hope of comprehending Thee, in full, resign,
    So may I not be blamed, if, in my humble ways,
    I laud Thy name – pardon these stumbling words of mine.

    Although Thy glory indescribable must be
    Even by the Vedas, though no human tongue may find
    Words to set forth Thy praise; may I be blessed to see
    Hints, shadows, symbols of Thee, in my longing mind.

    Thou can'st not wonder at the gracious words of gold,
    The great god uttered naming thee. Thy soul flowed in,
    To inspire the words themselves, but may e'en I be bold
    To tell Thy glory, and so purify my tongue from sin.

    Thou Brahma art – the good, the all-creating one;
    And Vishnu, thou – preserver, active power;
    And Siva dark, who, when the destined day is done,
    Transformest, though the blind scoff in their evil hour.

    Vain questioners to the blind world in its darkness say,
    "Who is this Lord? What form and feature doth he wear?
    "Of what stuff, and in what unfathomable way,
    "Made be the Universe." So they the world with words ensnare.

    Can this embodied Universe be uncreae?
    From who but the Creator, could this world proceed?
    Who else but Thee would dare an enterprise so great?
    And yet the unseeing ones mock Thee in word and deed.

    Though many are the ways by which man's questioning soul
    Wanders, in Vedas, Systems, Sastras, seeking Thee,
    Thou art the goal of all – for e'en as rivers roll
    Many and divers paths, yet all meet in the sea.

    Though, snared in pleasure's toils, the other gods may dwell,
    Those empty idle joys, thou could'st call forth at will,
    Touch not Thy calm. Yogi-like, meditating well,
    Ash-besmeared, snake-encircled, sit'st Thou rapt and still.

    One thinker says that all things everlasting are,
    Another, that they change and perish utterly;
    One sage that some things die, others time cannot mar –
    My soul they darken, but my praise pours forth always.

    In vain, to estimate Thy power did Brahma try,
    Vainly, did Vishnu seek to measure forth thy grace,
    But when, with faithful hearts in deep humility,
    They prayed, then was to them unveiled Thy wondrous face.

    When mighty Ravan worshipped Thee with gifts and flowers,
    And spread his fear afar over the land and sea,
    Though, e'en against Thy throne, he tried his new-found powers,
    No shelter might he find, had it not been for Thee.

    And Vana, who abroad, yea over all the world,
    Had spread his haughty rule, and from his shining seat,
    Indra, the mighty one, had in this triumph hurled,
    He gained his mystic powers in worship at Thy feet.

    Upon Thy throat, was left the sacred azure stain,
    Jewel-like radiant mark of Thy compassion great,
    When Thou the poison drankst, from out the churning main –
    Saviour of all, averting death, and fear, and fate.

    Kandarpa, from whose darts demons and gods and men
    Fled terror-stricken, even he, the strong and bold,
    Withered before Thy glance, and turned to dust again,
    When he looked mocking Thee, Thou, mighty self-controlled.

    Beneath Thy feet, the solid earth unstable reeled,
    The firmament was shaken, all the stars of night,
    Yea, even the flaming sun, into confusion wheeled,
    When Thou, with mystic dance, did'st foil the demon's might.

    The rushing streams of Ganga's flood, deep-swelling, wide,
    Whose ripples shine like stars in clusters gleaming fair,
    And feed the circling ocean with their flowing tide,
    Shone as the tiniest jewel lost amongst Thy hair.

    When Thou, against Tripura, tunedst Thy Majesty,
    The earth Thy chariot was, Brahma Thy charioteer,
    Mountains Thy weapons, sun and moon were wheels to Thee:
    But as Thou will'st, useful or useless these appear.

    When Hari, who was used, in reverent guise,
    To worshipping with a thousand lotuses Thy feet,
    Found one was lacking from his gift, - one of his eyes,
    His lotus eyes, he plucked to make the tale complete.

    Empty the sacrifice, wanting the faith in Thee,
    And empty prayer and worship till the soul doth long
    Only for Thee, to praise Thee true and reverently,
    Uttering forth in joy the Vedas' holy song.

    Though Daksha, king and lord above all earthly things,
    Made sacrifice with gods and rishis gathered there,
    Vain were the spells of priests and vain the pomp of kings –
    He perished utterly, for without faith his prayer.

    So terrible Thy aspect, that the trembling soul
    Shudders beholding Thee, in gloom, and fear, and night;
    But to Thy true believers still Thou art the goal,
    Thy love their stay, Thy care their infinite delight.
    Remote, unseen, afar, hidden within man's heart,
    Thy kingdom lies! all thoughts and things that seem to be,
    Prove themselves but illusions, when, withdrawn, apart,
    The soul that knows itself, attains with joy to Thee.

    The sun, the moon art thou, the fire, the circling air,
    The body and the spirit, earth and sky and sea –
    So said the sages of the ancient world; but where,
    Where shall we look to find aught separate from thee?

    The sacred word that can the Vedas three express,
    The three states of man's life, and Earth, and Heaven, and Hell,
    Brahma's and Vishnu's power and Siva's mightiness.
    That word, to show Thee forth alone, befitteth well.

    How precious are Thy names; the mystic, sacred eight!
    Enshrined in holy hymns, in ancient Vedic lore –
    On Bhava, Sarva, Rudra, Pasupati, I wait –
    Ugra, Bhima, Isana, Mahadeva, I adore.

    I bow to Thee, a god of meditation vast,
    Nearest to those who love, aloof, remote, and far
    From lovelss souls, old, for Thou wast Creator in the past,
    Young, for, in Thee, all things ever existing are.

    Behold then, Lord, how I, with mind untaught and weak,
    Ensnared by trifles, tossed by passions though I be,
    Fearful before Thy glory, yet in reverence seek,
    To offer as a flower this, my poor verse to Thee.
J. D. W.

- From The Indian Magazine and Review, 1907.

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