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The Greatness Of Siva



Translated by ARTHUR AVALON, 1916


IF praise of Thee by one who knows not the supremacy of Thy greatness be unbecoming
Then even the speech of Brahma and other Devas regarding Thee is such.
Therefore none should be blamed who speaks
According to the limit of his knowledge.
Oh Hara! If that be so, then this mine own attempt is blameless.


Thy greatness surpasses the powers of mind and speech,
Even Sruti speaks with awe of Thee,
Whom it is unable to portray.
By whom canst Thou be (fitly) praised?
Who knows the number of Thy qualities?
In that which cannot be described,
Whose mind and speech does not fail?


Oh Brahman! Thy hymn which is the supreme nectar,
By the Guru of the Devas
The creator of sweet words
Is it wonderful to Thee?
Oh Destroyer of Tripura!
My mind is bent upon invoking Thee
That I may purify my speech by the recital of Thy attributes.


Thy power it is of which the Vedas speak,
Displayed in threefold form according to distinction of qualities.
It creates, maintains and destroys the universe
And yet Oh Giver of Blessings!
There be some fools who would oppose Thee
In ways pleasing to the bad but hateful to the good.


They ask such questions as:
That Creator of yours why and how does He create the three worlds?
What form does He assume?
What means does He use?
What materials does He employ?
From what does He take support?
Such wicked questioning, so ignorant of Thine unimagined greatness,
Leads some senseless men to talk for the delusion of the world.


But is it possible that the worlds with all their parts are uncreate?
Can the universe be without a Supporter of it?
Who else but God creates the world?
Oh Lord of the Immortals!
Such men have doubts concerning Thee because of their folly.


Though the ways differ which are spoken of in the three fold Veda
Samkhya, Yogashastra, the doctrine of Pasupati and Vaisnava Sastra;
Though some take this and others that to be the better
And followers of the various paths both direct and indirect dispute,
Yet Thou alone art the goal of all
As is the ocean of every river.


Oh Giver of Boons!
A great bull, a wooden staff, an axe, a tiger skin, ashes, snakes and a skull,
These be Thy chief possessions and adornments
Varied is the wealth of other Devas,
But Thou careth not for these
Which Thou with but a turn of Thine eye,
Hast on them bestowed
The mirage of worldly things does not delude Him
Whose enjoyment is with the Self.


One says that all is permanent
Another that all is fleeting
And yet another teaches that of the world and its various elements
Some things are fleeting and others ever endure,
But Oh Destroyer of Tripura!
Though the multitude of doctrines bewilder me,
I am not ashamed to pray to Thee,
For my tongue cannot be restrained.


In order to measure Thy greatness (which is Light and Fire),
Of Thee who art embodied of Fire,
Virinci went upwards and Hari downwards
Yet they failed to measure Thee.
But on Girisa!
When they prayed to Thee with strength of faith and devotion
It was then that Thou did’st appear to them.
How then is it possible that service of Thee can be without fruit?

Though the Ten-headed One had with ease conquered the three worlds,
And destroyed all his enemies therein,
His arms still itched for war
(And fresh worlds to conquer)
O Hara! this was done through unshaken devotion to Thee
And the offering of (nine of) his heads to Thy Lotus feet
As though they were themselves a row of Lotuses. 

When Ravana put forth even against Thine own abode on Kailasa.
The force of the forest of arms gained through worship of Thee
Thou did’st but slightly move the tip of Thy toe
(On which he fell and fell)
And stayed not falling even when he reached the nether worlds.
So, true it is that the wicked forget the benefits they have received.


Oh Giver of boons!
No matter of wonder is it,
That Bana who made the three worlds his servant,
Overcame the great dominion of Indra
Since he worshipped Thy feet,
What prosperity is there not for him,
Whose head has bowed to Thee?


Oh three eyed One!
Who from mercy to Devas and Asuras
And fearful of the threatening destruction of the universe
Did’st swallow poison,
Doth not its blue stain on Thy throat enhance Thy beauty?
Yea! For even a disfigurement is full of grace
In Him who suffers it
When seeking to rid the world of its fears.


Even Smara whose world-conquering arrows
Are never discharged in vain amidst Devas, Asuras and men
When taking Thee to be like any other Deva
Met with death.
It is not good to attack the self-controlled.


By the stamping of Thy feet the safety of the earth came in sudden peril,
By the movement of Thy arms strong like iron rods,
The stars in the ether were scattered,
Lashed by Thy loosened hair the heavens were troubled.
Verily Thou did’st finely dance,
But to trouble the world in order to save it
What mystery is this?


By the flowing stream in the skies
The white beauty of which is the whiteness of the 
countless stars which are the foam therein,
And yet seems (as against Thy greatness) a mere drop of 
    Water on Thy head,
The world again became an island encircled by a fluid ring.
By this the divine greatness of Thy body may be gauged.


When Thou did’st resolve to consume the three cities
The earth was Thy chariot
The sun and the moon its wheels
Indra the charioteer
The Lord of Mountains Thy bow
And Visnu Himself Thy arrow
(And yet why was this) for they were but as grass before Thy power?
With such implements Thou wert but pleased to play,
Thy Lordliness is not dependent on them.


Oh Destroyer of Tripura!
When Hari desired to worship Thy feet with a thousand lotuses,
But found that one was lacking
He plucked out one of His own lotus-like eyes.
This devotion of His assumed the form of His beautiful discus
Which He is ever ready to wield for the salvation of the three worlds.


When the sacrificial rite is accomplished
It is Thou Who givest the fruits thereof to the worshipper
When the ritual act is over.
How can it have effect without prayer to Thee?
Therefore seeing that it is Thou Who art the surety
For the fruit of all rites
Men repose their faith in Veda
And commence all ritual actions with certain hope as to their effects.


Oh Thou Who art the refuge of all!
Daksa was diligent and expert of action
Lord of sacrifices and creatures;
The priests of his sacrifice were Rsis,
And Devas were the masters of the rites,
Nathless Thou, Who givest fruit to all sacrifices,
Didst destroy his:
For the sacrifice of one, who lack faith in Thee,
Bears fruit of evil only.


When the Lord of Creatures overcome by sudden desire
For His own daughter
So urgently desired to possess her
That He changed into a stag
As she fled from Him in the form of a hind,
Thou did’st (in anger) bend Thy bow against Him
As He sped in fear to the heavenly spaces;
And, Oh Lord! the force of Thy hunter’s hand
Has even now not released Him.


Oh Destroyer of Tripura!
Devi saw him of the flowery bow
Burnt to ashes of a sudden before Her very eyes
Like, as it were, some mere blade of grass
When he thought to accomplish his design by the aid of Her beauty.
If even Devi after seeing all this
Yet thinks Thee to be uxorious
Because Thou and She art each the half of one body,
Then indeed must youthful women be deceived
Oh Thou Who art self-controlled and the grantor of Blessings.


Oh Destroyer of Smara!
The burning ground is Thy field of play,
Thy companions are Pisacas,
Besmeared art Thou with the ashes of the funeral pyre
Thy garland is a string of skulls;
Let even Thy name and nature appear inauspicious 
Yet, Oh Giver of Blessings!
To them who meditate on Thee they are supremely auspicious.


Thou art the great Truth, beyond all words,
On Which the self-controlled deeply meditate,
Fixing their thought abstracted from all outward things
In the manner ordained by Yoga,
Restraining their breath,
Their hairs erect (with joy),
Their eyes filled with tears of joy
Immersed, as it were, in a lake of the nectar of delight.


Thou art Sun, Moon, Air and Fire
Water, Ether, Earth and the Sacrificer too,
By such words did the ancients seek to define and limit Thee
But we ourselves do not know that which Thou art not.


Oh Giver of Refuge!
The Mantra Om with its three letters A, U a M
Describes Thee collectively and in each part
It signifieth
The three Vedas
The three worlds
The three states of consciousness
The three Devas
And the (transcending) fourth state which is Thine,
Encompassed with most subtle Sound.


Bhava, Sarva, Rudra, Pasupati
Ugra, Mahan, Bhima, Isana
In each of these names is Mahadeva and Sruti
To these precious names do I too offer my salutation.


Reverence to Thee, Who art near (to those who serve Thee)
And yet art far (from those who are heedless of Thee);
Reverence to Thee Oh Destroyer of Smara!
Who art both the minutest of the minute
And yet the greatest of the great
Reverence to Thee, Oh Three-Eyed One!
Who art ancient
And yet very youthful
Reverence to Thee, Who art all things
And art yet beyond all things


Reverence and again reverence to Bhava
Who with the active quality creates the universe
Reverence and again reverence to Mrda
Who with the quality of manifestation (preserves and)
    Gives happiness to men
Reverence and again reverence to Hara
Who with the quality which veils destroys the universe
Reverence and again reverence to Siva
Beyond all qualities I His glittering Abode.


How great is the difference between my mind
Capable of but little understanding
And subject to sorrows
And Thine everlasting glory
Which surpasses all attributes,
Yet fearful as I am, my devotion has encouraged me
To offer to Thee, Oh Giver of Blessings!
This garland of words at Thy feet.

Oh Lord! if the Giver of Happiness
Were to write for all time
With a pen made from a branch of the best of all celestial trees
Using the whole earth as Her leaf
If the mass of ink equaled the blue mountains and the 
    Ocean were the inkpot
Still would it be impossible to express
The fullness of Thy attributes.


The Chief of the Gandharvas
Servant of the Deva of Devas crested with the crescent moon
Having lost his greatness through Mahadeva’s wrath
Has made this best of hymns in praise of the greatness of Siva.


He who having worshipped the Lord of Devas
The Giver both of Heaven and Liberation
With mind intent and folded palms reads this hymn
Will himself be worshipped by Kimnaras
And go to Siva.
This unfailing hymn has been made by Puspadanta.


With him who reads this hymn
Which has issued from the lotus mouth of Puspadanta,
And which is the remover of all sins
With him who learns it by heart
Or keeps it in his house
Mahesa Lord of Creatures is pleased.

(Here ends the Mahimnastava)

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