The Shiva Purana has twenty-four thousand shlokas. These are divided into six samhitas or sections. The names of the sectiosn are jnana samhita, vidyeshvara samhit, kailasa samhita, sanatkumar samhita, vayaviya samhita and dharma samhit. Each samhita is further subdivided into chapters (adhyaya). Jnana samhita has seventy-eight chapters, vidyeshvara samhita sixteen, kailasa samhita twelve, sanathkumar samhila fifty-nine, vayaviya samhita thirty and dharma samhita sixty-five. The Shiva Purana was recited by Vedavyasa’s disciple Romaharshana, alternatively, Loma-harshana.
Romaharshana and The Other Sages
There were many sages who lived in a forest named naimisharanya. One day, these sages accosted Romaharshana and said, Romaharshana, you are blessed. You have taught us a lot, but we are still not satisfied. You have had the fortune of studying under Vedavyasa and there is nothing that you do not know, past, present or future. Tell us about Shiva, we do not know very much about Shiva. Romaharshana replied, I will relate to you that which you want to know. And I am not going to make anything up. Many years ago, the sage Narada had wanted to find out about Shiva from his father, Brahma. Whatever Brahma had instructed his son. I am going to relate to you.
At the beginning of creation, there was nothing in the universe. The universe was not there either. It was only the brahman (divine essence) which was everywhere. The brahman was neither hot nor cold, neither thick or thin. It had no beginning and no end. There was water everywhere. Lord Vishnu manifested himself in his great form and slept on the water. While Vishnu was sleeping, a lotus flower (padma) sprouted from his navel. It had many petals and its stem shone like a thousand suns. From the cells of the lotus Brahma was born. He began to wonder, There seems to be nothing around except for this lotus. Who am I? Where did I come from? What am I supposed to do? Whose son am I ? Who made me? Brahma thought he might find the answers to these questions if he explored the lotus a bit. Perhaps he ought to try and find the centre of the lotus. Brahma descended down the stem of the lotus and wandered around for a hundred years. But he could not find the flower’s centre. He then decided that he might as well go back to the cell from where he
had been born. But despite wandering around the stem for another hundred years, Brahma could not find the cell. By then he was so tired that he gave up and rested. Suddenly he heard the words, Brahma, perform tapasya (meditation). Brahma meditated for twelve years. When the twelve years were over, the four-armed Vishnu appeared before Brahma. In the four hands Vishnu held a shankha (conch shell), a chakra (a bladed discus), a gada (mace) and a padma. Brahma didn’t know who this person was and he asked, Who are you? Vishnu didn’t directly answer the question. Instead, he replied, Son, the great Lord Vishnu has created you. Who are you to call me a son? demanded Brahma. Can’t you recognize me? came the reply. I am Vishnu. It is from my body that you have been created. But Brahma was not convinced. He began to fight with Vishnu.
While they were thus engaged in fighting, a shining linga (Shiva’s image) arrived on the scene. It seemed to have no beginning or end. Vishnu said, Brahma, let us stop fighting. There is a third being here now. What on earth is this linga? And where did it come from? Let us try and find out what this is. You adopt the form of a swan (hamsa) and go up. I shall adopt the form of boar (varaha) and go down. Let us try and find the extremities of this linga. Brahma agreed. He became a whilte swan and flew up. Vishnu became a white boar and went down. They looked for four thousand years, but could not find the end of the linga. So they returned to where they had started off from and began to pray. They prayed for a hundred years. After the hundred years were over, the sound of om...