“…thou shalt not grieve for what is unavoidable.” – The Bhagavad Gita
Veeraiah’s six-year-old son was found dead near a lake in their village. It was obvious that he was poisoned. He ate a deadly poisonous fruit of an ivy that grows on the walls of a dilapidated well in Nagendra’s jowar fields. Nagendra’s men did the dastardly thing of poisoning the little child. Veeraiah broke down during the funeral rites. Everyone thought he too would die of grief.
Veeraiah and Nagendra belonged to the same community and there was competition between the two families regarding the abhishekam (a ritualistic offering) during lingodbhavam time(12 midnight – the time when Lord shiva, a Hindu God originates from the formless ovid form called the Shivling). This is performed in an ancient Mrutyunjaya shrine of their village. Mrutyunjaya is another name of Lord Shiva – meaning conqurer of mrutyu or death. This ritual falls on Mahashivaratri, the most auspicious day for all the Shaivites (Hindus who belong to the order of Shaivism).
The two families of Veeraiah and Nagendra get to do the Abishekam every alternate year on Mahashivaratri.
This year it’s Veeraiah’s family’s turn. But it is said that Nagendra’s eldest son was suffering from a strange disease which the doctors said was fatal. The priest of the Mrutyunjaya shrine said that if Nagendra’s son performed the abhishekam to Lord Mrutyunjaya on Mahashivaratri during at the auspicious time he would conquer death.
Nagendra asked Veeraiah to let Nagendra’s son perform the ritual on the festival that year but Veeraiah refused – he would not miss his turn – he wouldn’t miss the great opportunity to pray for his only son’s long life. Three days before the festival Veeraiah’s son was found dead near the village lake. No one in Veeraiah’s family was eligible to perform the Abhishekam as there was death in the family.
Everyone in the village believed it was Nagendra who killed Veeraiah’s son and no one had doubts about it. The poisonous fruit did kill Veeraiah’s son but who gave them to him, no one knew. Some say that Veeraiah’s son ate the fruits in ignorance when Nagendra’s men offered them to him while some say that he was forced to eat them. However there was no evidence of who poisoned Veeraiah Son.
Veeraiah, overwhelmed with the grief of his son’s death went to Mruthyunjaya Swami’s (Lord Mrutyunjaya) shrine one night and decided to end his life by piercing the Trishool (a trident which is Lord Shiva’s weapon)into his throat.
Chanting the Mrutyunjaya mantra he went near the altar and took the the Trishool. He pierced it into his throat, Veeraiah then saw a bright light around the Shivling (the ovoid form of Lord Shiva). Veeraiah for a moment, forgot the pain of the trishool’s wound and his grief and wondered what the light was. He did not stop chanting the Mrutyunjaya Mantra. He constantly looked at the bright light and wondered from where it came. Curiosity replaced his grief. He looked at the Shivling and saw a face smeared in vibhuti (sacred ash powder which Lord Shiva smears on his face and body). Even while chanting the mantra Veeraiah lost his consciousness.
The next morning the priest found Veeraiah unconscious near the entrance of the temple before the closed doors and got worried. He sprinkled some water on Veeraiah’s face and woke him up. Veeraiah saw the priest and some devotees around him. He got up to see the locked doors of the shrine. He looked up and there was a picture of Goddess Parvati (Lord Shiva’s consort) above the threshold in a glass frame. He looked at his faint reflection and noticed that his own face and throat was smeared in ash. Veeraiah had many questions.
“How did I go into the shrine, if the doors were locked?”
“I vividly remember piercing the trishool in my throat, then how come I didn’t die?
“What was the bright light that I saw around the Shivling last night?”
“Who was the man whose forehead was smeared in vibhuti in the place of Shivling?
“How did the vibhuti come on to my face? Who applied it to my throat?
Veeraiah started contemplating. The grief of his son’s death that was killing him, is not there anymore. First, he thought it was a dream but the vibhuti on his face is real. That he no longer grieved his son’s loss is real.
Veeraiah wondered if the Lord Mrutyunjaya helped him conquer death. Then he realised that it was not death that Veeraiah conquered, it was the grief he conquered – the grief of mrutyu, death.
The day after Mahashivaratri, in spite of doing the abhishekam during the time of lingodbhavam, Nagendra’s son passed away. Nagendra wondered why Lord Mrutyunjaya did not accept his prayers.
The people of the village knew – they said “It is Lord Mrutyunjaya after all! He knows whom to give mrutyu and when.” They were right, Lord Mrutyunjaya took away Veeraiah’s son but blessed him with gnyana (wisdom), that will lead him to immortality.