1. The Greatest God In The Universe
One day, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu got into a heated argument. They both claimed to be the greatest god in the Universe. Lord Brahma said, "I have created everything on earth thus, I am the most powerful god." Lord Vishnu replied, "But I am the preserver of all your creations. Thus, I am the greatest."
As they continued arguing, a fiery lingam erupted from the earth between them. It stretched higher, without any end in sight. Both Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma stared at it, trying to figure out its origin and end.
They both decided to find it out for themselves, and wagered that they will figure out the mystery before the other one. Lord Vishnu transformed into a wild boar and stared digging into the earth to find the lingam’s origins. Lord Brahma transformed himself into a swan and flew up to find its end.
Lord Vishnu went on digging into the earth, but was unable to find the lingam’s origins. He gave up and emerged from the earth, defeated. Lord Brahma flew high, but was nowhere near finding the top end of the lingam. He saw a ketaki flower on his way, and carried it in his beak, back to earth.
He met Lord Vishnu and showed him the flower, claiming that he saw it on top of the lingam.
Suddenly, the sky reverberated with thunderstorms, and Lord Shiva came forth from the lingam. He pointed at Lord Brahma and said, "You are lying! Because of the sin, I curse you that no one will worship you celebrate your festivals or build your temples." He further banished the use of ketaki flower from being used in his worship.
He turned to Lord Vishnu and said, "You have been honest and humble. Thus, you shall be worshipped, festivals will be celebrated in your honour and temple will be built for you on earth."
Lord Brahma was ashamed of his act, and asked for forgiveness. He and Lord Vishnu bowed down in front of Lord Shiva, conceding defeat and accepting Lord Shiva as the greatest god in the Universe.
Sage Mrikandu and his wife Marudvati were devout devotees of Lord Shiva. They were happily married but childless. They decided to perform penance to Lord Shiva to pray for a child.
Impressed by their devotion, Lord Shiva appeared before them and said, “You can ask for anything you want.” Mrikandu asked for a child and Marudvati asked for a blessed child. Surprised by the differences in their replies, Lord Shiva smiled and asked, “Do you wish for an ordinary child who will live longer or a gifted child who will live for only sixteen years?”
After a moment’s thought, Marudvati replied, “Bless us with a gifted child. Even though he will live for sixteen years, we will have fond memories of him for the rest of our lives.” Her husband agreed with her, and Lord Shiva blessed them and disappeared.
In due course, Marudvati gave birth to a son, who was named Markandeya. He grew up to be an exceptionally gifted child. He knew all the Vedas by heart, and mastered Mahamrityunjaya Mantra. The mantra is addressed to Lord Shiva to ward off untimely death or attain immortality.
His parents loved him a lot, but Markandeya sensed sadness in them. When he asked them about it, sage Mrikandu told him about the story of his birth. After listening to it, he understood the reason of their sadness. He promised them that he will find a solution to their problem.
As Markandeya’s sixteenth birthday approached, his mother was inconsolable. He consoled her and said, “Mother, don’t worry. I will pray to Lord Shiva and everything will be fine.”
The night he was to turn sixteen, Markandeya started reciting the Mahamrityunjaya mantra in front of a lingam. The God of Death Yama saw this, but he knew that Markandeya’s time on earth was over. He sent two of his servants to bring Markandeya, but the heat emanating from him threw back the servants.
Yama then decided to bring Markandeya himself. When he approached the praying Markandeya, he shook him violently.
Markandeya opened his eyes and pleaded, “I have not finished my prayer to Lord Shiva. Please don’t take me away until it’s over.”
Yama grew impatient and coiled a rope and threw it at Markandeya. The noose fell on Markandeya and the lingam. As Yama tightened the noose, an angry Lord Shiva made an appearance. He struck Yama and killed him. The other gods became very concerned about this. They all approached Lord Shiva and begged him to revive Yama. They explained that without Yama there will be no deaths and people will live for forever, which will create many problems. Lord Shiva relented and revived Yama.
Yama thanked Lord Shiva and enquired about Markandeya, to which Lord Shiva replied, “Markandeya will live forever.” Saying so, he blessed the child. As the myth says, Markandeya can still be seen sometimes, trapped in his sixteen years old body, singing the glories of Lord Shiva.
3.The story of Sudarshana Chakra
One day, all gods approach Lord Vishnu pleading with him to save them from the attack of the rakshasas. Lord Vishnu says that he does not have enough power to fight the demons and would have to seek Lord Shiva’s help. When he reaches Kailash, he finds Lord Shiva in a deep trance. Unwilling to disturb him, Lord Vishnu decides to pray for Shiva until he comes out of his trance.
Vishnu would chant the name of Shiva a thousand times every day by offering one lotus flower against each chant. This goes on for many years before Shiva comes out of the trance one day. Not knowing that Shiva has come out of his trance, Vishnu continues his chanting for the day.
Shiva decides to play a trick on Vishnu, and secretly removes one lotus from the bunch that Vishnu had arranged. After Vishnu chants for 999 times, he realizes that one flower is missing from his collection. He immediately plucks out his eye and offers it at the feet of the Shiva.
Impressed by Vishnu’s devotion, Shiva tells him to ask for a boon. Vishnu asks him to give the power to defeat the demons to save all the gods. Lord Shiva gives him a round disc, called the ‘Sudarshana Chakra’, which has the power to kill anything.