Pashupati is the incarnation of Lord Shiva that also goes by the epithet Shree Pashupatinath. The name Pashupati means 'the lord of beasts' or the 'lord of animals' and derives from the Sanskrit words 'pashu' meaning animals, and 'pati' meaning the protector. Pashupati as the incarnation was one among the eight Rudras, the one who holds the place of fire. In the Rig Veda, pashupa was related as the protector of cattle deriving from the name Pushan. The name Pashupati also stands for a figure that has been suggested as an earlier form of Rudra and shown as sitting among animals in the Indus Civilization. One of the biggest and most important Pashupatinath temples is Shri Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal and the other in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh.
Origins of Pashupati
Lord Shiva was named Pashupati by Lord Vishnu and other gods during the time of Tripura Samhar, when Shiva became the lord of all demons (pashu) and destroyed Tripura, the three cities of illusion, which were being ruled by the asuras Kamlaaksha, Taarakaaksha, and Vidyunmaali who were wreaking havoc by attacking gods and sages. It is also believed in Shiv Purana that any living being, including humans, that is in the clutches of his own ego, desires and ignorance, is considered an animal (pashu) and only Pashupati can relieve liberate them.
The different faces of Pashupati
Pashupatinath has five faces symbolizing the various avatars of Shiva - Sadyojata or Barun facing West, Vamdeva also called Uma Maheswara facing North, Tatpurusha facing East, Aghor facing South and Ishana facing Zenith. These representations stand for the five primary elements of Hinduism that is earth, water, air, light and metal. The idol of Pashupati usually has Nandi, the bull that carries Shiva seated in front with his eyes fixed on the lord. Some idols have Shiva holding a deer (Mrugadhara) and a deer below his altar.
Pashupati's weapon Pashupatastra
Lord Pashupati himself takes the form of a weapon called Pashupatastra, which is also used by Goddess Kali and can destroy the entire world. This weapon can be discharged by eyes, bow or even words and cannot be used by lesser warriors and on lesser beings. Shiv Purana calls this the ultimate weapon, which is not defeatable. Shiva has sealed the mantra to obtain and discharge the astra in order to prevent its misuse in the Kali Yuga.
Legend has it that this astra was given to Arjuna by Pashupati himself when Arjuna was in a 12-year long exile in the forests and a war ensues between him and a demon Mukasura who takes the form of a pig to kill Arjuna. As Arjuna is about to kill the asura with an arrow, Shiva takes the guise of a kiraata and kills the pig and fights Arjuna. Unaware of the reality Arjuna prays to Lord Shiva for Pashupatastra to defeat the kiraata. Pleased with his devotion Pashupati bestows him with the Pashupatastra, which Arjuna used to fight Ashwathama.
Guheyshwari Devi, the Shakti of Pashupati
As the tale goes, when performing an important yagya at Kankhal Haridwar, Daksh Prajapati did not invite Shiva. Insulted by this, Goddess Sati sacrificed herself by jumping into the fire. When Shiva found out about this, overcome with grief and anger he instructed his Ganas to destroy the Yagya and Prajapati Daksh. Lord Shiva then carried the charred body of Goddess Sati whereupon her remains fell in 51 different places, forming Shaktipeetha Sthal. Gayeshwari Devi is supposedly the Shakti of Pashupathinath.
Mantra to invoke Pashupati
Shiva as Lord Pashupati can be invoked or prayed to with the mantra chanted as below:
Om Hara Maheshwarah Shoola Paani Pinak Drikk Pashupati
Shiva Mehadeva Eeshanaa Namah Shivaaya
Another mantra is
Kim brUma-stava sAhasaM paSupate kasyAsti SaMBo Bava-
ddhairyaM chedRuSa-mAtmana: sthita-riyaM chAnyai: kathaM laByate |
BraSyaddevagaNaM trasanmunigaNam naSyatprapaMchaM layaM
paSyan^nirBaya eka eva viharatyAnanda-sAndro BavAn
The mantra means, Oh! Pashupati, your courage is unfathomable. Oh Shambhu no other can have the courage of this nature. The state of mind like yours is unattainable. All the gods lose their balance and the Sages tremble with fear when Pralaya (the dissolution and destruction of the world and the Universe). But you are the only one who is fearless and in an ecstatic state of mind (Anand) doing the Leela.
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