Murugan and Valli – the Chola version

Mr. Sreenivasan had raised a nice question for the previous post on the marriage of Valli with Muruga. Thanks to Satheesh again, we are going to see the original Chola version of the legend in sculpture.

This is a slightly unclear sculpture, and hence we need to infer quite a bit. Its again a beautiful panel, but much withered. It is split into three scenes top to bottom. There is also a smaller panel running right next to it – with a still undeciphered story of Muruga, which we will see at the end.

The full panel can be viewed below, since we have already seen the legend in much detail, we go to the sculpture straight away.

We see Muruga as the old man ( he is carrying an umbrella now) talking to Valli ( who is seated on a much lower Paran)

The next scene – we see a much smaller elephant -more like an elephant calf than a scary raging bull – with muruga who has taken his original form and valli kind of offering a salute!!

The last scene is more unclear – Valli is shown with hands raised upwards – praying?? and the elepant (now it resembles an elephant) with Murugan seated on top going away.

The last two we see the hunters of Valli’s tribe.


The adjacent panel – again top to bottom we see a devotee of muruga praying by a tree, then below we see Muruga ( identified by his cylindrical crown and other regal ornaments) standing next to a seated goddess under an umbrella ( Devasena ??). the last shows him with his two consorts – valli and devasena ( a beautiful depiction) with his peacock sculpted under.

Muruga masquerades as an old man to marry valli

Thanks to Satheesh, today we return to Tanjore Big temple – for another visual feast. The marriage of Valli with Muruga. ( the Tamil portion of this post has been composed – couldnt call it written, by Sri Dhivakar sir). First to give you an idea of the location of the main sculpture of Muruga on his peacock mount and the story panel sculptures around it.


I am basing the explanation of the legend, using the text of Mr. Zvelebil from below site with some slight modifications to suit `our’ audience:: http://murugan.org/research/zvelebil.htm

There is a mountain called Valli Malai or Valli Verpu, not far from the village of Merpati, in the Tontainatu country. In a village beneath the hill lived a hunter called Nampi; all his children being boys, he longed for a little girl. On the mountain slope, an ascetic by name of Śivamuni was engaged in austerities. One day a gazelle went by, and the ascetic was aroused by its lovely shape; his lascivious thoughts made the gazelle pregnant.

In due time, the gazelle gave birth to a girl in a pit dug out by the women of the hunter-tribe when they searched for the tubers of edible yam (valli kodi – yam creeper in tamil). The female deer, having found out that she had given birth to a strange being, abandoned the child which was discovered by the hunter-chief Nampi and his wife. Overwhelmed with joy, they took the little girl to their hut and named her Valli.

When Valli reached the age of twelve, she was sent to the millet field – in agreement with the custom of the hillmen – to guard the crop against parrots and other birds, sitting in an elevated platform called itanam (paran), and chasing the birds and other beasts away.

Watch the lovely depiction of valli on the platfrom down to even detailing of the sling.

The sage Narada, who visited Valli-malai and saw the girl, went to Tanikai to informed god Murugan about Valve’s exceptional beauty and her devotion to the god of the hunters.

Murugan assumed the form of a hunter and, as soon as he arrived at Valli’s field, he addressed the lovely girl enquiring after her home and family. However, at that moment Nampi and his hunters brought some food for Valli (honey, millet flour, valli roots, mangoes, milk of the wild cow) and Murugan assumed the form of a tree (venkai, Pterocarpus bilobus).

Watch the sculpture of the tree, at first it puzzled me as to why a tree must be sculpted in a millet field – but after reading more, found the sculpture has gone to the minutest detail …

When Nampi and his company disappeared, the god reappeared in human form, approached Valli and proposed to her. Valli was shocked, lowered her head, and said she would only wed the Lord Muruga. At that moment they heard the sound of approaching drumming and music. Valli warned Murugan that the hunters are wild and angry men, and the god transformed into an old Saiva devotee. Nampi and his hunter’s took his blessings and returned home.

The old man asked Valli for food, and she gave him some millet flour mixed with honey. Then she took him to a small forest pond, where she quenched his thirst from the palms of her hands. Then he told her, “Now that you have satisfied my hunger and my thirst, do satisfy my love for you.” Valli reproached him, and wanted to return to her field.

At that moment, Murugan invoked the help of his brother Vināyaka who appeared behind Valli in the shape of a frightening elephant. The terror-stricken girl rushed into the arms of the Saiva ascetic for protection. The Ascetic asked her to promise that she would marry him, terror stricked ( another version is that the Elephant actually lifted valli in his trunk was about to fling her – and when she accepted, dropped her into the hands of muruga) – she agreed.

See the lovely depiction incl the expression of great fear in valli and the calming ( watch the protective hand over her – a la MGR).

The last panel shows the Old ascetic in the act of throwing is disguise – as you move from right to left, you see him still in his aged form but going into his classic benevolent stance – and above removing his full disguise.


He then embraced valli revealing his real form, with six heads, twelve arms, and seated on his peacock.

Shiva kicks Yama – the God of death

Today, once again thanks to some delightful camera work by Satheesh, we are going to see one of my favorite sculptures. But this time not as much for the sculptural beauty but more for its story content. The story of Markandeya, was a popular bedtime song for us and my dad used to put us to sleep often with the rendition – have heard it so many times and today my son goes to sleep hearing the same, that i was overjoyed at seeing this sculpture.

Ok, story first.

Mrikandu was a devote saint ( rishi). He lived offering daily prayers to Lord Shiva with his wife Marudvati. Though they lived a peaceful existence, the couple had one unfullfilled wish – they did not have any children and they longed for a son. The rishi prayed to Shiva and pleased with his devotion, Shiva appeared and granted him the boon, but as usual he put a twist in it. He offerred them a choice, either they have a hundred sons who will be dumb and foolish but live a long life or have one very intelligent son, but will live for only sixteen years.

The rishi contemplated and decided to have the one intelligent son. Shiva blessed the couple and in due course they had a baby boy – they named him Markandeya. The boy grew to be very intelligent and handsome. Markandeya was a born genius and learnt the Vedas and Sastras easily. He was the darling of everyone, but as he got older, he noticed that his father seemed to nurse some bad news – for he was getting more and more sadder. Markandeya was smart enough to notice this and he asked his dad to tell him the truth. His dad wept and told him that as per the deal of the boon, by the end of that year, he would be sixteen and hence they had to give him up. He could not bear to even think of giving up such a splendid son.

Hearing this, Markandeya immediately took stock – his parents gave birth to him, his teachers his knowledge but only shiva coud give him prolonged life – so he set his heart into utmost devotion to Shiva and promised his Dad that he would do enough to please shiva that he will not let him die. Thus he made a shiva linga and was eternally offering prayers to it.

On the appointed day, Yama, the Lord of death, came on his black buffalo vehicle, swinging his lasso ( he uses it to pull the souls whose time on the earth is over, out of the physical body) – seeing him Markandeya ran to the shiva lingam, with yama close on heels chasing him, swirling his rope. Markandeya ran and hugged the shiva linga so close, that the only way Yama could fasten the rope around him was with the shiva linga. Yama in his haste did exactly that, he threw his noose round the boy’s neck, and pulled him along with the Shiva- Linga.

At that instant, The shiva Linga burst open and Shiva came out of it, Shiva was in great rage, he kicked Yama so violently that the Lord of death almost died!! Shiva thus saved his devotee and since the boon/curse was that Markandeya would have only 16years to live on this earth, he blessed Markandeya to be forever 16 ( endrum Pathinaaru ) – how many of us would love to have such a boon today !!

Now, have a look at the delightful panel from Tanjore Big temple – split into three frames, top to bottom. the top frame, we have a fiery Yama chasing Markandeya and the hapless boy clinging on to the Siva lingam for dear life.

The second frame, you have an angry Shiva kicking Yama who is sprawled on the floor ( one of the images is from another friend Srivatsan taken a year back – you can see the damage that these 1000 year old miniatures are undergoing – the Trident in the hands of shiva has been worn off this year !!!)

The last frame – the detailing is lost on the left, but you get to see a visibly relieved Markandeya offering thanks to Shiva with folded hands.

This legend has been sung by Appar in many verses and you can look them up here.

http://www.thevaaram.org/thirumurai_1/songview.php?thiru=4&Song_idField=4107&padhi=113+&button=%E0%AE%9A%E0%AF%86%E0%AE%B2%E0%AF%8D%E0%AE%95

to save Mārkkāṇṭēyaṉ, the bachelor, who worshipped him with flowers to be free from the sufferings of birth born of ignorance.
kicking the cruel god of death who had a twisted tongue, hairs as red as fire, curved white teeth and a dark body, [causing him] to tremble with fear.
the superior god who dwells in Kaṭavūr has the lotus red feet with which he caused the god of death to roll on the ground in this manner.
The central idea of the first nine verses is Civaṉ killing the god of death to protect Mārkkaṇṭēyaṉ who worshipped Civaṉ in this shrine.
Translation: V.M.Subramanya Aiyar–Courtesy: French Institute of Pondichery / EFEO (2006)

Shiva cuts off the head of his Father in Law – Tanjore Big temple

My friend Mr.Satheesh Kumar is an ardent sculpture lover like me and he offered to get me some nice photos of the tanjore big temple. Little did i realise that he will get me such a rich collection. We are going to see one interesting panel from his collection today.

As usual, we go for the story first:

Shiva’s consort Parvathi is born to Dhaksha – the king of mountains ( she is fondly called malai magal – in tamil – malai – mountain, magal – daughter). When she comes of age, she expresses desire to marry Shiva ( as is destined), but being a vain king, Dhaksha ( he himself being the son of Brahma) refuses to give his youngest daughter, whom he so lovingly brought up, in marriage to shiva – for he considers him uncouth, wearing animal hides and living in the cemetery, accompanied by ghouls/demons/ etc.But Shiva marries Parvathi and Dhaksha is not able to stand this insult.

He plots his revenge,and tries to insult Shiva, by organising a massive penance/sacrifice, but doesn’t invite Shiva, the foremost of Gods. However,hearing of this big event in her home, Parvathi’s heart and love for her family, makes her plead with shiva to let her go and attend the function. Shiva cautions her, that she will not be welcome and doesnt give her permission to go. However, love blinds the eyes of paravathi and despite the advise of Shiva, she lands us as an uninvited guest in Dhaksha’s palace. There she is not given any respect and is witness to all insults thrown at Shiva. Not being able to bear these and having acted against the advise of her husband, in anguish she kills herself in the sacrificial fire ( meaning, she gets rid of her material body which had affection to family there itself and takes her divine form). However, this enrages Shiva and he cuts the head of dhaksha and throws it into the sacrificial fire.

A bit later, Brahma and other rishis come and plead with Shiva, to forgive Dhaksha. Shiva obliges, but since the original head has already been consigned to flames,he cuts off the head of a sacrificial lamp and fits it on Dhaksha’s head ( inter species head transplant – how is it?)

Now lets look at the sculpture – Satheesh has masterfully taken the pictures to give you an idea size ( with ball pens for scale)

The story board is broke into two sides of the staircase – on one side is the beheading episode and on the other is the head transplant. wonderful depictions.

See the first part, the assembled guests are shown – towards the back of the composition against the wall. Then you see Shiva seated in a lovely pose, with Parvathi leaning non nonchalantly with one arm on nandhi. she is flanked by her assistant to her right.


The crucial scene kind of flow through the entire panel – Dhaksha’s severed torso is shown, fallen to the ground, with his wife lamenting with her hands towards the sky, and shiva is shown clutching the severed head by the hair and dropping into the sacrificial fire ( he has an evil looking sword in his hand – kind of reminds of the blade – neck cutting video’s we saw from iraq)…the priest who is next to the fire is turning away in disgust.


To the right of the composition, we see three ladies and three men – faces turned in aghast at the beheading and almost freezing to flee – their highly strung bodies about to run away – towards the end we see much mutilated but clearly – two beings running away from the scene ( note the size of the composition with the ball pen scale)

The other side – is a prettier picture – a beautiful standing depiction of Shiva, complete with his axe and deer, with a snake adorning his waist – being pleaded to by Brahma, looked on by three rishis. The final scene, we see a revived Dhaksha with a Ram’s head, in all humility,bowed along with the others – showing deep respect for shiva.


A delightful panel. Trust you enjoyed it as much as i did. i loved the depiction of shiva with the snake hanging by the waist.

Karaikkal Ammai in Tanjore Nataraja Panel too

How did i miss this. We had earlier seen the amazing dancing from of shiva as natraja in Tanjore Big temple, and then on our focus on Karaikkal ammai we saw her fantastic depiction in Gangai konda cholapuram. But i missed the panel in Tanjore Nataraja – which too had a beautiful sculpture of ammai – the place has changed a bit – but who can deny the rightful place of ammai. There she is enjoying the dance while clapping her hands. Nandhi on the drum retains his place.

Just showing them side by side for you to enjoy. After all the son did his best to outshine his father ( Rajendra to his dad Raja Raja – in all except the height of his temple ‘s Vimanam – Maybe that was his way of showing his respect for his dad)

The two kings of dance.
20812088
Nandhi on the drum
20842086
Pei ( ghost) ammai ( lady) in both the sculptures.
20762079
Enjoy

Exotic Meat for the Lord – A monitor Lizard

We had earlier seen how Kannappar defied conventional practise by wearing sandals. Today we are going to see him present a monitor lizard to Shiva. Again, the Tanjore Big temple sculpture – the deeds of the shaivite saints so en captured the fertile mind of Raja Raja Chola, that he loved their amazing lives and depicted them on the walls of his great temple.
1880188718901884
Its a small sculpture, more like a story board of sculptures depicted the story of Saint Kannappar, but what interested me was this depiction of him presenting this meat ( being a hunter you can see him still clinging on to his boy and arrow, plus his hunting dog comes into the frame as well). The divine bliss resplendent on his radiant face, as he, with total devotion, presents the meat to the shiva lingam.

Is there a devaram reference to this,ofcourse there is, how else would the chola sculpture depict such an act!!
Eleventh Thirumurai

As per the verse out of his extreme love for the lord, he presents a fat uncooked lizard to him.

For more of this amazing story and depiction in the big temple, please read this lovely post of Mr. Gokul ( watch the Priest Siva Gochariar, hiding behind the tree, in the climax scene)

Gokul’s lovely post

Images courtesy: www.varalaaru.com

Art inspired by Sculpture – Series – part 2

We had seen earlier how profound is the influence of a divine creation on a viewer. The splendor of the masterpiece, transcends time and the joy of the artist’s creation, despite being a thousand years old, continues to pass on from his flesh to stone and from the stone to flesh – of the viewer.


Not many people are lucky enough to be so enormously talented, to be able to give shape to this feeling. It is a void many feel, when one sees pure beauty in front of your eyes, your mind captures it in its eye and your body is overpowered by this dose of sheer exuberance, you are searching for a medium to release this energy. And if you are as talented as my friend Mr Murali, then all the stored responses gushes forth in a spontaneous burst of creativity – adding luster to the creation, a fitting tribute to the masterpiece. Its not often you get a chance to compare two different art forms, products of two different streams of art – spread over a 1000 years, both masters in their craft

Its easy to see why this creation inspired the artist, though the big temple abounds with such brilliant works in stone, the beauty of this creation, leaves you speechless. The Laxmi ( had earlier posted this wrongly as Gyana Saraswati – on further reading notice that this is Laxmi – has two hands and a breast band – whereas Saraswathi is four armed and misses the breast band – apologise to readers) master sculpture of the tanjore big temple. What perfection, the graceful crossed legged seated position, the calm serene face, those arched brows, the benevolent smile, the jeweled crown, the splendid ornaments, the detailing of the garments, Oh – if only i were a chola sculptor i would have felt that my life’s purpose is attained on creating such a masterpiece. So great is this work, imagine to be able to breathe life into stone and create this divine form.

And despite technology bringing you the best in color photography, black and white is the best – the depth that it lends to the finished product is spectacular.

But for the fingers that sketched it on paper, no words suffice, no praise apt. Hats off to you murali and thanks again for sharing your stuff with us. May you continue your quest in art and bring many more such beauties to life

You can view all his beauties here

Tanjore sculpture

How Big is BIG – Part 2 on the Tanjore temple

Ok, we saw a big post with only one picture in the intro post – so those of you eager to see more of the big temple, apologize for that – but the call of my beloved hero Raja Raja aka ponniyin selvan was too much.

We saw the temple vimanam at a distance – so we approach closer, before the visual spectacle arrests you – lets for a second imagine that someone has blind folded you – and moved you closer to the entrance. We skip the first entrance tower ( which is a later addition) and move your nearer to the second – the Keralantagan ( he who destroyed kerela – one of the first victories of Raja Raja was against the Chera stronghold / martial academy in Kandalur Salai – so his meeikeerthi sings-Kandalur salai kalamarutharuli ) – we skip that one as well and move you to the Raja Rajan gopuram ( The illustrious Arulmozhi took the tile of Raja Raja on his crowning) and slowly remove your blind fold. You open your eyes slowly. what do you see?
1330
You see a Dwarabaalaga – door guardian – we first move you to the right one – with bared fangs and bulging eyes – looking down on you .
1365
13611363
13491352
1359
You are forced to look down – for his lower right hand is held is a kind of warning pose – Be careful

1399

and then you look at the lower left hand – its says – look down –
1383
1401
there we see a lion,ok and then there is a snake biting something – oh, its swallowing an elephant!!! there is also a crocodile that has been depicted but i don’t have an explanation for that now ( we come to this later)
13741401
So we look up again – the upper left hand is pointing inside ( the Lord)
1443
and the upper right hand is raised in Vismaya ( Astonishment)
1498
ok lets read whats implied, beware,see below an elephant is being swallowed by a snake, and i am so much bigger than them – and inside – the God is much much bigger than all of us.
1430
so How big is the door guardian – Ok – lets zoom back – bring a human into frame,hmm lets do better and bring an elephant into the frame –

13701372
Now do you get the perception of the scale of the doorguardian.
1357
Now we zoom even more and bring the entire tower into the frame slowly moving backwards …wow -how massive.
1394
1391
1388
1354
The story of the elephant being swallowed is a pointer to the question on the first post as to why the Vimaana in tanjore is taller than the gopuram. A delightful explanation comes from Saint Sambandar’s Devaram.

Where he describes the abode of Shiva – the Holy mountain of Kailash, where there are huge snakes that are capable of swallowing elephants ( actually the right translation of Anaconda – is Aaanai – elephant – Kolran – killer – as per some? but how did a tamil saint envision of amazonian snake and how did the amazonian snake get such a name ?) – in other verses we hear of the lions in kailash ( as did we see in the angkorian ravana shaking episode). So the depiction of these animals are a pointer that the Vimana – true to its name is Dakshina Meru – Southern Kailash – the holy abode of shiva.

Now see the pictures

The first Tower – built during late 14 C

14141417
The second Tower Keralanthagan Gopuram

13761379
The third tower Rajarajan Gopuram
14341436

and finally the Maha meru Vimanam – to truly describe the scale of this edifice requires more posts – so just leave you with some breathtaking visuals ( thanks to friends and Mr Rohan R. Rao
http://rohanrrao.wordpress.com/ for allowing me to post some of his pictures)
1381133215001336133913461344
14381445
There are numerous myths and some little known facts about the great temple. in the coming weeks we will slowly see them…
13671397
140314121420142314251428

The BIG temple – an intro post

After doing the intros of Ajanta, Ellora,thought i should do one for the Big temple in Tanjore. But a post of its sculptures preceded the post, so we take this as a prequel.

This grand exhibition of Chola architecture and its lasting beauty is but a fitting tribute to one of the greatest kings of our land. The great man, as Arulmoli, who was content to let his uncle rule for 15 years, waiting by the sidelines ( after the assassination of his elder brother – the crown prince, Aditya Karikala in 969 AD), and then take on the reigns in 985 AD and user in a glorious period of chola rule.

The exact words are beautifully translated by Sri. K.A. Neelakanta Sastry in his lovely work COLAS ( 1935 – Madras Univ publication) from the thiruvalandadu plates

You can read them here:

but for this verse in particular

(V. 69.) (Though) requested by the subjects (to occupy the Chola
throne), in order to destroy the persistently blinding darkness of
the powerful Kali (age), Arunmolivarman who understood the essence
of royal conduct, desired not the kingdom for himself even in (his)
mind, while his paternal uncle coveted his (i.e., Arunmolivarman’s)
dominions.

Look at the lovely use of the words desire when it comes to Arulmoli and covet when it comes to Uttama ( his uncle)

Arulmoli took the title Raja Raja on his coronation and his military prowess and administrative capabilities are to be etched in gold – but maybe for longivity he chose Stone – yes, he left behind his illustrious deeds in the form of his Prasithi ( in sanskrit) or meikeerthi ( in tamil ) – mei – true, keerthi – fame – his true fame. That would be another post altogether

We look to another plate that sums up the big temple ( thanks to Sri Nagaswamy’s sir site http://tamilartsacademy.com/articles/article29.xml)

To him was born Arumolivarma, who with his long and beautiful arms bore the marks of sankha and cakra in his palms. He conquered the Ganga-s, Vanga-s, Kalinga-s, Magadha-s, Malava-s, Simhala-s, Andhra-s, Ratta-s (Rastrakuta-s) Odda-s (Orissans), Kataha-s, Kerala-s, Gauda-s and Pandya-s. By the wealth obtained through his conquests he erected at Tanjanagari (Tanjore) a very great temple (atyuttamam) named Rajarajesvaram
1324
As you enter tanjore – you are greeted by this – the towering Vimaana ( Vimaana is on top of the main Idol, Gopuram is on top of the outer walls/compound – most south indian temple gopurams are taller than the vimaana, Raja Raja’s tanjore temple and his illustrious son Rajendra’s Gangaikonda cholapuram being one of few exceptions – why ??) – we go nearer in the next post..

Arjuna gets the Pasupatha Astra – Chola version

Hi,

In our earlier posts, we saw the famous penance panel of Mahabalipuram and how the Pallava Sculptor masterfully handled it. Now we run ahead 300 years to come to the Big temple in Tanjore.

The pinnacle of Chola art, the great contribution of Raja Raja Chola to south Indian temple architecture – everything about this temple is big, massive, yet today we are seeing a very small wall panel sculpture.

There are a lot of interesting books on the big temple ( every stone there is a subject for research), but to me this book was most useful in helping me identify a lot of these sculptures.

Iconography of the Brihadisvara temple by dr francoise lhernault.

This particular composition is called the Pasupatha astra dana murthi, its a very lively composition and exquisitely crafted. First, lets see the full panel in relief.
1173
At first glance, seems to be a maze of characters. so lets focus on line by line – bottom up

The row starts with a host of Shiva bootha Ganas ( goblins! for want of a better word) slowly morphing into a wild boar – need to check back the actual story. ***
1165
Arjuna is advised to beef up his nuclear stockpile and aims at getting the Pasuptha astra from Shiva -he dsoe severe penance. Pleased with his penance, shiva comes with his consort, but as is his wont, wants to sportingly jest with him – to see if he truly has the skill to wield the great weapon. So he comes disguised as a hunter and both seem to shoot down a boar ( was the boar sent by shiva – so could be logical that he sent his attendant himself ) at the same time. Soon an argument ensures as to who will take the prize and both of them engage on a one to one combat. It goes on for a long time, and Arjuna is visibly tired, yet the hunter shows no sign of tiring. This makes Arjuna realise that he is up against a divine force and he submits to his grace. Shiva reveals himself and grants him his weapon.

Now we step back to the panel and see how masterfully the sculptor has interwoven the principal characters….

ok the Gana morphing into a boar could be one of our assumptions.
11631169806
then we see Arjuna up on one leg in penance – not as emaciated as the mallai version ( so maybe the mallai one is Bagiratha who is said to have been in penance for a much longer duration)

The next is the famous face off pose ( remember the one from Kanchi Kailasantha temple) –
1192

you can see how the sculptor has sculpted parvati with a baby skanda clinging to her in such a miniature..amazing.
11761178
Next to them,looks like Brahma, Vishnu and Lakshmi watching the amazing duel. ( but it mallai panel we see Vishnu encased in a temple !!) and a host of other gods.
11671196
We now come to the third tier – the panel read right to left as we see it – all the gods seem to give a hats off salute to the Arjuna – who is in all revenue, head bowed, folded hands – while the majestic posture of Shiva

1182

– oh, how can i describe it aptly in words – one arm non chalantly on his bent knee, while the other resting on his consort – Parvati too is amazingly graceful. While surprise surprise, a small bootha gana seems to be handing over the boon/weapon ( sadly no belly face for him – remember the belly tiger face of the gana in mallai – will post a seperate thread on him soon)
1171
The last, looks like Shiva, Parvati ( with baby Skanda on her hip – what a lovely lively depiction) returning to their abode.
1180
The fourth tier – also has a host of celestials in the act of saluting the great event.
1160
The last characters – seem to be a ascetic giving a discourse to an ardent pupil – is this the great sage Vyasa dictating the Mahabharata? 1307

** I did some checking and found the actual story – credit to Mr. V. Subramaniam for giving me the correct references from a delightful song from Saint Sambandar’s Devaram ( Tirumurai 1.48.6)

The song indicates it was an asura ( demon) – Mukasura who was disturbing Arjuna’s penance.

More information on the legend

http://www.shaivam.org/siddhanta/makira.html

purANa of the deity

kirAtar : the hunter

This is the only form of Lord Shiva in which He appeared black in color. arjuna wanted to get the peerless weapon pAsupatAstram from Lord Shiva for the battle of mahAbharata. He left the other four pANdavAs, went to the forest and did austere tapas for getting the boon of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva was satisfied with his prayer, wanted to give the pAsupatAstram to him, but wanted to play a bit too. He took the form of a Hunter with Shakthi as Huntress. That time a demon by name mUkAsura, who was in the form of wild pig came to kill arjuna. To kill the wild pig arjuna fired an arrow from the front, at the same time the Hunter, Who is none other than God Himself, attacked it from the back and killed the pig.

arjuna mocked at the Hunter for firing the arrow from the back. Having great pride of his valor, he was als angry at the Hunter because He aimed at his prey. The Hunter responded that attacking an animal from the back is not against rules of hunting. An argument broke out. They decided to fight deciding who was more valorous between them. The Hunter cut the string in arjuna’s bow with His arrow in the fight! Angered and excited, arjuna started wrestling. He couldn’t match the Lord, and the Lord enjoyed his fighting. At one point of time in wrestling arjuna held the foot of the Hunter. As the Lord is pleased when somebody catches His holy feet, He stopped wrestling appeared with pArvati revealing Who He is. Shocked arjuna pleaded for forgiveness, as he was trying to fight with the Supreme out of his ignorance. However the God, Who is pleased by devotion, blessed him and gave him the invincible pAsupatAstra. (In some books it is told that arjuna couldn’t fight with the Hunter, he started worshipping the Shiva Lingam. To his astonishment he found the flowers he offered to the Lingam on the head of the Hunter. Then he prostrated before the Hunter and the Lord revealed Himself). This can be found in detail in kirAtArjuniyam of bhAravi and mahA bhArata.