We are blessed with the vastness and rich heritage of an encompassing path of Hinduism; every deity (deva or devi), symbol, tradition, piece of knowledge, and ritual performed has a deep-rooted meaning and helps us in every walk of life. Let’s talk about Nandi – the bull, who reached to the position of a deva.
When we hear the name Nandi, immediately an image of Nandi – the bull in a sitting pose facing the Shiv Ling in Lord Shiva’s temple appears in our mind, isn’t it? Most Hindus would know that Nandi (the head of Lord Shiva’s Ganas) was immensely loved by Lord Shiva. But have you ever wondered, unlike other ganas, why only Nandi is always installed outside the Shiva temple facing Lord Shiva? There is folklore that revolves around this topic; one such famous legend is that of Nandi’s boon which changed his fate forever.
Legend of Nandi Sitting outside Lord Shiva’s Temple
A long time ago, there was a very pious sage (Rishi) who was a great devotee of Lord Shiva and was a man of great virtues. His name was Rishi Shilada. This sage did not have any offspring and dreamt of having a child of his own. To get the boon of a child, Rishi Shilada went to the woods and endured severe penance and devotion, and he was blessed with the boon by Lord Shiva.
Rishi Shilada returned home happy knowing that he was going to be blessed with a very holy and blessed child. The next day Rishi Shilada woke up and completed his cleaning ritual, and began his daily route of walking towards the farm to plow. As he was about to start plowing the field, he saw a small child lying on the field. He quickly walked up to the child and picked the child up in his arms. As soon as he lifted the child, a voice from the heavens up above was heard. The voice informed Rishi Shilada that this child was a boon from Lord Shiva. Rishi Shilada was delighted to hear this and named the child ‘Nandi’. He raised the child in a disciplined manner. He taught him various skills and also taught him Vedas and raised him as a pious virtuous child.
Many years later, two sages named Varuna and Mitra visited Rishi Shilada at his abode. Rishi Shilada was surprised to see the sages and gave them a warm welcome. He introduced his son Nandi to them and asked him to greet the sages. Nandi made sure that the two sages were well taken care of during their stay. After some days it was time for the sages to leave Rishi Shilada’s abode and continue their journey further. Before the sages could leave they thanked Rishi Shilada for the great hospitality and blessed Rishi Shilada but when they then turned to Nandi; the sages were sad. Having noticed this, Rishi Shilada enquired why they looked sad while blessing Nandi. Their reply was as follows, ‘Rishi Shilada, Nandi is not destined to live long so we can’t give him the blessings of longevity. The heartbroken Rishi Shilada informed Nandhi about his life. Listening to Rishi Shilada, Nandi burst out in laughter, Shilada was confused and asked Nandi why was he laughing even after hearing what the sages said. Nandi looked at his father Rishi Shilada and said, ‘Lord Shiva devotee does not have to worry about anything. Lord Shiva, the master of the universe can change anybody’s fate. Nandi then continued by saying that ‘do not worry, I will undergo penance and worship the Lord in order to change my fate’.
Nandi underwent severe penance and meditated with pure devotion. Lord Shiva was pleased by his devotion and appeared in front of Nandi and asked him to open his eyes. As Nandi opened his eyes, he was overwhelmed and awestruck looking at the most beautiful divinity stand right in front of him. He kept staring at the Lord and forgot everything. The Lord smiled and asked Nandi what he wanted as a boon. Nandi was so engrossed and mesmerized by the Lord that he promptly replied ‘My Lord, I wish to stay with you always’. Lord Shiva smiled and said ‘Nandi’ I grant you the boon and from now on you shall stay with me at Kailasha, and have a bull face. From now onwards you will be my companion, head of all my Ganas, the gatekeeper of my abode, and my animal mount. Nandi closed his eyes and bowed down in front of the Lord. And, Nandi’s fate changed forever. From that day onwards, he is in a sitting position always facing Lord Shiva (Shiv Ling). One must notice Nandi is eternally facing the Shiv Ling in a Shiva temple. He has the quality of eternal waiting and listening to the silence of the Lord. His eternal devotion and love through the eternal quality of eternal waiting are alert and awake. This quality is eternal meditation that Nandi (deva Nandi) teaches us.