We have ancient folklore of Bengal having reference to the Siddhas, the Saivait Yogi cult. We also know of the Siddhas,the pioneers of Bajrayana Buddhist cult, the creators of Charyapadas. 10th century verses which are oldest example of Bengali literature as well as Maithili, Assamese and Odiya discovered so far.
Maynamati song, Gopichand ballad or Gorakshabijay – folk literature which evolved around fantasies more than actual events might haven’t give an account of Siddha scholars composing or writing verses – but in reality, the composer of the Charyas were called Siddha!
Siddha composers called those poems as Charyā meaning chants or song of their secret sadhana, not sloka or pada. “Pada” was added by MM Haraprasad Shastri, the researcher and publisher of the collection of Charyās. Anyway we see Siddha as a title was commonly used by Buddhist Tantrik sect and Saiva Nath Yogi sect. Was there any connection?
H M Shastri’s publication of 1916 included Dohākosh by Sarahapada (Sarahapa), Dohākosh by Kanhapada (Kanipa?), and Dakarnaba along with Charyāgitikosh.
Among the fifty songs of Charyāgitikosh, the name of Siddhacharya Kanhapada is associated with 13 verses. How do we identify that this is the same Kanapha or Kanipa mentionedin Natha-Yogi lore? We cannot be sure, but remarkable is Kānhapāda was probably an advocate of Buddhist Tantrik philosophy from current Karnataka, southern part of India. Also in our Gorakshavijay text, the Siddha Kanapha (Kanipa) heads towards southern part of India after his leader Shiva moves to his mountain abode with wife Parvati.
No we don’t want to make this a researcher’s account. Let’s see what one version of Gorakshavijay, a Bengali folklore tells about the origin of Siddhas – how they were born?)

417px-Matsyendranath

Mahayogi Meenanath, alternatively called Matsyendra Nath: from wikipedia commons

I would start my story worshipping the creator, the formless one.

Creating the universe, sky, earth and under-earth for fun

As if playing with himself, he worshipped himself unaware

Who brought awareness in him, who was his pair?

Once aware he saw own form in his own eyes. View of his own body brought him euphoric passion; enamoured he embraced the self with all his desire. The passionate lover’s nails tore the body. His Blood oozed out and from that blood were born the moon and the stars. Overwhelmed by own charm he fell unconscious. Once his consciousness restored, he saw himself again. This time his form delighted him – he started laughing. He indulged himself in self-reflection; in deep thought he growled – from his growls born Brahma and Vishnu. Intense thought caused him sweat, and the prime hymn was born from that sweat. Some of the gods, fire and clay were also born from that. The heaven and hell, location and locality, and everything else were born one by one.

Once everything was created, the one who had a beginning (time-bound) and who did not (timeless) sat together to discuss creation. The one who was born asked the eternal omniscient the secret of the creation. The timeless one replied: creation follows the way a tree is born; none knows whether the seed comes first or the tree. The process of Creation is same like churning the butter from milk or making fire brushing two pieces of woods against each other. Learning all secrets of creation and the universe from him, the one who was born, became knowledgeable.

The knowledgeable was engrossed in thinking. Time flew like that – one full moon night passed and also the dark moon night. But within next two days he got up as if resurrected. He yawned; from his mouth was born Shiva taking the form of Yogi, whose hair was matted and ears adorned with conch shell jewellery. Guru Meenanath the healer was born in the middle of the night, already dressed as Siddha. From the bones of the knowledgeable was born Hadipa, from the ears Kanapha, piercing his matted hair arrived Gorakshanath – all of them were Siddhas – the successors. Finally an exquisitely beautiful woman named Gauri was born. The knowledgeable asked if anyone of the successors had the strength to own the woman – all of the Siddhas lowered their head, all went silent. Only exception was Shiva, who even without showing a sign of enchantment, gazed at the divine female. As the knowledgeable suggested, Shiva being the strongest one owned her. The creator ordered Shiva and Gauri to go to the mortal world with the Siddhas. They did not have anything to do in the celestial abode, but a lot needed to be done for the mortal world.

Coming to earth, all of them were staying together. Meenanath and Kanapha were serving Hadipa and Goraksha was serving Meenanath. All of them were practicing yoga together having no other food but air. Yet in course of time Shiva felt desire for Gauri – both of them started conversing with each other. She asked why Shiva adorned himself with a garland made of bones. Shiva replied that the bones came from different forms of Gauri in her previous births. Every time she had died, unbearable pain of separation besieged him. Every time after her death he collected her bone and made a garland out of that to be able to keep her memory with him. When Gauri asked him the reason why she had to die before him every time, he took her to an amazing water-palace in the middle of the sea to tell her the stories in secret.

What none could imagine that the successor Meenanath would follow them in disguise of a fish. Hiding himself in the water he went on listening to their dialogue. He also noticed Gauri falling asleep while the spirited Shiva continued telling his stories. Meenanath went on saying yes affirming her attention in the voice of Gauri, so that the Mahayogi’s storytelling did not disrupt. This way he learned everything Lord Shiva wanted to tell his lady.

After Gauri woke up, she felt ashamed of her falling asleep. She told her husband how bad she felt that she did not listen to the end of stories. Mahadev anyway felt annoyed – who then had hummed “yes” during his storytelling? He had to meditate to find it out. He went upset knowing how his disciple Meenanath tricked him. The obtrusive curiosity of the Yogi in disguise of fish angered him so much, that he cursed his Meenanath – he would forget all the knowledge he earned at the time of need.

After this incident Shiva and Gauri went to Kailas, their mountain abode to enjoy their union in isolation. The group of Shiva’s successors scattered in four directions of the land. Hadipa went towards east, Kanapha towards south. Gorakhnath went to the west and Meenanath towards north – thus creating four schools of Yoga in four directions.

But did Shiva’s curse bring any trouble for Meenanath? We will hear that story too – in next episode.

© Kathakali Mukherjee, 2018