Unmarried girls in Bengal once worshiped Siva praying for a loving husband. The Bengali idiom, “husband as good as Siva” is aged several hundred years. Folk stories indicate that girls those days were ready to accept even economic hardships in marital life but considered compassion to be essential quality of a husband. Even a forgetful cannabis-smoker was preferable as husband as long as the man expressed love and selflessness. Though fast disappearing, even today we see the custom of young girl’s in rural Bengal fasting and worshiping almighty Siva on particular days or months of the year asking for the same boon from him. But how much is it possible for Siva to fulfill a girl’s desire for a husband of preferred quality? This story found in one version of Gorakshabijay text narrates how even Siva’s boon could fail to fulfill worldly appeals at times.

Birahini was the daughter of a Gandharva king. The princess decided to perform a penance with a desire to have an immortal husband. She went to Kailas, Siva’s abode and began meditating standing on her head, her feet stretched upwards. Knowing her desire and seeing her strong will behind her austere practice, Siva had to contemplate. He knew Goraksha, his devotee was going against Parbati’s wishes. Not only he had disobeyed her wishes, had even punished her using his spiritual power. Seeing wife’s humiliation in the hands of his disciple disturbed Siva, a caring husband. Same like Parbati, he also thought of getting Goraksha married to the princess would fulfill her desire on the one hand and solve the unnecessary conflict between the Goddess and Goraksha on the other.

I could not trace any Gorakshanath idol or temple in Bengal though those do exist in neighbouring Odisha. This picture is from Panauti,Nepal, Credit goes to wikimedia Commons.

Siva was famous for his affection to devotees. He appeared before the girl to give her the boon – the immortal husband named Goraksha. Later calling Goraksha he asked him to marry her. As there was no other unmarried immortal man in the world, he could select none other than him to gift to the sincere girl. But this brought Goraksha to a deep dilemma. He could not deny Siva’swords being his disciple on one hand, but could not ignore his route to spiritual accomplishment too for which marrying a girl would be a barrier. After reflecting on this crisis for long, he finally decided to marry the girl.

Taking her husband along the happy princess went to a temple. And the ever-celibate Goraksha transformed himself into a six month old child there. As the child began crying for mother’s milk, the princess felt embarrassed.“what a husband I have received who is looking for a mother to feed him? What will my parents tell? Everyone will laugh at me that I achieved an awkward relation instead of a boon through my penance.” – she lamented for long in despair. At a time when she had no more tears in her eyes, she sat there frustrated thinking, “I am given this Goraksha through some magic. Did Siva create some illusion for me in his amusement?” She pondered a lot, but anyway she could not give up the responsibility of looking after the baby. While taking care of him, she said whispering, “I got you by Mahadev’s boon; why do you cheat me with your magical skill? If you don’t satisfy me on pretext of being a child, I will commit suicide so that you are punished for being a women-slayer. Your ploy will not work for long.”

Taking his real form Goraksha smiled at her disappointment. Now addressing the princess as daughter, he said, “Listen my child, it’s Shiva who played a trick with you. He cheated you by giving me – a person neither man nor woman, as a boon to you. I have neither strength nor semen. This body is as dry as a dead plank of a tree. I am a flower without smell bloomed in a body without fluid. That is reason I took the form of Siddha. If you believe me, I can predict that you will have an immortal son. What I keep in my bowl of skull works as magic potion. Have this Pakhala water if you want to have a son.”

Following Goraksha’s advice she drank the water from his skull-bowl and instantly she conceived. After ten hours she gave birth to a son.The child was born with all the signs of a Siddha.  Seeing him Goraksha chanted mantras for his well being. Giving the princess’ son a name, he left for Bijayanagar – the place where he would be able to continue his spiritual practice sitting under a medlar tree.  

Both Parbati’s and Siva’s tried to distract Goraksha. Both of their plans to drag him to the trap of the mortal world were thus failed before his determination and astuteness. Gorakshanath remained sole Siddha never enslaved by any material desire.


© Kathakali Mukherjee, 2018