Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian balasr at YAHOO.COM
Wed Sep 18 19:48:16 CDT 2002

There has been a lot of discussion on soma. I thought
I'd write something based on what our tradition says.

soma sometimes refers to a ritual drink, the contents
of which have been debated much. soma also refers to
the moon and is also a name of shiva. In the
shatarudrIyam, shiva is addressed as namaH somAya cha
rudrAya cha, etc. This stanza is considered the most
important part of the taittirIya sa.nhitA and the
stanza also contains the epithet shiva. namaH shivAya
is the pa.nchAxarI, the importance of which is well

soma is also interpreted as sa + umA. sa + umA = soma
and not somA, because soma is a bahuvR^ihi and takes
the gender of shiva, masculine.

shiva is always worshiped sa umA. The veda-s also
advocate this. The kaivalya upanishhad qhich is quoted
by sha.nkara, says one attains good by meditating on
shiva as:

umAsahAyaM parameshvaraM prabhuM trilochanaM
nIlakaNThaM prashAntam.h
dhyAtvA munir gachchhati bhUta yoniM samasta sAxiM
tamasaH parastAt.h

The mahAnArAyaNa upanishhad also says ambikApataye
umapataye pashupataye namo namaH.

The great kAlidAsa expresses the relationship between
shiva and umA beautifully as vAgarthAv-iva
saMpR^iktau. The relationship between vAch and artha
is very important and Mahony has a beautiful
discussion in his "The Artful Universe".

The kena upanishhad narrates a story. Indra is puzzled
by the disapperance of the yaxa who humbles vAyu and
agni. At that time umA appears and instructs indra.
sha.nkara says in his pada bhAshhya that knowledge of
brahman appeared in the form of umA. He further says
that indra approached umA for instruction because she
is always with the omniscient Ishvara - sarvGYena
IshvareNa saha vartate - iti GYAtum, etc. So sha.nkara
identifies knowledge as umA and shiva as sarvaGYa

In the shiva pa.nchAyatana pUjA, shiva is invoked as
somAskanda-parameshvara. As usual, shiva is  worshiped
sa-umA. There is a story in the purANa-s about a
R^ishhi named bhR^.ngi, who was an exception, who
would worhip only shiva, not even umA. So umA made him
lose his energy and he couldn't stand and do his
tapas. But shiva gave him a third leg to stand on.
Finally bhR^i.ngi got darshan of shiva, but as
ardhanArIshvara. Undaunted bhR^i.ngi pireced through
the body of ardhanArIshvara and did pradaxiNa of only
shiva. For his one pointed devotion, bhR^i.ngi is
remembered at the end of the pa.nchAyatana pUjA, along
with nandi and others great shiva bhakta-s.


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