On Mahashivratri let’s remember the place of animals and especially dogs in the life of the Fearless One.
Hinduism accepts humans as just one of many life forms. Each form serves a function which has to be respected. Even Vishu evolves through his many incarnations through animal forms. We go through the cycle of life hoping to get moksha. There is no heaven for humans per se. That’s for the Gods. For us manavgan, it’s more about mukti. The lord over this in some ways is Shiva or Bhairava who is also called Dandapani (“[he who holds the Danda in [his] hand”), as he holds a rod or Danda to punish sinners, and Swaswa, meaning “whose vehicle is a dog”. Bhairava hence represents Supreme Reality, synonymous with Para Brahman.
Bha means creation, ra means sustenance and va means destruction. Therefore, Bhairava is the one who creates, sustains and dissolves the three stages of life. Therefore, he becomes the ultimate or the supreme.
So we have Shiva who is the Supreme Reality, who is the lord of animals and his vahana is a dog. Why would Shiva choose a dog? Dogs protect their territories and their masters. They are mild by nature unless there is danger. They are aware of every sound, every threat even when asleep and are always alert. In the presence of danger, they mirror the aggressor, doing what is necessary. They also do not forget the one who threatens them or whom they love.
Bhairava originates from the word bhīru, which means “fearsome”. It is also known as one who destroys fear or one who is beyond fear. He protects his devotees from dreadful enemies, greed, lust and anger. These enemies are dangerous as they prevent humans from seeking God within. His vahana, the dog, does the same. He protects humans from their fears so that their hearts are free to seek God.
Pashupati, also an incarnation of Shiva is the “lord of the animals”. The earliest claimed evidence of Pashupati comes from the Indus Valley civilization (2500 BCE to 1750 BCE), where the Pashupati seal has been said to represent a proto-Shiva figure.
Humans over the years in their greed, have decided that the earth belongs only to them. Any other life form is to be eliminated unless it serves some monetary function. For every Hindu and Shiva Bhakt out there, who drives dogs away from societies, temples and office buildings, calling them impure and a menace, I like to remind them that they are driving away the one who was placed there to protect them and ensure that they have no fear. Only then will there be space for bhakti in their hearts.
We know it pleases a man more if you buy a gift for some he loves than buying it for him. This Mahashivratri pledge to feed a dog for as long as you can afford to. You’ll have acknowledged that you are just one form of many and humility is the start of the journey to find the Lord within. || Om Namah Shivay ||