Once there lived a virtuous sage by the name Shilada, who did not have any children of his own. He decided to worship Lord Shiva to get a meritorious and divine child blessed by Him. He prayed intensely and immersed himself in austerity for hundreds of years.
At last, Lord Shiva appeared before Shilada, and asked, “What boon do you seek, Shilada?”
“A child. I wish to have a child, Lord Shiva.” Shilada said respectfully to Lord Shiva.
Shiva smiled. “You shall have it soon” He said and vanished.
Shilada returned home with full of happiness, knowing that the Lord would bless him with an excellent child. The next day he went to the farm to begin his ploughing, when he found a beautiful baby in the field before his plough. The baby’s skin glowed with a beautiful white light.
Shilada stared at the baby and was wonderstruck, when he heard a voice from the heaven, “SHILADA, TAKE THE CHILD. BRING HIM UP WELL!”
Shilada was overjoyed as he took the boy home. He named the boy Nandi. Right from his childhood, Nandi was also devoted to Lord Shiva. Shilada brought up the child with love and care. Shilada taught the child all the four Vedas and gave the child best education. Nandi was a brilliant boy and learnt everything very fast. Shilada felt very proud of the Nandi.
Some years later, two sages – Mitra and Varuna came to Shilada’s home. “Welcome great sages!” Shilada prostrated before the rishis and offered some refreshments, “Please sit and make yourself comfortable.”
“Nandi!” Shilada called his son. Nandi came from inside the house. “Nandi, please make sure these sages are well looked after.”
Nandi smiled and nodded his head. “Yes father!”
Nandi looked after the two sages very well and after enjoying the stay, the sages said that it was time they left. Before they were about to live, Shilada and Nandi both prostrated before the two sages and received their Blessings.
Mitra and Varuna first blessed Shilada and said, “Have a long and happy life, Shilada. You have made us very happy!”
When Nandi fell at their feet, the two sages hesitantly looked at Nandi with some sadness. Slowly they said, “Be well son! Be good to your parents and your teachers!’” And they walked off, outside the house.
However Shilada noticed the change in the expression of the sages. He ran outside the house, “Great rishis!” He said breathlessly. He turned around and made sure that Nandi was inside the house and could not hear him, and talked to the sages, “You looked sad while blessing my son!” Shilada said feeling terrified, as he was thinking of unpleasant things…”Is…Is there something wrong?”
Mitra looked at Shilada with pity, “I cannot wish your son a long life….” Mitra said softly.
Shilada looked in absolute panic. “What is going to happen to my son?” He whispered.
“Your son, does not…..” Varuna cleared his throat,…..does not have long to live, Shilada. I am sorry…” He said lamely, looking at the horrified expression on Shilada’s face.
Shilada stood there shattered and transfixed for a long time. After a long time, he slowly walked back home with stooping shoulders and a broken heart.
Nandi immediately guessed something was wrong, “What is it father? What happened? What…” Nandi asked, vigorously shaking his father.
Slowly and painfully, Shilada narrated the conversation he had with the two sages.
He expected Nandi to be scared or even that Nandi would even start crying. However Shilada was surprised when he heard Nandi’s laugh. “You were scared of what the sages said!” He said still laughing.
Shilada wondered what could be so funny and looked at his son without any expression.
“Father, you have told me that you have had dhaksh an of Lord Shiva…” Nandi said with great devotion in his eyes. “Anybody who has seen Lord Shiva in their life cannot be afraid of what the sages just said.”
Shilada still looked dumbly at his son, not understanding. “Father, if it is my fate to die, then Lord Shiva can reverse and rewrite my fate! He is the most powerful God and can do anything. Do you think he would let anything happen to us, when we worship him? Nandi looked at his father challengingly. I don’t think so., father..” Nandi said politely but at the same time confidently.
Shilada looked at his son as if looking at him for the first time. Slowly Shilada nodded his head and smiled.
Nandi bowed to his father. “Bless me father!”
Shilada blessed his son, “Be victorious my son!”
Nandi then went to the bank of the River Bhuvana. He entered the river and began his intense penance. His devotion was so great and his concentration was so high, that Lord Shiva appeared in front of him almost instantaneously.
“Nandi, open your eyes!” said the three eyed God compassionately looking at Nandi.
Nandi opened his eyes and before his eyes stood the most beautiful Shivji he had ever seen in his whole life. Nandi looked at the God wanting to savour his image. He felt that he had nothing more left to ask. If only I could stay with the Lord always…
Shiva looked at Nandi with lots of love, “Nandi, you penance was so powerful that it dragged me here immediately! Ask me anything I will grant it to you!” Lord Shiva said.
“ Lord I wish to be with you always.” The words were out of Nandi’s mouth before he could stop them.
Shiva smiled. “ Nandi I have just lost my bull, on which I used to travel. Henceforth Nandi, you shall have a face of a bull. You shall stay in my home at Kailash. You shall be the head of all my Ganas…You will be my companion, my vehicle and my friend, always!”
Nandi closed his eyes as tears flowed through them. The Lord had granted him his wish and a lot more…..
Since then Nandi became Lord Shiva’s official vehicle, doorman, his companion and the head of all of Shiva’s attendants – the Ganas. Thus by sheer devotion Nandi was not only able to overcome his fate, he also got his fate rewritten by Shivji’s Grace.
After few weeks, the Devas and the Asuras together churned the ocean for nectar. However the first thing that emerged from the churning was the poison Halahal. The poison was so strong that it threatened to destroy the whole world. To protect the world, Lord Shiva collected the poison in his hand and swallowed it. Goddess Parvati who was near Lord Shiva clutched Shiva’s throat to make sure that the poison was stored in the throat and would not affect Lord Shiva.
However some Halahal slipped out of Shiva’s hands and fell on the ground. Nandi gathered the fallen Halahal and seeing his master drink it, he also drank it!
The Devas were staring shocked at what Nandi had done! Lord Shiva was a God and besides he had Goddess Parvati to protect him, so nothing would happen to Lord Shiva. But Nandi…
However nothing happened to Nandi. Shiva looked at the dumb folded gods and smiled, and said, “Nandi is my greatest devotee! All my powers are his too and Parvati’s protection will go to him too!”
The three of them smiled and then happily returned to Kailash.
Devotion to Sri Nandhikeshwar is Devotion to Lord Shiva, Prayer to Nandhi is prayer to Lord Shiva. Whoever prays to Lord Shiva and Nandi on Mondays and Pradosham days will receive great boons and bountiful Blessings.
Prayer to Sri Nandikeswara (to be chanted before Nandi at Shivji Temple)
Nandikesa Mahabhaga, shiva dhyana parayna,
Uma Sankara sevartham anujnaan dathumarhasi
Oh Lord Nandi , the one great one who always meditates on Shivji,
I request your to grant permission for the service of Lord Shivji and His consort Uma.