Monday 18 January 2021
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Coronavirus Poses Also A Question On Faith

Can faith and chants heal the sick? A question that we are forced to deal with demands a definitive answer. Sometimes nature and prayers miraculously outperform science. In Sanatana Dharma, there is an endless list of mentions to mantras and stotras that cure diseases. The first and thirteenth sargams of Sundara Kanda in the Ramayana are attributed to the curing of certain illness. In the 25th stanza of Subramanya Bhujangam, Adi Shankara eulogises Tiruchendur Murugan, saying that numerous diseases like epilepsy, leprosy, tuberculosis, diabetes, piles, lunacy, etc will vanish the moment one receives His sacred ash in the leaf. Why not coronavirus? Certain stanzas in Saundaryalahari have a curative power to combat particular diseases. Narayaneeyam, the masterpiece of Melpattur Narayanai Bhattatri, is believed to have miraculous healing power. Bhattatri himself was paralysed while composing the magnum opus. Legend has it that, while writing the 100th dashakam, he had the vision of Lord Guruvayurappan when Bhattatiri recited the graphic description of the form. Thereafter, he was cured of his illness. Consuming special prasad offered in certain temples is considered a panacea for critical illness. The eighth shloka in the seventh dashakam of Narayaneeyam is chanted for a cure from ailments. Sanatana Dharma has a long history of seeking refuge in mantras as much as we repose faith in science. Should it not work in society’s fight against the global coronavirus pandemic?

While Dhanvantari, an incarnation of Vishnu, is venerated as the lord of medicines, Vaidyanatha, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, is worshipped as the lord of physicians.[1]Shiva Purana translation by JL Shastri Dhanvantari is known as the god of Ayurveda and Vaidyas paying obeisance to the lord of medicines is a common sight in Kerala. Some Ayurvedic clinics in Kerala have a Dhanvantari temple adjacent to their nursing home.

Recently, Brahmasri Dr KV Vaidyanatha Sastrigal, a renowned scholar and practitioner presided a yajna at Kalady. The yajna was aimed at seeking relief from the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped the entire world. In the course of the yajna, Sastrigal quoted verses from our scriptures and explained how the invocation of specific mantras help us overcome disorders.

Lord Shiva is worshipped as Vaidyanatha, the lord of physicians. The earliest reference to Shiva as the healer appears in certain mandalas of the RgVeda.

[2]Rg Veda translation by Ralph TH Griffith

gā̱thapa̍tiṁ me̱dhapa̍tiṁ ru̱draṁ jalā̍ṣabheṣajam|

taccha̱ṁyoḥ su̱mnamī̍mahe || 1.043.04 ||

Meaning: To Rudra, the lord of sacrifice, of hymns and balmy medicines, we pray for joy, health and strength.

Further, it says

i̱mā ru̱drāya̍ ta̱vase̍ kapa̱rdine̍ kṣa̱yadvī̍rāya̱ pra bha̍rāmahe ma̱tīḥ|

yathā̱ śamasa̍ddvi̱pade̱ catu̍ṣpade̱ viśva̍ṁ pu̱ṣṭaṁ grāme̍ a̱sminna̍nātu̱ram || 1.114.01 ||

This carries the sense “to the strong Rudra bring we these our songs of praise, to him the Lord of Heroes with the braided hair; that it be well with all our cattle and our men, that in this village all be healthy and well-fed”.

In the second mandala, Rudra is described as the best of physicians.

mā tvā̍ rudra cukrudhāmā̱ namo̍bhi̱rmā duṣṭu̍tī vṛṣabha̱ mā sahū̍tī|

unno̍ vī̱rā a̍rpaya bheṣa̱jebhi̍rbhi̱ṣakta̍maṁ tvā bhi̱ṣajā̍ṁ śṛṇomi || 2.033.04 ||

This means “let us not anger thee with worship, Rudra, ill praise, Strong God, or mingled invocation. Do thou with strengthening balms incite our heroes: I hear thee famed as best of all physicians.”

The seventh mandala invokes Rudra to heal all the sickness in the families and bless the progeny.

sa hi kṣaye̍ṇa̱ kṣamya̍sya̱ janma̍na̱ḥ sāmrā̍jyena di̱vyasya̱ ceta̍ti|

ava̱nnava̍ntī̱rupa̍ no̱ dura̍ścarānamī̱vo ru̍dra̱ jāsu̍ no bhava || 7.46.02||

yā te̍ di̱dyudava̍sṛṣṭā di̱vaspari̍ kṣma̱yā cara̍ti̱ pari̱ sā vṛ̍ṇaktu naḥ|

sa̱hasra̍ṁ te svapivāta bheṣa̱jā mā na̍sto̱keṣu̱ tana̍yeṣu rīriṣaḥ || 7.46,03 ||

The above implies “He through His lordship thinks on beings of the earth, on heavenly beings through His high imperial sway. Come willingly to our doors that gladly welcome thee, and heal all sickness, Rudra., in our families. May thy bright arrow which, shot down by thee from heaven, flieth upon the earth, pass us uninjured by. Thou, very gracious God, hast thousand medicines: inflict no evil on our sons or progeny.”

Should this not work in checking the coronavirus outbreak in India?

Ravana, one of the greatest devotees of Shiva, propitiated the lord on Kaliasha. Though it continued for a long period, Ravana’s invocation failed to impress Shiva. Ravana then dug a deep ditch in the midst of groves of trees on the southern side of Himavat that is considered as a spot of Siddhi. After kindling a fire in it, Ravana installed the idol of Shiva and performed the sacrifice.

Ravana’s penance was so hard that, during the summers, he stood in the midst of five fires; he lied down on the bare ground during monsoon and stood in water during the winters. When he found that it was difficult to please Rudra, he cut off his heads one by one.

Delighted, Shiva appeared before Ravana after he cut off his ninth head. Shiva then reinstated the severed heads without inflicting any pain and bestowed on Ravana his desire as well as unparalleled strength.

With folded hands, Ravana appealed to Shiva “I am taking your image to Lanka. Please make my desire fruitful. I seek refuge in you.”

The disinclined Lord replied “Let my excellent phallic image be taken to your abode. Wherever this image is placed on the ground, it will become stationary.”

On his way to Lanka, Ravana had the urge to attend nature’s call. He spotted a cypher and asked him to hold the image. Distressed by the heavyweight, the cowherd placed it on the ground. The phallic image made out of the essence of diamond remained fixed there. The phallic image is known as Vaidyanatheswara.

Brahma, Vishnu, other gods and sages arrived at the spot and decidedly performed the worship of Shiva. After consecrating the image, they called the deity Vaidyanatha. After returning to Lanka, Ravana narrated the story of Shiva reinstating his head like a physician. The king of Lanka was elated because he had worshipped that Jyotirlinga named after Vaidyantheswara.

Will Vaidyanatha relieve us from coronavirus?

In Vaitheeswaran Kovil, the presiding deity Shiva is worshipped as Vaitheeswaran (translates to the “god of healing”). It is believed that He cures diseases. One of the Navagrahas, Mars suffered from leprosy and received treatment from Vaidyanathaswamy. Since then, this temple is considered one of the temples of Angaraka. According to legends, Lord Subramanya (Kartika) sustained severe injuries while battling against Soorpadman. Shiva appeared as Vaitheeswaran to heal the wounds of his son, Muruga. Vatitheeswaran Kovil is about a 90-minute drive from the Temple Town, Kumbhakonam.

Adi Shankara has composed Vaidyanatha Ashtakam, eulogising Shiva as Vaidyantha. Each of the eight stanzas concludes with “Sri Vaidyanathaya namah Shivaya; Sri Vaidyanatha namaskaram!”

It means “salutations to the king of physicians”. This is another popular stotra. It consists of 18 verses.


1 Shiva Purana translation by JL Shastri
2 Rg Veda translation by Ralph TH Griffith

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