Lord Nandi or Nandeeshwara was a great devotee and also a guardian in the abode of Shiva.
According to Hindu mythology, this deity was depicted as a bull. One can see the statue of Nandi in a seated position enshrined in the Shiva temples looking towards his master.
Also in Hinduism, Lord Nandi represents dharma and strength.
Lord Shiva and Nandi Story
Once upon a time, there lived a great sage named Shilada, who wished to have a child who was immortal, not born from a womb and equal to God Shiva.
To fulfill his wish, he performed great penance to Indra (King of Gods). Pleased with his austerities, Lord Indra appeared before Shilada and asked for his boon. On hearing the wish, Indra said I cannot grant you such a boon and told that only the almighty, the destroyer of tripuras, Shiva has the power to fulfill such a wish. And also suggested Shilada, to perform penance for God Shiva such that to make his wish come true.
Shilada carried out a great penance for God Shiva for over a thousand years. He continued his penance even if his flesh had been eaten out and termites started to build a nest around him and finally, the great sage had turned into a skeleton.
Pleased by the sight of penance, God Shiva along with Goddess Parvati appeared before Shilada and touched his skeleton and turned him into his old form. On seeing the trident-bearing God accompanied by Devi Parvati, Shilada immediately bowed to them and fell at their feet and praised for their presence and offered prayers.
God Shiva then asked for any boon he wished for, Shilada requested his desire to have a son who was Immortal and not born in a natural way as humans (Ayonija; Non-Uterine Birth) and should be equal to you in all ways and resemble yourself. Lord Shiva granted his wish and told you will have a child who was my incarnation and said to perform a Somayajna.
The Birth Story of Nandi
Shilada returned to his hermitage and informed about his penance to other sages and after a while, he started performing the SomaYajna on an auspicious day. From the holy fire of Yajna appeared a bright light that was so intense as thousand suns, from which a boy emerged with three eyes, four hands, holding a trident, weapons and wearing a crown resembling Shiva.
Shilada and other sages bowed in reverence seeing the incarnated form of God Shiva.
As the sight of the childbirth bought great joy to Shilada, he named the boy Nandi (One who brings happiness or joy to life). Shilada then took the child to his hermitage, the time the child entered hermitage the body turned in to a human.
Shilada raised the child with great care and affection. By the age of five, Nandi became well versed with Vedas and holy scriptures. The child’s brilliance was admired by everyone. Nandi is having his childhood like every child.
One day on the order of Shiva, sages Maithra and Varuna came to visit Shilada’s hermitage to test the child. Pleased by their visit Shilada did all the respects to them. While leaving the sages blessed the child saying may you cherish with great knowledge.
Shilada was happy about the blessings but felt doubted why they didn’t bless about the child’s life and asked the sages about their blessings, and they replied that your child will not live more than a year and also said that you might have misunderstood the boon of Shiva. Only the brilliance and knowledge of the child were immortal but not his life.
Listening to those words, Shilada trembled and started to cry about his child’s life. Nandi came to his father and asked about his distress. Shilada replied about his conversation with the sages and said that you will not live more than a year.
Nandi told to his father not to worry and reminded him that he was a gift from the mighty God Shiva and also said that he will perform penance to great God Shiva.
Then Shilada replied, it was not an easy feat to perform penance to the supreme God as it may take several years to have his presence.
Then Nandi replied, it does not matter how many years you perform a penance, but how much you are dedicated. Listening to these words Shilada admired his son’s faith in God Shiva and blessed him to perform the penance.
Nandi started to meditate on the SadaShiva (the form with five faces and ten arms) with a great determination, the sight of that spiritual meditation is an exceptional feat for a boy who was seven years old. Shiva who was delighted by the Nandi’s devotion appeared before him along with goddess Parvati and said O Nandi, I am pleased with your penance, I am here now, tell me what is your desire?
Seeing the Supreme God and Goddess, Nandi fell prostrate at their feet. The Almighty, the destroyer of distress, lifted Nandi with his hands and blessed the child with all the mighty powers, Goddess Parvati also blessed the child with her divine touch.
Then God Shiva told Nandi that I only sent those sages to test you, no need to fear about the death and said that your presence will be there where ever I am present. You will be the head of all the ganas(attendants of God Shiva).
After that, the Almighty took the lotus garland present around his head and tied it around the neck of Nandi. Immediately Nandi turned out into divine form with three eyes and ten hands and looked like another Shiva.
To make the place of Nandi’s penance a sacred one, God Shiva took water from his matted hair and poured it on Nandi which began to flow as river Jatodaka. Goddess Parvati also blessed him by pouring milk which began to flow as river named Trisrotas. Out of joy and happiness, Nandi bellowed like a bull from which river Vrishadwani arose. Shiva on placing his golden crown on Nandi, water present inside it began to flow and became river Jambu. By seeing all these clouds started to rain which on touching the golden crown began to flow as river Swarnodaka.
Lord Shiva then manifested himself in middle of these five rivers as Japeshwara Lingam.
Coronation of Nandi
Shiva then asked Parvati about her thought on the coronation of Nandi as the head of all ganas. Parvati then replied that it is appropriate to our beloved son Nandi. On remembering his ganas, countless numbers appeared before God and Goddess and bowed to them with joined palms and drooped shoulders and asked for their leader’s command. Shiva said Nandiswara is my son and he will be your head from now onwards.
All the ganas felt very happy listening to their leader’s words. This announcement also made all the Gods, Demons and Humans very happy and a grand ceremony was conducted.
At that auspicious moment, Lord Shiva granted several boons to Nandi. Thanking his master Nandi accepted all the boons but refused to take the form similar to Shiva and said O God, The Supreme one, I cannot consider myself with you. please accept my request and remove my form. Shiva then accepted the wish and gave another boon telling you can take any form you wish for at any time.
At that same occasion, Nandi was married to Suyasa, The daughter of Marutas. The marriage ceremony was conducted at the instance of Brahma. Both Shiva and Parvati along with other gods blessed the new couple.
The Disciples of Nandeeshwara
Nandi is not only important deity in Hinduism but also a chief guru to eight disciples who were responsible to spread the wisdom to eight directions of the world.
After learning the divine, agamic, tantric knowledge from God Shiva and Goddess Parvati, Nandi taught the knowledge to his eight disciples namely Sanaka, Sanatana, Sanandana, Sanatkumara, Sivayaogi muni, Tirumular, Patanjali and Vyagrapada.
Dispute with Ravana
According to some Puranas, it was Lord Nandi who cursed Ravana (the king of demons).
One day Ravana traveled to mount Kailash the place where Shiva and Parvati resides. Nandi on the command of his master was guarding the place to make sure no one was allowed to go inside.
Ravana who reached mount Kailash has been stopped by Nandi and advised him not to go inside. But he didn’t care Nandi’s order and started to quarrel. which made Nandi angry and cursed Ravana that one day your kingdom will be burnt by monkeys. Later Hanuman (mighty monkey deity) burnt the kingdom of Ravana.
Nandi and Halahala
When Devas and Asuras were churning the palasamudra (ocean of milk) to get the divine nectar or elixir out of it.A deadly poison (halahala) emerged out.
In order to protect themselves from this poison, all the devas and asuras started to pray for God Shiva. Who consumed the poison and stored it in his throat. which made the throat to appear blue. Hence the name Neelakantha for Shiva (the one with Bluethroat).
During the consumption of the poison, a little amount of it was spilled across. Lord Nandi immediately consumed it. everyone was shocked by this and thought Nandi might die, Looking at them (Devas and Asuras) Shiva told not to worry as Nandi was my own incarnation he has all my powers and he believes in me.
Nandi is depicted normally as a bull or a bull faced human form in Hindu texts.
Nandeeshwara in his bull faced form is red or white in complexion with three eyes and four arms holding a golden rod of authority (Hema Vetra), antelope, mace, and varada mudra or alternately as a form without Hema-vetra and posing Abhaya and Varada mudras or Anjali mudra. Sometimes you can also see this deity seated in a yogic position in south Indian temples.
Worshiping Lord Nandi
Hindu scriptures along with Shivate books prescribe that one needs to pray or to seek the permission of Lord Nandeeshwara before offering their prayers to God Shiva. They also prescribe darshan of Shiva linga by the procedure called Shrungadharshan (viewing from the gap between the horns of Nandi).
It is also said that the Shivapuja is incomplete if Lord Nandi is not worshipped. There is also a custom of whispering one’s wishes in the ears of Lord Nandeeshwara believing it will reach to Great God and comes true. Offering Chickpeas, Payasam(Rice pudding), Durva grass can please the Lord.
Sloka or Prayers for Lord Nandi
Nandeeshwara namastubhyam sambananda pradayaka
mahaadevasya sevaartdham anujnaam dehimaeprabho
Vedapaadam vishaalaaksham teekshnashrungam mahonnatham
ghantaangale dhaarayantam swarna rathna vibhooshitham
saakshatdharma tanum devam shivaroopam vrushambhaje
Uksham vishnumayam vishaana kulisham rudraswaroopam mukham
rugveedaadi chatushtayam padayutham suryendu netradvayam
Naanaabhooshana bhooshitam suranutam vedaanthavedyam varam
andam teerthamayam sudharma hrudayam sree nandikesham bhaje.