Infinite's hand on Infinity
-The mystery behind Padmanabhaswamy’s hand on
Within infinite myths lies the eternal truth
Who sees it all
Varuna has hundred eyes
Indra a thousand
You and I only two.
When we observe the beautifully carved idol of Padmanabhaswamy many questions appear in
our mind, why is the Shivling under Vishnu's hand? Why Vishnu requires Shiva? Who are they?
Vishnu is finite, Shiva is Infinity. Scriptures speak of the Trinity, Brahma-the creator; Vishnu-the
Preserver and Shiva-the Destroyer. Though many have seen them as one yet various texts and
temples praise them separately. However the form in which the Trinity exist together is
meticulously shown in the Padmanabhaswamy idol.
In the image, we see that the Trimurti are in their complete form. We have Brahma emerging
from the navel of Shri Hari Vishnu, Vishnu sleeping on the Adi Ananta Shesha Naag and
Vishnu's hand on Shiva Linga.
This form represents the entire Trimurti, the idol is never complete without their presence.
There's a story mention in the Shaiva Puranas which goes like :
Prajapati Daksha, the Brahma Kumar (son born from the thumb of Brahma) wished to establish
a magnificent temple in the honour of his prime lord, Shri Vishnu. For which he had asked the
best of craftsman from his kingdom to build an idol of Ananta Padmanabhaswamy. But since
Daksha had a grudge against Shiva he had ordered him that the idol must not contain the Shiva
Linga. The craftsman being a poor person had to succumb to the king's wish and crafted the
most beautiful idol of Padmanabhaswamy. The idol was humongous and required many men to
carry it from the site of crafting to the temple premises. But when the idol reached the entrance
of the garbha griha or the center of the Sanctum Sanctorum where it was designated to be
placed, it refused to move forward. When the manpower failed Daksha ordered his men to use
elephants, but all in vain. So he thought that it might be because Lord Vishnu might have been
angry with him so he performed a Maha Narayan Yagya, which required 108 types of flowers,
Parijatak being the prime, to please him. Sati, his eldest daughter (in some interpretations
the youngest) after bringing the Parijatak flowers from distinct mountains and meeting Rishi
Dadhichi who had explained her that it wasn't anger of Vishnu which was halting the process,
was watching everything from the distance when the craftsman came to her carrying a small
rug. Sati enquired why he was so tensed and what was he carrying in his rug. The craftsman
slowly removed the rug and took out a small Shiva Linga. Sati was shocked, a Shiva Linga had
been brought in a palace where even taking the name of Shiva was prohibited. She asked him
why had he brought it to her. He replied that, without the Shiva, the Trimurti cannot exist,
without Shiva, the entire idol would never enter the Sanctum Sanctorum, without Shiva,
Padmanabhaswamy and Brahma were incomplete and can never be worshiped. He requested
her to keep the Shiva Linga quietly in the idol, under Vishnu's arm, which is offering flowers
downwards. She did as the craftsman had asked her to do. When Daksha returned after
completing his Yagya and asked the men to take the idol inside to everyone's surprise it only
took a few men to move it to the Garbha Griha. Daksha then saw the Shiva Linga, he became
furious and was about to remove it when Sati stopped him. She said that it was only because of
the Shiva Linga that the idol could be moved. Daksha revolted and claimed that it was his
Yagya with which Vishnu was pleased and agreed to enter the temple. Sati replied that if he had
dared to remove the Shiva Linga, the idol shall break and he shall lose the title of Prajapati.
Daksha had to succumb to his daughter's argument.
Thus in the story we see that without the Shiva Linga, Padmanabhaswamy is incomplete.
The official website of Ananta Padmanabhaswamy temple has a different story to tell. It says
that the Shiva Linga's presence in the idol might have been linked to the killing of the demon
Keshi or the story of Bhasmasura.
The site doesn't mention the relation between the demon Keshi and Shiva. All we know is that
the word Keshi means the hairy one, which is affixed in front of the first teerthankar of Jains,
Rishabha and hence the name Keshi Rishabh. Keshi Rishabha has similar similarities with that
of Lord Shiva (to know more check Shiv and Rishabh : A study), and the word Keshi can also
mean Jatadhari, another attribute of Shiva. But since the site has affixed Demon, it might be
mentioning the demon Keshi, the hairy horse, sent by Kamsa to kill Krishna, the eighth Avatara
of Shri Hari Vishnu, who was however defeated, in the Dwapara Yuga.
The next story is related to Bhasmasura. Lord Shiva always smears Bhasma or ash on his
body. He is also Bholenath, the innocent God. When a demon worshipped him very piously,
Shiva appeared before him and wished him to grant a boon. The demon replied that he wanted
to spend his life in Seva of Shiv, that is, working for him. Shiva agreed and asked him to collect the
ash from the earth and bring it to him. The demon continued to do his work but he felt it was
very tiresome so he asked Shiva for another boon, that whatever he touches shall be
transformed to ash. Shiva granted him so. In reality the demon had seen Parvati and wanted to
possess her which couldn't have been possible in the presence of Shiva. So he moves to Shiva
to test his boon and also reduce Shiva to ashes. Shiva flees to Vishnu and asks for his
protection. Vishnu readily agrees to this and asks Shiva to hide behind a tree. Vishnu then takes
his most beautiful Mohini form and appears before the Bhasmasura (the demon/Asura of
Bhasma or ash). Seeing Mohini, Bhasma forgets about Parvati and asks for her hand. Mohini
agrees to wed Bhasmasura on only one condition, if he is able to match her steps as she
dances. Bhasmasura agrees to her and starts imitating the exact steps Mohini was performing.
At last Mohini placed her right hand on her head and when Bhasmasura did the same he
himself was reduced to ashes. Thus Vishnu had protected Shiva. In the idol, Vishnu places his
hand over Shiva in Abhaya Mudra, asking him not to fear.
Now there is another perception to placement of Shiva/ Shiva Linga under Vishnu's right arm.
According to mythologists like Devdutta Pattanaik, Vishnu is represented as a supreme entity in
the Padmanabhaswamy image. Shiva when depicted in Poorna Swarupa, bends to Vishnu with
his eyes closed. Shiva, the hermit who destroys the world by shutting his eyes, has it open with
his two sons, Ganesha and Kartikeya representing physical and intellectual capability
respectively. Thus the waking if Narayan and the resulting creation of the world are associated
with Shiva, the indifferent hermit opening his eyes, marrying and producing children, to become
Shankara, the attentive householder (courtesy: 7 secrets from Hindu Calender Art, Chapter 2:
Narayan's Secret , page 40–41, Devdutta Pattanaik)
There's more to this. Shiva is generally shown as an infant in the Padmanabhaswamy image.
The reason to this is, Shiva is the ultimate lord of space and time, He is Mahakal, he is
Kamantaka, destroyer of desires and lust, and Yamantaka, destroyer of death. He is unafraid of
Death. Just like an infant. While you have Vishnu, as the youth, who is aware of Death. So he
preserves all from its warth. Brahma, depicted as an old sage who is constantly afraid of death.
He emerges from Vishnu's nabhi/navel which has no fear of death. (Image courtesy and content
adaptation: 7 Secrets of Shiva from the Hindu Trinity series, Devdutta Pattanaik, Chapter 2:
Bhairava's Secret, page 39–41)
Thus the placement of Shiva near Vishnu's arm has various meanings satisfying and respecting
both the Shaiva and Vaishnavites views. All we need to know that every thing in Sanatana
Dharma from its images to stories have their symbolic meaning.
One should never forget that one can never distinguish between Shiva and Vishnu.
Mahadeva is a part of Vishnu. Vishnu is a part of Mahadeva.
On one side Mahadeva presents Vishnu his Sudarshana Chakra as boon while on the other
Vishnu protects Mahadeva from Bhasmasura.
As Hanumana, Mahadeva serves Rama; as Sharabheshwara he destroys Narasimha and
subsequently Sharabheshwara is subdued by Gandaberuda. As Shankara he embraces Mohini
to give birth to Ayyapa Swamy; as Shiva he accompanies Krishna in his Leela. As Lingeshwara
he gives the boon to Vishnu to be worshipped till eternity, as Veerabhadra he defeats Maha
Vishnu in the battle of Prajapati Daksha. Kurma Avatara prays to Mahadeva(Neelakantha) to drink the Kaalakuta Halaahal, while Shiva nearly protects Hayagreeva from the wrath of Matsya
Shiva is Rameshwara, the lord of Rama. Vishnu is the enigma and bull of the chariot of
Tripurantaka, he is the very arrow of Tripurantaka’ bow, the Pinaka.
Shiva witness Ram's Swayamvara, dances to the raagas of Ramchandra, becomes the gopika
of govinda, the cow of Sri Balaji Venkateshwara.
There is no distinction between then. The Shaivas are Vaishnavas, the Vaishnavas are Shaivas
because the lord is HARIHARA.