there was virtuous sage by the name Shilada, who did not have any children of his own. He decided to worship Lord Shiva to get a special child blessed by him. He prayed intensely and immersed himself in austerity for thousands of years.
Pleased by his dedication, Lord Shiva finally appeared before Shilada. He said, “Wake up dear Shilada and tell me what boon do you seek?”
“My dear Lord, I have only one aspiration. I wish to have a child”, replied Shilada.
Shiva smiled and said “You shall have it soon”, before vanishing from the place.
Shilada returned home as a happy man, knowing that the Lord would bless him with a very good 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 was bright as the sun. Shilada stared at the baby transfixed, 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 devoted to Lord Shiva. Shilada brought up the child with love and care. . He taught his son the Vedas, the arts of the medicine, fighting, dancing, singing and several other sacred texts. Nandi was a brilliant boy and learnt everything very fast. Shilada felt very proud of the child.
Some years later, two sages – Mitra and Varuna came to Shilada’s home. “Welcome great sages!” Shilada gave the rishis some refreshments, “Please sit and make yourself comfortable”, Shilada offered them his home for rest.
“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 saying, “Yes father!”
Nandi looked after the two sages well and after staying there for a couple of days, the sages said its time to leave as they have to continue their journey. Before they leave, Shilada and Nandi both sought their blessings.
Mitra and Varuna first blessed Shilada, “Have a long and happy life, Shilada. You have made us very happy!”
When Nandi fell at the feet, the two sages looked slightly sad. Slowly they said, “Be well son! Be good to your parents and teachers!” And they walked off. 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 asked the sages, “You looked sad while blessing my son!” “Is something wrong?”Mitra looked at Shilada with pity, “I cannot wish your son a long life….”
Shilada was crestfallen. He asked, “What is going to happen to my son?”
“Your son, does not…” Varuna cleared his throat, “…does not have long to live, Shilada. I am sorry to bring this news to you, but that’s his fate.” He said lamely, looking at the horrified expression on Shilada’s face.
Shilada stood there 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?” Nandi asked, vigorously shaking his father.
Slowly and painfully, Shilada narrated his conversation with the two sages.
He expected Nandi to be scared or even that Nandi would even start crying. However, Shilada was surprised when he saw Nandi is laughing. “You were scared of what the sages said!”
Shilada wondered what could be so funny and looked at his son without any expression.
“Father, you have told me that you have seen Lord Shiva…” Nandi said with great devotion in his eyes. “Anybody who has seen Lord Shiva cannot be afraid of what the sages just said.” “Father, if it’s my fate to die, then Lord Shiva can reverse 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. “I don’t think so father.” Nandi said softly.
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 near the River Bhuvana. He entered the river and began his penance. His devotion was so great and his concentration was so high, that Lord Shiva appeared in front of him.
“Nandi, open your eyes!” said the three eyed God tenderly, looking at Nandi.
Nandi opened his eyes and before his eyes stood the most beautiful person he had 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. Instantly a thought came to his mind, if only I could always stay with the Lord.
Shiva looked at Nandi, “Nandi, you penance was so powerful that it dragged me here! Ask me anything I will grant it to you!” 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 and 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 Shiva’s vehicle, doorman, his companion and the head of all of Shiva’s attendants – the Ganas.
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