It was during the hour of twilight that the Devas and the Asuras began to churn the ocean of life to bring out the promised Amrit(elixir of living) which they had promised to share equally among themselves. With
The Devas worshipped Lord Shiva to save them from this ordeal. Lord Shiva came down from Kailasa and swallowed the poison to save the world and hence is called Shiva Neelakantha(or the blue throated Shiva). This particular auspicious hour when the Lord saved all humanity is attributed to Pradosham, a special moment in the day, twice a month when Shiva is specifically worshipped by all devotees and all their wishes are believed to be granted.
This very same concept is brought alive architecturally at the Kailashnatha temple at Kanchipuram, in an unusual way. The path of circum-ambulation around the main sanctum is peculiar in this temple as it promises every aspirant an exit from the cycle of birth and death into eternal bliss. It presents them with the elixir of "life", where life is not meant to be taken in its literal sense. The dark passage hosts no light through the path of circum-ambulation, is entered by a flight of 7 steps, each signifying a birth lived. The entrance itself is small and needs to be crawled through. This leaves a void in the mind of the aspirant. It’s the churning of the ocean in the mind of the aspirant as he makes his way around the Great Shiva Linga housed within this temple.
In the literary aspect of the same mythology, the Mrityunjaya mantra is most profound as it praises the Lord in the form of Rudra and Shiva Neelakantha as the Lord who overpowers death (as we know it) and gains complete victory over it, ultimately feeling bliss. The mantra can be interpreted in the following way:
It is through the sincere worship of the forms of Rudra and Shiva Neelakantha, that there is a possibility to attain salvation from the cycle of birth and death, the churning of one’s ocean in this world of the living. The second part of the mantra explains that it is the elixir of living that we need to understand, and realize within ourselves that will elevate us to perfection, perfection that is in the same standing as the Devas possibly.
Mrityunjaya rudraya neelakanthaya sambhave |
Amriteshaya sarvaya mahadevayadhe namaha ||
In the devotional sense, it’s about invoking the presence of Lord Shiva into every living moment, every living breathe that fills the senses with His presence. To have Him in the mind constantly, a vision so strong with the mantra ringing in the mind, can reduce the mind's trauma towards the day's problems though the world around doesn't ever change. Isn't that state the first steps towards self realization, bliss and stress free existence, that even with the given world around us, the mind continues to remain calm and blissful within itself!
Peace! Silence! Lord Shiva Mrityunjaya! Neelakantha! A churn complete!