It tells us that Siva (Sanatana – Maha Sanatana: Ancient – Most Ancient), himself told this story first and that Vyasa told it later. We know of this story as Suta, Vyasa’s student, related it to Saunaka at Naimisaranyam.
There are 2 stories of wretched sinners, who become purified by either (accidentally or intentionally) hearing the Siva Puranam and therefore attain Kailasam. The concept of sin, Naraka (hell) and of Siva dutas (messengers) clashing with Yama dutas, after the sinners die, is similar to some stories that I have heard about Vishnu. (Ajamila).
(Since Yama is said to dish out rather tough punishments to those who err, people generally wish to avoid Yama Lokam and prefer Sivalokam, Satya(Brahma)Lokam, Vaikuntam(Vishnu), SuryaLokam, IndraLokam (Svargam) or any of the happier lokas).
The Siva Purana Mahatyam tells us that reading the Siva Puranam is a Gnyana (Knowledge) Yajnyam and one must be pure in heart, mind and body to read it. (A gnyana yajnam gives the phalam (fruit) of a 100 other yajnas like the Aswamedha or the Rajasuya or the Vajapeya.)
The Siva Purana Mahatyam tells us that the narrator should be given the Vyasa Pitam (Seat of Vyasa) and he must be honoured as such. A place should also be set aside for Siva himself.
It tells us how to decorate the Vedi, which direction the orator and the listeners should face, the qualifications of the orator and his helper, when he is allowed breaks for easing himself, what sort of foods should be avoided by the listeners (gaseous, intoxicating etc), the correct posture for healthy listeners, the qualifications of the audience (good, devout, clean), the rewards and respect due to the narrator (Vaktha) and his helper, the respect and care due to the grantha (the book), and the rewards (punyam) and penalties (papam) for the listeners who follow the rules or flout them respectively.
In my heart I believe that one must follow the rules in the spirit of love, devotion, cleanliness, dedication and that the literal rules may be avoided, with no papam (sin) or karma (consequences) accruing to one. In any case, as we always say, Sri Krishnarpanam. Whatever lapses or flaws there are in our understanding or actions, we request Sri Krishna to fill in those on our behalf and grant us the full benefit of good deeds properly done. With this thought I begin to read and retell some of the stories of the Siva Puranam. (You may find Gautama’s story here.)
Copyright Notice: Authorship and Photography: Satya Sarada Kandula: All Rights Reserved
Siva Purana Mahatmya from Skanda Puranam
Siva Mahapuranam Vidyeswara Samhitam 3rd Adhyayam: To attain Sivapadam, listen to the Siva Puranam, repeat it, think about it and understand it with devotion.