Once while MahaVishnu and Brahma were quarrelling about which of them was superior to the other, suddenly a column sprang up through the ground – a column from no where, without top or base, a column of light and fire into which the apocalyptic astras were absorbed like two sparks. It was a linga! With thousands of garlands of flames, flames like galaxies spewing in every direction: an incomparable, incomprehensible linga. Awe – struck, Vishnu and Brahma fell quiet. Brahma breathed, ” What is it? ” Mahavishnu replied, ” It is beyond me. You find its head, while I seek its root. “
Turning into a boar, he dived down through through the ground of that first battlefield to seek the root of the mysterious linga of fire. Brahma became a swan and flew up at the speed of time, quicker than light to seek the top of that manifestation. For longer than we can conceive, the boar dived and the swan flashed up; but above or below there was no end to the blazing phallus. Exhausted and frightened, Vishnu came back to the battle field. Brahma flew on up.
When Shiva saw them distraught in their arrogance, he laughed and dislodged the ketaki flowers on his head, which fell down that infinite column. Down wafted those flowers turning about one another, falling countless divine years, like a blessing, with neither fragrance nor brightness dimmed. They fell over Brahma, the flashing feathered ascender, in petal rain. Perplexed, Brahma the swan said, ‘ Lord of flowers, from whose head do you fall down this column? Why do you fall good flowers? The flowers said ” Friend, we have been falling forever and we do not remember where we began. How will you find the column’s pinnacle? Tired and annoyed as he was, Brahma had a thought. He bowed to the ketakis and said humbly, ” Friends, a small favour for me: tell Vishnu I saw the top of the linga and that you bear witness to it.”
They found Mahavishnu in distress and Brahma smiled. Mahavishnu said ruefully, ” I could not find the root of the linga. ” Brahma replied smugly, ” I found the column’s head. These ketakis are my witness.” Hari bowed to Brahma. When he lay in the dust to worship Brahma’s feet, a tremendous AUM resounded in that place. Shiva stepped out of the linga, taller than the phallus of fire, a wild matted hair Yogin bright as a billion suns. he stood before the terrified Gods, with bow and trident, wearing tiger skin, a shining serpant the sacred thread around his body. He seemed to swallow the heavens with his million mouths, the AUM still dying in his blue throat like the battery of thunder that heralds the final deluge in which the stars drown. From that vision’s brow, from his third eye, sprang the dreadful Bhairava.
Bhairava knelt at Shiva’s feet, ” Command me, almighty Lord ! ” Shiva said, ” Here is Brahma, the second God of creation. Worship him with your sword. With a roar, Bhairava seized the tuft on Brahma’s fifth head, the one that lied to Vishnu, and raised his curved blade. Brahma’s head fell on the ground. Then Vishnu knelt at Shiva’s feet, ” Lord! Pardon him in your infinite mercy, this is his first offence.” Shiva blessed Vishnu, ” Hari, you were truthful, though you also wanted to be the Lord of all things. From now, you will have as much worship as I do . But this liar shall not be worshipped anymore. Never again did Shiva wear the Ketaki on his head.