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Twenty-seven of Daksha’s daughters were married to the moon-god Chandra. One of them was named Rohini and Chandra loved Rohini more than he loved the other wives. The other wives felt neglected and they complained to their father. Daksha repeatedly warned his son-in-law to devote himself equally to all twenty-seven wives. But Chandra was in no mood to listen. Daksha thereupon cursed Chandra that he would gradually fade away.
After the curse, Moon started losing it’s luminescence each day, Chandra didn’t know what to do. It got afraid and ashamed and thereafter disappeared into the ocean. As a result of this, there were many herbs which require the light of the moon to grow, which started suffering in the absence of the moon.
Moreover, due to the moon disappearing in the ocean, there was a lot suffering in the entire world and it was to end. The celestials advised the Moon to take refuge in the Lord Shiva. He also went and sought advice from Brahma and Brahma told him that the only rescourse was to pray to Shiva. Chandra went to Prabhasa tirtha and made a linga on the banks of the river Sarasvati. He prayed to Shiva for six months.
At the end of the tapasya Shiva appeared before Chandra and offered to grant him a boon. Chandra explained what the problem was. Listening to this, Shiva replied that Daksha’s curse cannot be entirely ignored and, thus, proposed a compromise. “During krishnapaksha you will wane. And during shuklapaksha (the bright part of the lunar fortnight) you will wax. That should satisfy everybody”, said Shiva. Chandra was delighted. He took refuge in Lord Shiva and being the graceful Almighty, Lord Shiva wore the moon crescent on His head, making him grow for 15 days and decay for 15 days periodically.
The linga to which Chandra prayed is Somnath, the first of the jyotirlingas. Shiva is always present at that tirtha.
Somnath means the “Protector of the Moon God”. Legend has it that the first temple at Somnath was built by Chandra Dev himself.
Shiva, therefore, bears on his head the crescent of the moon.
- The crescent moon indicates that He has controlled the mind perfectly.
- The crescent moon is shown on the side of the Lord’s head as an ornament. The waxing and waning phenomenon of the moon symbolizes the time cycle through which creation evolves from the beginning to the end. Since the Lord is the Eternal Reality, He is beyond time and has complete control over it.
- The epithet Chandraśekhara (“Having the moon as his crest” – chandra = Moon, śekhara = crest, crown) refers to this feature. The placement of the moon on his head as a standard iconographic feature dates to the period when Rudra rose to prominence and became the major deity Rudra-Shiva. The origin of this linkage may be due to the identification of the moon with Soma, and there is a hymn in the Rig Veda where Soma and Rudra are jointly emplored, and in later literature Soma and Rudra came to be identified with one another, as were Soma and the Moon. Because the moon adorns the head of Lord Shiva, which is the peak -point of any human being, he is called Chandrashekhara.