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What were the reason(s) behind the fight between Lord Shiva and Lord Vishnu? I think the Harivamsa Parva of the Mahabharata narrates this incident.

The story goes like this:

Mahadev makes Goddess Lakshmi realise that she has done a mistake by suspecting Lord Vishnu. Goddess Lakshmi pleads with Mahadev to bring Lord Vishnu back. Mahadev goes to the Patal Lok in Vrishabh’s disguise to bring Lord Vishnu back. Mahadev and Lord Vishnu fight with each other.

Their fight continues for years. Ganesha promises Parvati to put an end to Mahadev and Lord Vishnu’s fight. Lord Brahma becomes worried as Lord Vishnu attacks Mahadev with Narayana Astra.

What is the actual story?

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    If you have this much of the story, then probably you have the rest too. Why do you ask, then? Jul 21 '14 at 17:20
  • @ Dharmaputhiran - I don't think this is a full story. That's why I'm asked this question....
    – Kiran RS
    Jul 22 '14 at 2:09
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There are multiple incidents you could be referring to:.

  1. The story depicted in the TV serial you linked to is (loosely) based on a story told in this excerpt from the Shatarudra Samhita of the Shiva Purana, about a battle between Vishnu and Shiva's incarnation Vrishabha the bull, AKA Vrishesha.

    Most accounts of Churning of the Ocean end with Vishnu tricking the Asuras by turning into Mohini, and then the gods defeating the Asuras (demons) in battle after drinking the Amrita (nectar of immortality). But the Shiva Purana tells a modified version of the story, where a bunch of beautiful Apsaras (nymphs) are born out of stray drops of Amrita, and the Asuras enchanted by their beauty kidnap them and take them to Patalaloka (the underworld). Then the battle between the gods and the Asuras take place, and Vishnu in the course of fighting the Asuras chases them all the way to Patalaloka. But then after he defeats them, he sees the beautiful Apsaras, and struck by the arrow of Kama (the god of love) he becomes enamoured of them. So he fathers a bunch of children with them, and those sons soon becomes a menace to the three worlds:

    Vishnu begot of them sons of great exploits and valour, experts in various kinds of warfare, shaking the entire earth. Those sons of Vishnu of great strength and valour wrought great havoc both in heaven and earth causing misery to all. On seeing the geat harm done to the worlds the gods and the sages approached Brahma and informed him of this after bowing to him.

    Then Brahma goes to Shiva, informing of him of the mayhem caused by the sons of Vishnu, and asks Shiva to make Vishnu leave Patalaloka and stop his dalliances with those Apsaras. So Shiva turns into Vrishabha the bull and goes into Patalaloka, killing Vishnu's sons and fighting Vishnu:

    Then bellowing in the form of a Bull, [Shiva] the Pinaka-bearing lord entered the crevice and shouted terribly. At his bellowing sound, cities and towns crumbled down and all the citizens trembled. Then the bull attacked Vishnu's sons wielding their bows for fighting, deluded by Siva's Maya and proud of their great strength and exploit.... [T]he sons of Vishnu became furious. Those heroes roared loudly and rushed against Siva. Rudra in that form of a bull was furious at those sons of Vishnu who rushed at him. He kicked them with his hoofs and tore them with his horns. When their limbs were split by Rudra, they swooned and lost their lives. They were immediately destroyed.

    When they were killed Vishnu the foremost of the strong came out shouting loudly and hastened towards Siva. On seeing Siva in the form of a bull going along after killing his sons, Vishnu hit him with divine arrows and missiles. Then the infuriated Siva, the highly powerful one in the form of a bull stood like a mountain and caught hold of all those missiles of Vishnu. O sage, shouting furiously, lord Siva in the form of a bull shook the three worlds terribly. The lord leaped up suddenly and kicked the infuriated Vishnu who was deluded and could not realise him. The lard then tore him with his horns. Unable to bear the onslaught, Vishnu deluded by Maya was exhausted and utterly shattered.

    So Vishnu finally snaps out of the Maya and realizes that the bull is Shiva. Embarrassed that he didn't recognize Shiva sooner, Vishnu leaves his Sudarshana Chakra (discus weapon) in Patalaloka and returns to Lakshmi, and Shiva provides him with a new Sudarshana Chakra, even more powerful than the old one. (The Sudarshana Chakra was anyway provided by Shiva, as I discuss in this answer.)

    I should make clear that this story is probably not authentic, but rather a later interpolation to the Shiva Purana, because no story remotely like this is found in any other Puranas or other Hindu scriptures. And there are no other scriptures that mention Vishnu begetting children with women other than his wives. (But there are references to Vishnu having children with Lakshmi in the Sri Sukta of the Rig Veda Khilani, as I discuss in this answer.)

  2. You mentioned the Harivamsa, but story above doesn't occur in the Harivamsa. The Harivamsa does describe, however, a battle between Shiva and Vishnu's incarnation Krishna, in this chapter and this chapter of the Vishnu Parva. (It's also described in this chapter of the Srimad Bhagavatam.)

    Krishna's grandson Aniruddha was once kidnapped by the demon Bana (son of Mahabali), who had captured Aniruddha after he discovered that his daughter Usha and Aniruddha were in love. So Krishna came with Balarama and the armies of Dwaraka to defeat Bana and rescue his grandson. They soon defeated Bana's armies, so Shiva and his Gana army came to Bana's aid, since Bana was a great devotee of Shiva. Thus begin an epic battle between Krishna and Shiva, where they launched many powerful Astras (magical weapons) at one another. The battle became so destructive, with Krishna winning, that Bhumidevi the goddess of the Earth worried that the Earth wouldn't survive it, so she asked Brahma to put an end to it. Brahma approached Shiva and asked him to stop fighting:

    The lord Brahma looked at Rudra (Shiva) and spoke the following words: "The destruction of great demons has started now (with your consent). Then why are you protecting them? O the one with great arms! I do not like your fighting with Krishna. Also you are not understanding Krishna with your intellect. Your soul is divided in two parts (of which one is Krishna)." When he was advised thus by Brahma, the lord (Shiva), the lord who does not have any decline, entered his (own) body by yoga and visualized the entire three worlds along with all the moving and fixed beings. Then Rudra (Shiva) who is born from a single source, realized his own soul as the soul of Krishna (Brahma - the ultimate soul).

    So Shiva realized that Krishna was none other than Vishnu, who is Paramatma the supreme soul and thus undefeatable, so he surrendered. In case you're wondering, Krishna was successful in defeating Bana and rescued Aniruddha, but he spared Bana's life because Bana was the great-grandson of Vishnu's great devotee Prahlada. And Bana too became friendly with Krishna. So Aniruddha married Bana's daughter Usha and everyone went back to Dwaraka.

  3. Strictly speaking neither of the above stories actually describe a battle between Vishnu and Shiva; the first story is about a battle between Vishnu and Shiva's incarnation Vrishabha, and the second story is about a battle between Shiva and Vishnu's incarnation Krishna. As far as I'm aware, the only battle between Vishnu and Shiva themselves is the one described by Parashurama in the Bala Kanda of the Ramayana, and Vishnu won it merely by saying "hum":

    Once, all the gods were asking the Grandparent, Brahma, as to who is powerful and who is less powerful among the blue-throated Shiva and Vishnu, but the Grandparent Brahma on inferring the intent of gods started to create adversity among those two, Shiva and Vishnu, for the Grandparent is the best adherer of truthfulness, as truth cannot be demonstrated on hearsay evidence. Owing to their animosity then occurred a fierce and hair-raising war among Shiva and Vishnu, as each aspired victory for himself. By the 'hum' sound of Vishnu that ruinously overpowering longbow of Shiva is broken, and the triple-eyed God, Mahadeva, is frozen.

    Then gods along with the assemblages of sages and celestial carana-s have come together and appealed to those two for appeasement in the matter of wielding authority, and then those two superior gods, Shiva and Vishnu, went into a state of amity. On seeing the bow of Shiva rendered inert by the mettlesomeness of Vishnu, from then on the gods along with the assemblages of sages deemed Vishnu to be the paramount.

    In case you're wondering, Shiva's bow is the same one that was later broken by Vishnu's incarnation Rama to win Sita's hand in marriage.

On a side note, there is also a story of a battle between Vishnu's incarnation Narasimha, Shiva's incarnation Sharabha, and Vishnu's incarnation Gandhabherunda, which I discuss in this question, but I haven't found a full scriptural basis for that story yet.

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  • @KiranRS So which of the three stories were you thinking of? Jul 29 '14 at 4:35
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    @ChinmaySarupria Actually, I think incident 1 is the least authentic - it's not mentioned in any Hindu scripture other than that one chapter of the Shiva Purana, and it's the only place in Hindu scripture that describes Vishnu having children with anyone other than his wives. So I think it's clearly an interpolation. The other two stories are well-established in Hindu scripture. Nov 13 '15 at 9:06
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    @sv. That's just a translation issue. The original Sanskrit doesn't say broken, it says jrimbhitam, which means yawned or fatigued, i.e. rendered motionless. But yes, it is the same bow that Rama broke; after Vishnu and Shiva's conflict, the bow was passed down among the kings of Mithila until Janaka acquired it. Nov 13 '15 at 18:39
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    @ChinmaySarupria I'm just saying there's no other scripture that mentions Vishnu having children with women other than his wives, and there's no other scriptures that mention this story, so that's one of the things that suggests that it's an interpolation. Nov 14 '15 at 13:50
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    @ChinmaySarupria First of all, it is not true that the majority of Hindus are Advaitins. Second of all, I didn't say that I accept whatever a lot of people believe, I said I tend to accept something if a lot of scriptures say it. Nov 14 '15 at 14:05
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First, to deal with the Vrishbha incident, the first thing to realise is that the form of Vishnu involved is Mohinī, since the text starts talking about her with no sign of stopping. While a later verse is usually translated as her having sex with the damsels, it actually uses the instrumental case. Thus, it makes sense for Mohinī to be possessing the damsels instead.

  1. Viṣṇu, the most excellent of those who wield Māyā assuming the form of a woman Mohinī deluded the Asuras and made the gods drink it.

Fascinated by the Cupid’s arrows Viṣṇu attained highest pleasure only there. He began to indulge in sexual dalliance with those women of exquisite beauty.

This makes sense with the story, as it explains why takes longer to recognize Shiva, as she could be sleeping letting the possessed damsels work mostly to themselves. Also, the story clearly has Mohinī's Maya and Shiva's Maya be the same thing.

  1. Viṣṇu, the most excellent of those who wield Māyā assuming the form of a woman Mohinī deluded the Asuras and made the gods drink it.

  2. The leading Daityas approached her and said—“Make us drink this nectar. Let there be no break in the lines.”

  3. All those Daityas and Dānavas deluded by Śiva’s Māyā said thus and gave the nectar to Viṣṇu in disguise.


Both for that incident and more generally, not all forms of Vishnu are supreme. Some are partial, for example, Prithu

Brahmá recognised a portion of that divinity in Prithu

This is also recorded in his presumably different birth in the Devi Bhagavatam

Kâkutstha had the son Prithu, of mighty prowess. Prithu was the part incarnation personified of Visnu, and worshipper of the feet of the Supreme S'akti

Thus, it was probably one of them, especially all the Puranas not labeled Sattva in the Padma Purana tend to be ambiguous of which incarnation they are talking about.

As a side note, while we cannot say for sure Prithu has flaws (or close to flaws), there is the possibility he is the same as the Vasu Prithu, who steals a cow. It is mentioned in the Devi Bhagavatam and Mahabharata

Prithu and others, one Vasu Dyau's wife seeing Nandini, the sacrificial cow (Kâmadhenu) of Vas'istha asked her husband :-- “Whose is this excellent cow that I see? Vasu then replied as follows :-- “ O Beautiful one! This is Vas'istha's cow. Whoever, be he a man or woman drinks her milk gets his longevity extended to ten thousand years and his youth never ends.” Hearing this, the Vasu's wife said :-- “There is a very beautiful comrade (Sakhî) of mine, the daughter of the Rajarsî-Us'îna in the world, of auspicious qualities. O Mahâbhâga! Kindly bring to me from Vas'istha's hermitage that auspicious sacrificial milch cow Nandini together with her calf that yields all desires; my Sakhî will then drink her milk and be thereby free from disease, old age and become the chief amongst all mankind. Hearing thus, his wife's word, the Vasu Dyau, though sinless, stole away together with Prithu and the other Vasus the cow Nandini in utter defiance to the self-controlled Muni Vas'istha. When the cow Nandini had been stolen, the great ascetic Vas'istha came quickly to the hermitage with abundance of fruits.

On hearing these words of his wife, Dyu, moved by the desire of humouring her, stole that cow, aided by his brothers Prithu and the others. Indeed, Dyu, commanded by his lotus-eyed wife, did her bidding, forgetting at the moment the high ascetic merits of the Rishi who owned her. He did not think at the time that he was going to fall by committing the sin of stealing the cow.

As another side note I think all the partial incarnations are actually incarnations of Indra, who is a partial incarnation of Vishnu. The only reason they are listed as incarnations of Rudra or Vishnu is the authors know humans are not going to pay attention unless the supreme deity (or a supreme goal) is involved.

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