One day, Sage Narada asked Lord Brahma- \
“Oh father! Kindly narrate the story of Shivratri fast.
Does one benefit even on fasting unknowingly?”
“Oh son! Today, I shall clear all your doubts.
Those who humbly listen to this story and observe Shivaratri fast for fourteen whole years attain both material and spiritual wellbeing.
Story of a Hunter
Long ago, there lived a hunter named Nishad.
For his large family, he slaughtered animals and looted travellers.
Since childhood, he never performed any piety.
Thus, he spent years disturbing the forest.
“Oh narad, one day by coincidence his house faced food scarcity.
At His family’s appeal, the hunter left with his bow and arrow to catch a nice meal.
All day he wandered in search of food.
Accidentally, it was Shivaratri.
With the setting sun, the distraught hunter sat near the banks of a river.
Oh Narada, now, the hunter decided to spend the night on a bel tree and spy animals venturing near the lake.
With the end of the first hour, a thirsty doe came frolicking towards the river banks.
As he strung his bow to shoot the animal, a few bel leaves and water fell on the shivalinga.
Thus the hunter accidentally venerated the Shivlinga.
The hunter said boastfully
‘My family is hungry. Hence I have decided to satiate their hunger with your meat’
Immediately The doe expressed her concern-
‘I am truly fortunate that my meat shall serve your family.
However, I have a prayer to make.’
The hunter asked her to go ahead.
The doe said- ‘I have little babies at home.
So, let me hand them over to my sister before I die.’
The hunter was hesitant but finally agreed on the deer’s assurance.
At the start of the second prahar, the deer’s sister came looking for her.
Again, the hunter lifted his bow and due to the friction a few more bilva leaves fell beneath on the shiva linga, thus unconsciously completing his second puja.
Likewise, the sister deer, requested-
‘Oh hunter, please give me time while I entrust my little fawn to my husband before I die.’
After great coaxing, the hunter finally gave consent.
Now it was the third prahar of the night.
The male deer came looking for his spouse.
Circumstances repeated itself and a few bilva leaves again fell on the linga.
The deer said-
I have a little son.
Let me entrust him to my wife. then I shall surely return.’
The hunter retorted- ‘O deer! I have already allowed 2 deer.
They too spoke sweetly like you and have not turned up. Thus after being victimized, I can’t trust you.’
Somehow the deer convinced the hunter and left for his home.
The deer family now mourned over their fate.
The very first doe said- “Oh husband! Let me go before it is late”
You stay back and see that the children are safe.”
Her co-wife said- ‘No sister! You are the lady of the house. Hence I shall go, in your place now.”
On hearing the two women speak thus, the deer said-
“When the male of the house is still alive, why should others die?
Hence I shall go, for the sake of all.
Let the mothers stay alive.’
On hearing their husband speak thus, the women said in chorus-
‘Oh lord! We won’t live as widows.’
Oh Narada, thus after a rampant discussion, the entire family set forth.
The children thought – “If our parents die, who shall we rely on?”
Thus, all decided to be the hunters meal.
On seeing the entire herd march towards the lake, the hunter pulled the strings of his bow.
The past repeated itself and few bilva leaves slipped down, thus completing the fourth prahar worship.
Immediately, the hunter attained wisdom. He began to wonder-
‘These deer who lack intelligence are far more praiseworthy than human beings.
They are ready to destroy their bodies for a stranger’s meal.
Wonder what state lies in store for my impious deeds.’
Oh Narada, with this thought, the hunter began to lament.
Now, he addressed the deer family
‘Oh Pure animals!
You may return to your homes.
You are indeed blessed. I free you of all ties.’
Lord Shiva’s boon
Pleased by the hunter’s generosity, Lord Shiva appeared instantly.
He held the hunter’s hands and said-
“Oh hunter! I am very pleased with you. You have faithfully observed the Shivaratri fast and burnt all your sins. You may ask whatever you seek.”
:Oh Narada, on hearing Lord Sadashiva, the hunter fell at His lotus feet.
Then joining his palms, he merely said-”Oh lord! Your darshan has fulfilled all my desires”
Still, lord shankara persisted-
“Oh hunter! I fulfil all your desires.
Dwell in Shringeshwarpur.
You shall have numerous sons and win celestial fame.
My devotee Rama shall befriend you.
Saying this, Lord Shiva vanished.
Furthermore, Oh Narada, on seeing lord Shiva, the deer discarded their fallen birth and attained celestial bodies.
Thereafter they ascended celestial aircrafts ad reached Deva Loka.
In fact, we can still see those deer in the form of Nakshatras in the galaxial orbit.
Even today, Lord Shiva resides there in the form of a linga called Byadheshwar.
“By lord Shiva’s grace the hunter got the name Skanda and ruleed prosperously as the tribal king of Shringaveshvarapur.
Lord Rama honours Skanda
Ultimately in treta yuga lord rama honoured skanda by his friendship.
He also bestowed unconditional shiva bhakti to Skanda.
Thus, simultaneously, enjoying pleasures on this planet, he attained moksha.
Oh Narada! The glory of Shivaratri is inexplicable.
The hunter unknowingly fasted and attained the rarest of benedictions.
This is why the Vedas deem Shivaratri as the king of all fasts.”
Whoever hears this story on Shivaratri enjoys all pleasure and attains Shivaloka.
Thanks for reading!