Why is Lord Shiva Called Pashupati?
On March 4 2019, we celebrate Mahashivaratri, the worship of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is also known as Pashupati. Pashu means animal and pasha means a noose or something with which you bind another. Pati means the Lord. Why is the Lord called Pashupati? A pashu or an animal bound by a pasha or a rope, is confined to a limited space and dependent on the food and drink that are provided by someone and has limited knowledge. An animal that is not bound by the pasha enjoys its freedom, is free to roam about and eat the green grass and drink water from natural sources, breathes pure air and is much happier.
The pashu known as jiva or the individual self is bound by not one, but three pashas of the gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas. In order to be free, the jiva has to go beyond the three gunas responsible for the creation of the body and this can only be done by brahma jnana or by the knowledge of the Self. As the Bhagavad Gita says:
gunaneta natitya trindehi dehasamudbhavan
janma mrityu jara dukhairvimukto mruta mashnute (14:20)
Lord Shiva is considered the Lord of knowledge — Jnanam maheshwarat icchet. Only by the grace of Lord Shiva can the jiva be liberated from the pasha or the bondage caused by maya. Hence the name Pashupati — The Lord who can make the pashu free from the pasha and grant liberation.
Let us worship and meditate on Lord Shiva on the day of Mahashivaratri to free us from the three gunas and make us free.