ENTER any Shiva temple in the country and you will first witness a statue of the quietly formidable Nandi, Lord Shiva's mount and the divine gatekeeper. If you have ever stopped a moment to wonder about the story of this bull-mount, then Myth Quest's Nandi is the book for you. It abounds with stories of Nandi's valour, loyalty and devotion, giving new meaning to his presence and position in Indian mythology, and, of course, in every Shiva temple.
The story begins with Nandi's human avatar, the result of a sage's curse. Through rigorous penance thereafter, Nandi attains his rightful place with Lord Shiva as his gatekeeper, guardian, companion, warrior, devotee and mount. Much like a raging bull, the story tears across the heavenly canvas of battle cries, disputes and rivalries, showcasing Nandi's myriad facets through a heady mix of mythological episodes.
Some of my favourites are the creation of Lord Ganesha (something very endearing about this particular episode!), a game of dice between Shiva and Parvathi, the long and bloody battle with demon Andhaka, Nandi's role in the churning of the ocean, the imagery of Nandi joining Lord Shiva in the cosmic dance, and the minor encounter with Ravana leading to a curse. Through these stories, Nandi becomes larger than life, like a neglected treasure chest suddenly discovered. It feels as if the author had a tough time choosing from this precious collection, leaving the reader with the feeling that perhaps there are more to explore, though no complaints with the ones chosen either!
Like the other book in the Myth Quest series (Jatayu), Anu Kumar's sticks to a simple narrative, though I felt there were quite a few sentence repetitions, especially towards the end of every chapter. Again, the definition of what a myth is and a brief genealogy of Nandi, along with the Myth Notes at the end of the book are definite pluses to this series.
Suitable for ages 7+, here's one more to add to your collection of little-known mythological stories.