Dr. A K Chatterjee is a seasoned writer with more than 330 blogs in English and Bengali and 10 books mostly on travel, trekking and temples.
As per the local Gaudiya Vaishnav tradition, once the sages of Madhyadwipa were chanting Gaur Leela (the tales of the life of Mahaprabhu Chaitanya Deva). Lord Shiva came to know this, and He rushed to hear the same. As He was in a hurry, He came riding Lord Brahma's Hansa (swan) instead of His own mount Nandi the Bull, as the swan was much faster than the bull.
Lord Shiva was intently listening to the life stories of Shri Chaitanya Deva, considered as an combined Avatar of Lord Krishna and Shrimati Radha, or, according to some other view, a combined Avatar of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna (as depicted in his 6-armed form known as Shadabhuja Gauranga).
While listening to the Gaur Leela Lord Shiva was so emotionally moved that He fell unconscious on the back of the swan, lying in the supine posture.
Lord Shiva is worshiped in this special posture in a temple in a remote corner of Nadia district of West Bengal as "Hansavahana Shiva" ("Shiva who rides a swan").
It is said that the stone built Murti (idol) of Hansavahana Mahadeva was initially kept submerged in the water of nearby Gomati river, and was brought out only once in a year on the occasion of Chaitra Sankranti (the last day of the Bengali month Chaitra, which is also the last month of the Bengali almanac), but later it was brought out of water permanently and placed inside a small temple for the benefit of the worshipers.
The temple of Hansavahana Shiva
The temple of Hansavahana Shiva is situated in a remote village in the Swarupgunj area of Nadia district of West Bengal.
Structurally, the temple is a "Charchala" (4 roofed) temple, which is very common in West Bengal. But the special feature of this temple is that the roof of the temple is made of straw or hay, just like the houses of the rural commoners.
It is a local belief that Lord Shiva has ordered some ancient worshipers not to construct the roof of this temple with brick, stone or tiles.
The Murti (idol) of Hansavahana Shiva
The stone built idol is something unique in structure. Lord Shiva in this form is extremely rare, if not absent anywhere except here.
The shape of the idol resembles a swan with raised neck and head facing the entrance of the sanctum. The posterior portion or the body and tail of the "swan" is broad. On its back there is a supine small figure which is considered as the lying unconscious Shiva in His humanoid form.
The head of Mahadeva is on the tail portion of the swan. His two hands are folded on His chest, the legs are directed towards the neck of the swan.
The whole thing is covered with flowers and Bel (Wood Apple) leaves. The neck of the swan is adorned with garlands of flowers and colored beads. The fornt portion or the beaks of the swan is painted red, supposedly with vermillion.
The light inside the sanctum is insufficient to have a good photo, and using flash of the camera is forbidden.
Hinduism has many branches with various interesting forms and facets, and thus has many twists and turns that are truly amazing.
The story that Lord Shiva rushed to hear Gaur Leela is a Gaudiya Vaishnava point of view.
And Lord Shiva becoming unconscious hearing Gaur Leela and lying senseless on the back of Lord Brahma's mount swan is also a Gaudiya Vaishnavite belief.
However, the story and the Murti (idol) of Hamsavahana Mahadeva is really unique and interesting to say the least.
The temple of Hansavahana Shiva is unique, and should be a "Must" on the travel plan of any visitor, devotee or not.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2022 Dr A K Chatterjee