MAHA SHIVRATRI IS THE PIOUS NIGHT
Maha Shivratri is celebrated on Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi in the month of Phalguna as per Hindu calendar which is in the month of February. This is an annual feature which is celebrated with great enthusiasm and reverence. This is the holiest day since this day is associated with sacred marriage of Lord Shiva and Lordess Parvati (the daughter of Himalaya) – in fact coming together of Shiva & Shakti.
It is pertinent to mention the background as to how Shiva and Parvti had their first meeting. Parvtati had seen Shiva while she was only eight years old. She formed an opinion that she will marry him only when she grows up while he was in a meditative trance. When she grew up, she told her father (Himavan) that she wanted to marry Shiva but he always remained in meditative consciousness. She was also fully determined to make him realize her love for him. She used to take leaves only and after a while she left eating anything and thereafter even drinking water. Then finding suitable opportunity, her father made mention about the state of health of his daughter to Shiva.
Mysticism of it all is that Shiva wanted to test her love for him still more. He went to her in the form of a handsome young man and asked her why she wanted to marry Shiva who, more often than not, remains in meditative trance and always remains in the cremation grounds amongst ghosts etc with ash smeared on his body. He offered himself to marry her. Parvati straight away refused marrying him and was adamant that she will marry Shiva only and no one else. This way, he came back to his old form and asked Parvati for a boon. She asked Shiva to marry her.
Shivaratri means night of Shiva. On this day devotees observe strict fast and keep themselves awake during the night time, immersed in Lord’s prayers for deriving maximum benefits out of these sacred rituals.
Shivratari Lord Shiva’s most favorite day/night. When earth was created, Shakti (Lordess Parvati) asked Shiva which day was dearest and favourite one for Him. Shiva replied that 14th night of the new moon in the month of Phaluna was most pleasing to Him. Parvati thus repeated these words amidst the company of friends and others and thus the word spread far and wide to the multitudes and since then this day is being celebrated with great adoration.
Maha Shivratri is associated with the marriage of Shiva and Shakti. The devotees (Bhakta) know the significance of this day since it is very dear to Lord SHIVA. On this day, the devotees in different age groups (young & old) take early bath in some sacred rivers like Ganga, Yamuna etc and offer prayer (pooja) in temples and also make offerings of bel patra and other leaves including berries also pour water on the Shiva Linga. Before washing the Lingum (the symbol of Lord Shiva) with utmost reverence with milk, ghee, honey, rose water etc people chant mantras. As Lord Shiva is known for His austere living he likes simple things and simple offerings in the form of herbs and leaves for pleasing Him. Devout perform prayers with immense pleasure and devotion.
There is also another legend attached with this day. At the time of the churning of the sea by the Godheads and the Demons (Rakshas) there surfaced a vessel full of poison amongst other enchanting objects like Kamdhenu (Wish fulfilling cow, white horse, white elephant, Kalpavriksha (Wish fulfilling tree), Lakshmi (Goddess of wealth), Dhanvantri (Divine Phycian) and finally the vessel of Amrita (nector). To save the world from the devastating effects of poison, Lord Shiva consumed the pot of poison and kept the same in his throat with his Yogic Powers and that is why
He is also called NEELKANTHA or Blue Throated with immense reverence. By doing so, LORD SHIVA saved the world from being annihilated.
SHIVA OR SIVA means ‘that what is not’ or which is beyond anything or everything. It is comparable to nothingness of vast cosmos / nothingness of space with galaxies, planets, etc. That which is propitious, pure, simple, gracious, benevolent and full of beauty. In Vedic scriptures/literature, Shiva also connotes liberation or emancipation. He is the auspicious deity who is creator, reproducer and destroyer of the forces of negativism and darkness. Shaivism also represents beliefs and practices of Hinduism. Shiva is not affected by three Gunas (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas). He is called Supreme Lord. He is a great Yogi. One who is beyond any limit of appreciation – nothingness which can absorb anything and everything.
A great Yogi who gave us Yoga and method of living – living as mystic Yogi but not oblivious of the family bondings. His contribution as a recluse and the householder is phenomenon and cannot simply be ignored. The complexity of His traits as a deity cannot be comprehended if we do not delve deep into his life. In the earlier years, he used to wander in the Himalayan region and subsequently an ascetic who is always absorbed in Yogic meditation. This was proved right when the barat (marriage party) was received. Strange as it looked: Shiva as a groom, rode a bull, with matted hair, ash smeared all over the body, wars a part of koupina or loincloth., a garland of bones and skulls, as usual a trident in one hand and damru (drum) in the other hand.. There was beating of drums and mixed sound of trumpets – a terrific sound indeed. Amongst the baratis Marriage party) were Gods and Demi-Gods Not to speak of this, his marriage barati’s consisted of the ganas, ghosts and other strange and fearful witches, vampires etc. The marriage receiving party
A MYSTIC WHO COULD BE PLEASED EASILY
We always say him in meditative posture – completely immersed in contemplation. He is Yogi with a difference who could be termed as the deity who could be pleased with bel patra and fruits. Simple sincere prayer can earn His bounties – that is why He is called as Bhole Shankar.
ULTIMATE WHEN FEROCIOUS
When Shiva is provoked beyond a limit, when He was in trance, as was done by Cupid or Kamadeva, He opened His third eye and reduced him to ashes in a fit of anger.
There are 12 Jyotirlingas (Lingas of Light) which are held sacred by the devotees. They offer prayers at these holy places.
Devout chant Mantra OM NAMON SHIVAYE and also Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra to get special benefits since this day falls in the most appropriate planetary positions in the Northern hemisphere; helps devotee raise his / her spiritual energy vigorously. The prayers are answered if these are done with sincerity. This day is also celebrated because on this night Shiva performed His cosmic dance (Tandava). This dance was enjoyed even by other Godheads.
Lord Shiva’s abode is mount Kailasha. He bearer of sacred river Ganga on his head besides a serpent named Vasuki. His devotee Nandi is carrier of Lord Shiva.
In Shiv Purana, it has been mentioned that Shiva prayers should be done in the following manner to get maximum benefit:-
- SHIV LINGA. Shiva means auspiciousness and lingam means a symbol and when put together it means: ‘a symbol of the great God of the universe who is all auspicious’. It also means ‘the One in whom the whole of creation sleeps after dessolution. The worship of Shiva in the form of Longa is most prominent. It represents as a symbol God Himself. Shiva lingam is to be bathed with water, milk and honey. For purification of these, bel patra should also be added. Vermilion paste represents virtue, after bathing the Shiva Linga with water, honey, curd etc with utmost devotion vermilion paste is applied on it.
- Natural fruits like berries are very dear to the Lord, hence these are offered. Fruits are also the sign of fulfillment of our desires and hence should be offered.
- For getting His grace and bounties offerings when dhoop (incense) is ritualistically burnt give maximum benefits.
- Then lamp is lighted. The lamp symbolizes knowledge and wisdom and keeps away our ignorance. If this is lighted with devotion and offered to the Lord, we can derive maximum benefits.
- Finally betel leaves are offered which symbioses the satiation of our worldly desires besides keeping our spiritual onward march intact.
ATTRIBUTES OF LORD SHIVA
It is important to know the attributes of Lord Shiva which are depicted variously as: benevolent, pious with huge reserves of compassion, easy to be pleased, honourable, delightful with brilliance, innocent, easy to be pleased, invincible, having huge prowess, fearful or ferocious when hugely provoked, Wrathful, violent and dangerous, destructive, austic (Yogi Raj).
Shiv-shakti Shiv is called Kala (the eternal time) and Parvati the consort of Shiv is also called Kali meaning ‘Time’ or ‘death’ (two mixed together means the ‘time has come’). Various people worship Shakti or Kali represents the feminine force whereas Shiva is the masculine force along with the power of peace.
LORD SHIVA’A FAMILY
Lord Shiva has two aspects. Firstly as an ascetic (Yogi) shown meditating and also as a householder – having family performing the dual functions wonderfully well. He has a consort named Parvati (the daughter of King Himalaya). The family consisted of the following:-
(a) Parvati. She is the Consort of Shiva, variously described as, Shakti (Divine Energy), Devi, Divine Mother along with Goddess Tripura Sundari, Durga, Minakshi, Kamakshi etc. She is also identified with Nature, creative energy, Ardhanarishvara (dynamic extention of Shiva without whom Shiva is incomplete.
(b) Ganesha. Ganesha is the deity in a human form but with the head of an elephant which represents the power of the Supreme Being that removes obstacles. .He was created out of the the remains of smut from the body of Parvati and further infused life into it. He is worshipped with great devotion, before starting any prayer or starting any business or new job His name is taken. He is said to the remover of Lord of removal of obstacles (vegin karta), Lord of beginning. No Yagna or any ritual is incomplete without beginning with prayers to Lord Ganesha.
(c) Kartikeya. He was assigned with the responsibility of protecting the Gods and Demi Gods. He is worshipped in South India by various names such as: Murugan, Subramanya, Shanmugan and in North India as Skanda and Kartikeya.
(d) Ashok Sundari. While Parvati felt very lonely, she created Ashok Sundari from a tree to remove her monotony and loneliness because Shiva remained in meditation most of the time.
(e) Manasa Devi. She is considered kind to the devotees who worship her. Due to her bad temper and unhappy disposition Mansa was rejected by Lord Shiva. She is termed as the goddess of snakes and worshipped in North India. She is also described as destroyer of poison (vishhara).
(f) Ayyappan. In the incarnation of Lord Vishnu as a woman named Mohini, Lord Shiva was charmed by her beauty and through the union of the two Ayyappan was born. He is specially worshipped in South India.
(g) Then there are other children of Lord Shiva named Andaka and Jalandhar and Mangala.
Names of Lord Shiva. According to Shiva Purana there are 1008 names of Lord Shiva. Some of these are given below:-
There is a description in Puranic period that Lord Shiva is also termed as the Lord of Dance or Eternal Dancer. The two most renowned dances are Tandava (which is powerful and masculine dance) and is associated with the destruction while Lasya which is very graceful and exhibits delicacy of emotions and is attributed to Parvati and associated with creation. Both destruction and creation are the important factors in the universe and the world at large.
Represents the form of Shiva Murti facing South. This represent aspects as a teacher of yoga, music and wisdom.
It represents the combination of two; Shiva and Shakti (Parvati) depicting half male (Shiva) and half female (Parvati). It is due to the fact that Lord Shiva was hugely pleased by the austere traits of Parvati and granted her the boon of becoming part of his body.
Tripurantaka. In this Lord Shiva is depicted with four arms having bow and arrow in the at of destroying Demon named Tripura.
AVTARS OF SHIVA. In the description in Linga Purana there are 28 forms of Shiva. Hanuman is known as Rudra Avtar (Rudra is a name of Shiva) as eleventh Avatar.
Aashutosh – One who fulfils wills.
Akshayaguna – With limitless attributes.
Anantadrishti – With unrivalled vision.
Bholenath – One who is benevolent.
Bhooteshwara – one who is Lord of ghosts.
Bhudeva – One who is Lord of Earth
Mahadeva – Greatest God
Devadeva – Lord of the Lords
Gurudeva – Lord of all
Ingaraja – Lord of Lingas
Vishveshwara – One who is the Lord of Universe.
There are 12 Jyotirlingas (Lingas of Light) which are held sacred by the devotee. They offer prayers at these holy places. These are mentioned below:
- Somnath ( Lord of the Nectar of Knowledge)
2. Nageshwar or Nagnath (Lord of 5 headed snake):
3. Kedarnath ( Lord of Kedar):
4.VishwaNath ( Lord of the Universe), Banaras-UP:
5.Mahakaleswar ( The lord of Death) Ujjain, MP:
6. Amaleshwar (Lord of Purity) : Lord shiva the purifier of all sins.
7. Trayambkeshwar ( Lord of Third Eye ), Maharashtra:
8. Ghrishneshwar (Lord of Positive Energy obtained from Churning of divine Knowledge), Maharashtra:
9. VAidyanath (Lord of Vaidya/Ayurveda), Maharashtra:
10. Bheemashankar (Mighty & Powerful Lord), Maharashtra:
11. Mallikarjun ( Lord ), Andhra Pradesh:
12. Rameshwaram (Ram worshiping Lord Shiva), Tamilnadu:
It has been observed that this earth and what it contains, universe and all that it possesses (the sun, the mooth, countless stars, etc) are the wonders which have been created by our Creator. These are created only by some SUPREME BEING to whom we can feel if we have right attitude and all the other fine-tuned attributes like love, trust, etc. He has fathered us for a purpose and it is our duty to fulfil the assigned tasks in whatever way we can – by helping those who are not able to help themselves, doing good to others, forgiving others’ follies etc.
I consider religion as a pathway to reach to our Creator, it may be any religion to that matter. One thing that binds us together is that our requirement(s) are the same. He has given His precious bounties like air, water and other the gifts of nature without any bias. Let us thank Him in our own way suiting us for connectivity with the Source and living a life full of peace and happiness.
THOUGHTS ON LORD SHIVA
MAHA SHIVRATRI is the Pious Night
The Great Night of Shiva – our most loved Godhead
When Shiva & Parvati got united in sacred marriage
Exchanged solemn promises to uphold the principles of togetherness
Recollecting this, we pray the Bhole Shankar & Mother Divine,
And seek oneness of self with that of Divine
Thenceforth Divine Couple appeared in the form Ardhanarishwa
Thus complementing each other
As Shiva and Shakti to bless us all
Lord Shiva is one of the Godheads amongst the Trinity,
Lord Brahma – the Creator,
Remains absorbed in His domain of Creation,
Lord Vishnu – the Preserver,
Keeps His Lotus hands on Preservation.
And the venerable Lord of all Lords,
With healthy mix of potencies & benevolence,
Enjoys esteemed place in realm of Godheads,
With the power to cause destruction,
Dissolving or destroying for fresh creation,
On the premise, if end is not there then there is no fresh beginning
A golden chance of our soul’s cleansing
Shiva is known variously by 1008 names according to Shiv Purana
Mahadeva, Maheshwara, Ardnarishwara,
Devadeva, Gurudeva, Lingaraja, Natraja, et al.
In fact Vishveshwara – One who is the Lord of Universe.
During churning of ocean by Gods & Demons together,
He swallows a pot full of poison which came out with their joint effort,
Thus saved the living beings & universe from its destructive effect,
And kept this high potency poison in his throat (kantha),
And Shiva is thus called Neelkantha
He is also known for His benevolence
Can be pleased with utmost ease
Thus bestowing soothing balm to troubled souls.
The Lord is too found in Phallic Symbol of Linga.
In this form He is the Centrifugal Force of the Universe,
And is mix of the simplest
And most complex amongst all the deities.
Mass of curly hair, crescent tucked into it,
The Mighty Ganges flowing out from His piled hair.
With trident representing true virtues,
Coiled serpent named Vasuki signifying Kundalini,
The immense spiritual energy within,
Two sided drum (Damroo) drumming rhythmically,
Enchants everyone including other Deities magically
Simplest in His manifestation
Immersed in His Yogic mystic meditation.
With ash smeared all over the body,
Wearing Ruthraksha beads round his neck and arms,
He is the Lord whose grace could be had with ease,
Differentiates not at all between demons or sages,
While bestowing His graces,
Demon King Ravana was His most likeable devotee,
Whosoever invoked Him with sincere love and piety,
Becomes a candidate for His bounty,
The Omniscient & Omnipotent Yogi’s abode is Mount Kailasha,
Where He dwells with our Divine Mother Parvati,
And sons Ganesha & Kartikeya – the greatest in their own right,
Lord Ganesha for His trouble shooting,
And Lord Kartikeya for demon conquering,
His Cosmic Dance is second to none,
By this Cosmic Dance all the Gods & Demi-Gods get enthralled.
Behold still, when immensely provoked by callous acts,
Opens His Third Eye – a ferocious one
And annihilates the evil doers
Kama Deva, the God of Love got reprisal when he provoked
Shiva when He was in deep meditation and met his end.
We rejoice this occasion and seek His Ultimate blessings
with immensity of reverence in our inner recesses of being
For our spiritual health and inner peace