SHIVARATRI SYMBOLISES THE NIGHT OF SHIVA
On this day devotees observe the strict fast and keep themselves awake throughout the entire night. They get immersed in Shiva’s prayers for deriving bliss of connectivity with Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Lord Shiva has Himself told the other deities that He had manifested in the form of ‘Pillar of Fire’ in the month of Phalguna and during the constellation of Ardra. Lord Shiva and Maa Parvati (Nature – Prakriti) are really difficult to be understood by a normal human being. Both love their creations; it may be normal humans or demons (Lord Shiva’s liking for Demon King Ravana as a renowned Bhakta of Shiva is well known), ghosts, spirits (which Lord Shiva took with him at the time of his marriage with Parvati), amongst all the creations.
He is the most affectionate, simplistic, pleasing in bestowing His graces with slightest of prayers, enigmatic, recluse, forgiving, artistic, greatest preachers, greatest scientist etc. Therefore, we should not only rejoice on their union in marriage but also their imbibe their compassionate NATURE.
THOUGHTS ON LORD SHIVA : ON LORD SHIVA – MAHASHIVRATRI
It is pertinent to mention about the background as to how Shiva and Parvati had their first meeting. Parvati had seen Shiva (In meditative trance) while she was only eight years old. She determined that she will marry him only when she grows up. When she grew up, she told her father (Himavan) that she wanted to marry Shiva. She was also fully determined to make him realize her love for him. Then finding the suitable opportunity, her father made mention about the marriage of his daughter to Shiva.
The Trinity amongst Gods (Lord Bhrama, Lord Vishnu & Lord Shiva) are responsible variously:-
Lord Bhrama is in charge of creation.
Lord Vishnu is in charge of maintenance and evolution.
Lord Shiva is in charge of destruction (Sanghaarkarta) and subsequently for recreation.
The Trinity of Goddesses and their responsibilities are;-
Goddess Parvati is the Goddess of fertility, love, devotion, and power (Shakti).
Goddess Lakshmi is the Goddess of wealth and prosperity.
Goddess Saraswati is the Goddess of knowledge and learning.
Satyam means essence or truth or reality – whose results could be tested and attested at any time and anyplace with similar results. In other words, these results could be confirmed scientifically.
Shivam means giving. This may be in the form of Gyan (knowledge) or any other agent of change which may help an individual’s growth in various stages of growth from childhood onwards.
Sundaram means that one ensures to receive information required for growth and development and wellness of the child without any expectation. This function is performed by the family and the society at large.
LEGEND ATTACHED TO 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 Physician) and finally the vessel of Amrita (nectar). 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. He did not take the poison which came out of the sea but kept it in his throat. By doing so, LORD SHIVA saved the world from being annihilated due to the poison which came out of the sea.
SHIVA MEANS ‘THAT WHAT IS NOT’OR WHICH IS BEYOND EVERYTHING
It is comparable to the nothingness of vast cosmos/nothingness of space with galaxies, planets, etc. That which is 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.
LORD SHIVA IS A GREAT YOGI
Lord Shiva is a great Yogi who gave us Yoga and method of living – living as mystic Yogi but not oblivious of the family bonding. His contribution as a recluse and the householder is the 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, was 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 the beating of drums and the 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 the 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:-
Shiva means auspiciousness and lingam means a symbol and when to 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 dissolution. 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 in 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.
Forgetting His grace and bounties offerings when dhoop (incense) is ritualistically burnt give maximum benefits. The 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, honorable, delightful with brilliance, innocent, easy to be pleased, invincible, having huge prowess, fearful or ferocious when hugely provoked, Wrathful, violent and dangerous, destructive, autistic (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 SHIVAJI 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:-
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 extension of Shiva without whom Shiva is incomplete.
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 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 (vegan Karta), Lord of beginning. No Yagna or any ritual is incomplete without beginning with prayers to Lord Ganesha.
He was assigned with the responsibility of protecting the Gods and Demi-Gods. He is worshiped in South India by various names such as Murugan, Subramanya, Shanmugan and in North India as Skanda and Kartikeya.
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.
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 the destroyer of poison.
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.
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 the 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 the 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 represents 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.
AVATARS 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.
Ashutosh – One who fulfills wills.
Akshayaguna – who is Lord of Earth
Mahadeva – Greatest With limitless attributes.
Anantadrishti – With an unrivaled vision.
Bholenath – One who is benevolent.
Bhooteshwara – one who is Lord of ghosts.
Bhudeva – One 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:
1.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. Vaidyanathan (Lord of Vaidya/Ayurveda), Maharashtra:
10. Bheemashankar (Mighty & Powerful Lord), Maharashtra:
11. Mallikarjun ( Lord ), Andhra Pradesh:
12. Rameshwaram (Ram worshiping Lord Shiva), Tamil Nadu:
I am of the firm conviction that in Shiv Purana, mention has been made about the various aspects, about Karma philosophy, origin of Nature and the creation of the universe, the function of the Trinity, the practical aspect of segregation of professions, the meditation and the benefits derived from this, how best to perform various rituals including Shiva and Linga Sututi, the origin of Lord Shiva, function of Nature (Prakriti), et al.