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Maha Shivratri 2011

By Sanjay Parekh
NHSF Learning Team

2nd March 2011 (Magh Vad 14 in the Hindu calendar)

Although, by Indian traditions, Shivaratri occurs every month, Maha Shivaratri, is the auspicious festival is observed on the 14th dark night of Magh (Hindu calendar). It is when Lord Shiva, is seen as Shivlinga. In Hinduism, Lord Shiva (the destroyer of evil) is one of the three aspects of the divine trinity (Brahman); the creator, Brahma, and the preserver, Lord Vishnu the other two.

The five syllable holy mantra ‘Namah Shivaya’, sung in praise of Lord Shiva, is chanted continually during the night of Maha Shivaratri, along with the Lords others names describing his greatness.

Glory

Lord Shiva’s glory has been recited throughout the Puranas. His worship in Bharat (India) has been since ancient times, initially in his murti form, and later as Shivalinga. The Shiva Puran relates a story of Maha Shivaratri's:

In ancient times, a Bheel (forest inhabitant) named Gurudruha trudged through a forest to hunt deer. One night, having not found a single animal, he climbed a tree on the banks of a lake (unknowing to him, a Bili tree).

Later that night, a doe arrived to drink water. Whilst Gurudruha aimed his arrow at her, some Bili leaves fell onto a Shivlinga below. On hearing the noise, the doe was startled. She turned and begged for him to spare her life whilst she went to entrust her fawns to her husband. After much haggling, Gurudruha agreed.

Whilst awaiting her return, he stayed awake by aimlessly plucking leaves and dropping them below (on to the Shivalinga). Unbeknown to him, he had performed Shivlinga puja, whilst remaining awake all night.

Finally, the doe returned with her family and said he would have to kill her family along with her. As Gurudruha took aim, some more leaves fluttered down on the Shivalinga. The collective punya (spiritual merit) accrued from the puja performed eradicated all his sins, purifying his heart.

Repenting his flawed life of sin, Gurudruha set the deer and her family free. As he repented, Lord Shiva appeared in front of him, granting him a boon: “You shall be born in a town known as Shrungver, as a man named Gruha. Lord Vishnu will grace your home as Lord Rama and redeem you.” Lord Shiva also blessed the deer.”

 

Lord Shiva

On Maha Shivaratri, Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form Shivalinga. Lord Shiva has many other forms including:

  • Shakara – the giver of happiness to all
  • Nataraja – the King of Dancers (his worshipped form adorned by dancers and musicians)
  • Pashupati – Lord of creatures (often with Nandi (bull), his favourite animal)
  • Sarpabushana - Lord Shiva’s fearful name

When the Ganga River was send to Earth by Lord Vishnu, Lord Shiva was the bearer of the River on his head. Lord Shiva’s abode peak is believed to be the Kailasa Peak in the Himalyas. Lord Shiva is usually depicted as residing there with his consort, Goddess Parvati (the daughter of Himalaya, and deity of strength). They have two sons, Lord Ganesha and Kartikeya.

Ritual

During Mahashivratri, Rudra Sukta (Vedas) is recited by Pandits, whilst bathing Shivalinga with holy waters of the Ganga, known as Rudra-Abhisheka. Shaligrama, a sacred pebble from the river Gandaki (at the frozen summits of the Himalyas), is also worshipped. Bathing of Shaligrama symbolises:

· Removing impurities from the mind and removing false-self. False-self is the illusion (ignorance) of covering upon our mind (soul) leading to mistaken identity. According to Vedanta, accumulation of false-self upon our real-Self is often the root cause of our sufferings in life

· The eradication of the accumulated material interests, which often blurs the inherent spiritual reality

On the night of Maha Shivaratri, fasting and Jaagaran (night vigil) are advocated. Shivalinga puja is performed by Hindus all over the world with Bili leaves and milk Abhishek.

On Mount Girnar in Surashtra, a grand mela is held and people flock for the darshan of sannyasis and saints.

Date:

2nd March 2011 (Magh Vad 14 - Hindu calendar)

Popular in:

All across India

Origins:

Festival dedicated to the God, Lord Shiva (The Destroyer)