Saturday, April 25, 2009


12-02-2010 Fri Sivarathiri சிவராத்திரி

When is Shivaratri?

Shivaratri 2010 is on February 12, Friday
Auspicious festival of Mahashivaratri falls on the 13th or the 14th night of the new moon during Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Phalgun. The Sanskrit term, Krishna Paksha means the period of waning moon or the dark fortnight and Phalguna corresponds to the month of February - March in English Calendar. Shivaratri Festival is celebrated on a moonless night.

According to Hindu mythology, Shivaratri or 'Shiva's Great Night' symbolizes the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Many however, believe, Shivaratri is the night when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Nritya - the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. Celebrating the festival in a customary manner, devotees give a ritual bath to the Lingam with the panchagavya - milk, sour milk, urine, butter and dung. Celebrations of Shivaratri Festival mainly take place at night. Devotees of Lord Shiva throng Shiva temples across the country and spend ‘the Night of Lord Shiva’ by chanting verses and hymns in praise of the Lord. The festival holds special meaning for the ladies. They pray to Goddess Parvati also called 'Gaura', the giver of 'suhag' for good husbands, marital bliss and a long and prosperous married life.

Shivaratri Calendar

Shivaratri 2010 is on February 12, Friday
Shivaratri Calendar
February 2010

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Shivaratri Rituals

Devotees of Lord Shiva observe the Shivaratri Festival by following the prescribed rituals with sincerity and devotion. All through the day, devotees abstain from eating food and break their fast only the next morning, after the nightlong worship. Ritual baths of Shivalinga in the numerous Shiva temples by Shiva worshipper, mainly women, is another significant feature of Shivratri customs and traditions. Devotees strongly believe that ritual worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of Shivaratri absolves them of past sins and they are blessed with Moksha.

Rituals Observed on a Shivaratri Morning
As a tradition devotees wake up early in the morning of the Mahashivratri day and take a ritual sunrise bath, preferably in the holy waters of river Ganga. They also offer prayers to the Sun God, Vishnu and Shiva as a part of a purification rite observed on all-important Hindu festivals. After wearing fresh new clothes devotees visit the nearest Shiva Temple to give the customary bath to the Shivalinga.

On a Shivratri day, Shiva temples are thronged by devotees, mainly women, who come to perform the traditional Shivalinga pooja and seek blessings from the god. At times there is so much rush in the temples that devotees have to wait for their turn to observe pooja. At their turn for worship, devotees circumambulate the Shivalinga, three or seven times, and then pour water over it. Some also pour milk. Sounds of bell and shouts of ‘Shankarji ki Jai’ or (Hail Shiva) reverberate in the temple premises.

Ritual Bath of Shivalinga
Following the rituals prescribed in the Shiva Purana, every three hours, Shivalingam is given a special bath with milk, yoghurt, honey, sandalwood paste and rose water. Puja, meditation and chanting of ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ accompany the ritual bath. Following the bath, vermilion paste is applied on the linga. Traditionally, leaves of a forest tree Aegle marmelos (bilwa, maredu, wood apple) are used for Shiva puja. Thereafter, Bilwa leaves, which have to be a stalk with three leaves, is kept on top of the Shivalinga. Ber or jujube fruit is a special offering to the god on this day. Beetle leaves are also offered by some. Some also offer bilwa leaves in the belief that the Goddess Lakshmi resides in them. Others believe it is offered for its cooling effects on the hot-tempered deity. Many devotees also decorate the linga with flowers and garlands and offer incense sticks and fruit.

Significance of Puja Items
  • According to the Shiva Purana, there is a special significance of the six essential puja items used in the Shiva worship.
  • Bathing of Shivalinga with water, milk and honey and wood apple or bel leaves added to it, represents purification of the soul.
  • The vermilion paste applied on the linga after the ritual bath represents virtue.
  • Offering of fruits symbolizes longevity and gratification of desires.
  • Burning of incense sticks yields wealth.
  • The lighting of the lamp symbolizes attainment of knowledge.
  • Offering of betel leaves marks satisfaction with worldly pleasures.
All-Night Shiva Worship
Worship of Lord Shiva continues all through the night on Shivaratri Festival. Devotees stay awake all night and spend the night in Shiva temples in worship of Lord Shiva. Singing of hymns and verses in praise and devotion of Lord Shiva besides the intense chanting of Om Namah Shivay, the mantra that is said free people from all their sins, continue through the night on Shivaratri.

Special worship of Shiva by priests continues through the nightlong prayer vigil. During this ritual worship, Lord Shiva is offered special food made from the fruits of the season, root vegetables and coconuts. Those observing the Shivaratri Fast break their fast the next morning by consuming the prasad offered to Shiva.

Shivaratri Fast

Shivaratri Fast is considered to be the most important fast for the devotees of Lord Shiva. Shiva Purana goes on to say that if a devotee observes Shivaratri Vrata with sincerity, pure devotion and love he is blessed with the divine grace of Lord Shiva. Every year devotees observe Maha Shivaratri fast with devotion and sincerity. Though many go on a diet of fruits and milk, some do not consume even a drop of water all through the day and night of Shivaratri Festival.

Merits of Mahashivratri Vrat
According to Hindu mythology, observance of mahashivratri Vrat with discipline helps a devotee to control the two great natural forces that afflict a man, rajas guna (the quality of passionate activity) and tamas guna (the quality of inertia). When a devotee spends an entire day in the Feet of Lord and worships with sincerity, his motion is controlled and evils like lust, anger and jealousy, born of Rajas are ignored and subdued. Besides, when a devotee observes vigil throughout the night (jaagran) he manages to conquer the evils of Tamas Guna too. It has also been mentioned that when a devotee observes a round of worship every three hours, the Shivaratri Vrata becomes perfect.

Devotees of Lord Shiva believe consider Shivratri fast to be extremely auspicious and rate it equal or more than performing an Ashwamedha Yagna. Some believe that a devotee who observes a Shivaratri Fast with sincerity and utters the name of Lord Shiva with perfect devotion is absolved from all sins. Such a devotee reaches the abode of Lord Shiva and lives there happily. He is also liberated from the cycle of birth and death.

Customs and Traditions of Shivaratri Fast
As a tradition, devotees who are on a strict fast on Shivaratri take bath with the water that is boiled with black sesame seeds to wash away bodily impurities. After putting on fresh new clothes, a devotee visit the nearest Lord Shiva temple to perform the ritual Shiva Linga bath with milk, honey etc. While bathing the Lingam a devotee prays, "O Lord ! I will bathe Thee with water, milk, etc. Do Thou kindly bathe me with the milk of wisdom. Do Thou kindly wash me of all my sins, so that the fire of worldliness which is scorching me may be put out once for all, so that I may be one with Thee-the One alone without a second."

Following the sacred bath, devotee applies haldi-kumkum on the lingum and place a garland of white and pink lotus flowers on it. Bel leaves are also placed at the top of the Lingum. Aarthi and bhajans in praise of Lord Shiva are also sung to invoke his blessings. Devotee also light incense stick and ring temple bell to invoke the blessing of the large-hearted Lord Shiva.

It may be noted that unlike most other festivals, where after performing the Puja of the deity a feast follows, a Shivratri fast continues all through the day and night. Devotees observe an all night vigil while chanting the mantra, "Om Namah Shivaya" and singing devotional hymns and songs. Even during the night, Shiva Lings is given the holy bath every three hours. An offering of fruits is also made to the deity. There is also the tradition to listen to the recital of various legends and stories related to Shivaratri and Lord Shiva and to understand its deeper meanings. It is only in the following morning that a devotee breaks the fast by consuming the prasad offered to Lord Shankar.

Significance of Shivratri

Festival of Mahashivaratri is the most important festival for the millions of devotees of Lord Shiva. The festival has been accorded lot of significance in Hindu mythology. It says that a devotee who performs sincere worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of Shivratri is absolved of sins and attains moksha.

Significance of Shivaratri in Hinduism
Festival of Mahashivaratri has tremendous significance in Hinduism. According to sacred scriptures, ritual worship of Lord Shiva on Shivratri festival that falls on the 14th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Phalgun pleases Lord Shiva the most. This fact is said to have been declared by Lord Shiva himself, when his consort Parvati asked him as to which ritual performed by his devotees pleases him the most.

Even till date, devotees of Lord Shiva perform the ritual worship of Shivratri with care and devotion. They observe day and nigh fast and give sacred bath to Shiva Linga with honey, milk, water etc. Hindus consider it extremely auspicious to worship Lord Shiva on a Shivaratri as it is believed that worship of Lord Shiva with devotion and sincerity absolves a devotee of past sins. The devotee reaches the abode of Lord Shanker and lives there happily. He is also liberated from the cycle of birth and death and attains moksha or salvation.

Significance of Shivaratri for Women
Mahashivratri Festival is also considered to be an extremely significant festival by women. Married and unmarried women observe fast and perform Shiva Puja with sincerity to appease Goddess Parvati who is also regarded as ‘Gaura’ - one who bestows marital bliss and long and prosperous married life. Unmarried women also pray for a husband like Lord Shiva who is regarded as the ideal husband.

Shiva Tandava

Lord Shiva is also known as Nataraj, the Dancing God. This divine art form is performed by Lord Shiva and his divine consort Goddess Parvati. The dance performed by Lord Shiva is known as Tandava. Shiva’s Tandava is a vigorous dance that is the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. Tandava depicts his violent nature as the destroyer of the universe.

Characteristics of Tandava Dance
According to scholars, ‘Characteristics of the Tandava Dance’ have been described in the fourth chapter of Bharat Muni’s Nata Shastra, which is referred to as fifth Veda and an expression of Lord Shiva’s eternal dance - Tandava. It says that Shiva’s Tandava is embellished with 108 karanas and the 32 anghaharas - the composite parts of the dance. Bharat Muni further says that Lord Shiva conceived the dance, as he was very much fond of dancing every evening. Shiva further mentioned that 108 karnas included in tandava could be employed in the course of dance, fight, and personal combats and in other special movements like strolling.

Types of Tandava
Some scholars believe that there are seven different types of Tandava. The tandava performed with joy is called Ananda Tandava and that which is performed in violent mood is called Rudra Tandava. The other types of tandava identified are Tripura Tandava, Sandhya Tandava, Samara Tandava, Kaali Tandava, Uma Tandava and Gauri Tandava. However, there are few people who believe that there are 16 types of Tandava.

Significance of Shiva's Tandava Nritya
According to religious scholars, the cosmic dance of Shiva, called 'Anandatandava,' meaning, ‘the Dance of Bliss’ symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, as well as the daily rhythm of birth and death. The dance is a pictorial allegory of the five principle manifestations of eternal energy - creation, destruction, preservation, salvation, and illusion.

According to learned scholar, Coomerswamy, the dance of Shiva also represents his five activities namely,
  • 'Shrishti' - creation, evolution
  • 'Sthiti' - preservation, support
  • 'Samhara' - destruction, evolution
  • 'Tirobhava' - illusion
  • 'Anugraha' - release, emancipation, grace
The overall temper of the image is paradoxical, uniting the inner tranquillity, and outside activity of Shiva.

The dance performed by Goddess Parvati is known as Lasya. In Lasya, the movements are gentle, graceful and sometimes erotic. Some scholars call Lasya, the feminine version of Tandava. Lasya is of two kinds - Jarita Lasya and Yauvaka Lasya. According to the Puranas, Shiva dances a wild and vigorous (tandava) dance in the cremation grounds at night but dances a soft and graceful (lasya) dance in the tranquillity of the twilight.

சிவராத்திரி விஷேசமானது ஏன்?

நமது நாட்டு விரதங்களில் இந்து சமயத்தில் சிவபெருமானை வழிபடுபவர்களால் நவராத்திரி , சிவராத்திரி என்ற இரண்டு ராத்திரிகளுமே விஷேசமாகக் கொண்டாடப் படுகிறது. முன்னது அம்பிகையைப் பற்றியது. பின்னது சிவனைப் பற்றியது. ராத்திரி காலத்தில் பூஜை செய்ய வேண்டும் என்பதை இவை மெய்ப்பிக்கின்றன.

ராத்திரி என்பது என்ன?

ராத்திரி என்பது யாதொரு வேலையும் செய்யாமல் இருள் சூழ்ந்து உறங்கும் காலமாம். பகலெல்லாம் வேலை செய்து நாம் தினந்தோறும் இரவில் உறங்குகிறோம். அப்படி உறங்கி எழுந்தால் தான் உடலுக்கு ஆரோக்கியமும் சுறுசுறுப்பும் ஏற்படுகிறது. தூக்கம் இல்லாவிடில் உடலும் மனமும் சுறுசுறுப்பாக வேலை செய்வதில்லை. நமது நன்மையை நாடி சர்வேஸ்வரன் நமக்குத்தந்த வரன் தூக்கமாம். ஆனால் அளவு கடந்தும் தூங்கக் கூடாது. தீர்க்க நித்திரை என்று மரணத்திற்குப் பெயர்.

சிவராத்திரி என்பது என்ன?

எதனால் தூக்கம் வருகிறது? இந்த தூக்கம் அவசியம்தானா? என்று விசாரித்த சிலர் இது ஒரு அரிய பாக்கியம் இன்றியமையாதது என்ற முடிவிற்கு வந்தனர். தூக்கத்தில் சிவன் நம்மை அடைகிறான். இதைத் தூங்குகிறான் என வேதம் மறைவிடமாகக் கூறுகிறது.

பகலெல்லாம் அலைந்து திரிந்த நமது இந்திரியங்களும் உடலும் சக்தியை இழந்து ஓய்வடைகின்றன. அச்சமயம் நமது இருதயத்தில் உள்ள ஈஸ்வரன் நம் ஜீவனை அணைத்து அருகில் அமர்த்துகின்றான். அச்சமயம் கண் காண்பதில்லை. காது கேட்பதில்லை. புத்தி ஒன்றையும் நினைப்பதில்லை. சுகமாகத் தூங்கினேன் என எழுந்த பின் கூறுகிறோம்.

அச்சமயம் நாம் இழந்த சக்தியை சிவன் நமக்கு அளித்து அனுப்புகிறார். இப்படி இம்மண்ணுலகும் விண்ணுலகும் ஒரு சமயம் வேலையை விட்டு இறைவனிடம் ஒடுங்குகிறது.. இதுவே மஹாபிரளயம் எனப்படும். நாம் தினந்தோறும் தூங்குவது தைனந்தினப்ரளயம் எனப்படும்.

நாம் பகலில் வேலை செய்து களைத்துப் போவது போல் உலகெல்லாம் வளர்ச்சி காலத்தில் வேலை செய்து களைப்படைகிறது. அந்த பிரபஞ்சத்திற்கு இழந்த சக்தியை அளிப்பதற்காக சிவன் தனக்குள் லயப்படுத்துகிறார். இதே பிரளயம் எனப்படும். புரலயம் என்பதே பிரளயம் என்றாயிற்று. பிர என்றால் உலகம். லயம் என்றால் இரண்டறக் கலத்தல். பிரளயம் என்றால் உலக ஒடுக்கம் என்பதாகும்.

பிரளயத்தில் இறைவனைத் தவிர ஒரு வஸ்துவும் காணப்படாது. மெழுகில் தங்கப் பொடிகள் உருத் தெரியாமல் மறைவது போல் உலகம் சிவனது சக்தியில் ஒளிந்திருக்கும். சிவனது சக்தியை ப்ரக்ருதி என்றும் மாயை என்றும் கூறுவார்கள். தட்டானைப்போல் பரமன் மெழுகு போன்ற ப்ரக்ருதியில் தங்கப்பொடி போன்ற ஜீவர்களை ஒடுக்குகிறார். தீயில் மெழுகை உருக்கினால் தங்கம் தனியே வருவது போல் சிருஸ்டி காலத்தில் ஜீவர்கள் கர்மாவிற்கு ஏற்றபடி உடல் எடுக்கிறார்கள்.

அப்படி உலகம் சிவனிடம் ஒடுங்கிய நாளே சிவராத்திரி ஆகும். அன்று சிவனைத் தவிர வேறு ஒரு வஸ்துவும் இல்லை. ஆனால் சிவனை விட்டு என்றும் பிரியாத சக்தி மாத்திரம் இருப்பாள். அன்னையான உமையவள் குழந்தைகளான நம் பொருட்டு சிவனை அச்சமயம் பூஜித்தாள். சிவபூஜை இல்லாவிடில் நாம் வாழ முழயாது. உலகம் ஒடுங்கிய பொழுது பார்வதி, சிவனை நாம் சிவமாக (சேமமாக) இருப்பதற்காகப் பூஜித்த தினமே சிவராத்திரி ஆகும். அது மாசி மாத தேய் பிறையாகும்.

நமக்காக தேவி சிவனைப் பூஜித்த தினத்தில் நாம் சிவனைப் பூஜித்தால் தினம் பூஜிப்பதைவிட பன்மடங்கு பயனைத் தரும். அன்று சுத்த உபவாசம் இருந்து இரவு கண் விழித்து நான்கு கால பூஜை செய்பவருக்கு முக்தி தரவேண்டும் என தேவி வேண்டினாள். சிவனும் அப்படியே வரம் தந்தார்.

விஸ்ணு அலங்காரப்ரியன் என்றும் சிவன் அபிசேகப்ரியன் என்றும் சொல்வார்கள். சிவலிங்கத்திற்கு அபிசேகம் செய்யச் செய்ய நமது துன்பம் அகலும் நோய் நீங்கும். மனம் தெளியும். சகல நன்மைகளும் உண்டாகும். நல்ல எண்ணெய் பஞ்சகவ்யம் பஞ்சாமிருதம் நெய் பால்; தயிர் தேன் கரும்புச் சாறு இளநீர் பழரசம் சந்தனம் ஐந்து கலச தீர்த்தம் -இந்த வரிசைக் கிரமத்தில் இந்த வஸ்துக்களால் பதினொரு ருத்ர ஜபத்துடன் அபிசேகம் செய்யவேண்டும். பூஜை செய்யாதவர் பூஜை செய்யும் இடத்தில் இவைகளை அளித்து அபிசேகம் தரிசனம் செய்ய வேண்டும்.

சீக்கிரம் அனுக்கிரகம் செய்யும்; மூர்த்தி சிவன் அதேபோல் சீக்கிரம் கோபமும் உண்டாகும். ஆதலால் அபிசேக திரவியங்களும் சுத்தமாக இருக்க வேண்டும். பூஜை செய்பவரும் சுத்தமாக இருந்து மனம் வாக்கு உடல் மூன்றும் ஒன்றுபட்டு நிதானமாக பூஜை செய்து சிவனருள் பெறலாம்.

நான்கு கால சிவ பூஜைகள்:

சிவராத்திரி விரதம் மேற்கொள்பவர்கள் அதிகாலை நீராடி சிவசந்நதியில் சிவபூஜை மேற்கொள்ளுவது சிறந்தது. அவ்வாறு பூஜை மேற்கொண்டு பூஜையைச் செய்து முடிக்க முடியாதவர்கள் கோயிலுக்குச் சென்று அங்கு நடக்கும் பூஜையைக்கண்டு களிக்கலாம். அன்று பூராகவும் உபவாசமாக இருந்து வரவேண்டும். பகலில் உறங்கக்கூடாது. இரவிலும் நான்கு காலங்களிலும் நடக்கும் பூஜையில் கலந்து கொள்ள வேண்டும்.

முதல் சாமம்:- பஞ்சகவ்ய அபிசேகம் - சந்தனப்பூச்சு - வில்வம், தாமரை அலங்காரம் - அர்ச்சனை பச்சைப் பயிற்றுப் பொங்கல் நிவேதனம் - ருக்வேத பாராயணம்.

இரண்டாம் சாமம்:- சர்க்கரை, பால், தயிர், நெய் கலந்த பஞ்சாமிர்தம் அபிசேகம் - பச்சைக்கற்பூரம் பன்னீர் சேர்த்து அரைத்துச் சார்த்துதல், துளசி அலங்காரம் - வில்வம் அர்ச்சனை - பாயாசம் நிவேதனம் - யசுர் வேத பாராயணம்.

மூன்றாம் சாமம்:- தேன் அபிசேகம் - பச்சைக் கற்பூரம் சார்த்துதல், மல்லிகை அலங்காரம் - வில்வம் அர்ச்சனை - எள் அன்னம் நிவேதனம் - சாமவேத பாராயணம்.

நான்காம் சாமம்:- கரும்புச்சாறு அபிசேகம் - நந்தியாவட்டை மலர் சார்த்துதல், அல்லி நீலோற்பலம் நந்தியாவர்த்தம் அலங்காரம் - அர்ச்சனை - சுத்தான்னம் நிவேதனம் - அதர்வன வேத பாராயணம்.

நீங்களும் சிவராத்திரி பூஜை செய்து பயன் பெறலாமே?



This falls on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of Phalgun (February-March). The name means "the night of Shiva". The ceremonies take place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honour of Lord Shiva. Shiva was married to Parvati on this day.

People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a drop of water. They keep vigil all night. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra Om Namah Shivaya continues. Offerings of bael leaves are made to the Lingam. Bael leaves are very sacred as, it is said, Lakshmi resides in them.

Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, such as the Shiva Mahimna Stotra of Pushpadanta or Ravana's Shiva Tandava Stotra are sung with great fervour and devotion. People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya. He who utters the Names of Shiva during Shivaratri, with perfect devotion and concentration, is freed from all sins. He reaches the abode of Shiva and lives there happily. He is liberated from the wheel of births and deaths. Many pilgrims flock to the places where there are Shiva temples.

The Story of King Chitrabhanu

In the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhishma, whilst resting on the bed of arrows and discoursing on Dharma, refers to the observance of Maha Shivaratri by King Chitrabhanu. The story goes as follows.

Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty, who ruled over the whole of Jambudvipa, was observing a fast with his wife, it being the day of Maha Shivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of the king.

The sage asked, "O king! why are you observing a fast today?"

King Chitrabhanu explained why. He had the gift of remembering the incidents of his previous birth.

The king said to the sage: "In my past birth I was a hunter in Varanasi. My name was Suswara. My livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. One day I was roaming the forests in search of animals. I was overtaken by the darkness of night. Unable to return home, I climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a bael tree. I had shot a deer that day but I had no time to take it home. I bundled it up and tied it to a branch on the tree. As I was tormented by hunger and thirst, I kept awake throughout the night. I shed profuse tears when I thought of my poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously awaiting my return. To pass away the time that night I engaged myself in plucking the bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground.

"The day dawned. I returned home and sold the deer. I bought some food for myself and for my family. I was about to break my fast when a stranger came to me, begging for food. I served him first and then took my food.

"At the time of death, I saw two messengers of Lord Shiva. They were sent down to conduct my soul to the abode of Lord Shiva. I learnt then for the first time of the great merit I had earned by the unconscious worship of Lord Shiva during the night of Shivaratri. They told me that there was a Lingam at the bottom of the tree. The leaves I dropped fell on the Lingam. My tears which I had shed out of pure sorrow for my family fell onto the Lingam and washed it. And I had fasted all day and all night. Thus did I unconsciously worship the Lord.

"I lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for long ages. I am now reborn as Chitrabhanu."

Spiritual Significance of the Ritual

The Scriptures record the following dialogue between Sastri and Atmanathan, giving the inner meaning of the above story.

Sastri: It is an allegory. The wild animals that the hunter fought with are lust, anger, greed, infatuation, jealousy and hatred. The jungle is the fourfold mind, consisting of the subconscious mind, the intellect, the ego and the conscious mind. It is in the mind that these "wild animals" roam about freely. They must be killed. Our hunter was pursuing them because he was a Yogi. If you want to be a real Yogi you have to conquer these evil tendencies. Do you remember the name of the hunter in the story?

Atmanathan: Yes, he was called Suswara.

Sastri: That's right. It means "melodious". The hunter had a pleasant melodious voice. If a person practices Yama and Niyama and is ever conquering his evil tendencies, he will develop certain external marks of a Yogi. The first marks are lightness of the body, health, steadiness, clearness of countenance and a pleasant voice. This stage has been spoken of in detail in the Swetaswatara Upanishad. The hunter or the Yogi had for many years practised Yoga and had reached the first stage. So he is given the name Suswara. Do you remember where he was born?

Atmanathan: Yes, his birthplace is Varanasi.

Sastri: Now, the Yogis call the Ajna Chakra by the name Varanasi. This is the point midway between the eyebrows. It is regarded as the meeting place of the three nerve currents (Nadis), namely, the Ida, Pingala and the Sushumna. An aspirant is instructed to concentrate on that point. That helps him to conquer his desires and evil qualities like anger and so on. It is there that he gets a vision of the Divine Light within.

Atmanathan: Very interesting! But how do you explain his climbing up the bael tree and all the other details of the worship?

Sastri: Have you ever seen a bael leaf?

Atmanathan: It has three leaves on one stalk.

Sastri: True. The tree represents the spinal column. The leaves are threefold. They represent the Ida, Pingala and Sushumna Nadis, which are the regions for the activity of the moon, the sun and fire respectively, or which may be thought of as the three eyes of Shiva. The climbing of the tree is meant to represent the ascension of the Kundalini Shakti, the serpentine power, from the lowest nerve centre called the Muladhara to the Ajna Chakra. That is the work of the Yogi.

Atmanathan: Yes, I have heard of the Kundalini and the various psychic centres in the body. Please go on further; I am very interested to know more.

Sastri: Good. The Yogi was in the waking state when he began his meditation. He bundled up the birds and the animals he had slain and, tying them on a branch of the tree, he rested there. That means he had fully conquered his thoughts and rendered them inactive. He had gone through the steps of Yama, Niyama, Pratyahara, etc. On the tree he was practising concentration and meditation. When he felt sleepy, it means that he was about to lose consciousness and go into deep sleep. So he determined to keep awake.

Atmanathan: That is now clear to me; you certainly do explain it very well. But why did he weep for his wife and children?

Sastri: His wife and children are none other than the world. One who seeks the Grace of God must become an embodiment of love. He must have an all-embracing sympathy. His shedding of tears is symbolical of his universal love. In Yoga also, one cannot have illumination without Divine Grace. Without practising universal love, one cannot win that Grace. One must perceive one's own Self everywhere. The preliminary stage is to identify one's own mind with the minds of all created beings. That is fellow-feeling or sympathy. Then one must rise above the limitations of the mind and merge it in the Self. That happens only in the stage of Samadhi, not earlier.

Atmanathan: Why did he pluck and drop the bael leaves?

Sastri: That is mentioned in the story only to show that he had no extraneous thoughts. He was not even conscious of what he was doing. All his activity was confined to the three Nadis. The leaves, I have said before, represent the three Nadis. He was in fact in the second state, namely, the dream state, before he passed into the deep sleep state.

Atmanathan: He kept vigil the whole night, it is said.

Sastri: Yes, that means that he passed through the deep sleep state successfully. The dawning of day symbolises the entrance into the Fourth state called Turiya or superconsciousness.

Atmanathan: It is said that he came down and saw the Lingam. What does that mean?

Sastri: That means that in the Turiya state he saw the Shiva Lingam or the mark of Shiva in the form of the inner lights. In other words, he had the vision of the Lord. That was an indication to him that he would realise the supreme, eternal abode of Lord Shiva in course of time.

Atmanathan: So it appears from what you say that the sight of the lights is not the final stage?

Sastri: Oh no! That is only one step, albeit a difficult one. Now think of how the story continues. He goes home and feeds a stranger. A stranger is one whom you have not seen before. The stranger is no other than the hunter himself, transformed into a new person. The food was the likes and dislikes which he had killed the previous night. But he did not consume the whole of it. A little still remained. That was why he had to be reborn as King Chitrabhanu. Going to the world of Shiva (Salokya) is not enough to prevent this. There are other stages besides Salokya. These are Samipya, Sarupya and finally Sayujya. Have you not heard of Jaya and Vijaya returning from Vaikunta?

Atmanathan: Yes, I have understood now.

Lord Shiva's Assuarance

When creation had been completed, Shiva and Parvati went out to live on the top of Mount Kailas. Parvati asked, "O venerable Lord! which of the many rituals observed in Thy honour doth please Thee most?"

The Lord replied, "The 14th night of the new moon, in the dark fortnight during the month of Phalgun, is my most favourite day. It is known as Shivaratri. My devotees give me greater happiness by mere fasting than by ceremonial baths and offerings of flowers, sweets and incense.

"The devotee observes strict spiritual discipline in the day and worships Me in four different forms during each of the four successive three-hour periods of the night. The offering of a few bael leaves is more precious to Me than the precious jewels and flowers. My devotee should bathe Me in milk at the first period, in curd at the second, in clarified butter at the third, and in honey at the fourth and last. Next morning, he should feed the Brahmins first and, after performing the prescribed ceremonies, he can break his fast. O Parvati! there is no ritual which can compare with this simple routine in sanctity."

Parvati was deeply impressed by the speech of Loid Shiva. She repeated it to Her friends who in their turn passed it on to the ruling princes on earth. Thus was the sanctity of Shivaratri broadcast all over the world.

The two great natural forces that afflict man are Rajas (the quality of passionate activity) and Tamas (that of inertia). The Shivaratri Vrata aims at the perfect control of these two. The entire day is spent at the Feet of the Lord. Continuous worship of the Lord necessitates the devotee's constant presence in the place of worship. Motion is controlled. Evils like lust, anger, and jealousy, born of Rajas are ignored and subdued. The devotee observes vigil throughout the night and thus conquers Tamas also. Constant vigilance is imposed on the mind. Every three hours a round of worship of the Shiva Lingam is conducted. Shivaratri is a perfect Vrata.

The formal worship consists of bathing the Lord. Lord Shiva is considered to be the Form of Light (which the Shiva Lingam represents). He is burning with the fire of austerity. He is therefore best propitiated with cool bathing. While bathing the Lingam the devotee prays: "O Lord! I will bathe Thee with water, milk, etc. Do Thou kindly bathe me with the milk of wisdom. Do Thou kindly wash me of all my sins, so that the fire of worldliness which is scorching me may be put out once for all, so that I may be one with Thee-the One alone without a second."

At the Sivananda Ashram, Rishikesh, the Shivaratri festival is celebrated in the following manner.

  1. All spiritual aspirants fast the whole day, many of them without taking even a single drop of water.
  2. A grand havan is performed for the peace and welfare of all.
  3. The whole day is spent in doing the Japa of Om Namah Shivaya and in meditation upon the Lord.
  4. At night all assemble in the temple and chant Om Namah Shivaya the whole night.
  5. During the four quarters of the night the Shiva Lingam is worshipped with intense devotion.
  6. Sannyas Diksha is also given on this day to sincere seekers on the path.

Offer this inner worship to Lord Shiva daily: "I worship the jewel of my Self, the Shiva residing in the Lotus of my heart. I bathe Him with the water of my pure mind brought from the river of faith and devotion. I worship Him with the fragrant flowers of Samadhi-all this so that I may not be born again in this world."

Here is another formula for the supreme worship of the Lord: "O Shiva! you are my Self. My mind is Parvati. My Pranas are your servants. My body is your house. My actions in this world are your worship. My sleep is Samadhi. My walk is circumambulation of you. My speech is your prayer. Thus do I offer all that I am to you.

Thanks to H.H.Swami Sivanandaji


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