Maha Shivratri

Lord Shiva

Maha Shivratri is the longest and darkest night of the month. It is the night on which Shivji and Parvati tied the knot and became ‘One’.  Hence it is symbolic of the meeting of the Soul with the Almighty. 

Shivratri is also called Shiv Jayanti which means: The Birth night of God’

Darkness (Shivratri) or you may call it a ‘Vast Emptiness’ is all pervasive, present everywhere, like God.

Creation takes birth in this ‘Vast Emptiness’

Darkness  and Light  is worshipped as creation and destruction. 

Shivji is also called ‘Rudra’ which means ‘The one who destroys evil and sorrow.

Shivji is called Pashupati: The Lord of all animals and Living Beings.

Parvati had to perform a lot of penance in order to wed Shivji.

Shivji is called Ardhnarishwara. It literally means ‘Half woman’  demonstrating the fact that man is incomplete without woman and vice-versa. It also expresses that in the Hindu tradition man and woman enjoy an equal status.

In her last life Parvati was Sati. She doubted and disobeyed the word of Shivji.

In her life as ‘Parvati’ she vowed  to marry Shivji, for which she had to do a tremendous amount of penance (tapasya)

On Shivrati, the Divine Union takes place once more, never ever to be separated again. 

The above story is the ever recurring story of Man’s quest for the Almighty.

Those days on which prayers were supposed to be conducive to Spiritual advancement were decided by the position of the stars, hence in the Hindu calendar the dates always vary. The MahaShivratri is one such date.

 So, some people stay awake the whole night chanting and praying.  I have read: Let this night be a night, not only be of wakefulness, but of awakening.

Ishvaku King, Chitrabhanu was a hunter in his previous birth. Once when he could not return home at night, he took shelter in a bel tree. His tears fell on a Lingam at the foot of the tree and so did the bel leaves. He stayed up all night and he fasted, he was amply rewarded. In remembrance of the above story, devotees offer bel leaves, water and milk to the lingam in the hope to please Shivji.

Shivji is called ‘Bhola’ (innocent, kind hearted, easily pleased) because it is believed that He is easily pleased and grants boons instantly (hence he is called Ashutosh). Krishna, in comparison  is a difficult God to please.  You see Krishna is not interested in rituals. He wants total surrender and Love. So it depends upon what you consider easy or difficult. 

Shivji is also called ‘Mahadev’.

Maha means ‘great’

‘Dev’ is a Divine Being

Shivji is prayed to, as the Divine Incorporeal form of Light: ‘Jyotirlingam Bindu’

The ‘Bindu’ is a ‘point of light’ which being infinite and omnipresent, cannot be measured.

Shivji is likened to a pillar of light, which has neither a beginning or an end. 

The ‘Lingam’ is an oval-shaped form of light. It could also be compared to a flame of light and our egg shaped Universe. By venerating the Lingam we pray to the entire cosmos.

Shivji is also called Lingodbhava.

One of the meanings of the word ‘Shiva’ is auspiciousness.

According to Rajiv Bhosekar ‘Linga’ refers to that in which everything ultimately dissolves or merges. So Shivalinga means to understand the concept of Cosmic Consciousness. The linga is that form, from which the cosmos arose and into which it will dissolve eventually…How can the attributelessness be described? Only something with attributes can be an object of the mind and senses. So the rishis conceived if the Shivalinga to represent the unmanifest Brahmn and manifest Creation…Scientists describe the shape of the universe as ellipsoidal or egg-like, and this is referred in Indian spiritual tradition as andam or brahmandam…Shiva represents the principle of the unchanging, the changeless substratum behind all change in the universe and Shakti, the cause of change or flux. The Shivalinga is a symbol of Shiva Shakti union. By meditating on the linga, we will be inspired to realise this Supreme Truth.

On Shivratri, devotees pour water and milk on the Shivling and the rainy season is the time when kanwarias make the pilgrimage to Haridwar and back, after offering prayers to Shivji.

According to Seema Burman, when Shivji tried to swallow the poison that emerged from the churning ocean, he experienced intense heat. He had to douse his body with cold water to neutralise the effect. Lord Indra asked the skies to open up and hence Shivji loves Sawan, the rainy season.

Namah Shivaya is the five syllable mantra that means ‘Salutation to Shiva’. When Om is chanted before it then it becomes a six syllable mantra. The five syllables in this mantra stand for the five elements.

Na stands for Shivji’s hidden Grace, Ma symbolizes the world, Shi means Shiva, Va is the revealing Grace and Ya is the Soul. Adi Shankaracharya has said that Shiva means “One who purifies the one who repeats His name.

Ramakrishna Paramhansa had a vision of Shivji when he was visiting Benaras. When He was asked by the pundits of Benaras whether Shivji really lived in the holy city he replied, ” I saw a tall white person with tawny matted hair walking with solemn steps to each pyre in the burning ghat, raising carefully every jiva and imparting into his ear the mantra of Supreme Brahmn…

Let us see if we can perceive what Shivji stands for, by the way He looks.

The Crescent Moon stands for the fact that He has conquered (Kaal) time and now uses it as adornment. (Time was calculated in olden times by the waning and waxing of the moon). Incidentally ‘Kaal’ stands for ‘death’ and ‘time’ and Shivji has conquered both.

The ash smeared on His body, denotes His complete Vairaagya (detachment from the world and its pleasures.

I have heard Sri Morari Bapu state that the snakes are Shivji’s ornaments. That is the extent of His indifference towards whether He adorns Himself with snakes or precious metals and jewels. Snakes on ones body would force one to remain alert at all times.

According to Bhaishri Ramesh Oza:

“Lord Shiva  holds the serpent of Time, Kaal in his neck, which means he also controls Time. Therefore he is Mrityunjaya; the vanquisher of Time. He is not led by the Time but the Time is controlled by him as per his wishes. Hence he is Mahakaal.

All his activities are in accordance with Dharma, hence his vehicle is the Nandi which symbolizes Dharma. He puts all powers and energy to beneficial use, therefore Parvati the Goddess of Power and energy is his consort.

Lord Shiva is also said to be the Lord of ego so that even after accomplishing all difficult achievements our mind does not get afflicted by egotism.

He is Renunciation or Vairaagya personified. Therefore he lives in the cemetery, which instantly inspires renunciation. He applies ash on his persona signifying that his inner self remains aloof and unaffected by this world. For his company he has beings like ghosts whom the world abhors, thus indicating that he is the sole refuge of even those whom this world has rejected”.  

Snakes could also denote unleashed controlled energy.

Lord Shiva has been called the Nataraja. The Lord of the Dance. 

Birth and death, formation and decay, change and movement occur all the time as it is the law of the universe. The above is symbolized in the dance of Shiva. Without movement there is neither action, speech or experience.

Angikam is Body Movement

Vacchikam is Speech

Aharya is adornment

Sattvikam is Dance of Truth, Bliss, Oneness with Shiva

Another point to note, is that one can never separate the dancer from the dance. Similarly one cannot separate God and His creation.

Let us look at the 4 hands of Nataraja.

His upper right hand holds the ‘damru’ (a small drum)

Geeta Radhakrishnaa writes:

“Shiva is the rhythm of life. He dances with timeless, boundless energy. His movements are extraordinary…Shiva dances to enjoy Himself…He plays and dances at his own will. At his own will he again stops dancing and playing…He can stamp kick and jump…He can twist, turn and twirl…He can raise his legs at any angle. He can assume any dancing pose. He has no barriers and boundaries…”

I like to believe that the ‘damru’ represents the heartbeat of creation. Tat-dhit-tom-nam Tat thit tom nam…It also stands for the vibration, the sound that creates and annihilates the universe.

Shivji is called: Omkara, the Creator of the sound ‘Om’

Shivji’s lower right hand is in a blessing posture. It seems to be telling us that we are well protected.

Shivji’s upper left hand holds ‘fire’

Fire is an element that stands for divinity.

There are various reasons for it, and all religions worship it in one form or another.

      Even if you hold a lamp upside down, the flame will rise upwards. Human nature tends to be like water, flowing to lower levels. The flame that we light reminds us to soar upwards. 

      Fire destroys the impure.

      As one moves forward on the Spiritual path, the darkness of ignorance is replaced by the Light of knowledge. The fire is symbolic of this light which brightens as we journey within.

Shivji’s lower left hand points to the foot.

He is telling us to rise.

Under Shivji’s foot there is a demon which is being crushed.

One could easily believe that the demon stands for attachment, ego, forgetfulness (that man is divine)

It is interesting to note that the demon is small.

Could the demon be representing a man with his consciousness only concentrating on the world, when he should be looking at loftier horizons?

The flying cloth of Shivji introduces Him as a Spiritual teacher.

If you look closely, you will notice that one earring of Shivji is  masculine, the other is feminine.

Both the energies in Shivji are in immaculate perfect balance!

Shiva is both severe and tender.

Shiva means: Shivamastu and Kalyanamastu which means ‘welfare’ and “May you be blessed”

Shiva serves all life forces with 5 faces: Two faces on the left as Vamadeva (Shiva is terrible. He is Rudra, one who teaches others by making them shed tears, not to harm them) and another face: Kalagni;

 Two faces on the right as Dakshineshwara (Showering Dakshina or compassion upon all creation) Second face: Ishaana (controls individual beings with extreme care)

One in the centre as Kalyanasundaram, He is beautiful, the Supreme Controller and One who promotes greatest welfare to all living beings.

 Shiva is beyond all the faculties of all existential bondages.

 Shiva is Sada Shiva. Sada is always. Shiva is Welfare.

Rudraaksh Information is from:

 Mantramala by Rohini Gupta

‘The word Rudraaksh literally means, the eyes of the Rudra, Lord Shiva.

Once when Lord Shiva opened His eyes after a long deep meditation, his tears of joy and peace fell upon the earth and took the shape  of the fruit of

the rudraaksh tree which grows wild in the Himalayas. The berries drop off, the green fruit skin dries up and the seeds harden into the rudraaksh beads.

The dried berries have different number of segments: most have five, very few have only one. Rudraaksh are differentiated by these segments called mukhis  and each one has a different significance. The properties of each number have been mentioned in the old texts.

Rudraaksh have been a valued possession for centuries, worn and treated with great respect’

I would love to tell you about, the Mother Energy, but for that click, on the following links.

NavratraLaxmi – The Goddess of Wealth

May the Shiva and Parvati in us, unite this Shivratri!

May we all recognize our Divine Nature.

Other popular names of Shivji:

Neelkantha: The blue throated one

Shankara: He who does good

Mahamrityunjaya: One who has conquered fear of death

Swayambhunath: One who is self-born

Some more information:

Bhishmapitamaha states in the Mahabharata: Only a Being as great as Vishnu can describe the greatness of Shiva.

Krishna states: It is not possible to describe all the qualities of Lord Shiva.

Dr Devdutt Pattanaik states in his book: Shiva to Shankara

Shivji smears ash on his body:

He becomes Vibhuti nath (Lord of ashes), directing all jivas (humans) to look beyond death and differences, towards the soul.The ash is applied to make three lines to remind one of the three bodies and the three worlds that need to be destroyed in the quest for self realization…

…When the fire of Shiva’s tapa destroys the three worlds or bodies all that remains is ash. Ash is remains when anything is burnt. Ash cannot be destroyed further…

Shiva’s fire churning diverted the flow of rasa (enjoyment) away from the cycle of life. As Shiva withdrew heat from the environment into his body, his surroundings became cold and barren…

When Sati died, Shiva clung to Sati’s corpse and wandered across the three worlds, howling in agony. His tears turned into sacred beads known as ‘Rudraksha’ meaning from the eyes of Rudra, who is Shiva. The beads thus represent the reaction of Shiva when he finally came in touch with Samsara (The world)…

Rudraksh Beads

It is strongly believed that Rudraksh beads  are endowed with an electro magnetic character that empowers the bead to cure the human body medically as well as spiritually.

These electromagnetic impulses can affect the heart beats, blood pressure, anxiety, depression, mood disorders and neurotic conditions.

Celebrating Shivratri 

From left: Asha Hundalani, Myself and Aati Hundalani

In South India there are 5 temples, all dedicated to Lord Shiva, each one of them representing Him as one of the 5 elements.
Kanchipuram: Shivji is worshipped as earth
Tiruvannaika: worshipped as Water
Tiruvannamalai: worshipped as Fire
Shri Kalahastlsha: worshipped as Air
Chidambaram: worshipped as Ether (Space)

Each of these elements are also associated to a Chakra in our body: The 5 elements of nature also stand for various Gods worshupped by us.

Anup Taneja writes:

The five lettered Mantra Om Namah Shivaya

The five syllablesof this Mantra na, ma shi, va, ya are beej aksharas or seed-letters of the five elements of creation; earth, water, fire, air and ether. Flesh represents the earth, blood represents water; the body heat that helps in digesting food represents fire; the prana or life giving force represents air; and the mind represents ether.

Constant repetition of these holy syllables, either verbally or mentally generates powerful spiritual vibrations that render the mind pure and one pointed directing it inwards, heaing ultimately to the awakening of the kundalini, the spiritual energy that lies dormant at the base of the spine, the muladhar, in each individual.

While practicing mantra sadhana, the seeker sits on a woolen blanket.(Shivji sits on animal skin)  The reason being that the vibrations generated through repetition of holy syllables tend to get dispersed if one sits on a bare floor or wooden plank…

Excerpts from Night of Awakening
Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev

…Mahashivratri is of great significance because on this night, even non seekers and those engrossed in their day to day life can reap great spiritual benefits by being receptive.
On this night , the planetary positions are such that , in the northern hemisphere, there is a natural upsurge of spiritual energies in the spine that can be beneficial if you keep your spine erect and remain alert and aware. If you can stay awake with intention, “ I want to evolve, “ this night can be a powerful possibility…

Rouse yourself awake tonight (Shivratri )
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Shivratri is taking refuge in Shiva. And Shiva is peace, infinity, beauty and the non-dual one. You take refuge in Shiva for your true nature is Shiva as he is the meditative aspect of the entire Universe.

Albert Einstein proved that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; it can only be changed from one form to another. That energy, which changes from one form to another, is called Shiva.

Shiva is that blissful and innocent consciousness which exists in every atom of the universe and also in us. Celebrating the Shiva tattva in oneself is called Shivaratri. ‘Ratri’ means night, the time for rest and comfort. When all activities stop and everything becomes quiet and peaceful, the body goes to sleep. Shivaratri is a rest not only for the body, but also for the mind, intellect and ego.

Paradoxically, ‘Shiva Tattva’ also means to be awakened. Shiva-ratri is thus an occasion to awaken from all sorts of slumber. It is not a night to be slept through but one to remain awake in. It signifies being aware of everything you have and being grateful for it. Be grateful for the happiness which has led to growth and also for sadness which gives depth to life. This is the right way of observing Shivaratri.

The meaning of Kailasa, the abode of Shiva, is celebration. Whether in sanyasa or samsara, you cannot escape Shiva for wherever there is celebration there is Shiva. Feeling his presence all the time is the essence of Shivaratri. That is the real sanyasa. No worship is complete without offering something to the deity. Shiva is very simple; he is innocent, hence he is called Bholanath. One just needs to offer bel-patra to him. There’s a deep message here. Bel-patra offerings signify the surrender of all three aspects of one’s nature – tamas, rajas and sattva. You have to surrender the positives and negatives of your life to Shiva and become carefree.

The greatest offering is yourself. To do so is the key to happiness in life. After all, why do you get sad? It is mainly because you are not able to achieve something in life. At such times you should surrender everything to the all-knowing God. The greatest power is in surrender to the Divine. It is like a drop owning the ocean. If a drop remains separate, it will perish. But when it becomes the ocean, it is eternal.

Shivam, Shantam, Advaitam: Shiva means your very Self, your innermost core, the purest Self. Shanta is quiet, peaceful, very innocent. Advaita is non-dual, where there is only One. So, Shiva means good and benevolent and Ratri means that which gives rest, which takes you into its lap and gives comfort. Shivaratri is a rest which is so deep that the mind rests with the Divine.

Any meditation we do on this day has a manifold effect, for this is the day when spirit touches the earth. If you meditate on Shivaratri then the power of meditation is 100 times more. So, that which is always, nitya and which is, shashwat, that is Shiva Tattva.

It’s said beautifully in the shloka: “Namamishamishaan nirvana rupam, vibhumvyapakam brahma vedaswaroopam.”

Shivaratri is the transcendental, divine peace which brings solace to all layers of existence. Resting in Shiva Tattva is called Shivaratri. There are certain days and time frames in a year that enhance one’s mental and spiritual faculties. In such times whatever one wishes, materialises. Shivaratri is one such precious day.

Tell me the meaning of Love

Kali as Krishna
As I understood it, from an article by Devdutt Pattanaik

Kali is dark, Shiva is fair (Karpura, like camphor)
Krishna is dark, Radha is fair.

Shiva did not speak a word until Parvati came to his life.
Radha did not open her eyes until Krishna was born.

Parvati once asked Shiva: “ What is love”?
Shiva replied:

When you feed me like Annapoorna, asking for nothing in return…I feel love
When you come to me as Kamakhya and are desirous of me… asking for nothing in return…I feel love
When you come to me as Gauri, delicate and demure and allow me to dominate you…knowing full well that you cannot be dominated… asking for nothing in return…I feel love.
When you come to me as Durga bearing weapons in your hand and protect me, I feel secure and safe and cared for… asking for nothing in return…I feel love.
When you come atop me as Kali and dance over me, unafraid to be powerful and vulnerable, and unafraid of being mocked and judged… You make me open my eyes.

I realize Lalita, the beautiful one, who is also Bhairavi, the fearsome one. I realize Mangala, the auspicious one, is also Chandika, the violent one.

I see you totally without judgement, and I realize I am capable of seeing the truth. That you allow me to see you fully, without judgement tells me I have become trustworthy…in joy I dance, I become Nataraja…

Shakti smiled.
Shiva said: “Since you have done so much for me-I want to do the same for you”.

So Shiva became (gori gori) Radha…
And Radha taught Krishna the meaning of love.