Guiding Light: Maha Shivaratri

Guiding Light: Maha Shivaratri

Prof S AinavoluUpdated: Monday, March 04, 2024, 10:02 PM IST
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Shiva+ratri means ‘night devoted to Shiva’. It occurs every month on the fourteenth day of the ‘Krishna Paksha’ or Moon descending fortnight. The one that occurs in the Amanta (Amavasya ending) month of Maagha is termed ‘Maha’+’Shivaratri’, meaning important Shivaratris.

Maha Shivaratri is the day of wedding of Shiva and Parvati. After the marriage with Daksha’s daughter Sati, Shiva led a contented Grihasti (householder) life. However, the Yagya at parental place made Sati visit them without invite. Hearing her husband humiliated in absentia, Sati consumed herself. Shiva after ferocious destruction of the Daksha Yagya, turned pensive and meditative. Sati was reborn as Parvati to Himavanta, and married Shiva after the ‘Kama Dahana’.

Shiva is an ideal householder managing many contradictions. His name means ‘Shubham’ or auspiciousness. In terms of ‘Vahana’ or the mobility means, Shiva is depicted riding the Nandi, the bull. Mother Parvati is Lion riding. The vahana of their elder son is Anura, the mouse. Shiva wears snakes on the body, and snakes devour rats. Snakes get eaten by the Mayura (Peacock) which is the vahana of their second son Kartika. Shiva is depicted as the meditative, but he is capable of performing the ‘Tandava’, energetic dance. He had all the riches, but gave away to Kubera on his request. Shiva is so generous that he gave away his own self (Atma Linga) to Ravana, when he requested for the same. His simplicity is reflected in the worship form as well. Shiva is known as ‘Abhisheka Priya’, one who gets contented with pouring of water (ablution). Hardly any decoration is witnessed in Shiva temples, and even the offering is Bilva leaves.

Panchakshari (five lettered) is the mantra of Shiva, and it is five mighty beejas put together. All the five elements called ‘Pancha+bhutas’ are represented in the Panchakshari. The first letter of ‘Na’ represents the sky (Nabha). ‘Ma’, the second letter is from Marut, the wind/air element. ‘Shi’ is from the fire element called Shikhi. Last two Beejas represent earth and the water elements. Shiva also has five faces that represent each of the above Bhutas. In the tradition there is a method of enriching and supplementing Panchakshari with Mother Goddess beeja put in the beginning, then performing the japa. This aptly symbolises the ‘Artha-Nareeshwara’.

Prof S Ainavolu is a Mumbai-based teacher of tradition and management. He is with VPSM. Views are personal. https://www.ainavolu.in/blog

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