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Mahashivrathri

Abstract:
Article about the Mahashivrathri festival. Author: April '92 Sanathana Sarathi publication

The 14th day of the lunar fortnight is a very auspicious holy time for Hindus. This night is called Maha-Siva-Rathri, the great-Siva-night. It is a Divine night.



According to the Puranas, on the Maha-Siva-Rathri Day: -



The Parampurusha (the Eternal Absolute Person) in his desire to attract Prakruthi engaged himself in the Thandava dance (the Cosmic Dance). The Dance was so vast and fast that Fire emanated from Siva's body from the heat generated by His activity.



In order to cool Siva and comfort His Parvathi, His Consort, placed the Ganga on His head, made the crescent Moon rest amidst the coils of His hair, applied cold sandal paste all over His body, wound cold blooded snakes round the joints of his hands and feet and finally, being herself the daughter of the Himalayas (Mountains of Eternal Snow) she sat on his lap and became part of Him.



At this Siva rose and both Purusha and Prakruthi danced together to the immense delight of the Gods and of all creation.



Siva and his Consort are also known as Mallikarjuna (the white jasmine) and Bharamararnba (the Bee) -just as the bee draws nectar from the jasmine, so the Consort draws inspiration and instruction and derives wisdom from the Lord.



Worshippers fast on the day and do not break the fast until midnight. Worship at home and temples consist of: -



* Recitation of stanzas and prayers to Lord Siva

* Worship of the lingam by 'abhisheka' (bathing with milk and water), application of sandal paste, offering of flowers, meditation and devotional singing until midnight.



The symbolism of Lord Siva's form is explained as follows: -



* Lord Siva - Symbolises auspiciousness. God of destruction - of evil qualities within us.

* Crescent Moon - The soft moonlight marks out the route to God.

* Trident - He is the master of the past present and future and takes responsibility for the same of his devotees. The Trident also represents the three Gunas (the qualities in Nature )- the Sathwa, Rajas and Tamas.

* Damaru - Symbolises sound. The Universe was created by the sound 'OM', which is(Drum) divinity symbol by sound and time. Creation began from sound. Time and sound is controlled by God. Lord Siva (God) resides in the region of the heart. His heart constantly beats like the drum which is a constant invocation to Lord Siva. It is also a reminder that if Lord Siva is not present then man becomes a corpse.

* Cobra - Symbolises ego. The snake is rejected by everyone. Lord Shiva adorns his personality with the cobra. Symbolises destruction - if it bites it poisons you. If man becomes a servant of his ego , he is destroyed.

* Lingam - This is the formless form of Lord Siva. The form in which all forms merge. The cylindrical Lingam represents God - embedded on a base, which represents the world. The world is merely a manifestation of God.

* Vibhuti - This guards the body from negative vibrations of others. Ash is the ultimate condition of all things. The vibhuti should inspire us to give up all our desires and offer him the ashes of his destruction. Burn all bad habits - rendering ourselves pure in thought, word and deed, as we worship Lord Siva.



Another significance of Maha-Siva-Rathri is as follows -



The mind, by its very nature, is always in agitation. If it's not overwhelmed and conquered by man it will obstruct man's progress with its vagaries and waywardness. It is intimately associated with the Moon Chandra (the deity in the moon), is the presiding deity of the Mind.



Chandra loses 1/16th of it's brilliance every day from the Full Moon Day, and continues to wane, until in the 14th day of the lunar fortnight when just 1/16th of it's power is left.



The mind too like the moon can wane if spiritual sadhana is pursued. On the Siva Rathri, as the influence of the moon is at its weakest, there is only a small part of the mind to be overcome, and that can be achieved by keeping vigil and dwelling on the glory of God.



This great Siva night is a Divine night, an auspicious night - a night for concentration, a night for dedication a night for illumination.



The vigil that is prescribed is a symbol of the eternal vigil one has to observe. The rite of fasting is the symbol of the need to deprive the senses of the pleasures they crave for. The nightlong bhajans is the symbol of the Life-long Consciousness of the Divine Presence that is to be cultivated.



These bhajans and namsmarana, worship and puja are all not for pleasing or propitiating God but for ones own spiritual progress. God is all power, all Glory and all Splendour. He cannot be induced by praise to shower Grace. Nor does He punish those who do not sing his praise.



The recitation of the Divine names, qualities and attitudes are prescribed so that by constant dwelling on these elevating ideals one can imbibe the Divine qualities and become closer and closer to the Divinity, that is one's real nature.



(The above is a summary of the lesson plans within the U.K. S.S.E. Manuals)



--- ooo---000 --- ooo ---



Swami clarifies even further the concept of Siva and the universality of this night. The following statements have been extracted from His discourse.



"All objects in the world can be cognised by name and form and nothing else, the form is derived from the name (the sound vibration) and hence everything in the world, the name is primary and fundamental. In fact, the name is the basis and the entire cosmos rests on it - the best way to recognise God and envisage his form is through his name - the Divine name is always auspicious.



What is the true vigil on ' Siva Rathri' night? It is to devote every moment of the night to thoughts of God and recite his name. 'Siva' doesn't mean Eashwara (Shankar) but AUSPICIOUS - so 'Siva Rathri' means the Auspicious Night during which God's grace can be won.



God has innumerable names - the vigil can be held with devotion to any Divine name - God is One and One only - there are many names and forms but Divinity is One alone. Festivals like Siva Rathri are intended to make people cultivate auspicious and godly qualities - it is the day that is devoted to the contemplation of God.



It doesn't (need not) come only once a year, every night can be Siva Rathri.



Different devotees are bound to differ in their ways of worshipping god. But whatever the method, there must be one-pointed devotion,love toward God."



Swami's discourse on 2nd March 1992 (see April '92 Sanathana Sariti)

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