MAHA SHIVARATRI – Who is Shiva

Shivrathri Message – Dr (Pundit) Roshan Singh

Jyotish Astrologer / Ayurvedic Medical Practitioner / Marriage Officer

Please accept my dandavat Pranaams and blessings on this most auspicious day of Maha Shivrathri.   May our most merciful and kind Shankarji shower his grace and mercy upon you. We observe Shivrathri once every month and once a year the festival of Maha Shivrathri is observed by devotees of the Lord.  It is on this day that we are given the opportunity to reconnect with Bhagavan Shankar and to beg for his mercy to assist us to become reconnected to His Istadevata Bhagavan Krsna who he never forgets for even a moment.

Lord Shiva is the greatest devotee of Bhagavan Sri Krsna.  One will always see Him sitting and chanting the holy names of Krsna.  He is eternal and always appears whenever the Lord appears on this planet to enact His earthly pastimes. He takes various forms.  One such incarnation is when Bhagavan appears as Lord Ram and Shiva appears as Lord Hanuman. His is known as the eleventh Rudra.

A devotee of the Lord offers his Love and respect to Lord Shiva to grant him the blessing that he become a devotee like him and learn how to chant the holy names of the Lord with love, faith and devotion and thereby enabling him to qualify to return to the kingdom of the Supreme Personality of Godhead Bhagavan Sri Krishna.  Shiva is most kind and will most certainly grant this wish to His aspirant. Let us therefore observe this festival and benefit from it by praying to Shiva to grant us his blessings.

The materialist on the other hand prays to Shiva for Him to fulfil his material desires which are all temporary and fade away whereas the devotee of Krsna prays to Shiva to benedict him with love of Krsna and end all his suffering forever.

Shiva Meditates on Lord Vishnu

This is evidenced by the following sloka in Vishnu Sahasra Nama:

Sri Rama Rama Rameti Rame Raame Manorame;

Sahasra nama tattulyam Rama nama varanane!

The above Sloka is Lord Shiva’s reply to Goddess Parvathi’s question as to which mantra can be easily recited and its effect equivalent to Sahasranamam. Lord Shiva’s reply was the above mantra.

The word to word meaning is as follows:

Sri Rama = Lord Rama’s name
Raameti = Raam + iti ==> Rama alone
Rame = which attracts
Raame = into Rama
Manorame = lovely, adjective used for Raam
Sahasra nama = thousand names of Lord Vishnu
Tattulyam = equivalent to
Rama nama varanane = The best Rama Name

Rama-namam attracts us towards attractive Ram … this best Ram-namam is equivalent to Shasranamam.

By continuous chanting of this mantra, the shareeram ( soul) purifies the life force to the extent that it can easily merge in the universal being.Rama Mantra when chanted together at home with family brings prosperity and harmony.

The Mantra prescribed by the Lord Himself for the people of this most degraded age of Kaliyuga is :

Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare

Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare

One is caught in the web of karma which produces repeated birth, old age, disease and death.  It is for this reason that the Lord personally appeared as Chaitanya Maha Prabhu who is most kind and munificent and declared that those who chant the Maha Mantra can be delivered back home, back to Godhead.

SB 4.2.2

kas taṁ carācara-guruṁ
 nirvairaṁ śānta-vigraham
ātmārāmaṁ kathaṁ dveṣṭi
 jagato daivataṁ mahat

Synonyms: 

kaḥ — who (Dakṣa); tam — him (Lord Śiva); caraacara — of the whole world (both animate and inanimate); gurum — the spiritual master; nirvairam — without enmity; śāntavigraham — having a peaceful personality; ātmaārāmam — satisfied in himself; katham — how; dveṣṭi — hates; jagataḥ — of the universe; daivatam — demigod; mahat — the great.

Translation: 

Lord Śiva, the spiritual master of the entire world, is free from enmity, is a peaceful personality, and is always satisfied in himself. He is the greatest among the demigods.

Purport: 

Lord Śiva is described here as carācara-guru, the spiritual master of all animate and inanimate objects. He is sometimes known as Bhūtanātha, which means “the worshipable deity of the dull-headed.” Bhūta is also sometimes taken to indicate the ghosts. Lord Śiva takes charge of reforming persons who are ghosts and demons, not to speak of others, who are godly; therefore he is the spiritual master of everyone, both the dull and demoniac and the highly learned Vaiṣṇavas. It is also stated, vaiṣṇavānāṁ yathā śambhuḥ: Śambhu, Lord Śiva, is the greatest of all Vaiṣṇavas. On one hand he is the worshipable object of the dull demons, and on the other he is the best of all Vaiṣṇavas, or devotees, and he has a sampradāya called the Rudra sampradāya.

He is known by various names and one of His names is Ashutosh which means the most merciful.  He is pleased even if a little worship is done in His name but what pleases Him the most if one chants the names of His Lord Ram or Krsna. In the Hanuman Chalisa we recite the verse “sadhu sant ke tum rakaware” which means that He protects the sadhu and the sant referring to the devotee who is engaged in the service of the Lord and constantly chants the holy names of the Lord.  This part is called Bhakti Yoga and is the most perfect and prescribed method of God realization in this most degraded age of kaliyuga.  There is no other way of reaching God.

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, 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 or in one’s home depending upon circumstances.  They also offer prayers to the Suryanarayan, Lord Vishnu and Shiva as a part of a purification rite observed on all-important Hindu festivals. After wearing fresh clean clothes devotees visit the nearest Shiva Temple to give the customary bath to the Shivalinga.  Generally it is customary for men to wear white clothes and ladies may dress in red.

On a Shivratri day, Shiva temples are thronged by devotees, who come to perform the traditional Shivalinga pooja and seek blessings from the God.  This can be done at your own home if you have a Shivalinga.

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 Lord Shiva 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. Another offering that pleases Lord Shiva is Dathura which is a thorny fruit that is borne on a Castor Oil plant.

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.
  • Three stripes of Chandan or sandal wood paste is applied to the Shivalinga horizontally. This is then followed by placing a dot of Red Sindhur on the centre of the middle line of the Chandan.
  • The vermilion paste applied on the linga after the ritual bath represents virtue.
  • Offering of fruits symbolizes longevity and gratification of desires. Generally one would offer bananas to Lord Shiva.
  • An offer of unsalted popcorn is offered to Him
  • One then offers kheer or sweet rice to Him as this pleases Him greatly.
  • 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 prasadh offered to Shiva.
  • The prashad that pleases Lord Shiva is unsalted popcorn / banana / kheer / bhang (milk into which hemp is crushed and added)

How to Make Rice Kheer

  1. Boil the rice and milk in a deep pan.
  2. Simmer over low flame, stirring occasionally till the rice is cooked and the milk becomes thick.
  3. When done add sugar, raisins and cardamoms.
  4. Stir till sugar gets dissolved properly.
  5. Transfer into a serving dish and garnish with almonds.
  6. Offer this to the Lord and then partake this maha prashad. 

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