Description: The Hindu festival of Mahā Shivratri (Maha Shivaratri) is celebrated on the 14th day of the dark fortnight of the Māgha month, as per the Hindu lunar calendar. The Shiva principle is most active on this day of the year.
Maha shivaratri literally means ‘the night (ratri) of the Supreme God principle (Shiva)’. Accordingly, the various religious rituals and observances of this festival take place chiefly at night. Hindus observe a strict fast on this day; some devotees do not partake of even a drop of water. In observance of Maha shivaratri people repeat the Panchākshara mantra, ‘Om Namah Shivay’ throughout the night. Like all vowed religious observances, the observance of Maha shivaratri aims to gain control over one’s Raja (spiritual component of action and passion) and Tama (spiritual component of ignorance and darkness). This is done by spending the entire day at the feet of Deity Shiva by continuously worshipping Him, sitting in one place. This helps control motion or activity, which is a manifestation of the Raja component. Further, observing a vigil throughout the night helps reduce the Tama component and its manifestations such as lust, anger, jealousy, etc.
1. Definition of Lord Shiva
The word Shiva has been derived from reversing the letters of the word ‘vash’. Vash means to enlighten; thus, one who enlightens is Shiva. Deity Shiva is absolute, self-radiant and illuminates the universe. Deity Shiva is also called Mahādēv or Supreme God, since He possesses all the three principles – Absolute Purity, Absolute Knowledge and Absolute Spiritual Practice (sādhana) – underlying the creation of the universe.
According to the Shaiva sect (a major sect of Hinduism), Shiva experienced in the nirbij samā dhi state is the attributeless form (Nirgun rupa) of Deity Shiva, that is, Supreme God (Brahman) Himself. According to them, Shiva in the meditative position is God (Īshwar), and Shiva’s dancing form represents the great illusion (Māyā).
Creation of the universe: Deity Shiva can create the universe merely by His resolve (sankalpa).
Master of the universe (Jagadguru): It is said that one must seek knowledge from Deity Shiva and Liberation from Shrīvishnu .
Taking one beyond the three components (to the trigunātīt state): Deity Shiva completely destroys (spiritual) ignorance (that is, ignorance about one’s true nature).
2. Worship of Deity Shiva
Smearing ash (bhasma): The devotees worshipping Deity Shiva should smear Holy ash on his forehead in three horizontal stripes – Tripundra. The stripes symbolise Absolute Knowledge, purity and penance (yogasā dhana).
Wearing rudrāksha: The devotee should wear a rudraksha beads’ mala (rosary) while worshipping Deity Shiva. The rudraksha is red in color with yellow stripes and its shape is flat like that of a fish. On one side of each bead is a slight opening, which appears like an open mouth.
The rudraksha converts the Divine light frequencies into the sound frequencies in the human body and vice versa. Hence, it facilitates the absorption of Divine frequencies and transformation of one’s thoughts into Divine language, so as to reach one’s Divine Principle of worship.
Rudraksha absorbs sā ttvik frequencies and emits similar frequencies from its mounds. When a genuine rudraksha is held in the hand, its vibrations can be felt in the fingers. At that time, the body is absorbing the sattvik frequencies emitted by the rudraksha.
To differentiate between a fake and the genuine rudraksha one can do a simple test. When kept in water, the fake ones get discolored since they are colored by keeping in an astringent extract.
3. Worship of the Shivalinga or pindī
Only cold water is poured on the pindi and bēl (a sacred plant’s leaf, with three petals) is offered. Since Shiva is the Deity of Dissolution, the pindi is not offered milk, panchāmrut, vermilion (kumkum), turmeric powder (haldī) or akshatā (unbroken rice grains), as these represent the principles of Sustenance or Creation.
Three horizontal stripes of Holy ash are smeared on the visible side of the pindi or a circle is drawn on the horizontal stripes.
A tender bel leaf can combine the gross language of sound (ahat) and the subtle or Divine language of light (anahat); hence, it should be offered to the pindi. It is kept on the pindi with its back facing upwards and the stalk pointing toward the worshipper. The intention is to draw the combined energy from these three leaf petals towards oneself, leading to the reduction of one’s trigunas.
Since the pindi contains both Shiva and Shakti, it generates considerable heat. To prevent its adverse effects on the devotees, an arrangement of a continuous flow of water is maintained on the pindi. Due to this stream of water on the pindi, the subtle Om (lowest frequency of sound in the audible range, indicative of the unmanifest God Principle) sound is generated. Similarly, when an embodied soul (seeker) in search of self-realisation chants continuously, it (one) is able to progress beyond the barrier of time and attain God.
4. Attitude when worshipping the Shivalinga or pindi
The symbol of Deity Shiva, the Shivalinga (lingam), represents the formless God principle and it is worshiped with great splendour during Maha shivaratri. While bathing the lingam one can maintain the spiritual emotion (bhāv) that may it wash one of all sins, so that the scorching fire of worldliness may be put out once for all and that one remains focused on God (Shiva) always.
One can contemplate upon the lingam with due reverence, seeing it as the symbol of the one who is All – Pure, All -Perfect, All – Bliss; Deity Shiva and a mirror of one’s soul. Further, one should derive inspiration from the Shivalinga to remind oneself to intensify spiritual practice and realize one’s true identity, the Shivalinga that lies within.
Maha shivaratri implies the spiritual union of the seeker or the embodied soul doing spiritual practice (jīvātmā) with the God principle. It is a reminder to every seeker to attain the high state of God-realisation or lasting Bliss.Thus, the observance of Maha shivaratri should be performed with the understanding that though symbolic or ritualistic, it is an endeavour to progress to The Real or The Truth (God).
5. Worship of the shālunkā (extension of the Shivalinga or pindi at its base)
Three horizontal stripes of Holy ash are drawn on the shālunkā and a circle is drawn on them. White rice and white flowers are offered, as white represents purity. After offering flowers, bel leaves are offered by keeping the stalk pointing towards oneself.
6. Circumambulation (pradakshinā)
While performing the pradakshina around the Shivalinga one should begin from the left side and walk till the shalunka‘s extended outlet, through which the continuous stream of water (abhishēk) flows. Then one turns back without crossing the starting point and completes the pradakshina in the reverse direction. The reason for not crossing the extended portion of the shalunka is that the energy flow at that point has an adverse effect on the production of semen and the five internal airs (vāyus).
Deity Shiva loves abhishek (sprinkling of Holy water). Abhishek keeps the Shivalinga wet continuously. The abhishek is offered to Deity Shiva while chanting the rudra (sacred hymns).
Source : www.sanatan.org