Friday, Dec 8 2023  



The festival of Maha Shivaratri falls on the 13th (or 14th) day of the month of Phalguna (February-March) of the Indian calendar. The word Shivaratri literally translates into "the night of Shiva." This is because the ceremonies take place chiefly at night. A daylong fast, a nightlong vigil, and the reverberating rhythm of sacred chants mark the day. This is a festival observed in honor of Lord Shiva.

Story relating to the festival:
The Puranas contain many stories and legends describing the origin of this festival. According to one, during the Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. This terrified the gods and demons as the poison was capable of destroying the entire world, and they ran to Lord Shiva for help. To protect the world from its evil effects, Shiva drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. Because of this, his throat turned blue, and he was given the name Nilkantha, the blue-throated one. Shivaratri is the celebration of this event by which Lord Shiva saved the world.

It is said that Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati on this auspicious day. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra "Om Namah Shivaya" continues. Offerings of bael leaves are made to the Lingam. Bael leaves are very sacred, for it is believed that Goddess Lakshmi resides in them.

Swami's message on Deepavali:
Swami is the biggest miracle on earth. He is someone you can trust. One whom you shouldn't be afraid of. One who understands you. He IS God. As we all know, each year during Shivaratri, lingams emerge from His body - Bhur, Bhuvah and Suvaha. Bhur refers to the materialization (the body), Bhuvah refers to vibrations (praana) and Suvaha refers to radiation (atma). Let's see what Swami says about the emergence of Lingam. Swami has said "There is a specific time for this (emergence of Lingam). It may take place at any moment between 8-10 pm at night. It takes place at the right time irrespective of the place I am in. It is bound to take place. It is natural on Shivaratri."

How is the Festival celebrated:
This is an important day for the devotees of Lord Shiva, who stay awake throughout the night, praying to Him. In all major centers of Lord Shiva's worship, Shivaratri, also called Maha Shivaratri, is a grand occasion.

From the very early morning, Lord Shiva's temples are flocked by devotees, mostly women, who come to perform the traditional worship of the Shivalinga. All through the day, devotees abstain from eating food and break their fast only the next morning, after the nightlong worship. The day is considered especially auspicious for women. Married women pray for the well being of their husbands and children, while unmarried women pray for a husband like Lord Shiva, who is considered the ideal husband.

Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva are sung with great fervor and devotion. People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya. It is believed that one who utters the name of Lord Shiva during Shivaratri with proper devotion is freed from all sins. He reaches the abode of Lord Shiva and lives happily there. He is liberated from the cycle of birth and death. Many pilgrims flock to the places where there are Lord Shiva's temples.

In Singapore, we sing Lord Shiva's bhajans throughout the night for 12 hours. This instills purity and devotion towards Lord Shiva in all. I recall the very first Shivaratri I stayed awake the whole night. The vibrations from the bhajans were very powerful. As I sat with the other devotees on the straw mats I reflected on my life and the many mistakes I had made before and decided it was time I turned over a new leaf.

This Shivaratri really shook me up and made me realize that life is something I have to live with values. I can happily say today that I am more patient and do not take things for granted. At least not as much as I used to. So you see what just ONE night of praying and just ONE night of chanting and taking a step towards God can do to you? Let us keep this quote of Swami in mind: "If you take one step towards Me, I will take a hundred towards you"

Jai Sai Ram

Sis Nikita
SSEHV Group 4


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