Vrat-Festivals | Vrat
See also Shiv Raatri Vrat Kathaa
Silent adorations to Lord Shiv, consort of Paarvatee, the destructive aspect of Brahm, who is known by the names Shambhoo, Shankar, Mahaadev, Sadaashiv, Vishwanaath, Har, Tripuraaree, Gangaadhar, Shoolpaani, Neelakanth, Dakshinaamoorti, Chandrashekhar, Neel-Lohit, etc, who is the bestower of auspiciousness, immortality and divine knowledge on his devotees, and who does Taandav Nritya or the Dance of Death at the end of Time or Cosmic Pralaya, and who is the real Regenerator but not the destroyer.
Mahaa Shiv Raatri means the great night consecrated to Lord Shiv. Mahaa Shiv Raatri falls on Trayodashee or the 13th day of the Krishn Paksh of Phaalgun month (Kumbh month or February-March). This is only Mahaa Shiv Raatri, otherwise Shiv Raatri are of four types --
Skand Puraan describes four types of Shiv Raatri. (1) The first one is Nitya Shiv Raatri (daily Shiv Raatri - every night). (2) The second one is the Maas Shiv Raatri which is observed on every Krishn Chaturdashee (fourteenth Moon day on the Moon's diminishing phase). (3) The third one is the Maagh Prathamaadi Shiv Raatri which is observed for the thirteen days starting from Pratham Tithi in the month Maagh (Maasee) till the 13th day; and on the Chaturdashee night the Lord is worshiped throughout the night. (4) The fourth one is observed on the Maagh Krishn Chaturdashee. This is the one observed in a widespread manner.
Spiritual Significance of the Ritual
Saastree : "It is an allegory. The wild animals that the hunter fought
with are lust, anger, greed, infatuation, jealousy and hatred. The jungle
is the fourfold mind, consisting of the subconscious mind, the intellect,
the ego and the conscious mind. It is in the mind that these "wild animals"
roam about freely. They must be killed. Our hunter was pursuing them because
he was a Yogee. If you want to be a real Yogee you have to conquer these evil
tendencies. Do you remember the name of the hunter in the story?"
Saastree : "That’s
right. It means “melodious”. The hunter had a pleasant melodious voice. If a person
practices Yam and Niyam and is ever conquering his evil tendencies, he will develop
certain external marks of a Yogee. The first marks are lightness of the body, health,
steadiness, clearness of countenance and a pleasant voice. This stage has been spoken
of in detail in the Shwetaashwatar Upanishad. The hunter or the Yogee had for many
years practiced Yog and had reached the first stage. So he is given the name Suswar.
Do you remember where he was born?"
Saastree : "Now, the Yogee call the Aagyaa Chakra by the name Vaaraanasee. This is the point midway between the eyebrows. It is regarded as the meeting place of the three nerve currents (Naadee), namely, the Idaa, Pingalaa and the Sushumnaa. An aspirant is instructed to concentrate on that point. That helps him to conquer his desires and evil qualities like anger and so on. It is there that he gets a vision of the Divine Light within."
Aatmaanaathan : "Very interesting! But how do you explain his climbing up
the Bel tree and all the other details of the worship?"
Saastree : "True. The tree represents the spinal column. The leaves are threefold. They represent the Idaa, Pingalaa and Sushumnaa Nadee, which are the regions for the activity of the Moon, the Sun and Fire respectively, or which may be thought of as the three eyes of Shiv. The climbing of the tree is meant to represent the ascension of the Kundalinee Shakti, the serpentine power, from the lowest nerve centre called the Moolaadhaar to the Aagyaa Chakra. That is the work of the Yogee."
Aatmaanaathan : "Yes, I have heard of the Kundalinee and the various psychic
centers in the body. Please go on further; I am very interested to know more."
Aatmaanaathan : "That is now clear to me; you certainly do explain it very
well. But why did he weep for his wife and children?"
Aatmaanaathan : "Why did he pluck and drop the Bel leaves?"
Aatmaanaathan : "He kept vigil the whole night, it is said."
Aatmaanaathan : "It is said that he came down and saw the Lingam. What does that mean?"
Aatmaanaathan : "So it appears from what you say that the sight of the lights
is not the final stage?"
Aatmaanaathan : "Yes, I have understood now."
(1) Shiv Drinks Halaahal Vish
(2) Shiv Got Married on This Day
(3) According to legend, this day marks the wedding anniversary of Lord Shiv and Paarvatee. With the marriage to Paarvatee, the devotees had a god with form or Sa-Gun Brahm. Without Paarvatee, Shiv was a Nir-Gun Brahm or a formless entity. There is also the belief that Shiv manifested himself in the form of the Ling on this holy day.
(4) Another legend says, that on this day of Mahaa Shiv Raatri, Lord Shiv performed a special dance, the Taandav Nritya or the cosmic dance of creation, preservation and destruction. In this dance, Shiv destroys the old world and creates a new one. His dance represents the energy flowing through the world giving it the seasons, day and night and birth and death.
(5) Yet according to another legend when Brahmaa and Vishnu were challenging each other’s greatness to establish their own supremacy, a huge Ling or pillar of fire appeared suddenly that who ever finds the starting or ending point of this Ling would be the greatest of all. Neither of them succeeded and was hence obliged to accept the greatness of Shiv who had manifested as that pillar of light. This was the origin of Shiv Ling and Mahaa Shiv Raatri. Read the full story here.
Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 09/29/13