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Shiv Raatri-1

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Shiv Raatri-1
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
The Scriptures record the following dialogue between Saastree and Aatmaanaathan, giving the inner meaning of the Hunter's story.

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?"
Aatmaanaathan : "Yes, he was called Suswar."

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?"
Aatmaanaathan : "Yes, his birthplace is Vaaraanasee."

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 : "Have you ever seen a Bel leaf?"
Aatmaanaathan : "It has three leaves on one stalk."

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."
Saastree : "Good. The Yogee was in the waking state when he began his meditation. He bundled up the birds and the animals he had slain and, tying them on a branch of the tree, he rested there. That means he had fully conquered his thoughts and rendered them inactive. He had gone through the steps of Yam, Niyam, Pratyaahaar, etc. On the tree, he was practicing concentration and meditation. When he felt sleepy, it means that he was about to lose consciousness and go into deep sleep. So he determined to keep awake."

Aatmaanaathan : "That is now clear to me; you certainly do explain it very well. But why did he weep for his wife and children?"
Saastree : "His wife and children are none other than the world. One who seeks the Grace of God must become an embodiment of love. He must have an all-embracing sympathy. His shedding of tears is symbolical of his universal love. In Yog also, one cannot have illumination without Divine Grace. Without practicing universal love, one cannot win that Grace. One must perceive one’s own Self everywhere. The preliminary stage is to identify one’s own mind with the minds of all created beings. That is fellow-feeling or sympathy. Then one must rise above the limitations of the mind and merge it in the Self. That happens only in the stage of Samaadhi, not earlier."

Aatmaanaathan : "Why did he pluck and drop the Bel leaves?"
Saastree : "That is mentioned in the story only to show that he had no extraneous thoughts. He was not even conscious of what he was doing. All his activity was confined to the three Naadee. The leaves, I have said before, represent the three Naadee. He was in fact in the second state, namely, the dream state, before he passed into the deep sleep state."

Aatmaanaathan : "He kept vigil the whole night, it is said."
Saastree : "Yes, that means that he passed through the deep sleep state successfully. The dawning of day symbolizes the entrance into the Fourth state called Tureeya or super consciousness."

Aatmaanaathan : "It is said that he came down and saw the Lingam. What does that mean?"
Saastree : "That means that in the Tureeya state he saw the Shiv Lingam or the mark of Shiv in the form of the inner lights. In other words, he had the vision of the Lord. That was an indication to him that he would realize the supreme, eternal abode of Lord Shiv in course of time."

Aatmaanaathan : "So it appears from what you say that the sight of the lights is not the final stage?"
Saastree : "Oh no! That is only one step, albeit a difficult one. Now think of how the story continues. He goes home and feeds a stranger. A stranger is one whom you have not seen before. The stranger is no other than the hunter himself, transformed into a new person. The food was the likes and dislikes which he had killed the previous night. But he did not consume the whole of it. A little still remained. That was why he had to be reborn as King Chitrabhaanu. Going to the world of Shiv (Saa-Lokya Moksh) is not enough to prevent this. There are other stages besides Saa-Lokya. These are Saameepya, Saa-Roopya and finally Saayujya. Have you not heard of Jaya and Vijaya returning to Vaikunth?"

Aatmaanaathan : "Yes, I have understood now."
Events Related to Shiv Raatri
See also     Stories Related to Shiv Worship

(1) Shiv Drinks Halaahal Vish
According to the Puraan, during the great mythical churning of the ocean called Saagar Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. The gods and the demons were terrified as it could destroy the entire world. When they ran to Shiv for help, he in order to protect the world, drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This turned his throat blue, and since then he came to be known as 'Neelkanth', the blue-throated one. Shiv Raatri celebrates this event by which Shiv saved the world.

(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.



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Created by Sushma Gupta on 3/15/05
Updated on 09/29/13