Mahashivratri – Obeisance To Lord Shiva
March 5, 2008
“Om Namah Shivay”
All our articles, researches and discussions conducted on Lord Shiva will never be completed in this lifetime. We can only touch a pinch of His Mahima (Omnipotent presence) and be grateful that He has blessed us with that much of His Grace hence we are able to spend a fraction of our time, contemplating on Him in this Kaliyug.
Lord Shiva has numerous names which describe various aspects of His nature. The most common one is Bholanath/Bholaynath which means the one who is simple and kind-hearted. There are numerous stories and legends where the Lord has been pleased and has granted boons to those who prayed to Him unknowingly.
Maha means Grand/ Great, Shiv refers to Lord Shiva and Ratri is Night. Mahashivratri is the night of great celebrations done in reverence to Lord Shiva. There are six or seven legends which relate to how and why this day came into existence and its special significance.
One of them states that Mahashivratri is the union Lord Shiva with his wife Goddess Parvati. In her previous birth, Goddess Parvati was known as Sati. She had married the Lord but her father King Daksha was not too pleased. He had organized a Yagna, a spiritual gathering where offerings are made to Agni Dev (Fire God). He had purposely not invited his daughter and her husband. When Sati came to know of this, she was furious and decided to go uninvited. Lord Shiva tried to persuade her to drop this idea but she was relentless.
King Daksha gave his reasons to Sati which was nothing but public humiliation of her husband. Angered by these insults, Sati jumped into the sacrificial fire and ended her life. Lord Shiva was torn apart and created havoc at the Yagna. Sati was reborn as Parvati. She had to undergo severe penances for several years until she got to unite with her better half again. So this day is their union. Lord Shiva is also known as Ardhanareshwar which represents half man and half woman.
While another legend plays a more prominent role on this day- during the great churning of the ocean-Samudra Manthan to find the divine nectar/ambrosia, there came out a poison called Halalhal. The Lord saved mankind by drinking the poison and stored it in his throat. This poison turned his throat blue and so he is also known as “Neelkantha / Neelkant” (Neel- Blue, Kantha- throat). Wise sages advised the other Gods to keep Lord Shiva awake the whole night. So they decided to sing and dance and everyone kept a vigil, contemplating on their Lord. At day break, Lord was so pleased with everyone that He granted them boons and fulfilled all their wishes. This tradition continues to be practiced till today where devotees sing bhajans, kirtans and meditate on their Lord Ashutosh, the one who gets easily pleased. Lord Shiva stayed in Rishikesh for a while and left the Halahal there and went to His abode Mount Kailash. There is a beautiful temple surrounding this poison and is called Neelkanth Mahadev Mandir, located on a mountain top.
Temples of Lord Shiva are decorated weeks in advance as devotees throng in thousands to offer their prayers. There are 12 main Jyotirlings where His Lingam is Swayambhu (Formed naturally by nature)
Somnath in Gujarat
Mallikarjun in Sri Sailam, Andhra Pradesh
Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh
Kashi Vishawanath, Varanasi
Bhimashankar, Nasik, Maharashtra
Nageshwar, Near Dwarka, Maharashtra
Gruneshwar, Near Aurangabad, Maharashtra
Vaidyanath, Parali, Maharashtra. Some devotees consider this place as one of the Jyotirlings while others also consider Vaidyanath in Deogarh, Bihar
Apart from these 12 jyotirlings, Pashupatinath (The Lord of the Animals) located in Nepal too has His Swamyambhu form. Prayers have been offered here for over 1500 years. Each of these Jyotirlings has reasons for their formations and has different Shringars (Dressing of the Lord). Prayers and offerings are presented daily but Mahashivratri is the biggest celebration of them all.
Devotees fast on this day consuming only milk and fruits. They bathe the Lord with holy water of the Ganges and milk or Pancha Amrut which is prepared with water, milk, ghee, honey, sugar and curd. They offer Bel leaves, white fragrant flowers, incense… Why I am listing how to pray to Lord Shiva? He is the Lord who accepts everything offered to Him in devotion so do what your heart says and leave the rest to Him.
©Nayna, 2007-2008. All Rights Reserved.