Mahashivaratri

O destroyer! The burning ghat is your playground, Your companions are monsters, Besmeared are you with the ashes of funeral pyres, Your garland is a string of skulls, Your name and nature seem inauspicious . Yet, O giver of blessings!

Those who meditate on you, Are supremely auspicious. “SHIVA MAHIMA S TOTRAM ” The thirteenth night of the dark half of every lunar month is special to Shiva and is known as Pradosha, or Shivaratri. Normally gods are not worshipped in the dark half of the lunar month. This period when the moon is waning is usually considered inauspicious for starting anything. Demons and ghosts move about at this time, and only Shiva can control them. As we have seen, Shiva always proved that, to the yogi, the word “inauspicious” has no meaning. So on those days when the crescent moon is out, people pray to Shiva​
to keep all evil from them. The thirteenth night of the waning phase of the moon, which comes in the month of Phalguna, February/March, is known as Mahashivaratri. This was the day when Shiva drank the dreaded halahala poison during the churning of the milky ocean. It is said that all the gods kept vigil with him, singing his praises. So on this particular day in the month of Phalguna, when the winter mists are melting into spring, all the devotees of Shiva keep awake, chanting and praying to the great Lord and offering worship to him. Ganga water is poured on the linga to cool him from the heat of the poison. On one such Mahashivaratri day, a hunter who had none of thisesoteric knowledge lost his way in the jungle. Frightened of wild animals, he took shelter on top of a bel tree. The leaves of this tree have three segments corresponding to the three eyes of Shiva, and they are very special in his worship. To keep himself from falling off the tree, the hunter continuously plucked the leaves of the tree and threw them to the ground. It so happened that there was a linga just below this tree, so that without his knowledge he worshipped the Lord on that particular night, fasting and keeping awake and offering the leaves of the bel tree to the linga . In the morning Shiva appeared before him and blessed him. Adoration of Shiva on Mahashivaratri day, even though performed without knowledge​ brings its own reward. The story about this festival as told in the Mahabharata features a king named Chitrabhanu, who was said to have observed the fast with great enthusiasm. In his previous life he had been a hunter named Suswara. Once, as night fell over the forest, the hunter could not return home, so he climbed to the top of a bel tree and took shelter. Tormented by thirst he started to cry, and his tears fell on a linga of Shiva, which was beneath the tree. In order to keep awake and not fall off the tree, he started to pluck the leaves of the tree and drop them down. That night happened to be the night of Mahashivaratri, and the hunter inadvertently worshipped the Shiva linga throughout the night, fasting and
​ eeping vigil. As a reward for this he was born as the king Chitrabhanu in his next life. In a dialogue between Shiva and Parvati, the latter asked Shiva which ritual pleased him most. Shiva replied, “The fourteenth night of the new moon in the dark fortnight of the month of Phalguna is my favorite day. My devotees who fast on this day and worship me during the four periods of the night with bel leaves are most pleasing to me. These leaves are more precious to me than jewels. Abhisheka (ritualistic bathing) should be done in the four watches of the night. During the first watch I should be bathed in milk; during the second watch in curd; in the third, in ghee; and in the fourth, in honey. On the following day the devotee should​ break his fast only after feeding the poor. O Parvati! There is no ritual that pleases me more than this!” The cosmic primeval condition of the divine before creation is a state that resembles night or darkness. This is Shiva’s night, or Shivaratri, and this is the state of Shiva. Therefore he is worshipped during the night and is known to be the representative of tamas, the third guna . This darkness, or tamas, is due to the excess of light and not to the absence of light. When the frequency of light is intensified to a very high level, it is incapable of being seen by human eyes. Some lights are called blinding lights. This is because when we look at such a light, our eyes see only darkness. God is really the light of all lights and thus invisible to​ human sight. The owl cannot look at the sun; it can only see in darkness. So the human soul, which has not realized the greatness of God, cannot see the blinding light of God. Shiva, the compassionate one, thus takes the form of night and extols us to worship him as darkness, in order to train our mystical eyes to develop and see him in all his splendor. This is the esoteric significance of Mahashivaratri, the night of Shiva

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