Maha Shivratri is the longest and darkest night of the month. It is the night on which Shivji and Parvati tied the knot and became 'One'. Hence it is symbolic of the meeting of the Soul with the Almighty.
Shivratri is also called Shiv Jayanti which means: The Birth night of God'
Darkness (Shivratri) or you may call it a 'Vast Emptiness' is all pervasive, present everywhere, like God.
Creation takes birth in this 'Vast Emptiness'
Darkness and Light is worshipped as creation and destruction.
Shivji is also called 'Rudra' which means 'The one who destroys evil and sorrow.
Shivji is called Pashupati: The Lord of all animals and Living Beings.
Parvati had to perform a lot of penance in order to wed Shivji.
Shivji is called Ardhnarishwara. It literally means 'Half woman' demonstrating the fact that man is incomplete without woman and vice-versa. It also expresses that in the Hindu tradition man and woman enjoy an equal status.
In her last life Parvati was Sati. She doubted and disobeyed the word of Shivji.
In her life as ‘Parvati’ she vowed to marry Shivji, for which she had to do a tremendous amount of penance (tapasya)
On Shivrati, the Divine Union takes place once more, never ever to be separated again.
The above story is the ever recurring story of Man’s quest for the Almighty.
Those days on which prayers were supposed to be conducive to Spiritual advancement were decided by the position of the stars, hence in the Hindu calendar the dates always vary. The MahaShivratri is one such date.
So, some people stay awake the whole night chanting and praying. I have read: Let this night be a night, not only be of wakefulness, but of awakening.
Ishvaku King, Chitrabhanu was a hunter in his previous birth. Once when he could not return home at night, he took shelter in a bel tree. His tears fell on a Lingam at the foot of the tree and so did the bel leaves. He stayed up all night and he fasted, he was amply rewarded. In remembrance of the above story, devotees offer bel leaves, water and milk to the lingam in the hope to please Shivji.
Shivji is called 'Bhola' (innocent, kind hearted, easily pleased) because it is believed that He is easily pleased and grants boons instantly (hence he is called Ashutosh). Krishna, in comparison is a difficult God to please. You see Krishna is not interested in rituals. He wants total surrender and Love. So it depends upon what you consider easy or difficult.
Shivji is also called ‘Mahadev’.
Maha means ‘great’
‘Dev’ is a Divine Being
Shivji is prayed to, as the Divine Incorporeal form of Light: 'Jyotirlingam Bindu'
The 'Bindu' is a 'point of light' which being infinite and omnipresent, cannot be measured.
Shivji is likened to a pillar of light, which has neither a beginning or an end.
The 'Lingam' is an oval-shaped form of light. It could also be compared to a flame of light and our egg shaped Universe. By venerating the Lingam we pray to the entire cosmos.
Shivji is also called Lingodbhava.
One of the meanings of the word 'Shiva' is auspiciousness.
According to Rajiv Bhosekar 'Linga' refers to that in which everything ultimately dissolves or merges. So Shivalinga means to understand the concept of Cosmic Consciousness. The linga is that form, from which the cosmos arose and into which it will dissolve eventually...How can the attributelessness be described? Only something with attributes can be an object of the mind and senses. So the rishis conceived if the Shivalinga to represent the unmanifest Brahmn and manifest Creation...Scientists describe the shape of the universe as ellipsoidal or egg-like, and this is referred in Indian spiritual tradition as andam or brahmandam...Shiva represents the principle of the unchanging, the changeless substratum behind all change in the universe and Shakti, the cause of change or flux. The Shivalinga is a symbol of Shiva Shakti union. By meditating on the linga, we will be inspired to realise this Supreme Truth.
Let us see if we can perceive what Shivji stands for, by the way He looks.
The Crescent Moon stands for the fact that He has conquered (Kaal) time and now uses it as adornment. (Time was calculated in olden times by the waning and waxing of the moon). Incidentally ‘Kaal’ stands for ‘death’ and ‘time’ and Shivji has conquered both.
The ash smeared on His body, denotes His complete Vairaagya (detachment from the world and its pleasures.
I have heard Sri Morari Bapu state that the snakes are Shivji’s ornaments. That is the extent of His indifference towards whether He adorns Himself with snakes or precious metals and jewels. Snakes on ones body would force one to remain alert at all times.
According to Bhaishri Ramesh Oza:
"Lord Shiva holds the serpent of Time, Kaal in his neck, which means he also controls Time. Therefore he is Mrityunjaya; the vanquisher of Time. He is not led by the Time but the Time is controlled by him as per his wishes. Hence he is Mahakaal.
All his activities are in accordance with Dharma, hence his vehicle is the Nandi which symbolizes Dharma. He puts all powers and energy to beneficial use, therefore Parvati the Goddess of Power and energy is his consort.
Lord Shiva is also said to be the Lord of ego so that even after accomplishing all difficult achievements our mind does not get afflicted by egotism.
He is Renunciation or Vairaagya personified. Therefore he lives in the cemetery, which instantly inspires renunciation. He applies ash on his persona signifying that his inner self remains aloof and unaffected by this world. For his company he has beings like ghosts whom the world abhors, thus indicating that he is the sole refuge of even those whom this world has rejected".
Snakes could also denote unleashed controlled energy.
Lord Shiva has been called the Nataraja. The Lord of the Dance.
Birth and death, formation and decay, change and movement occur all the time as it is the law of the universe. The above is symbolized in the dance of Shiva. Without movement there is neither action, speech or experience.
Angikam is Body Movement
Vacchikam is Speech
Aharya is adornment
Sattvikam is Dance of Truth, Bliss, Oneness with Shiva
Another point to note, is that one can never separate the dancer from the dance. Similarly one cannot separate God and His creation.
Let us look at the 4 hands of Nataraja.
His upper right hand holds the ‘damru’ (a small drum)
I like to believe that the ‘damru’ represents the heartbeat of creation. It also stands for the vibration, the sound that creates and annihilates the universe.
Shivji is called: Omkara, the Creator of the sound 'Om'
Shivji’s lower right hand is in a blessing posture. It seems to be telling us that we are well protected.
Shivji’s upper left hand holds ‘fire’
Fire is an element that stands for divinity.
There are various reasons for it, and all religions worship it in one form or another.
a) Even if you hold a lamp upside down, the flame will rise upwards. Human nature tends to be like water, flowing to lower levels. The flame that we light reminds us to soar upwards.
b) Fire destroys the impure.
c) As one moves forward on the Spiritual path, the darkness of ignorance is replaced by the Light of knowledge. The fire is symbolic of this light which brightens as we journey within.
Shivji’s lower left hand points to the foot.
He is telling us to rise.
Under Shivji’s foot there is a demon which is being crushed.
One could easily believe that the demon stands for attachment, ego, forgetfulness (that man is divine)
It is interesting to note that the demon is small.
Could the demon be representing a man with his consciousness only concentrating on the world, when he should be looking at loftier horizons?
The flying cloth of Shivji introduces Him as a Spiritual teacher.
If you look closely, you will notice that one earring of Shivji is masculine, the other is feminine.
Both the energies in Shivji are in immaculate perfect balance!
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