Maha Shiva Ratri


As the weather turns from cold to warm and arrival of spring is confirmed by generous flowering of various plants across India, we celebrate the festival of Maha Shiva Ratri.  Fortnight before the festival of holi, Hindus the world over worship Shiva.


Most people associate Maha Shiva Ratri with night-long-fasting and worship of Shiva-linga with this festival.  Many more associate it with drinking of "bhang" and various intoxicants.  Pilgrims visit various temples and sacred sites associated with Shiva, offering milk, water, bilva and various other articles of puja.  Sadhus with dreadlocks, ash smeared naga-bawas and aghoris with skull-cups descend like the terrific hoards of Shiva to worship at the principle shrines across India.  Pilgrims particularly congregate at the twelve principle shrines housing the “joytir-linga” of Shiva and 52 Shakti pithas of the great mother Goddess, spread all over India, Nepal, Tibet, Shri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan.


This sacred festival celebrates a number of ancient events associated with Shiva.  Some historical, some mythical, some celebrate local association with Shiva worship.  Two principle incidents that are celebrated on this day are the marriage of Shiva & Parvati and the drinking of the halahal poison by Shiva.


1) Marriage of Shiva & Parvati :–

Shiva is the potential energy.  Shiva is the male principle and Shivaa is the female principle of the universe.  Parvati is the kinetic energy of the universe.  Shiva is a steady and silent witness of the creation.  Shivaa is forever active and exuberant in her interaction with her creation.  Together, their energy creates, sustains and dissolves the universe in its infinite cycles.  In truest spirit of gender equality, Shiva and Shivaa are forever immortalized as Ardha-Nari-Iswara – united and equal in everything including their body.


Shivaa, nature, prakruti, feminine energy of the universe, goes through several cycles of birth and death as a part of her own divine lila.  But in each birth, Shivaa only marries Shiva.  No amount of inducement or threat can make her chose anyone else as her lord and husband.  Energy and temperaments of these eternal soul-mates are so matched, no one dares comes between them.  Time and again, asuras who have tried, have been vanquished by the goddess.


When the great goddess was incarnated as Parvati, the fair daughter of Himalaya, she performed severe austerities to obtain Shiva as her husband.  In the month of Phalgun, Shiva and Shivaa married during Maha-Shiva-Ratri.



2) Shiva saved the universe by consuming the poison halahal that came out of Samudra-manthan :–

Devas and Danavas, step brothers born of two sisters married to sage Kashyap, were forever plotting to wrest control of the universe from each other.  Hoping to bring them together, Brahma the grandsire advised them to churn the ocean and extract nectar of immortality for the common good of both sides.  In principle, both sides agreed to do this, but had secret plans to grab the nectar for themselves.  With great effort, and mutual cooperation, they managed to churn the ocean with the help of Lord Vishnu.  However, the first thing that came out of the ocean was halahal – poison so virulent, it’s fumes threatened to destroy the universe.


Having got the idea to churn the ocean from Brahma, having had Vishnu’s help in keeping up the mount meru, Devas and Danavas sought help from Shiva to deal with the latest crisis.  Shiva, the ever compassionate, gulped the poison to save the universe. To preserve himself, Shiva did not let the poison go past his throat, nor did he vomit it out. He suspended it in his throat.


Through his actions, Lord Shiva teaches us that when people give you their poisonous views and comments, don't let those go past your throat and burn your heart or store it in your stomach causing you anguish for years to come and nor should you reciprocate by spewing your own venom on your critics.  Let the poison given to you be stored safely out of the way.  Do not let the poison consume you and don’t share it out to all and sundry either.



Learning from Shiva. the guru of all gurus, we should cultivate the qualities of peace, patience, empathy, kindness and compassion on Maha-Shiva-Ratri. 


© Bhagwat    [email protected]


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