Shivratri as we all know is linked to Lord God Shiva. Shiva has a unique place in Hindu religion. Being incorporeal, or you could say intangible. Shiva alone, is usually not represented by a deity, instead is projected by a lingam. The names of ‘Shiva Temples’ in India bear the suffix of, ‘nath’ or ‘ishwar’ only to indicate that he is the teacher of all beings. One of the many names of Shiva is Sarveshwar, meaning lord of all. Images of Shiva often show him meditating in front of a Shivalingam.
Hindu mythology talks of Krishna and Rama as avatars. They were born and they died. They are said to have worshipped Shiva. Other Gods also take physical birth, but Shiva neither takes birth, nor, he dies.
Shiva incarnates himself in a human body. An occurrence that is celebrated during Shivratri. Shiva’s incarnation is associated with ‘ratri’ or night because he manifests in this world when it is enveloped in darkness of ignorance and evil. Omniscient Shiva dispels the darkness by giving humans the light of knowledge. The three parallel lines on the Shivaling are symbolic of Shiva’s knowledge of three aspects of time. The eye in the middle of the lines indicate the eye of wisdom that he gives to human souls.
The Mahabharata refers to the regenerative role of Shiva, saying that when the world had plunged into darkness, and vicious proliferation. ‘An egg-like form of light descended and established a new order.’ In the ‘Dharma Sam-hita’ which is part of Shiva Purana, it is said that at the end of Kaliyug, during the time of destruction, a magnificent light revealed itself that was piercingly luminous, radiant and eternal. The world was created through this light.
Shivratri is the commemoration of the arrival of divinity in this world to salvage humanity. In the Bhagwad Gita Krishna says that whenever righteousness declines and unrighteousness arises, he manifests for the protection of the good, and destruction of the wicked, and re-establishment of a holy order.
According to a few God realized Yogis, Maha Shivaratri was the day when Shiva drank poisonous negativity to protect the world. The Maha Shivaratri is mentioned in several Puranas, particularly the Skanda Purana, Linga Purana and Padma Purana. These medieval era Shaiva texts present different mythologies associated with this festival, but all mention fasting and reverence for icons of Shiva such as the Lingam.
Different legends describe the significance of Maha Shivaratri. According to one legend in Shaivism tradition, this is the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation and destruction. The chanting of hymns, the reading of Shiva scriptures and the chorus of devotees, joins this cosmic dance and remembers Shiva’s presence, everywhere. According to another legend, this is the night when Shiva and Parvati got married.
A different legend states that the offering to Shiva icons such as the linga is an annual occasion to get over past sins if any, and to restart on a virtuous path and thereby reach Mount Kailash and liberation.
The Gita insinuates at this role of Shiva when Krishna says: “I am the ‘mahakal’ (The God of Death). Death can never approach me.” Such an assertion can be made only by Shiva, the Supreme Parmatma. A soul that never takes birth, is Mrityunjaya, immortal.
There is no room for confusion about the roles of Shiva and Krishna, because there is but one God, though deities may be many. The Supreme of all souls, across different faith traditions, is understood as being incorporeal and omnipotent. The Ocean of Peace, the Saviour, and the Almighty, is forever beyond the limitations of a physical existence.
He performs his tasks by giving power to his spiritual children. These Gods and Goddesses, are the slayers or the killers of demons who are also embodiments of purity, love and wisdom. They are not supernatural beings, but humans with divine quality. They foster these qualities in their fellow humans, nurturing a new, elevated consciousness, and thus serve as divine instruments. In the task of creating a righteous world order.
This is the secret of Maha Shivratri, which will be observed today, the night of the Supreme, comes to liberate his children from suffering and sorrow, as promised in the Gita.
By Kamlesh Tripathi
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