Last Updated: 1/8/2013 12:02:21 PM
Shivaratri 2016 date is Monday, 07 March. Shivaratri celebrated on the fourteenth of the lunar month Phalguna. This, in the estimation of the followers of lord Shiva, is the most sacred of all their observances, expiating all sins, and securing the attainment of all desires during life, and union with Siva or final emancipation after death. The ceremony is said to have been enjoined by Siva himself, who declared to his wife Uma, that on the fourteenth of Phalguna, Shivaratri is observed in honour of him, should be destructive of the consequences of all sin, and should confer final liberation.
While celebrating Shivaratri in 2016, it's a good idea to know about the legend associated with this festival. According to the Isana Sanhita, it was on this day that Siva first manifested himself as a marvellous and interminable Linga, to confound the pretensions of both Brahma and Vishnu, who were disputing which was the greater divinity. To decide the quarrel, they agreed that he should be acknowledged the greater, who should first ascertain the limits of the extraordinary object which appeared of a sudden before them. Setting off in opposite directions, Vishnu undertook to reach the base, Brahma the summit; but after some thousand years of the gods spent in the attempt, the end seemed to be as remote as ever, and both returned discomfited and humiliated, and confessed the vast superiority of Shiva. The legend seems to typify the exaltation of the Shiva worship over that of Vishnu and Brahma, an event which no doubt at one time took place.
There is some difference of practice in respect to the day on which this festival is observed; according to some authorities, it is held on the fourteenth of the dark half of Magha, according to others on the fourteenth of that of Phalguna; but this is a mere nominal difference, arising from the modes of reckoning the beginning of the month from the new or the full moon. Another difference, which is less easily adjusted, is that of date; some considering the Shivaratri as properly commencing on the thirteenth instead of the fourteenth; which appears to be the case in the South, according to the published calendars.
As the term Shivaratri denotes, and of a variety in the apportionment of the hours of the night to the series of observances. According to some, the ceremony should begin on the evening of the thirteenth Tithi, or lunar day, if it extends to four hours after sunset; according to others, it should begin on whichever of the two tithis or lunar days comprises the larger proportion of the hours of the night; according to some, Shivaratri should be held on the Tithi, which comprises both evening twilight, and midnight; and according to others, that which includes midnight without the evening. These are knotty points, which are not very intelligible without reference to an almanac, but they are not the less important in the eyes of the devotees of Lord Shiva. When the Tithi coincides with the solar clay, or lasts from sunrise, it is called Suddha, or pure, and the rite begins with the morning of the fourteenth and closes on the morning of the fifteenth.
The celebrations of Shivaratri are carried in most of the Indian states. And, people residing out of the country also celebrate Shivratri with utter devotion to lord Shiva.
The three essential observances are fasting during the whole Tithi, or lunar day, and holding a vigil and worshipping the Linga during the night; but the ritual is loaded with a vast number of directions, not only for the presentation of offerings of various kinds to the Linga, but for gesticulations to be employed, and prayers to be addressed to various subordinate divinities connected with Siva, and to Siva himself in a variety of forms. After bathing in the morning, the worshipper recites his Sankalpa, or pledges himself to celebrate the worship. He repeats the ablution in the evening, and going afterwards to a temple of Siva, renews his pledge, saying, " I will perform the worship of Shiva, in the hope of accomplishing all my wishes, of obtaining long life, and progeny, and wealth, and for the expiration of all sins of whatever dye I may have committed during the past year, open or secret, knowingly or unknowingly, in thought, or act, or speech." He then scatters mustard-seed with special mantras, and offers an argha; after which he goes through the matrika nyasa,—a set of gesticulations accompanied by short mystical prayers, consisting chiefly of unmeaning syllables, preceded by a letter of the alphabet: as, A-kam, A-sran, salutation to the thumb; I-chan, I-srin, salutation to the fore-finger; U-stan, U-stum, salutation to the middle-finger ; and so on, going through the whole of the alphabet with a salutation, or namaskar, to as many parts of the body, touching each in succession, and adding, as the Mantras proceed, names of the Matris, female Shaktis, or energies of Shiva, who, by virtue of these incantations, are supposed to take up their abode for the time in the different members of the worshipper. Other objects are supposed to be effected by similar means; impediments are obviated by stamping thrice, and repeating as often the Mantra "Haun, to the weapon, phat;" next, with the same mantra, and by thrice snapping the finger, the ten quarters of the sphere, or universal space, are aggregated in the Linga; and the purification of all beings is to be effected by thrice clapping the hands together, and uttering the same Mantra each time. The repetition of nyasa, or touching parts of the body whilst repeating mystical ejaculations, accompanies every offering made to the Linga, as fruits, flowers, incense, lights, and the like, during the whole ceremony.
When the ritual is performed, as it most usually is, in the performer's own residence, a Linga, if not already set up, is consecrated for the purpose; and this is to be propitiated with different articles in each watch of the night on which the vigil is held. In the first watch, it is to be bathed with milk, the worshipper, or the Brahman employed by him, uttering the Mantra “Haun—reverence to Isana." An offering is then made with the prayer: " Devoutly engaging in thy worship, oh Ishwara, and in repeating thy names, I celebrate the Shivaratri rite according to rule, do thou accept this offering!" Incense, fruits, flowers, and articles of food, as boiled rice, or sometimes even dressed flesh are offered with the customary prostration, and with the repetition of other, Mantras.
A similar course is followed in the other three periods, with a modification of the formulae, and the articles used to bathe the Linga with. Then in the second, it is bathed with curds, with the Mantra, "Haun—reverence to Aghora;" and the mantra of the Argha is “reverence to the holy Shiva, the destroyer of all sins; I offer this Argha at the Shivaratri, do thou with Uma be propitious." In the third, the bathing is performed with ghee, with the Mantra " Haun, reverence to Vamadeva;" and the Argha mantra is, ' I am consumed by pain, poverty, and sorrow: oh Lord of Parvati., do thou, oh beloved of Uma, accept the Argha I present thee on this Shivaratri!" In the fourth watch the Linga is bathed with honey, with the Mantra "Haun, reverence to Sadyojita;" and the. Argha-prayer is, “Oh Sankara! Take away the many sins committed by me, accept, beloved of Uma, the oblation I present thee on this the night of Shiva." At the end of the watch, or daylight, the ceremony is to be concluded with the radical mantra, " Shivaya-namah”, and some such prayers as these: " Through thy favour, oh Ishwara I this rite is completed without impediment; oh look with favour, oh lord of the universe, Hara, sovereign of the three worlds, on what I have this day done, which is holy and dedicated to Rudra! Through thy grace has this rite been accomplished. Be propitious to me, oh thou most glorious! Grant to me increase of affluence: merely by beholding thee I am assuredly, sanctified" 'Oblations to fire are then to be made, and the ceremony concludes with further offerings to the Linga, and with the Mantra,
"By this rite may Shankara be propitiated, and coming hither, bestow the eye of knowledge on him who is burnt up by the anguish of worldly existence." Brahmans are to be entertained, and presents are to be made to them by the master of the house and his family holding a feast.
Those modes of adoration which are at all times addressed to the different forms of Siva, and those articles which are peculiarly enjoined to be presented to the Linga, form, of course, part of the observances of the Shivaratri. Amongst the forms is the Japa or muttered recitation of his different names as the worshipper turns between his fingers the beads of a rosary, made of the seeds of the Rudraksha, or Eleocarpus. The fullest string contains one hundred and eight beads, for each of which there is a separate appellation, as Shiva, Rudra, Hara, Shankara, Ishwara, Maheshwara, Sulapani, Pashupati, and others. Amongst the latter are certain leaves and flowers, and fruits, and especially those of the bel-tree, as in the text "The Vilwa is the granter of all desires, the remover of poverty; there is nothing with which Shankara is more gratified than with the leaf of the Vilwa." The flower of the Dhattura is another of his favourites, and a single presentation of it to a Linga is said to secure equal recompense as the gift of a hundred thousand cows. At the Shivaratri worship, the Linga may be crowned with a chaplet of Ketaki flowers, but only on this occasion.
According to the legend, a Ketaki blossom fell from the top of the miraculous Shivalinga, already alluded to as having appeared to Brahma and Vishnu, and being appealed to by the former, falsely affirmed that Brahma had taken it from the summit of "the Linga. Vishnu, knowing this to be untrue, pronounced an imprecation upon the flower, that it should never more be offered to Shiva. He was moved, however, by the penitence of the flower, so far to remit the penalty, as to allow its decorating the Linga worshipped at the Shivaratri puja.
Therefore, one should worship Shiva with complete devotion on this Shivaratri in 2016. The worship of Siva at this season is permitted to all castes, even to Chandalas, and to women, and the use of the Mantras seems to be allowed to them; the only exception being the mystical syllable "Om." This they are not to utter; but they may go through the acts of worship with the prayer "Shivaya namah," The same rewards attend their performance of it with faith, elevation to the sphere of Siva, identification with him and freedom from future birth, and these benefits accrue even though the rite be observed unintentionally and unwittingly, as is evidenced by the legend of a forester which is related in the second part of the Shiva Purana; Being benighted in the woods on the Shivaratri, the forester took shelter in a Vilwa tree. Here he was kept in a state of perpetual wakefulness by dread of a tiger prowling round the foot of the tree. He therefore observed, though compulsorily, the Jagarana or vigil. The forester had nothing with him to eat, consequently he held the fast. Casting down the leaves of the tree to frighten the tiger, some of them fell upon a deserted Linga near the spot, and thus he made the prescribed offering. On the ensuing morning the forester fell a prey to the tiger, but such was the fruit of his involuntary observance of the rites of the Shivaratri, that when the messengers of Yama came to take his spirit to the infernal regions they were opposed by the messengers of Shiva, who enlisted him in their ranks, and carried him off in triumph to the heaven of their master.
Notwithstanding the reputed sanctity of the Shivaratri, it is evidently of comparatively modern, as well as merely local institution, and consequently offers no points of analogy to the practices of antiquity. It is said in the Kalpa Druma, that two of .the mantras are from the Rigveda, but they are not cited, and it may well be doubted if any of the Vedas recognise any such worship of Shiva. The great authorities for it are the Puranas and the Tantras the former—the Shiva, Linga, Padma, Matsya, and Vayn, are quoted chiefly for the general enunciations of the efficacy of the rite and the great rewards attending its performance: the latter for the mantras: the use of mystical formula's of mysterious letters and syllables, and the practice of the Nyasa and other absurd gesticulations being derived mostly, if not exclusively, from them, as the Isana Sanhita, the Shiva Rahasya, the Rudra Yamala, Mantra-Mahodadhi, and other Tantrika works. The age of these compositions is unquestionably not very remote, and the ceremonies for which they are the only authorities, can have no claim to be considered as parts of the primitive system. This does not impair the popularity of the rite, and the importance attached to it is evidenced by the copious details which are given by the compilers of the Tithi Tattwa and Kalpa Druma regarding it, and by the manner in which it is observed in all parts of India.
The performance of the ceremonies of the Shivaratri is possessed of enhanced efficacy when conducted at those places which are in an especial manner dedicated to Shiva, particularly at the shrines which were known to have been celebrated seats of worship of the Linga before the Mohammedan invasion. Such is the temple of .Vaidyanath in Bengal, about 110 miles w. by n. from Murshedabad. The Linga worshipped there is one of the twelve great Lingas which were worshipped in India.at least ten centuries ago, and still retains its reputation. In consequence of the establishment of the Mohammedan rule, and its position in a rugged and mountainous country overrun with thickets, the shrine fell for a season into neglect and decay, but it was repaired and restored to popularity by a Maithila Brahman about two centuries since. An annual Mela takes place at Vaidyanath, at the Shivaratri, when more than a hundred thousand pilgrims assemble. The meeting lasts three days, and the offerings made to the temple ordinarily exceed a lakh and a half of rupees. The shrine has some credit as an oracle, and a course of worship and fasting on the spot is productive of dreams, which are believed to convey the answers of Shiva to the prayers and petitions that have been preferred to him.
Celebrate Shivaratri to gain peace of mind and tranquility and observe fast for the purification of your soul. May god bless you with his kindness. Have a great Shivaratri in 2016!
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