February 28, 2014


[Last night - February the 27th, Mahashivaratri, the night of ‘Shiva the Great’ or the night of 'Great God Shiva' or Mahadev  in the Hindu-trinity, 'the creator of the universe' - was a national festival and holiday in Nepal for its observance. People in India also celebrated the festival (please scroll down for a news report). Both India and Nepal have over 80 % Hindus of their total population. Posted today, is a short article on the religious significance of Mahashivaratri festival. The author discusses ‘Lingam’ and ‘Yoni’ not suggestive of phallus as Dionysus' or Bacchus'. He further argues phallus is  anatomically ‘Shishna’ or ‘Bhaga’. An Indian national, Dinanath Batra filed a lawsuit against Penguin India and Wendy Doniger’s book “The Hindus: An Alternative History” because "the book, which was released in the United States and India in 2009, offended Hindus because of its tendency to over-eroticize”. Penguin India signed ‘out of a court settlement’ to withdraw the book. Many including Arundhati Roy blasted the deal. Axel Michael in his ‘Siva in Trouble: Festivals and Rituals at the Pasupatinatha Temple of Deopatan’ discusses lings in Pashupatinath temple area and writes those lings having four heads of ‘Vishnu, Surya, Devi and Goddess’ (Michael 2008: 08). Pashupatinath is regarded as the guardian deity of Nepal. - Editor] 

By Tilak B. Shrestha, PhD
Om Namah Shivaya! Explaining ‘Shiva Ratri’ to America born Nepali children. We Nepalese have many festivals to enjoy. One of the very interesting and celebrated festivals is ‘Shiva Ratri’ or the ‘night of Shiva.’ The festival is about honoring and worshipping Bhagwan Shiva or  Mahadeva.

It is celebrated on the moonless or first moon day of Falgun month of Bikram Sambat. It is on February 27th in 2014. Devotees observe fasting, meditate and keep sleepless vigil ‘Jagram’ during the night. Bela, Bilva, Aegle Marmelos leaves and water are offered to Shiva. Youngsters also enjoy the festival. Big bonfires are lit at night. All kinds of foods are roasted and cooked in the fire. People walk around in the night well-wishing to the people observing ‘Jagram’, and distribute sweets, foods etc.

Pashupati Nath and other Shiva temples are crowded with devotees, including unrobed Sadhus with chillum, smoking pipes, from all over the world. Just for information, Bhagwan Shree Pashupati Nath is the God of life, not of animals. In old Sanskrit ‘Pashu’ is life, and animals are also life. You may see Shiva’s trident, tri-shul, and three horizontal lines in the foreheads of the devotees representing the three levels of consciousness. The Tri-shul  also represents three types of sufferings: physical, mental and spiritual human beings undergo in their lives. Ttri-shul is a Sanskrit word, literally tri> ‘three’ and shul> ‘pain’ or three types of sufferings. People also may wear ‘ashes’ in the forehead, representing ‘our life and world as we know of is limited, but there is more beyond it.’

Divine Shiva creates, loves, protects and teaches the secret of the world. There are many myths associated with the celebration to illustrate Shiva’s nature and love. After the creation of the universe Shiva was very pleased and performed ‘Tandav’ dance on this day. The divine dance is the cycles of creation, continuation and culmination. Another myth goes that once all got together and churned ‘Manthan’ the ocean. Many good things came out of the ocean, which were promptly picked up by different gods. However, it also produced a very potent poison called ‘Halahal’, which started to poison and ‘burn’ the earth. But nobody could stop it and they ran to Shiva for protection. To protect the world Shiva drank the poison. It turned his throat blue and then he became known also as - ‘Neel Kantha.’- blue throated.

Shiva means who fills our heart with joy. Shiva is peaceful and graceful creator but when he manifests as Rudra he becomes the God of destruction, not who destroys, but who proves to us in concrete term that we are not annihilated after our death after all. The correct simile is the ‘medicine of headache.’ It does not give headache, rather relieves. Shiva neither prescribes believing in heaven and hell, nor uses the associated greed and fear as carrot and stick to force certain code of conduct. Shiva provides empirical way ‘meditation techniques’ to ascertain yourself. Mother Goddess Parvati asks her beloved Shiva, “What is your reality?” What is this wonder filled universe? What is this life beyond form pervading forms? How may we enter it fully, above space and time, names and descriptions?” This is a conceptual question, expecting similar answer. Instead, Shiva teaches the technique: “Breath in, stop, breath out, stop. Be aware of self and nature at all times.” Then he further teaches 112 meditation techniques. Any of the spiritual systems around the world is some combination of the 112 techniques described, including Buddhist ‘Vipassana’ meditation technique.

Shiva taught ‘Adwaita Darshan’ or ‘non-duel’ worldview. The world ‘Sansar’ as we see is only partial and keeps changing. There is larger and universal reality – ‘Brahman.’ The Sansar is a subset of Brahman (not to confuse with God of creation ‘Brahmaa’ or ‘Bahun’ caste). The whole universe, everything and everyone including our egos, are part of the Brahman. Deep down within our ego is the soul, which is Brahman indeed. But our person ‘ego/life form’ cannot understand its true reality due to the creative force ‘Maya.’ Like an actor deep into the acted character, that we may forget our real identity. Shiva teaches, “Yes, an acted character will end, but not the actor. A character may meditate to go within. But ultimately it is for actor, not the character, to realize own nature and that the character is only an act. The meditation is the process of such realization.” This revelation makes Shiva the ‘God of destruction - of ignorance.’

We are limited and the universe ‘Brahman’ is unlimited. Thus, we cannot understand it in totality. However, we may understand two fundamental aspects of the universe – ‘Consciousness’ and ‘Nature.’ They are represented by Shiva and Parvati in human forms and by ‘Lingam’ and ‘Yoni’ in symbols. They are also depicted by up and down pointing triangles, which come together as hexagon, a symbol of knowledge. Though usually misstated they are not male and female anatomies. These anatomies in Sanskrit are ‘Shishna’ and ‘Bhaga’, with related English word ‘Phallus.’ Phallus is used as the symbol of nature’s regenerative power. It is ‘Yashin’ pole of the ‘Indra Jatra’ festival in Nepal and ‘Christmas Tree’ in Europe, which is a Christian adaptation from earlier Pagans.

The Adwaita Darshan or ‘Non-duel’ view stipulates that subject and object are one and the same. If an eye (subject) sees a garment (object), we may argue that behind the eyes there is brain, then mind, then consciousness and so forth. Similarly, behind the garment there is cotton, then organic compound, then energy and so forth. Our limited mind can perceive only part of the continuums. However, Shiva reveals that ultimately both are the same – one, not two. Yes, one is looking at oneself. The whole creation with its diversity is the manifestation of one.

The Buddha teaches the same. However, Buddha’s teaching is the spiritual breakthrough, not as something new, but as the ‘empirical’ confirmation. Shiva’s teachings are given as a belief, beyond our intellect. But the Buddha proved it empirically ‘Tathagat’ and taught an empirical method ‘Vipassana’ to proceed without depending on others or beliefs ‘Appo deepo bhava.’ ( Be enlightened yourself). Usually both Shiva and Buddha are depicted meditating. They are not saying, “We will meditate and you worship us.” Rather they are demonstrating, what we should be doing.

The divine Shiva and mother goddess Parvati reside in Kailash mountain by the lake Man Sarovar in Tibet, close to north westertn Nepal border. His teachings spread far and wide. He is known as Shiwa Okar in Tibet, Shiva Omkar in Nepal and India, Daikoku in Japan. His teachings are in many scriptures including in The Vedas, Tibetan Bon Po, South Indian Agama, Kirati Mundhum. The original Dharma in both north and south of Himalayas, Tibet and Nepal. Kirat,is Shiva Dharma, which is known as Bon Po in Tibet.

The most important feature of the festival for us is to meditate to realize what we actually are. In the ego level, to realize our vices and discipline to give them up. Practice to see beyond what is visible. No matter how situation may look bad, realizing that it always does change. Shiva reveals that after all we are all one, part of one universe. All I have to do is to “Meditate to realize it.”


[Interestingly, following the launch of author Amish Tripathi's Shiva Trilogy, "The Immortals of Meluha", "The Secret of the Nagas" and "The Oath of the Vayuputras", many youngsters are attracted to Lord Shiva. "Yes, it's true. After reading the books I have been attracted to Him. This is the prime reason for me to keep the fast," Aditi Arora said.]

New Delhi, Feb 27 (IANS) Millions of devotees across the country Thursday celebrated the Mahashivratri festival with enthusiasm and religious fervour by observing fasts and prayers.

The festival is believed to celebrate the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Devotees stay awake all night, singing hymns and prayers, to seek Lord Shiva's blessings.

Temples witnessed long lines of devotees since early morning to offer prayers, flowers and fruits.

Aditi Arora, who observed the Mahashivratri fast for the first time, told IANS: "This is the first time I have kept a fast for (Lord) Shiva. I went to the temple and prayed at 6.30 a.m. Today I will only eat fruits."

Sheila Mehrotra, a devotee, said that every year on Mahashivratri her day starts earlier than usual as she observes a fast on the occasion.

"I do not even remember for how long I have been keeping a fast on Shivratri. I read the 'Shiv Chalisa' and offered milk, Bel leaves and flowers to the Shivling," said 57-year-old Mehrotra.
"It marks the day Shiv and Parvati got married. Women fast to ensure a good life for their husbands, and young girls observe a fast in hope of a good life partner, much like Shiva himself," Mehrotra added.

The festival falls on the 13th or 14th day of the Hindu month of 'Phalgun' (February-March).

Subhamoy Das, a communications professional, in an article titled 'Maha Shivratri: The Night of Shiva' wrote that all through the day devotees keep a fast and chant the sacred mantra.

"All through the day the devotees keep severe fast, chant the sacred Panchakshara mantra 'Om Namah Shivaya', make offerings of flowers and incense to the Lord amidst ringing of temple bells. They maintain long vigils during the night, keeping awake to listen to stories, hymns and songs," Das wrote.

Mumbai-based Ridhi Sharma, who works with an online portal, said: "I visited the temple in the morning and was dressed up traditionally. I also give a litre of milk to someone who needs it every year," Sharma, 26, said.

Ruchika Kher, 27-year-old journalist, told IANS that Kashmiris celebrate Mahashivratri a day earlier.

"The day everyone celebrates Shivratri, we have a custom called 'salaam', where the youngest in the family gets money from the elders," she said.

Interestingly, following the launch of author Amish Tripathi's Shiva Trilogy, "The Immortals of Meluha", "The Secret of the Nagas" and "The Oath of the Vayuputras", many youngsters are attracted to Lord Shiva. "Yes, it's true. After reading the books I have been attracted to Him. This is the prime reason for me to keep the fast," Aditi Arora said.

Agrees Naresh Chhetri, 25, who though will not be observing a fast, visited a temple to offer prayers.

"After reading 'Immortals of Meluha', Shiva's virtue of leading life as normal human being is what inspired me. He comes across as a normal human being who gets hurt and has his share of sufferings," Chhetri said. This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.