The word `Shiva’ means Sham mangalam karoti iti Shiva. Sham means mangalam, Shubham, happiness, fortunate, prosperity: karoti means that which creates mangalam, or in other words His auspicious presence sanctifies the whole space.
His manifestation as Lord Nataraja in cosmic dancing posture is Divine Aananda. Lord Shiva represents the three shakthis viz..Ichcha shakthi, Kriya shakthi and Gyana shakthi.
Rathri means darkness.. the darkness of ignorance within us. We have to destroy the darkness within us …by invoking Lord Shiva i.e. Ichcha Kriya and Gyana Shakthis into our lives.
Hence Shivrathri festival is celebrated essentially to bring in mangalam i.e. happiness, prosperity in our lives by destroying the rathri the darkness within us, by invoking Lord Shiva representing the three Shakthis as mentioned above.
The image of Lord Shiva seem to reveal something of inner self blessed to know about Him and blessed to be able to worship Him.
He is a powerful Deity, who does not adorn jewels, cloths or surround himself with luxuries. He dresses in tiger skin just bare-basic attire, no ornaments, no gold, gems or crowns. His first outright message is to disengage the mind from distractions of wealth, temporary beauty image and luxury that maya traps us. His message to refrain from getting too materialistic and to understand that simplicity is a sign of power. He is so powerful, yet so humble and simple in His persona.
His half open and tied tresses show how He does let His hair-down, stay calm, enjoy surroundings and He wants to live each day as it comes, enjoying the moment, yet his half tied tresses, indicate that we should continue to do our duty, at our pace. His tied hair continuously saves the Earth from the powerful flow of river Ganga.
So it indicates a middle path of doing one’s duty continuously, inside us, the quest to seek the divine should never die. Keep the thirst and quest on, keep doing your duties to others, yet, enjoying the beauty and joys that surround us.
The moon on His head might indicate that He lives on the highest point on Earth, Mt. Kailash, that He lives close to us and every night the moon transiting the night sky.
The neelakanth or His blue neck, with the story of His drinking hala-hal visham from the samudra manthanam, could tell a human, that vaani / speech can be like a visham or poison, and should always be under check. the snake in his neck is a motivation for us to arouse our kundalini shakthi. The three and half coiled snake, we see so many times, is that bhjangini shakthi – kundalini shakthi, that can activate the sleeping parts of the brain, elevating us from the current level and helping us reach the Divine God.
Vanamalaa or garland in His neck, indicates His love for nature, His love for Dance, music, and beauty, which shows His artistic sides. It also indicates His soft side within.
His trident or Trishul with three spears could be an indicator or symbol of destroying all three gunas viz. Rajo, Tamo and Sattva Guna. He is the master of all three gunas and holds them in total control in His hands. He is motivating us to try and rise above the ebb and flow of the three gunas. The Trishul can also mean He wants us to reach for moksha by killing the present past and future, which are symbolized by the three spears of trishul.
His third eye is activated Ajna chakra, send the message to mediate and with the opening of this pineal gland chakra shall all our karmas, mohs, lobh, krodh and kaam be destroyed.
His damru ( hand drum) is like a wakeup call asking us to wake up from this muddle of maya, that it is high time, we humans utilize this yoni, yog, opportunity and get out of this endless cycle of sufferings to go back to Aananda state and start working towards the real goal of life.
Lord Shiva is seated on a tiger skin. The tiger stands for vision, power and aggression. The tiger is not distracted while focusing on the prey symbolically indicating that we should be focused with a power of commitment without any distraction while aggressively attacking our ignorance.
The bells on His waist are a reassuring signs that when we walk through the dark jungle of tapas of meditation we will not walk alone through the sides, by our side, He will walk with us through it. His presence will be felt deep in the state of Samadhi He will make us feel it.
Nandi – the Bull – can indicate the male energy. The cow is the most precious possession for mankind and the Bull is thus the male other half of this nurturing cow.
Finally, the Lingam, is the matter part of Deepak jyothi. Mata Shakthi can be the ghee / oil that will nourish the jyothi, but unless the cotton lump that takes the form of Linga or a conical upright form, the creation of heat and light to nourish, nurture and guide humans cannot be created. We stare at it, create the essence of the universe everyday in our puja, yet we do not grasp the secrets it is showing us. The Linga of Lord Shiva tells us, how matter and energy have combined to create light – knowledge- which should help us free ourselves from this Maya and provide heat – which is nurturing and nourishing us.
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day of the Maagha month of Hindu. It is celebrated in the dark fortnight or Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Maagha. The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael or Vilva leaves to Lord Shiva, daylong fasting and an all night long vigil.
The Story Of King Chitrabhanu
Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ishvaku dynasty, who ruled over the whole of Jambhudvipa (India), was observing a fast with his wife, it being the day of Maha Shivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of the king.
The sage asked the king the purpose of his observing the fast. King Chitrabhanu explained that he had a gift of remembering the incidents of his past birth, and in his previous life he had been a hunter in Varanasi and his name was Suswara. His only livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. The day before the new moon, while roaming through forests in search of animals, he saw a deer, but before his arrow flew he noticed the deer’s family and their sadness at its impending death. So he let it live. He had still not caught anything when he was overtaken by nightfall and climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a Bael (vilva) tree. His can leaked water, so he was both hungry and thirsty. These two torments kept him awake throughout the night, thinking of his poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously waiting for his return. To pass away the time he engaged himself in plucking the vilva leaves and dropping them down onto the ground.
The next day he returned home and bought some food for himself and his family. The moment he was about to break his fast a stranger came to him, begging for food. He served the food first to stranger and then had his own.
At the time of his death, he saw two messengers of Lord Shiva, sent to conduct his soul to the abode of Lord Shiva. He learnt then for the first time of the great merit he had earned by unconscious worship of Lord Shiva during the night of Shivaratri. The messengers told him that there had been a Shiva Lingam at the bottom of the tree. The leaves he dropped had fallen on the Lingam, in imitation of its ritual worship. The water from his leaky can had washed the Lingam (also a ritual action), and he had fasted all day and all night. Thus, he unconsciously had worshipped the Lord. As the conclusion of the tale the King said that he had lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for a long time before being reborn as Chitrabhanu. This story is narrated in the Garuda Purana.
Tripundram refers to the three horizontal stripes of holy ash applied to the forehead by worshippers of Lord Shiva. These stripes symbolize spiritual knowledge, purity and penance, so also they represent the three eyes of Lord Shiva.
Wearing a rosary made of rudrakshas (said to have sprung from the tears of Lord Shiva) when worshipping Lord Shiva is ideal
On Shivaratri, only cold water and bael leaves are offered to the Lingam. Other traditional offerings, such as bathing Him in milk and Panchamrutha (milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey -symbols of sustenance) one after the other, or anointing Him with vermilion (kumkum) or white consecrated rice (Akshata) (symbols of fertility, or creation), are done on this day, when Lord Shiva is worshipped as the deity of dissolution. Chanting the Rudram is considered very auspicious.
According to the Shiva Purana, the Mahashivaratri worship should incorporate six items: offering vilva leaves to the deity after giving it a ceremonial bath, which represents purification of the soul; applying vermilion paste on the linga after bathing it, which represents virtue; offering food, which is conducive to longevity and the gratification of desires; lighting incense, which yields wealth; lighting an oil lamp, which signifies the attainment of knowledge; and offering betel leaves, which marks satisfaction with worldly pleasures. These six items form an indispensable part of the Mahashivaratri worship, be it a simple ceremony at home or grand temple worship.
Mahashivaratri is celebrated widely in the temples all over India. Shiva is considered the Aadi (first) Guru from whom the yogic tradition originates. According to tradition, the planetary positions on this night are such that there is a powerful natural upsurge of energy in the human system. It is said to be beneficial for one’s physical and spiritual wellbeing to stay awake throughout the night.
Content Courtesy: Skandagiri Subramanya Swamy Temple’s Official Website.