Mahashivarathri, the holy festival to propitiate Shiva!
Shiva Linga, symbol of Lord Shiva!
How Mahasivarathri is celebrated in India?
Today, the holy and famous celebration of Mahashivarathri (the night long vigil chanting the names of Shiva) takes place all over India. It has got a spiritual significance. In the present dark age of Kali, people are not capable of performing elaborate rituals etc. to attain the Divine. To simplify and ease their quest for god, our ancestors have earmarked certain days as holy and even a little effort on the part of ordinary people will fetch great results.
Before proceeding further on the greatness of this celebration, let us dwell upon the fundamental question of human aim in life! Many people are aware that the human life on earth is not for wasting their energies on trivial matters and tinsel acquisition. The entire animal species, birds and insects all eat food, sleep and mate to produce their offspring. What is the specialty of human birth when he is blessed with intelligence, discrimination and thinking capacities? How can he waste his life merely consuming tasty food, drinking liquors and enjoying various sensual pleasures of life? Is the intelligence is given for squandering on silly joys? Definitely NOT! Many spiritualists, philosophers, saints, sages and prophets have warned the erring humanity to correct their ways and to progress towards the real goal of human life, which is attainment of Divine consciousness!
In every religion, there are days earmarked to remember the holy beings and spend their time in prayers and fasting. In Islam, an entire month “Ramzan” is dedicated for worship, prayers, charity and fasting. During the entire day, the entire Muslim community observe perfect fast and only in the evening they eat nuts and grains. This is really an elevating month for all Muslim people. In Christianity, there is Easter. They do observe fast as per their custom and observe it very strictly by attending the mass at Churches at the conclusion of Easter. In Hindu religious calendar, two or three days are special in each month for worshipping god and goddess. Now let us understand the real significance of Mahashivarathri, the holiest among Hindu festivals. Our mind is compared to the moon in the scriptures. As the moon got 14 waning and 14 waxing days, the mind too undergoes ups and down like the phases of the moon. Mind is nothing but a bundle of thoughts. The new moon day symbolize an empty mind bereft of any thoughts. Hence the fourteenth night after full moon day has been earmarked for concentrating on chanting the name of Shiva! Though every month Shivarathri is celebrated, the one that comes in February – March is termed as Mahashivarathri. Everywhere in India, in the Shiva temples, ritual bathing of Lord in the form of Linga is performed to the accompaniment of recitation of Sri Rudram and Chamakam, specialy potent chants to propitiate the Lord, requesting Him to protect us from His sharp arrows. The chant Chamakam requests the Lord to grant us the entire wherewithal for living life on earth like, food, cloth, water, grains, flowers, milk etc. When one keep vigil for the entire night witnessing the holy ritual bath and chanting etc. many sins of previous births and this birth are washed away. As water cleanses dirt, the chanting of Sri Rudram and Chamakam wash away even the direst sins of people who recite them. Hence, people attach maximum importance to the performance of this festival.
After the advent of Sri Sathya Saibaba, this festival has acquired greater merit. Until 1990, Sathya Saibaba used to take out various sizes of shiva linga which form in his stomach few days before the festival. On the day of Mahashivarathri, devotees gather in Puttaparthi in huge numbers to witness the holy emergence of linga from the mouth of Saibaba amidst bhajans hailing Lord Shiva in good tempo. Usually there will be a discourse by Sathya Saibaba on the efficacy of the day. In the middle, he will be having spasms and he stops his discourse and give signal to continue with the bhajan “Om Shivaya, Om Shivaya…. In a few minutes time, his breathing become very hard and atlast the oval shaped shiva linga comes out of his mouth. There are video recordings of the entire episodes. In the morning he used to anoint the silver idol of Shirdi Baba with holy ash which will be pouring continuously from a small urn kept upside down and held by some devotee. After the initial holy ash stops, Sathya Saibaba insert his hand and copious supply of holy ash falls from the inverted urn to fill up the 3 foot high silver idol. Before that Sathya Saibaba used to wave his hand and bring out a gem which he affixes in the brow of the silver idol and perform the ritual bath with holy ash.
Those who were able to witness such holy festivals are really lucky. During one such festival he brought a Shiva ling in which there was a rotating thing and the linga used to change its colour every few minutes. All these things are inexplicable. With our limited intelligence, we can never fathom such miracles!