The holy Mahashivarathri festival today!
The symbol Linga!
The origin of the festival in India and epic references!
India celebrates the holy “Mahasivarathri” festival today. All the Shiva temples in India and abroad are reverberating with Rudram chants from early morning. Holy bathing to the “Linga” idol takes place everywhere! Shiva is considered to be destroyer of evil from earth as well as consumer of poison that arose from the churning of ocean! As the poison was deadly, Shiva received it on his hand and consumed it. As Sakthi has prevented the poison from entering the body of Shiva by holding the neck, the poison remained there without any harm to humanity. Hence we find 'blue throated Shiva everywhere! Hence he is called “Neela kanta” which means blue throated! Once, the demons and demigods vied with each other to obtain ‘Divine Nectar” which will keep them ‘immortal’! It is learnt that ‘nectar’ could be obtained by churning the ‘milk ocean’. Mount Meru has accepted to participate as the central wheel! The snake “Adhi Sesha” accepted to remain as the coir wound around the mount. Demons will hold one side of the snake and the Devas will hold the other end. The great churning will takes place. A big tortoise has accepted to remain below the mountain as the base. Thus the great churning of the ocean started. Many auspicious things and icons emerged during the churning like the “White elephant”, Mahalakshmi, the god Dhanwantri holding the nectar and finally pure poison! All the holy things were received while none dare to handle the poison which emerged in the end. Hence Lord Shiva, with the aim to protect the world, consumed the poison while the mother Parvathi prevented the poison from reaching the entire body by pressing the throat.
Bathing the Linga form!
Stories around Shivarathri festival.
There are many stories revolve around the holy festival. First let us delve into the form and shape of Shiva Linga which has no specific form. The Linga is ‘ovall shaped’ which reveal that God is formless as well as a mystic ellipsoidal form. This oval shaped linga is held on a base which is circular. There is a hollow in the center of the base which accommodates the ellipsoidal shape! Holy ash is poured over the Linga along with many other liquids such as milk, curd, fruits, sugar and even boiled rice mixed with vegetables! On this holy day, there will be four rituals from the evening to next day morning. People will keep vigil throughout the night reciting songs and bhajans on Lord Shiva! Especially keeping vigil tonight fetch many spiritual fervors. There is an interesting story in the epics. A hunter was roaming all through the forest for catching some animal on Shivrathri day. He was illiterate and he is not aware of the importance of a particular day. In a way, he is new to worship or rituals. Hence he climbed over a big tree to look at any animal that pass through the way. As he was tired and anxious, without his volition, he was plucking the leaves and throwing it out. That tree is a holy tree known as “Vilwa tree”.The leaves are more precious for the worship of Shiva! That day was Shivarathri festival. Just below the tree, there was an idol of Shivalinga buried partly! As the hunter was throwing the plucked leaves, most of them fell on the idol. Shiva is very pleased with the worship through the particular leaves. The entire night was spent on like that! In the early dawn, Lord Shiva manifested before the hunter and said, I am pleased with your worship!
Consecration today by Prime Minister!
Athi Rudra Mahayagna chantings and rituals.
The hunter knew nothing about worship or the sanctity of the leaves and the auspiciousness associated with the day! He was much surprised. He could not surmise what Shiva said. However, he bent low as a form of supplication and wondered how he became eligible for the grace of god. Shiva explained him, “Today is holy Mahashivarathri and you have kept vigil over the tree without winking the even the eyelid. You have poured the holy “bilwa” leaves on my form and it pleased me and due to the vigil, you got the holy Dharsan! This story reveals that ‘even if we inadvertently perform certain rituals without being aware of its effect, the results and merits will surely accrue. For instance, a baby may not be aware of fire. Attracted by the flame, it puts its fingers through the flame! Instantly the finger is scorched. In a similar manner, whether one is aware or not, the mere performance of rituals too gives the effects without fail.
There is one potent chant named “Athi Rudra Maha Yagnam”, which when recited properly by the learned pundits while performing fire rituals bear fruit for the entire humanity! The cloud of smoke that arise from the ritual pits reach the far corners of sky, thus disinfecting the negativity accumulated there! When Sri Sathya Saibaba remained on earth, he exhorted the devotees to arrange for the conduct of holy rituals in Puttaparthi, Chennai and other places. He has elaborated on the beneficial aspects of such holy rituals. Now around the globe, many groups of devotees perform the Athi Rrudra Maha Yagna, solely for the welfare of the whole humanity!