The Bold Voice of J&K

Maha Shivratri-The Night of Meditation, awakening and Bliss

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Omkar Dattatray

Maha Shivratri is the main festival of Indians. It has special importance in Sanatan Dharma. It is widely held view that the Shivratri is the day of the beginning of this universe. Maha shivratri is the most important festivals of India and Hindus and it falls on Dwadashi or Thriodashi of the first half of Hindu Calendar month of Phaguna Krishnapakash. The big festival of Mahashivratri is dedicated to one of the deities of trinity called Lord Shiva who is also known as Mahakaal and personifies the destroyer of the universe as per the religious scriptures of Sanatan Dharma. Mahashivratri is celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva and his concert Parvati and it is the widely held and recognized view that on the night of Shivratri the marriage of Shiva and Parvati had been solemnized and Shivratri is celebrated with great religious festivity and devotion to commemorate the marriage anniversary of the blessed and divine couple and on this occasion Hindus worship Lord Shiva, Mata Parvati and Ganesh on this important and blissful night. Shivratri is celebrated in the whole of India and abroad as well by Hindus but the Kashmiri Pandits celebrate Mahashivratri is a unique and special way and for them the celebrations of this festival starts many days before actual Shivratri and lasts a week after this .The Shivratri has special significance and place in Kashmir Shaivism and the Kashmiri Pandits celebrate this festival in a unique manner different from other Hindus who visit Shiv temples and pay obeisance to Lord Shiva and his concert .Shivratri is the main festivals celebrated by the Kashmiri Pandits .KP’s wash their clothes ,clean their houses before Shivratri and this cleaning and washing commences a fortnight before Shivratri .There is great enthusiasm and joy among the KP’s and they celebrate this festival with great dedication and devotion and usually the head of the family keeps fast on this day and break the fast at midnight after the worship of Lord Shiva ,Parvati and Ganesh in the form of Vataknath is completed .Kashmiri Pandits cook Variety of cuisines and foods and offer these special foods to Bharavas who are believed to accompany the Shiv Barat .Some Kashmiri pandit families also prepare non-veg dishes such as meat and fish and offer it to Bharavas on the night of Shivratri. The Kashmiri dry fruit walnut are immersed in water in different pots on the occasion of Shivratri and are kept immersed in pots full of water for three -four days and then after performing puja of the walnuts along with the bread made from flour of rice, the Kashmiri pundits then distribute this Prasad among the neighbors and relatives. The parv of Shivratri of Kashmiri Pandits finally culminates some eight days from this festival on Taila Ashtami as on this day light is lit in honor of the dead ancestors. The Kashmiri Pandits have kept their culture and tradition alive even in their exile and displacement and they continue to celebrate Shivratri in Jammu and other places of India with traditional gaiety and enthusiasm. As per Puranic stories on this day universe had come into being with emergence of Agni lingh which is the very big form of Mahadev. On this day nuptial knot and marriage of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati had taken place. According to Puranic Stories Sea churning was fixed for the production of nectar but along with it poison called Hallahal also came from churning. The Hallahal poison had the strength to destroy the universe and therefore Lord Shiva only could destroy this poison. Lord Shiva had kept this poison in his throat. The poison was so strong that Shiva got pain and his throat turned blue and form that day Lord Shiva came to be known as Neelkanth. Because of this reason Shiv is famous as Neelkhant. As a cure the Vadyas asked the deities to keep Lord Shiva awake throughout the whole night .In this manner there was alert in the meditation of Bhagwan Shiva. To keep mediate on Shiva and to keep him awake the gods played music and performed various dances in the whole night. And on the morning Shiva was pleased with the devotion of gods and blessed them .Shivratri is the festival of this event with which Shiva saved the universe. From that day devotees started to observe fast in memory of Lord shiva and it continues today as well. It is also famous for Shivratri that once Parvati asked Shiva what is the excellent and easy fast worship with which the people of the universe called Martyulok will get your blessing easily. In answer Shiv told Parvati the manner of observing shivratri fast said this Katha to her. Once there was a hunter named Chitterbanu .By killing animals he was making livelihood of his family. He was indebted to a money lender but could not repay his debt in time. Angry money lender kept the hunter locked in Shiv Matt. Coincidentally this was the day of Shivratri .The hunter with great attention heard the Katha of Shiva-Parvati. Once on the day of shivratri he went for hunt but he did not find any hunt for the whole day. His children, wife and parents were hungry as they did not get anything to eat .He became worried about this and before sunset he went near a spring and there on its bank took water and climbed on a tree for drinking water. He had full hope that some animal will come to the spring to quench its thirst. The tree on which hunter climbed was a Bale tree and below this tree there was a shivling which was not visible because of the heaps of Bale patras. Within a short time a female deer came there to drink water from the spring .The hunter kept a bow and arrow ready. By doing this some Bale leaves and water fell on the shivling and without knowing hunters first worship of Shivling took place. The female deer on hearing the sound of the falling of the Bale leaves and was terrified and looked above and saw hunter on the tree and said to him in fear ,”Do not kill her.” and the hunter said he and his family is hungry and so cannot leave her. The deer promised him that she will keep her children in the custody of their father and will come back and the hunter can kill her. The hunter did not believe his promise. The deer said that just as on truth the earth is standing, sea remains in its limits and water flows from its sources, similarly she was also saying truth. The hard hearted hunter had kindness on her and allowed her to go with the condition that she will come soon. In the same manner the worship of the first Prahar of Shiva by the hunter was complete. At the time of the third Prahar of worship he saw deer who said to hunter, what you want to do? Hunter replied that for providing food to his family he will kill him. That deer with happiness said that he is blessed that his body will be for some ones use and with others good my life will become successful but please let me go this time so that I will hand over the children to their mother and will come back to you after giving courage to my family. The hunter also allowed him to go with the condition to come again soon. The night was on its last leg and the hunter saw that deer with his family and children came back .On seeing these the hunters fourth prahar worship was complete and he kept arrow on his bow ready .Hunter thought that Oh this animal is good enough who without any knowledge wants to do god to others work for others but I continued doing various bad works for sustaining my family. He left his bow and arrow .Lord Shiva was pleased on the hunter for doing this and gave him the name-Guo who became friend of Lord Ram in Ramayana and also blessed the hunter family and the family of deer. May this year’s festival of Shivratri bring happiness, peace and prosperity to India and end scourge of terrorism and may we continue to worship Lord Shiva with dedication and devotion. Jai Mahadev.
(The author is a columnist,
social and KP activist).

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