MAHASHIVRATRI, literally meaning the great night of “LORD SHIVA”, or the ‘TANDAVA RATRI’, a night of dance, of LORD SHIVA, holds lot of significance in the Hindu mythology; it is celebrated in the PHALGUNI month according to the Hindu calendar, on the 13th or 14th night of the new moon, during the Krishna paksha or the period of waning moon, which corresponds with the month of feb-mar, according to the Gregorian calendar.
There ia an old saying, that SHIVRATRI, marks the onset of summer, and the cold weather sprints away uttering the LORD’S NAME, SHIVA SHIVA,
It is considered, very auspicious amongst all the festivals of shiva, In the trinity of gods, LORD SHIVA , THE DESTRUCTOR, that is the one who destroys and dissolves all that is old, in order to make room and welcome new divine creation.
He helps us to shed our attachments, ego and impurities and emerge as a pure soul, and conveys that without eradicating old attachments, it is difficult to tread the path of success and progress further in realization of our goals.
The most important legend associated with SHIVRATRI is the night when LORD SHIVA CONSUMED POISON and came to be known as NEEL KANT, which means THE BLUE NECKED.
According to the puranas, when Sage Durvasa gifted a floral garland to LORD INDRA, he insulted the sage by giving the gift of garland to his elephant AIRAVAT, which irritated by the smell of flowers, flung it on the ground and trampled on it and this act annoyed Sage DURVASA and cursed INDRA , that as as this was the action of pride of wealth, by INDRA, when he was supposed to accept it as the Prasad of fortune, he careslessly offered it to his Elephant, indirectly humiliating the sage. So the sage cursed that INDRA and all devas to be bereft of power, strength and fortune; GODDESS LAKSHMI forsake him, Indra realized his misdeed and bowed to the sage, profusely apologizing, and was seeking forgiveness from the sage, later, the Sage after calmimg down, and thinking of giving another opportunity to INDRA, due to the latter’s repentance, asked INDRA to approach LORD VISHNU, to help him rectify his folly, but as per the curse, LAKSHMI MAA , goddess of wealth, power , fame and radiance left INDRA and went away and the asuras attacked the vulnerable devas and invaded and conquered heaven and the DEVAS were losing the immortal power and when all the devas sought the assistance of BRAHMA and VISHNU for a solution, VISHNU suggested that they could regain their power by obtaining nectar, which could be carried out, after making peace with the asuras by an amicable deal.
Brihaspati , the teacher of devas, managed to convince the asuras that if they joined hands with the DEVAS in churning nectar,in anunited project, the asuras could also become immortal after consuming it, like the DEVAS. Easily lured by the offer, the asuras agreed to the task, so both the devas and asuras wanted to conduct SAMUDRA MANTHAN or churning of KSHIRSAGAR or ocean of milk, to obtain AMRIT or NECTAR, Mountain Mandara was used as the churning rod, and initially when the MOUNTAIN MANDARA, was placed in the ocean it was sinking and to offer stability and support, to the churning rod, LORD VISHNU, in his second incarnation, assumed the form of a gigantic turtle, THE kurma avtar supported the mountain, by letting the mountain rest on his back.and THE SNAKE VASUKI, as the churning rope for the rod was used and the churning was carried out with all the devas holding on to one side of the snake on one side and asuras , wanted to hold the head of the snake as they felt it was a matter of dignity and did not want to hold the tail, both the devas and asuras pulled back and forth on the snake’s body, in an alternate action,the mountain was rotating,which in turn churned the milk ocean, this act was like tug of war,which was carried for days together ; The asuras and devas were at the tedious task for days, with some perishing, later were revived by VISHNU, in the process of churning, FIRE and smoke was being emitted from the thousand mouths of vasuki, and was suffocating the asuras as they were holding the head of the serpent while churning. and Vishnu again aided them by subsiding the fumes with cooling showers. Many things emerged and recovered from this churning process, approximately 9 to 14 gems emerged from the churning process,
DHANVANTARI- the divine physician with the pot of nectar;
LAKSHMI- Goddess of wealth, and radiance,
KAUSTHABA- A rare and precious diamond;
KALPAVRIKSHA- The wish granting tree;
KAMADHENU-Cow that fulfilled all the wishes;
The divine 7 headed white horse;
CHANDRA- The moon;
VISHNU’S CONCH ;
PARIJAT- A flower which never wilts;
A powerful bow;
HALAHAL- the poisonous emission,
Ultimately, when Dhanvantari emerged with the jar of nectar, both The devas and asuras, eager to earn its possession, stsarted to fight. A fierceful battle ensued for almost over 12 days and night and once again LORD VISNU sent his bird GARUDA, to take the jar from the battle scene, away from the asuras, it is believed, that during the flight, four drops of nectar fell over four places on earth,PRAYAG, HARIDWAR, UJJAIN AND NASIK, and is believed that these places have gained some spiritual powers and even till date, KUMBH MELA is held in these places and it is believed that by taking holy dips at these sacred places, one attains salvation.
However, LORD VISHNU disguised himself as a mesmerizing beautiful damsel, MOHINI, arrived on the scene and offered to distribute the nectar to the devas by turn, as soon as possible, so that they regain their power of immortality,Rahu one of the asuras, got hold of the jar and started rejoicing and MOHINI, again took charge of the jar, by distracting the asuras, but tactfully, RAHU, the asura, disguised as deva, drank a little nectar, but due to the luminous nature was recognized by SURYA the sun god and moon god CHANDRA and they informed MOHINI, mohini cut of the head of rahu with SUDARSHANA CHAKRA, and ensured that the nectar did not pass through the throat, but he did not die as nectar had already passed through the throat, and his body was called ketu, and since then , he was hell bent on taking revenge on SUN AND MOON and is said to shadow the sun and moon causing eclipse. MOHINI, ensured that the nectar was distributed amongst the devas and they drank the nectar and regained their lost glory and became immortals once again defeating the asuras. Thus LORD VISHNU, aided INDRA and all the devas in the process of overcoming sage Durvasa’s curse.
When HALAHAL was recovered initially, instead of nectar, the solution to toss over the poison aside, to continue the churning process was to be arrived at, and no one was willing to drink the poison and free the mankind from its disastrous consequences., LORD SHIVA valiantly came forward and gathered the poison which was so potent, in his palm and gulped it, proving his compassion to mankind, in a self-less act. Maa PARVATI, his consort worried about the poison descending down his body and in order to stop the poison from descending down the throat, instantly placed her hand near the throat of lord shiva, this act made his throat blue and a lump formed near the throat, which is found in men. and it became an ornament to the lord, from this incident he was also called NEEL KANT. Maa Parvati, wanted SHIVA to stay awake and not sleep, as to stop the poison from spreading in his body, hence she arranged for a night of dance for both herself and LORD SHIVA, as a competition, all the devas gathered to witness the great dance/tandav of both Maa SHAKTI and LORD SHIVA. and also to help PARVATI in this task of Vigil, in ensuring that Shiva stays awake the entire night, by engaging himself in the art of dance and the dance form performed by PARVATI is known as LASYA, a feminine form of TANDAV. SHIVA dances vigorously in the cremation ground and is called the RUDRA TANDAV.
Tandav is said to be of 7 types, the popular being RUDRA TANDAV and ANANDA TANDAV/ DANCE OF BLISS. This dance forms represents the inner tranquility of the lord and also his activities , like evolution, preservation, destruction, illusion and emancipation. LORD SHIVA is called NATARAJA. KING OF DANCE, as he undertook the most important mission of saving the mankind , by self-sacrificial act of drinking the HALAHAL. and subsiding the potion of disaster in himself.He is the master of the art of dance which he undertook, to save and protect the whole of the CREATION.The night which engaged all the devas to protect SHIVA from poison, and spent in his honour, and keeping him awake is celebrated as SHIVRATRI. The programme also had various dance forms by all devatas and the ultimate highlight being the TANDAV and LASYA performed by LORD SHIVA and his consort SHAKTI, respectively, MAA was giving an equal competition to her BETTER HALF/SHIVA, and in no way proved lesser in the art of this divine dance.the entire night was passed in this event and as dawn was setting in, when both were proved equally good and no signs of stopping was showing, once again lord Vishnu came to the rescue of SHIVA, by suggesting to him, that he lift his leg up, while dancing as a dancing pose, or to stand cross legged, through, signalling gestures. and SHIVA, immediately, understanding the suggestion, finally lifted one of his legs up in a dancing pose and this left MAA, without repeating the same action as her husband and she abstained from a replying act and stopped her dance, as it is understood that women, are coy and bashful by nature and have a soft body language and do not engage themselves in a manly or aggressive action, they prefer to stay gentle and subtle. So LORD Vishnu, also tactfully , took to this stand, to peacefully end THE NIGHT OF NRITYA.
Ultimately, LORD SHIVA, was declared the triumphant, winner. which pleased, his CONSORT, MAA SHAKTI, and all the devas, as the purpose of saving the LORD, WHO SAVED THE CREATION was solved, it remained as the greatest nights of the HINDU PURANAS, and we all continue to celebrate this day of LORD SHIVA’S SACRIFICIAL DAY TO MANKIND, in his honour, to the best of our ability by sacrificing food, water and sleep, in his honour, and also as a thanks giving prayer.on SHIVRATRI.
Some devotees offer puja to MAA SHAKTI also on the next day of SHIVRATRI, as she equally supported SHIVA in his mission, so they offer SHANTI PUJA in her honour, too to calm her aggression, which she possessed during the LASYA/dance.
SHIVRATRI is also believed , is the day when LORD SHIVA AND GODDESS PARVATI were married. Devotees celebrate SHIVRATRI for one day and one night only.
All bathe and observe a rigorous fast, without consuming any drink, including water or edibles, Akhand Jyoti i.e., a ghee lamp is lit at the commencement of puja and is left to burn the entire night during the fast and jagran and they perform abhishekam with panchamritam namely, milk, curds ghee, honey sugar to Shiva lingam and is decorated with sandalwood paste to cool his rudra nethra, and adorned with five types of Flowers , some lingams are originally formed by rock sediments and ice also like kedarnath/badrinath, some are artificially built, with granite, marble etc, in temples and homes.
The lingams are adorned with vibudhi/holy ash as SHIVA is very fond of the ascetic life; he is offered bilva patra or the three leafed stalk, and the entire day bhajans and prayers are organized at temples and homes, the entire night,jagran is observed no one sleeps and all stay awake just to honour shiva, chanting the three magical words OM NAMAH SHIVAYA, on SHIVRATRI, who once saved the mankind and always extends his blessings to his devotees.
When dawn sets in, houses are cleant and after morning ablutions, devotees worship the lord by offering SHANTI PUJA AND ABHISHEKAM. KUMBH NEIVEDYAM with rice dal ghee vegetables curd sweetpreparartion prepared with utmost devotion along with fruits are offered to him as neivedyam, and the 24hr fast is broke by consuming theertam/coconut water and prasadam in the form of fruits, and sweet and later the spicy food is consumed , sometimes devotees end their fast in temples, There are no categorization in his devotees clan and all engage in his worship and Latenight jagran ,bhajans to enable the devotees to stay awake and offer prayers are organized.
Let us all get engaged in the rituals of SHIVRATRI and make the fast and jagran a great success in the honour of LORD SHIVA and Seek his blessings for a peaceful LIFE.
HAR HAR MAHADEV!!!