Mahashivratri is one of the major hindu festivals and is dedicated to Lord Shiva; he also commonly known as Shankar Bhagwan. Lord Shiva is traditionally known as the destroyer of the universe but he also plays a key role in creation. According to sacred scriptures after creation was complete, Parvati asked Lord Shiva which ritual pleased him most the Lord replied that the 13th night of the new moon, during the month of Maagha is the most favourite day; this is the day of Mahashivratri.
Mahashivratri is celebrated day and night, many devotees observe fast day and night, give sacred bath to Shiva Linga and chant “Om Namha Shivay”. Om represents an unmanifest state beyond the 3 gunas (elements of sattva, raja & tama). As part of the rituals a mixture of Milk, Water, Honey, Yogurt, Sugar and Ghee used during bathing of the Shiva Linga because of what each component respresent:
Shivratri is the time when Shiva takes a rest. Shiva rests for one 'prahar' (three hours) of the night. This 'prahar' is referred to as the Shivratri. When Lord Shiva takes rest, the function of 'Shivtatva' (Shiva Principle) ceases, i.e. Lord Shiva goes into a meditative state. Shiva's meditative state is the time when He is engrossed in His own spiritual practice. Hindus consider it important to worship Lord Shiva during Shivratri because it is believed that this gives liberation from the cycle of birth and death, and that Moksha is attained. Lord Shiva is worshipped by deities and demons alike, and Lord Shiva all blessed them all with same kindness.
The word Shiva has been derived by reversing the letters of the word Vash. Vash means to enlighten; thus the one who enlightens is Shiva. He remains radiant and also illuminates the universe. Lord Shiva is known as the master of spirit. Shankar destroys all the three components of Prakruti - sattva, raja and tama, in a Jiva (Embodied soul) simultaneously.
Shiva is always seated in a bandha or a mudra. His temperature rises due to heat generated by performing severe austerities; Hence, He uses the Ganga, the moon and serpents which endow a cooling effect and lives on the snow-clad Kailas mountain.
When the young Lord Swaminarayan left home at the age of eleven on his pilgrimage around India, he travelled around in a simple loin cloth and he undertook severe austerities. Many likened him to Shivaji and named him Neelkanth, which is another name for Shankar Bhagwan. Therefore during Shivratri let us also remember Lord Swaminarayan in the form of Neelkanth who sanctified the soil of India before settling in Gujarat where he set up the Swaminarayan Sampraday.
Author: Pujya Vibha Gandhi
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