Adyar Gopal Parivar
Maha Shivarathri
On the other hand Bhaga was also worshipped for the same reason. Bhagavathi was the
female goddess. Bhaga was equivalent to Yoni (vagina). Reproduction was the main concern
for man in ancient times, and still is.
                  Linga was the only male god in those times until the Puraanas were written and
the human form of Shiva was depicted. The human form of Shiva is worshipped in many
temples. Most of the ancient temples still have the Linga form of Shiva being worshipped. The
human form is more appealing to the devotees. The human form of Shiva has three eyes; the
third eye is in the middle of the forehead. Shiva opens this eye only occasionally. This eye is
used as a weapon to destroy enemies. The third eye opens when Shiva is angry and wishes
to destroy the person or subject that caused his anger. The human form is wearing one or two
snakes entwined around his bare chest, a Rudraksha chain around his neck and ashes all
over his body. His hair is long and tied in the form of a tall upward plait from the top of which
water is shown to rush out in the form of a fountain and fall on the ground beside him. This
water is referred to as the Ganga River, which is said to descend from Shiva's hair on to the
earth. Shiva has a Trishula or trident in his right hand and a Danda (a baton with a hand-rest)
on which he rests his left arm. There is Kamandalu (a brass pot with water in it for ablutions).
He is seated in the Padmaasana posture. Padmaasana is a squatting pose. His vehicle is
Nandi (a bull). In portraits and sculptures of Shiva, Nandi is shown to stand or sit near him.
Nandi is also his door-guard.
                 Parvathi or Gowri is Shiva's wife. Parvathi is worshipped in the Gowri Vritha
festival. There are many stories about Shiva and Parvathi in the Puraanas.
                 Those who are deeply devoted to Lord Shiva fast on the Shivarathri day and
perform Puja in the evening with Bilva leaves. It is said that the Bilva leaves are the favorite
offering Shiva wishes to receive from his devotees.
                 Thousands of names of Shiva are chanted by the ardent devotees on Shivarathri,
and one Bilva leaf is offered for each name chanted, during the Puja. This goes on for the
whole night and the devotees remain awake until morning. This is called Jaagarana
(remaining awake). They sing Bhajans (songs praising Shiva) and listen to Keerthan
(soliloquies). Some devotees hold a Rudraksha Maala (a chain of Rudraksha beads) and
silently repeat Shiva's name as they turn the beads between the thumb and fingers. They say
'Om Namah Shivaya' i.e. O Shiva, I salute you. They repeat this prayer once for each bead,
throughout the night. This is called Jappa. Some of the staunch Shiva devotees stand on one
leg folding the other knee up. They then close their eyes and do Jappa with the Rudraksha
Maala in their right hand. They stand in this posture for the entire night. This is called
Thappa. It is a belief that those who do Jappa and/or Thappa on Shivarathri night attain
Moksha when they die. Moksha is release from the cycle of births and deaths. This belief
persuades the devotees to undertake the self-inflicted suffering.
                 It was on a Shivarathri night that the Hindu reformer Swami Dayananda
Saraswathi was struck with a doubt in his mind as to the capacities of Lord Shiva in the form
of Linga. Mulshankar was the name of young Dayananda and he was 10 years of age, when
he stoically followed the reprimand of his father that he should fast on Shivarathri and perform
Jappa. As he was doing Jappa he saw many rats run all over the Shiva Linga and eat the
various food items and other stuff kept nearby. The rats were dropping their feces as they
moved on the Shiva Linga. He wondered if Shiva was as strong and powerful as he was said
to be, in the Puraanas, then how come he tolerated the defecation on himself by these rats.
Then and there he determined to study Hinduism in depth and learn everything about God
and Nature. He later established a society of Hindus by the name of Arya Samaaj. People
who join Arya Samaaj do not believe in Idol-worship.
Ellunde: One of the sweets people prepare for Shivarathri festival is Ellunde (sweet balls of
white sesame seeds). Ellunde is prepared in the kitchen by first heating jaggery to form
three-string syrup and adding the roasted sesame seeds to it. From this mixture small balls (3
cms. in diameter) are rolled and pressed with hands. If there are enough Ellundes to go
around then each person gets an Ellunde after he gets a box or a slap on his back. When the
receiver sees the Ellunde he forgets the slap, and smiles at the giver.

                 The festival of Shivarathri is celebrated in various ways in different parts of India.
There are twelve ancient temples with Jyotirlinga dedicated to Shiva. These twelve temples
have the name Eeshwara as suffix. Eeshwara is another name of Shiva. Vishweshwara
temple in Kashi is an example. In these Shiva temples, during the Shivarathri festival, which is
held for two or more days, devotees throng the temple premises in large numbers. Many of
them travel from far away places to take a Darshan of the Lord Shiva there.
Darshan is not just viewing, but doing Archana or Namaskaara and ask for boons. There are
also people who come to fulfill a vow that they took in the past in their difficult days. In that
vow they had promised to undertake the Yathra if their difficulties were mitigated by the Lord.

Yathra means travel from home to the temple and back. In the temple they would perform the
worship, as part of the Yathra.

   This day, Shivarathri differs from year to year in relation to the common calendar,
and therefore a common day to celebrate this festival is selected, which is the third
Friday of February, every year.

Linga is a black stone having the shape of a short pillar with a hemispherical top. Linga is
Sanskrit for phallus. Shiva Linga means the phallus of Lord Shiva. It is Lord Shiva that one
worships when one worships the Shiva Linga.
It might have been the phallus that people really wanted to worship since there was probably
a notion that the world's security is dependent upon the continuity of reproduction.
Maha Shivarathri
By Mohan Shenoy
Shiva Linga in the Shiva
Temple of Pushkar town in
Video "Maha
produced by Mohan
Adyar Gopal and Radha Bai
Choodi Puja
Vaina Puja
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Maha Shivarathri is an important ancient festival of
India. It is said that the first Shiva Linga was installed
on this day. It is the fourteenth day in the second
fortnight of the month of Magha (Maagha Bahula
Chathurdashi) every year.
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