Spiritual Significance Of Shivratri
Shivratri or MahaShivratri is the celebration to worship, honor and pay obeisance to God Shiva. The occasion is celebrated as His birthday and it is the first Hindu festival of the lunar year. This is a most auspicious event, for it is the only period in the cycle or kalpa that Shiva makes His divine descent and incarnates on earth. Shivratri literally means "Shiva’s night" and it refers to the dark ages of copper and iron when irreligiousness and unrighteousness prevailed. In essence therefore, what is celebrated as his birthday is really Shiv Jayanti, as jayanti means birthday The period of decadence, immorality and viciousness is Shivratri. The purpose of Shiva’s descent and incarnation is primarily to replace the old, sorrowful and vicious iron-aged world with a new golden-aged world of peace, purity and prosperity. His aim and objective is to assist souls to achieve the qualities and attributes of Lakshmi and Narayan through purification. Who is Lord Shiva? Lord Shiva is God, the Supreme Soul. He is the only Soul that is not subjected to birth and death or reincarnation. It is for this reason He remains ever pure. Shiva, the Supreme Soul, is a tiny point of light, full of conscient energy, and is oval-shaped. The oval shape is the original form of the Shiva-lingams that represents Shiva as depicted by the artists and sculptors. The size, form and shape of the Supreme Soul is the same as that of all other human souls. Shiva’s home is far past the moon, the stars and the sun in the region called Paramdham, Bramlok, Shantidham, Shivpuri or Soul’s world. This region is pervaded by golden red light called the "Brahm" element. The nature of the region of soul’s world is one of total silence and one of peace. In fact, it is called the "land of peace" or "mukti". Soul’s world looks like a constellation of stars in a pyramidal structure, pervaded by reddish golden light, with the Supreme soul positioned at the vertex or the highest point. All souls reside here until it is time to take a body on earth and play their role in the cycle or world eternal drama. Souls take their position numberwise according to their elevation, purity and position in the Rudra and Rundra Mala’s. So why, when and how does Shiva come on earth? How is this related to Shivratri? To explain same, it is necessary to give a preview of the history and geography of the world. The world’s eternal cycle is 5000 years and consists of four main ages, the golden, silver, copper and iron ages. Each age is 1250 years, however, there is a period of approximately 100 years that overlaps the end of the iron age and is known as the "confluence age". The golden and silver ages are referred to as the period of enlightenment, the heavenly abode known as paradise, the land of happiness, characteristic of deities, purity and divine virtues. This is the period referred to as Ram Rajya, the kingdom of Rama, the age of peace and happiness, the Land of Jivanmukti. The copper and iron ages are referred to as the "dark ages" and it is the beginning of the vices of anger, greed, ego, lust and attachment. This is the kingdom of Rawan, Satan or Maya. It is during this period that man abandoned the virtues and adopted the vices. He became vicious from virtuous, devilish from divine, impure from pure, peaceless from peaceful, lustful from loveful, worshippers from worship-worthy. Even the environment became degraded, poisoned and unfriendly. Both man and the environment became impure and helpless and none could assist or sustain each other. What did Shiva teach and what is his method? Shiva imparts the secrets of the Creator, and the cycle of the creation. He teaches the knowledge of the Gita, and the understanding of the faculties of the soul, namely, the mind, the intellect and the resolves (sanskars). In summary, He teaches Gyan and Yoga, both of which are necessary and essential for control of the mind and purification of the intellect. The method of purification is to imbibe this Godly knowledge, to inculcate the divine virtues and to do intense austerity (tapasya). Purification of the soul is achieved by having purity in thoughts, words, actions, relationships and connections. The seed of all actions is your thoughts and so the most important aspect of purification is to have absolute control of your mind. One must practice purity such that there is purity in body, mind and wealth or as they say "tan, man, dan". There is purity in how you walk, how you sit, how you talk, how you eat. There must be purity in all your actions. Shiva performs the role of Father, Teacher and Satguru. As Father he gives you the unlimited inheritance, as Teacher, he gives you knowledge and as Satguru he shows you the direction. He is the unlimited Father. Why does Shiva come? He comes to teach you the importance of controlling the mind and the purification of the intellect. The kingdom of Rawan is also known as the reign of Maya. Maya is the five vices and she is ever-present and always ready to serve with or without your invitation. She is very clever but she is deceptive. With the help of the five senses and the influence and attraction of the body, she lavishes temporary happiness as an anesthesia and takes control of your mind. She then as the great debt collector demands her pound of flesh. By this time your intellect is completely bankrupt. Maya herself is very powerful, however she is not invincible. This is the reason Shiva incarnates on earth to personally teach, guide and lend support until you are removed from the influence of Maya’s counterfeit fragrance. Shiva incarnated on earth to end the drama of the battered and dazed actors, mankind and the environment and to reestablish another. So how did Shiva achieve this Herculean task of destroying the vices, and how does this relate to Shivaratri? Shiva’s incarnation into Brahma in the confluence age was for self-realization and transformation of His children. Brahma solicited the assistance of Saraswati to teach the method of purification and transformation. Saraswati was the adopted daughter of Brahma. All mouth-born progenies of Brahma are called Brahmins. This coming of Shiva in the auspicious confluence age is celebrated as MahaShivratri or Trimurti Shiv Jayanti. Shiva’s teaching is celebrated as Gita Jayanti. Saraswati is symbolic of purity and the festival of Holi is celebrated in her honor as the world mother under the name Jagadamba. Then Nau Ratum represents the Shakti power of the nine forms of Saraswati, as this power is important in the defeat of the demon vices. Raksha Bandhan is the sacred vow of purity taken with Shiva. Brahma, Vishnu and Shankar are the three divine aspects of God Shiva in terms of the Creator, the Sustainer and Destroyer of evil. In summary, Brahma, Vishnu, Krishna and Narayan are but the same soul in different roles and era. Similarly, Saraswati, Radha and Lakshmi are also the same soul in functioning in different capacities. To be more precise, Brahma and Saraswati, Radha and Krishna, Lakshmi and Narayan and Vishnu are one and the same. Furthermore, the four-armed form of Vishnu and MahaLakshmi is Lakshmi and Narayan. Lakshmi and Narayan childhood days are that of Radha and Krishna. Thus Shivaratri is not an isolated single festival, but it is part of an important auspicious event in the "Cycle" that occurred at the confluence of the iron and golden ages. This period lasted about one hundred years and is known as the auspicious confluence age and referred in the Gita as "Purushottam Sangam Yuga". Shivaratri is therefore necessary to purify the world in preparation for the birth of Lord Krishna, celebrated as Krishna Janamashtami. Krishna is the first Prince of Satyug and Radha is the first Princess. Kartic represents the period that hosts the festivals of Dussehra and Divali and it represents newness, transformation, change from one era to another. Divali itself is symbolic of the coronation of Lakshmi and Narayan as the first empress and emperor of the golden age. This entire activity in the confluence age is referred as Sh
iva’s Cosmic Dance known as Nataraja. This concludes the significance of Shivratri and Shiv Jayanti with additional history to support the explanations. Of special interest, it is to be noted that Shivratri, Ramadan, Lent, Carnival, Ash Wednesday, Valentine’s Day all converge to create their own confluence. All these events in their own way depict fasting, abstinence, love and a righteous way. All these events signify the conquest of the vices.