You are on page 1of 5



Page:Page 1 of 5

Lord Shiva is one of the most famous forms in which we worship Brahman, the non-dual
Lord. Shivaraatri is the festival associated with Lord Shiva. It is also called as
Mahasivaratri. Shivaratri falls on the fourteenthday of the Krsihna paksha during the
month of Phalguna ( between Feb and March). Actually, the 14th days of every Krishna
Paksha is called Shivaratri as per the Hindu Calendar, but Shivaratri of the month of
Phalgun is special and is celebrated as Mahashivaratri. There are various stories
regarding the significance of this day.
1. After the dissolution of the earlier creation, when there was nothing but the
primordial matter then it is said that Lord Shiva did the Taandava Dance. At this time
he played his Damaru whose sound reverberated the whole world and also pervaded
all with the seeds of knowledge. This knowledge was revealed to the Rishis who had
very pure hearts. The Lord is said to reveal his nature to his devotees on this day.
Thus all the devotees turn away their minds from all worldly activities and worship
and meditate upon on the Lord.
2. The Ishan Samhita says that the Lord Shiva first manifested on this day as the
Jyotirlinga a column of light, to bless the sages who worshipped him . In Shiva
temples, this is represented by a form known as Ligodbhava on the western tower of
the sanctum.
3. It was on this day that Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati.
4. Another story in Hindu mythology also emphasizes the auspiciousness of Shivaratri:
On the day of Shivaratri, a hunter, who had killed many birds in a forest, was chased by a
hungry lion. The hunter climbed a Bilva tree to save himself from the lion's attack. The
lion waited throughout the entire night at the bottom of the tree for its prey. In order to
stay awake to avoid falling from the tree, the hunter kept plucking the leaves of the Bilva
tree and dropping them below. The leaves fell on a Shiva Linga that happened to be
located at the bottom of the tree. Shiva was pleased by the offering of the Bilva leaves by
the hunter, although inadvertently, and saved the hunter in spite of all the papa the hunter
had committed by killing the birds. This story emphasizes the auspiciousness of
worshipping Shiva with Bilva leaves on Shivaratri.
The idea is that if somebody consciously offers bilva leaves what this cannot give!
The one thing s common to all stories, is that, this day is very special to the life and
personality of Lord Shiva. On this day all devotees, irrespective of the fact whether they
are enlightened or not, should devote this day to fasting, worship of Lord Shiva, so they
may receive the Grace which flows on this day. Our firm belief in the existence of God,
as well as in His love compassion, knowledge and power, really transforms our lives for
the better. Because of this we worship the Lord, with total devotion. It is also necessary
that a devotee should be a master of his / her tendencies & senses, thus fasting & such
austerities have an important role to play. The significance of this day is so great, that
irrespective of ones guna & karmas, if anyone worships Lord Shiva on this day alone,
then he gets all what he wants. There is great significance about fasting on this day and


Page:Page 2 of 5

remaining awake during the night and devoting all ones time in the worship of Lord
Shiva. The leaves of Bilwa tree are offered to Lord Shiva.
The beauty of all worship & rituals is that we can not only objectify the unobjectifiable
very clearly, but also due to the fact that since now we attribute the Lord with a
personality of his own, we now know in what way we can express our feelings to him. As
expression of emotions & feelings is the way to increase them, our worship becomes
even more important.. If Lord Shiva is said to like Bilwa leaves or Rudraksha or
abhishek, the devotees see to it that they offer these leaves etc, and in the process also see
to it that they plant such trees in their vicinity. The importance of this day is so great that
it is suggested that irrespective of the fact whether you are a devotee of Lord Shiva or
not, you should devote this day to fasting and worship of the Ishwara.
What can we do on this day?
1. Fast on this day. Remain of fruits & milk alone.
2. Do the Japa of the extremely beautiful & powerful mantra 'Om Namah Shivaya' as
many times as possible. It does not matter if you have been given some other mantra
for your sadhana.
3. Perform worship of Lord Shiva, and do 'abhishek' with Panchamrut, Ganga Jal, water
from other tirthas, & simple plain water. Later drink all that with which you gave
Lord the bath, and also give it to others too.
4. While doing the abhisek chant 'Rudram' or 'Shiv Mahimna Stotram'. If you cannot
chant these yourself then get their audio cassettes which are freely available or
continue chanting 'Om Namah Shivaya' while doing the abhishek.
5. Do archana of the beautifully decorated Shiv Linga, with the 'Thousand Names' or
even 108 names of Lord, with Bilwa leaves and other flowers.
6. Sing Bhajans and fill your mind with love & gratitude for all what Lord has blessed
you with.
7. Remain awake in the night too, for as long as possible, and either do Japa or
8. Plant a Bilwa tree in your vicinity.
9. Wish & Pray for the well being of all.
So the Lord is worshipped in the Shivalingam by offering abhishekam during each three
hour period of the night. Let us use this opportunity to learn something about Lord Shiva
in the form of a lingam. The word lingam in Sanskrit means a symbol. The derivation of
the word is lingyate budhyate anena iti lingam that by which ( something) is
represented or known is lingam. The Lingam is a form which has no particular form. If


Page:Page 3 of 5

all the forms in the creation were put together they would form an undefinable form
which is symbolised by the lingam. Since all forms are the Lord and the Lord is not any
one form, the lingam represents the formless form of the Lord.
There is no reference in the Vedas to the lingam being a phallic symbol for the union of
the masculine and feminine principles of creation.
We will understand some aspects of Lord Shiva now, so that our worship on Shiva-Ratri
is more meaningful.
When we look at creation we find that whatever is born, is sustained for a while, and then
is no more there in the same form. There is no real destruction of matter or energy in the
universe, much less the conscious being. The capacity of the Lord to change from one
form to another is represented by Lord Shiva. Truly we cannot give the label destroyer
to Lord Shiva, because there is no real destruction of anything in the Universe. All that
happens is things manifest from the unmanifest and again go into unmanifest form, to
manifest again.
Lord Shiva is also the Lord who we can look upon as suhrd, our well-wisher. He protects
devotees from lust, greed and anger. He grants boons, bestows grace and awakens
wisdom in His devotees.
Lord Shiva is a symbol of tyaaga or sacrifice. He is represented as an ascetic. He is
depicted as covered with ashes, with matted locks, carrying Ganga on his head, wearing
the crescent moon as an ornament on his head, having three eyes which, his eyes are
half-open, wearing two earrings, with a snake round his neck and curled three times
round his head, wearing the Rudraksha maala, holding his right hand in the Varada
Mudra, with a trident (trisula), carrying a damaru in one hand and a kamandalu in
another, with Nandi the bull as his vehicle, seated on a tiger-skin, in the cremationground, effortlessly happy in himself as an ascetic sometimes, with Goddess Paravati
Let us see the symbolism of each of these.
The unclad body covered with ashes: the unclad body symbolizes the transcendental
aspect of the Lord. Since most things reduce to ashes when burned, ashes symbolize the
physical universe. The ashes on the unclad body of the Lord signify that Shiva is the
source of the entire universe which emanates from Him, but He is the truth the satyam
that pervades the physical phenomena and is yet not affected by it.
Matted locks: indicates that Lord Shiva is an ascetic effortlessly happy in himself. He
does not need anything to make him happy. He is the very nature of auspiciousness,
peace and joy.
Ganga: Ganga (river Ganges) is associated with Hindu mythology and is our most sacred
river. According to tradition, one who bathes in Ganga (revered as Mother Ganga) in
accordance with traditional rites and ceremonies on religious occasions in combination
with certain astrological events, is freed from papa and gains the qualifications for self-


Page:Page 4 of 5

knowledge, purity and peace. Ganga, symbolically represented on the head of the Lord
by a female (Mother Ganga) with a jet of water emanating from her mouth and falling on
the ground, signifies that the Lord destroys papa ( the result of unethical actions),
removes ignorance, and bestows knowledge, purity and peace on the devotees.
The crescent moon: is shown on the side of the Lord's head as an ornament, and not as
an integral part of His countenance. The waxing and waning phenomenon of the moon
symbolizes the time cycle through which creation evolves from the beginning to the end.
Since the Lord is the Uncaused Cause of the Universe, existing before creation, He is
untouched by time. Thus, the crescent moon is only one of His ornaments, and not an
integral part of Him.
Three eyes: Lord Shiva, also called Tryambaka Deva (literally, "three-eyed Lord"), is
depicted as having three eyes: the sun is His right eye, the moon the left eye and fire the
third eye. The two eyes on the right and left indicate His activity in the physical world.
The third eye in the center of the forehead symbolizes spiritual knowledge and power,
and is thus called the eye of wisdom or knowledge. Like fire, the powerful gaze of
Shiva's third eye annihilates wrong-thinking, and thus the people given to crime which
arises out of wrong-thinking, fear His third eye.
Half-open eyes: when the Lord opens His eyes, a new cycle of creation emerges from the
unmanifest and when He closes them, the universe dissolves into the unmanifest to
manifest again in the next cycle. The half-open eyes convey the idea that creation is
going through cyclic process, with no beginning and no end. Lord Shiva is the Master of
Yoga, as He uses His yogic power to project the universe from Himself. The half-open
eyes also symbolize His yogic posture.
Kundalas (two ear rings): two Kundalas, Alakshya (meaning "which cannot be known
through logic") and Niranjana (meaning "which cannot be known by sense perception")
in the ears of the Lord signify that He is not an object of knowledge like everything else
in the world. Since the kundala in the left ear of the Lord is of the type used by women
and the one in His right ear is of the type used by men, these Kundalas also symbolize the
Shiva and Shakti (male and female) principle of creation.
Snake around the neck: sages have used snakes to symbolize the yogic power of Lord
Shiva with which He dissolves and recreates the universe. Like a yogi, a snake hoards
nothing, carries nothing, builds nothing, lives on air alone for a long time, and lives in
mountains and forests. The venom of a snake symbolizes yogic power.
A snake (Vasuki Naga): is shown curled three times around the neck of the Lord and is
looking towards His right side. The three coils of the snake symbolize the past, present
and future - time in cycles. The Lord wearing the curled snake like an ornament signifies
that creation proceeds in cycles and is time dependent, but the Lord Himself if free of
time, is totally unaffected by time. The right side of the body symbolizes the human
activities based upon knowledge, reason and logic. The snake looking towards the right
side of the Lord signifies that the Lord's eternal laws of reason and justice preserve
natural order in the universe.
Rudraksha necklace: Rudra is another name of Shiva. Amongst other meanings, Rudra
also means "strict or uncompromising" and aksha means "eye." Rudraksha necklace worn
by the Lord illustrates that He uses His cosmic laws firmly - without compromise - to
maintain law and order in the universe. The necklace has 108 beads which symbolize the
elements used in the creation of the world.


Page:Page 5 of 5

Varada Mudra: the Lord's right hand is shown in a boon- bestowing and blessing pose.
As stated earlier, Lord Shiva destroys wrong-thinking, grants boons, bestows grace,
destroys ignorance, and awakens wisdom in His devotees.
Trident (Trisula): a three-pronged trident shown adjacent to the Lord symbolizes His
three fundamental powers (shakti) of will (iccha), action (kriya) and knowledge (jnana).
The trident also symbolizes the Lord's power to destroy ignorance and its effects.
Damaru (drum): a small drum with two sides separated from each other by a thin necklike structure symbolizes the two utterly dissimilar states of existence, unmanifest and
manifest. When a damaru is vibrated, it produces dissimilar sounds which are fused
together by resonance to create one sound. The sound thus produced symbolizes Nada,
the cosmic sound of AUM. According to Hindu scriptures, Nada is symbolic of the
source of creation.
Kamandalu: a water pot (Kamandalu) made from a dry pumpkin-like fruit contains
nectar and is shown on the ground next to Shiva. The process of making Kamandalu has
deep spiritual significance. A ripe pumpkin-like fruit is plucked from a plant, its fruit is
removed and the shell is cleaned for containing the nectar. In the same way, an individual
must see the falsity of his own notions that happiness is not there with him and free
himself of binding desires through a life of devotion with the attitudes of graceful
acceptance of the results of his actions because they come from the Lord, and the
performance of all actions as a worship unto the Lord, so that he gains a pure heart,
which is the qualification for self-knowledge, which is symbolized by the nectar in the
Nandi: the bull is associated with Shiva and is said to be His vehicle. The bull
symbolizes both power and ignorance. Lord Shiva's use of the bull as a vehicle conveys
the idea that He removes ignorance and bestows power of wisdom on His devotees. The
bull is called Vrisha in Sanskrit. Vrisha also means dharma (righteousness). Thus a bull
shown next to Shiva also indicates that He is the etemal companion of righteousness.
Tiger skin: a tiger skin symbolizes potential energy. Lord Shiva, sitting on or wearing a
tiger skin, illustrates the idea that He is the source of the creative energy that remains in
potential form during the dissolution state of the universe. Of His own Divine Will, the
Lord activates the potential form of the creative energy to project the universe in endless
Cremation ground: Shiva sitting in the cremation ground signifies that He is the
controller of death in the physical world. Since birth and death are cyclic, controlling one
implies controlling the other. Thus, Lord Shiva is revered as the ultimate controller of
birth and death in the phenomenal world.
With this understanding of the Lord, I pray that we all offer our devout prayers to The
Lord on Shivaratri.
Om Tat sat.