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Shiva Ratri

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SHIVA RATRI  FESTIVAL                       February 2014                       Huntsville, Alabama

To children with love and blessings, Tilak B. Shrestha, Ph.D. <tilakbs@hotmail.com>

Om Namah Shivaya! Explaining ‘Shiva Ratri’ to America born Nepali children.

We Nepalese have many festivals to enjoy. One of the very interesting and celebrated festivals is ‘Shiva Ratri’ or the ‘night of Shiva.’ The festival is about honoring and worshipping Bhagwan Shiva \ Mahadeva.

It is celebrated on the 14th moon day of Falgun month of Bikram Sambat. This year it is on Thursday, February 27th. Devotees observe fasting, meditate and keep sleepless vigil ‘Jagram’ during the night. Bela \ Bilva \ Aegle Marmelos leaves and water are offered to Shiva. Youngsters also enjoy the festival. Big bonfires are lit in the night. All kinds of food are roasted and cooked in the fire. People walk around in the night wishing well to the people observing ‘Jagram’, and distribute sweets\food.

Pashupati Nath and other Shiva temples are crowded with devotees, including naked Sadhus with ‘Chilum’, from all over the world. Just for information, Bhagwan Shree Pashupati Nath is the God of life, not of animals. In old Sanskrit ‘Pashu’ is life, and animals are also life. You may see Shiva’s trident and three horizontal lines in the foreheads of the devotees representing the three levels of consciousness. People also may wear ‘ash’ in the forehead, representing ‘our life and world as we know of is limited, but there is more beyond.’

Divine Shiva created, loves, protects and teaches the secret of the world. There are many legends associated with the celebration, to illustrate Shiva’s nature and love. After the creation of the universe Shiva was very pleased and performed ‘Tandav’ dance on this day. The divine dance is the continuous cycles of creation, continuation and culmination. The universe, including us, is the dance. Another legend goes that once all got together and churned ‘Manthan’ the ocean. Many good things came out of the ocean, which were promptly picked up. However, it also produced a very potent poison called ‘Halahal’, which started to poison the earth. But nobody could stop it and they ran to Shiva for protection. To protect the world Shiva drank the poison. It turned his throat blue – ‘Neel Kantha.’ Another legend gives the day as the auspicious wedding day of Bhagwan Shiva and Sati Devi.

However, it is not Shiva’s birthday, as some mistakenly say. Divine Shiva has no beginning and no end. There is an interesting legend from ‘Devi Bhagwat Puran.’ Bhagwan Shiva was getting married to Devi Parvati. As a part of the ceremony the presiding priest asked the name of Shiva’s father. There was discomfort in the air. To avoid the discomfort the priest was told to consider Bhagwan Vishnu as the father. Who is the grandfather? Bhagwan Brahmaa. Who is the father of Brahmaa? Shiva himself.

Shiva ‘Auspicious one’ means who fills our heart with joy. Shiva is also known as the God of destruction, not who destroys, but who proves to us in concrete term that we are not annihilated after our death after all. The correct simile is the ‘medicine of head ache.’ It does not give head ache, rather relieves. Shiva neither prescribes believing in heaven and hell, nor uses the associated greed and fear as carrot and stick to force certain code of conduct. Shiva provides empirical way ‘meditation techniques’ to ascertain ourselves.

Mother Goddess Parvati asks her beloved Shiva, “What is your reality?” Wh