Wednesday, February 17, 2010


We know that, of the Trinity, Lord Brahma is in charge of creation, Lord Vishnu takes care of this creation and Lord Shiva is the Destroyer. Human nature, being what it is, is always afraid of destruction, and as such Maha-Shivratri is celebrated with full grandeur giving respect to the growth oriented action (marriage) of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati.
The marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati represents a marriage of a totally non-worldly person (who is not interested in any worldly pleasure and wealth, and who is feared as Destroyer), with a charming, rich princess, who renounces every comfort and wealth for this marriage. LORD SHIVA WHO IS TOTALLY DETACHED IS NOW ATTACHED BECAUSE OF THIS MARRIAGE. This attachment is the only hope for the creation of Brahma.

If one collects statistic of number of temples of various deities in India, one will find that the maximum percentage of temples are those of Shiva (Destroyer) followed by Vishnu (PALLAN-KARTA or caretaker of creation), with Brahma (Creator) falling way behind with, perhaps, one designated temple at Pushkar. Conclusions, as to why we worship God (because we are afraid, or for personal gains, or because we love HIS creation), is personal choice of readers.

Worship performed during this festival is considered highly auspicious, and rewarding. Unmarried girls do this for decent marriage, married couples with compatibility problems, feel this improves their married lives; others worship for divine grace. Now the big question—when is Shivratri or Mahashivratri celebrated? What are the astronomical considerations for this festival?
Since 80% of the Indian population consists of Hindus, it is important that people must know what are the astronomical considerations, and any other physical consideration for celebrating a festival on a specific date. After all, Hindus, have absolute faith in their Dharm (religion), and this faith should not be taken for granted. I, personally, will certainly feel cheated, if I was told that a particular festival is being wrongly celebrated on a different date. In this information age, the information provided by authorities, can easily be verified by the general public. All the other religious bodies are doing this, except, of course, Hindu religious bodies.
First let us get on with what is the difference between Shivratri and Mahashivratri. Shivratri is celebrated (only for the purpose of worshipping) on every thirteenth dark fortnight of lunar month, with Mahashivratri being celebrated in the month of Phagun. During the 13th tithi of Phagun, normally, the sun will be in Aquarius (Kumbha in Sanskrit) and moon in Capricorn (Makara). Mahashivratri is considered to be the marriage day of Shiva and Goddess Parvati.

Here Kumbha(Aquarius in English) represents Shiva and Makara(Capricorn in English) represents Mata Parvati. And there is a reason for this. As per Vedanta Jyotish (remember VJ has an important role in selection of dates for all Hindu festivals), Kumbha(Aquarius in English) is a Rashi farthest away from the Rashi of Sun i.e. Leo (Singh in Sanskrit). Kumbha is represented by an EMPTY earthen pot. The immediate idea that we get is of abject poverty, and since Saturn owns this Rashi, you can add Karma with detachment. 

The other rashi, Makar(Capricorn in English), where moon is, is also owned by Saturn. Mars gets exalted status over here, and Mars, we all know gives exaltation results only through renouncement. Mata Parvati, a princess, belonging to a very rich royal family, renounced everything to marry Lord Shiva. She gets represented during Mahashivratri by Capricorn. She knew she was marrying Lord Shiva, and she knew that Lord Shiva had no worldly wealth and may never ever have a cottage of his own.
The marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati represents a marriage of a totally non-worldly person (who is not interested in any worldly pleasure and wealth, and who is feared as Destroyer), with a charming, rich princess, who renounces every comfort and wealth for this marriage.
LORD SHIVA WHO IS TOTALLY DETACHED IS NOW ATTACHED BECAUSE OF THIS MARRIAGE. This attachment is the only hope for the creation of Brahma (at least the life that exist on this earth), as per the Hindu belief. Remember, that in the previous Mahakalp, when Sati sacrificed her life, Shiva destroyed everything. There was no living being left, and only after the marriage of Shiva with Parvati, life once again started thriving. During the intermediate period, i.e. after the death of Sati and till the marriage with Parvati, Shiva stayed in SAMADHI.

This is one more aspect of Dharm, which gets represented during Mahashivratri. Lord Shiva is usually shown in Samadhi. When his Samadhi is complete, creation of Brahma (i.e. the life on earth) collapses. Conscious to the world outside the body reduces destructive power of Lord Shiva. And symbolically, Moon represents consciousness. So that we do not miss this important aspect, every picture of Shiva contains a white silvery crescent of moon, on the top of the head, on the side of the right shoulder, indicating that Lord Shiva is conscious, but only slightly (only as much as the silvery crescent visible to the full moon, OR one can also say as per the ratio of moon visible on fourteenth dark tithi to the moon visible on full moon day), and this much CHETNA, or, consciousness is sufficient for the world to prosper.

During the period of Mahashivratri, the month is Phagun, and Phagun is the last month of Hindu calendar. Symbolically, Mahashivratri, celebrated during the last month of the year renews the hope of prosperity in the coming year.

The sun in Kumbha symbolizing Shiva indicates a person, who is not worldly, and one who performs all his Kama with detachment, and one who will be more comfortable in complete Samadhi, unconscious of what is happening to the outside world. This is what the world does not want, so the marriage of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati is celebrated by Hindus, on the 13th tithi of the dark fortnight. On that tithi, moon will be in Makara. And Makara symbolizes renouncement of all worldly wealth. This is what Goddess Parvati does for the sake of all Humanity. She marries Lord Shiva, renouncing all her wealth.

However one more physical phenomena must be visible and important for calibration of this festival. Since one important aspect of the calibration of this marriage is that moon, indicating consciousness, is visible as crescent, Mahashivratri is celebrated on 13th tithi, and the faithful worship throughout the night and their worship is complete, when after sunrise they see the silvery crescent of the moon immediately over the sun. THIS IS SOMETHING PHYSICAL AND IMPORTANT. THE RITUAL OF WORSHIP IS NOT COMPLETE WITHOUT VIEWING OF MOON. 

It is true that because of clouds, pollution, or other local conditions the moon may not be visible, but we know, astronomically, that the last moon is visible on the 14th tithi of the dark fortnight, in the morning, just over the sun. Astronomically, the moon is not visible when it is + 12 deg. away from sun. Using Hindu lunar calendar that would mean the 15th tithi (amavasya) of the dark fortnight and 1st tithi of the bright fortnight.

So that we may not miss out on this important aspect, all pictures of Lord Shiva show this moon as silvery crescent over Lord Shiva head. The rituals of Shivratri are only complete when the LAST moon is physically visible on the next day morning and attempt to view this moon over sun is made by the faithful.

In fact history of Asia and Africa suggest that this festival was very popular 2000 years back. The archeological find suggest several temples with Deity of a Man with crescent moon mostly in the body (chest, heart), in various part of ancient world. It is also a common belief that other religion, like Jews and Muslims, who consider sighting of new moon highly auspicious, drew the inspiration from this age old ritual of Hindus.

The reason for this post is that unfortunately the Hindu Religious Bodies, associated with taking such decisions, are the only religious bodies in the world, who are not transparent. Why Mahashivratri was celebrated on 12th Feb. 2010 on 14th tithi, so that next morning, there was no visibility of moon, is still a mystery. Hindus need an answer to this. Please press for an answer and more transparency.
Written on 17th Feb, 2010.
To Read this Post in Hindi : महाशिवरात्रि

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A Consulting Engineer, operating from Mumbai, involved in financial and project consultancy; also involved in revival of sick establishments.

ABOUT MY BLOG: One has to accept that Hindus, though, highly religious, are not getting desired result as a society. Female feticide, lack of education for girls, dowry deaths, suicides among farmers, increase in court cases among relatives, corruption, mistrust and discontent, are all physical parameters to measure the effectiveness or success/failure of RELIGION, in a society. And all this, despite the fact, that spending on religion, by Hindus, has increased drastically after the advent of multiple TV channels. There is serious problem of attitude of every individual which need to be corrected. Revival of Hindu religion, perhaps, is the only way forward.

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