UNDERSTANDING THE IMPORTANCE OF MAHASIVARATHRI

Published : 9:00 am  March 7, 2016 | No comments so far |  |  (772) reads | 

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Rathri is the word used to mean night, both in Sinhala and Tamil. Mahasivarathri is the longest and darkest night in the year. This dark night is illuminated by Hindus world over. They observe special religious rites on the fourteenth night of Phalguna according to the Hindu calendar. This is purely a religious festival of day time fast and vigilance throughout the night.

On this auspicious day Hindus start the observations early in the morning and continue throughout the day and night in a bid to wash away all sins and pave way for eternal bliss through religious disciplines of Aihimsa (Non injury), Satya (Truthfulness), Brahmacharya (Celibacy),Daya (Compassion), Ksama (Forgiveness) and Ahimsa (Absence of jealousy).

These disciplines are similar those taught by Gautama Buddha and hence they are relevant to the Buddhists as well. Mahasivarathri is a solemn occasion to worship Lord Siva who is regarded as the ocean of love, ocean of knowledge and the ocean of peace and happiness. God Siva is formless or Aruba. However, out of compassion for devotees he appears in the form of a luminous light arising out of Siva Lingam.

This appearance is due to the fact that devotees would otherwise be left in perpetual darkness. To mark the Mahasivarathri festival devotees wake up early, take a ritual bath and after wearing fresh new clothes visit the nearest Siva Temple for Abhishekam or anointing Siva lingam with milk, honey, ghee, sugar and water. In the temple the priests perform poojas every three hours ringing temple bells. Devotees spend the night singing hymns and chanting Mantras repeating the words Om nama Sivaya. Flowers and leaves are used in the performances of pooja. Devotees specially include the leaves of Vilva tree because it is believed that the meritorious effect of the leaves of the Vilva tree is more.

RITUALS OF MAHASIVARATHRI

Thripundra refers to the three horizontal stripes of holy ash applied to the foreheads of worshippers of Lord Siva. These stripes symbolize spiritual knowledge, purity and penance (Spiritual practice of Yoga). tree is said to have sprung from the tears of Lord Siva. When worshipping Lord Siva it is ideal to wear the seed of the Rudraksha tree. A Rudraksha is red in colour with stripes. On Sivarathri only cold water and bael leaves are offered to the Lingam.

Other traditional offerings such as bathing it with milk curd, ghee and honey or anointing it with vermilion (Kumkum) or white consecrated rice (Akshata), (symbols of fertility or creation ) are not done on this day when Lord Siva is worshipped as the deity of dissolution.

NIGHT TIME QUARTERLY POOJAS

Usually pooja ceremonies are conducted four times during the night i.e. quarterly. The first quarter or Muthalam Samam commences at 8.00 p.m. Lotus flowers are given preference in the first quarter pooja. For this pooja one hundred and eight water Kumbams are used. At 10.30 p.m. the second quarter ritual commences. This pooja is performed with forty nine Kumbams. In the second quarter pooja Thulasi leaves are given preference. The important part of the Sivarathri ceremony is performed during the third quarter commencing at mid night. This is called Lingotpava pooja. It is believed that Lord Siva although formless reveals himself in the form of glowing light before devotees. This is an exalted and holy occurrence which is a rare gift for devotees and it I the climax of the ceremony where five priests participate with five Kumbams. The fourth quarter ceremony called Nankam Samam is the last and the auspicious part which commences at 3.00. a.m. and comes to an end a dawn. During this session of pooja Seetheviyaar Senguluneer flowers are used. Apart from all night poojas devotees attend to prayers in the morning and evening at home or in the parks or rivers flowing by the side of temples. Devotees recite Sanskrit and Tamil and other language verses throughout the day and night. Some devotees keep awake the whole night

ATTAINING MOKSHA

Through worshipping and meditation the Sivarathri devotees hope to attain and get out of the cycle of birth and death which Gautama Buddha enunciated as the Four Noble truths – Chathraya Satya and showed the way for liberation by following the Exalted Eight Fold Path- Arya Atthangika Magga and attaining Nibbana. Moksha is not Paradise as commonly believed but it refers to the eternal bliss of being one with the Purush/Brahma completing the birth-death cycle.