Matha Gitananda Ashram


Maha Shiva Ratri

During the festivity of Siva Ratri, the devotees fast and perform austerities; some abstain even from drinking water and keep a wake to chant the Maha mantra of Siva. The linga, symbol of the absolute, is worshipped throughout the night with an offering of flowers, fruits and Prashad (sacred food). The linga is first purified by water and is then ready to be adorned by beautiful and fragrant white jasmine garlands. All the temples dedicated to Siva become pilgrimage sites for the devotees who adore him in all his forms as Sivanataraja, the Lord of the Cosmic Dance.
This period is, therefore, considered ideal for the dancers of Bharata Natyam to perform their first public performance (arangetram), in the Siva temple. He is also adored in the form of Siva Ardhanarisvara, representing both the feminine and the masculine aspects of manifestation, and in the form of Sivamahayogi, the Lord of all the yogis in the world. This is an auspicious time in which the samnyasins and sadhus are initiated under the favorable auspices of the greatest among the yogis, Lord Shiva.

Read more about this festivity

Between the thirteenth and the fourteenth day of the dark moon of phalguna (February-March), is the festivity of Siva Ratri. Literally, the name of this festivity means “the night of Siva” and, as a matter of fact, the ceremonies start during the night and continue for various days. In this occasion, the weeding between Siva and Parvati is also celebrated. It is said that Siva, after the death of his wife Sati, retired to the forest to perform some very rigorous austerities (tapas) and to pacify his sorrow. After some time, on the Himalayas, a beautiful girl was born, Parvati, whose name means “daughter of the Parvata mountain.” She was fair and very attractive. When the time came for her to find a husband, her father wanted to wed her to God Visnu but, secretly, she was in love with Siva and very concerned for his sorrow at the death of Sati.

Parvati, therefore, against the will of her parents, went to the forest with a friend to look for Siva. When she finally found him, she sat by him and spent years performing austerities and meditations in order to conquer him. The God of love, Madana, realized what was happening and thought that, for Siva, this was a good opportunity to overcome his pain. He prompted Parvati to dance for the Lord. When the dance reached its peak and harmony, Madana threw Siva an arrow perfumed with fragrant flowers. Siva, in rage for having being disturbed, opened his third eye and burnt Madana to ashes. Yet, Siva’s tapas had been interrupted and the God became aware of Parvati’s beauty who, with her dance, charmed him to the point that He decided to marry her. The divine couple, after the solemn wedding celebrations, returned to their residency on Mount Kailash, blessing the entire world and having since, lived in happiness and harmony.