Essays About Shaivism

History, Philosophy, Beliefs and Practices of Shaivism,

Hindu Festivals of Shiva

Lighting Festival at Arunachala

Celebrating Shiva

Lord Siva assumed the form of a hill at Tiruvannamalai in Tamilnadu. Here, He quelled the pride of Brahma and Vishnu who were quarrelling as to their relative greatness. One day, when Lord Siva was in meditation, Parvati left Him and went to the hill of Arunachala. There she performed penances. She was the guest of the sage Gautama. It was during her penance here that Mahishasura was killed by Durga bidden by Parvati. Parvati saw Lord Siva as Arunachalesvara. She was taken back by Lord Siva to His side and made again Ardhanari, as Apitaku Chamba.

Arunachalesvara is Tejolinga. Arunachala represents the Agni Tattva of the Pancha Bhuta Kshetras.

Arunachalam is another name for Tiruvannamalai. In days of yore, many Siddha Purushas lived in this hill. Idyakadar, Arunagirinathar lived here. This place is famous for its Festival of Lighting (Kartigai Dipam) every year during the month of Kartigai (November), on the day when the full moon falls in the Kartigai Nakshatram. The lighting takes place at about 5 or 5.30 in the evening. A big hollow in a rock is filled with ghee, oil and camphor. A big wick is put in the ghee and lighted. The lighting is seen even at a distance of sixteen miles. It is regarded that he who beholds this light does not take any future birth. The light burns continuously for three months.

A veil is put around the light at the top of the Arunachala hill. The people bring the Isvara Vigraha outside the temple at 5.30 p.m. as soon as Kartigai Nakshatra dawns. Then a Bhana (fire work) is sent towards the light in the hill through the sky. The man who is in charge of the lighting at the hill removes the veil at once. Then the people see the big light and worship the light with folded hands. They repeat loudly ‘Harahara, Harohara’.

The esoteric significance is that he who sees the Light of lights that is burning eternally in the chambers of one’s heart, through constant meditation, attains immortality. The lighting in the Arunachala brings the message to you that the Atman or Lord Siva is self-effulgent, Jyotis-Svarupa, Light of lights, Sun of suns.

The big light at the hill represents Lord Siva or Paramatman (Supreme Soul). The Bhana is Jiva or the individual soul. The veil represents Avidya that covers the individual soul. The Bhana burns the veil and merges itself in the big light. Even so, if you destroy Avidya by the fire of meditation and Vichara, you can merge yourself in the Supreme Soul or Light of lights.

Kanjivaram, Jambukesvara, Tiruvannamalai, Kalahasti and Chidambaram are the five Bhuta Linga Kshetras. Prithvi Lingam is at Kanjivaram. Apas Lingam is at Jambukesvaram. Tejo-Lingam is at Tiruvannamalai. Vayu-Lingam is at Kalahasti. Akasa-Lingam is at Chidambaram.

These five places represent the apex of five angles of a five triangled figure which represents the five Bhutas of which the entire world is made up. The Tejas-Tattva is in the middle of the five Bhutas. It forms the way through which the Supreme Soul or Lord Siva can be known or seen or realised by the Jiva. The fire of meditation burns the Avidya of the Jiva and helps him to merge himself in the Supreme Light.

The Vedantin holds that Vak (speech) is Brahman. He proves that Vak is Agni or fire and deduces his doctrine of unity. Agni is the presiding deity of speech. Vak is Agni. Vak is Brahman.

The Panchamurtis or Pancha Tattvas meet at a time which is neither night nor day, when the sun and the moon shine together. The light at the hill is seen at a distance of sixteen miles. This represents the ‘Purnakala’ or Brahman.

The Yogi beholds that light during meditation at the crown of the head, which represents the top of the Arunachala hill, and merges himself in it during Nirvikalpa Samadhi.

Annihilate the three impurities, Anava, Karma and Maya. Burn the mind, senses and the Vasanas in the fire of knowledge of the Self or Sivajnanam. Attain full illumination and behold the Light of lights which illumines the mind, intellect, sun, stars, lightning and the fire. This is real Kartigai Dipam.

May the Light of lights illumine you all! May Lord Siva bless you with more light! May you merge in this Supreme Light and attain the eternal bliss of Immortality!

Vijaya Dasami

The Mother aspect of Godhead is the source of power, prosperity and learning and is worshipped during the Navaratri or Dassera, as Durga, Lakshmi and Sarasvati. Each aspect is worshipped for three nights.

Vijaya Dasami is the tenth day of the bright half of the lunar month of Asvina. It is a great soul-stirring festival which is observed with great éclat throughout the length and breadth of India.

It was on the Vijaya Dasami day that Arjuna, the Pandava hero worshipped the Goddess before starting the fight against the evil-minded Kauravas. It was on that day that Ravana was killed in battle by Sri Rama.

It is the day of victory. Boys are put in the school on this day. ‘Hari Om Narayanaya Siddham’, ‘Om Sri Ganesaya Namah’, ‘Om Sri Hayagrivaya Namah’ are taught to them. Aspirants are initiated on this day.

On this memorable day, the carpenter, the tailor, the mason, the artist, the songster, the typist and all technical workers do Puja for their instruments and implements. This is Ayudha Puja. They behold and recognise the Sakti or power behind these instruments and worship the Devi, for their success, prosperity and peace.

Sri Rama built a united India. Sri Rama gained victory over Ravana who had his capital in Lanka, but whose dominions had been extended over a large part of India. Vijaya Dasami is the day of anniversary of the birth of one united India. It is observed in commemoration of the great victory (Vijaya) of Sri Rama over the Rakshasa king, Ravana. It is the day of triumph of righteousness over unrighteousness.

Angada, Hanuman and others celebrated the victory of Sri Rama over Ravana with great religious ardour, under the leadership of pious Vibhishana, embraced one another in friendship and showed their intense devotion and reverence to Sri Rama. From that day onwards this great victory (Vijaya) has been commemorated year after year by all Hindus.

Sri Rama’s victory over Ravana is the victory of spirit over matter, the victory of Sattva over Rajas and Tamas, the victory of soul over mind, sense and body, the victory of idealism over materialism, the victory of goodness over evil, the victory of love and truth over hatred and falsehood, the victory of self-sacrifice and renunciation over selfishness and possession, the victory of the oppressed over the oppressor, the victory of the labour over the capitalists and the imperialists. The memory of this day brings hope and joy to the hearts of the poorest and the most depressed. It humbles the pride of the rich, the strong and the learned, and inspires them to embrace the poor, the weak and the illiterate in love and brotherliness. It awakens a sense of unity among all classes of people.

The Vijaya Dasami has thus become a festival for awakening of universal unity, fraternity, peace and bliss.

The Sakta Puranas interpret this in another way. Rama tried to attain victory through His own valour and prowess but failed. Afterwards, He surrendered His egoism to the Maha Sakti or Devi, and placed Himself as an instrument in Her hands. Thereupon, Devi really fought with Ravana and brought the victory for Sri Rama.

There is an eternal fight going on between Devas and Asuras, between Sattva and Rajas-Tamas, between evil tendencies and virtuous tendencies in man. Gods represent Sattvic forces. The demons or Asuras represent the evil forces. That day on which one kills these evil tendencies, viz., lust, anger, greed, egoism, hatred and attains knowledge of Self or illumination through the grace of the Divine Mother, is the real Vijaya Dasami day or the day of real victory of Self over the non-Self.

May the Devi, Mother Durga teach mankind the way of Dharma and righteousness and bestow peace, bliss and contentment and the final beatitude!

Dassera

Dassera is the greatest Hindu festival of adoring God as Mother. Hinduism is the only religion in the world which has emphasised much on the Motherhood of God. Mother is the dearest and sweetest of all human relations. Hence, it is proper to look upon God as Mother.

Dassera, Durga Puja and Navaratri are one and the same. Durga is the Sakti of Lord Siva. She is the representation of the power of the Supreme Lord. There is no difference between the Lord and His power. She looks after the affairs of the world. The Divine Mother in Her aspect of Durga is represented as having ten different weapons in Her ten hands. She is sitting on a lion. This indicates that She has control over all forces, even over the brutal force which the lion stands for.

You will find in Devi Sukta of the Rig-Veda Samhita that Vak, the daughter of sage Anbhirna realised her identity with the Divine Mother, the power of the Supreme Lord which manifests throughout the entire universe among the gods, among men and beasts, among the creatures of the deep ocean.

In the Kena Upanishad, you will find that the Divine Mother shed wisdom to Indra and the gods, and said that the gods were able to defeat the demons with the help of the power of the Supreme Lord.

Mahishasura, a great demon, was severely oppressing the gods. The gods invoked the aid of the Divine Mother Durga. She assumed a form with ten hands bearing ten weapons and killed the Asura. Devi fought with Bhandasura and his forces for nine days and nine nights and completed the destruction of all Asuras on the evening of the tenth day, known as the Vijaya Dasami or the day of victory. All the ten days are sacred to Devi.

The Hindus of Bengal worship Goddess Durga on the three days preceding the Vijaya Dasami and perform the immersion ceremony on the Vijaya Dasami day. Durga is also worshipped in March-April during the Vasanta Puja.

The Mother of Durga, wife of the king of Himalayas, longs to see her daughter Durga. Durga is permitted by Lord Siva to visit Her beloved mother only for three days in the year. The festival of Durga Puja is to celebrate this brief visit and it ends with the Vijaya Dasami day when the Goddess Durga leaves for Kailas.

Sri Rama worshipped Durga at the time of the fight with Ravana, to invoke Her aid in the war during the days preceding the Vijaya Dasami day. He fought and won through Her grace.

In Bengal, Durga Puja is a great festival. All who live away from home return home during the Puja days. Mothers meet their distant sons and daughters, wives their husbands.

The potter shows his skill in making the images, the painter in drawing pictures, the songster in playing on his instrument and the priest in reciting the sacred books. The Bengalis save money all the year round only to spend it all during the Puja days. Cloth is distributed.

The Hindu woman of Bengal welcomes the Goddess with a mother’s love, and sends away the image on the last day with every ceremony associated with a daughter’s departure for her husband’s home and with motherly tears in her eyes.

MMay you all worship Goddess Durga with intense faith and devotion and attain eternal bliss and immortality through Her Grace! Glory to the Divine Mother Durga and Her consort Lord Siva, the joint parents of the universe.

Vasanta Navaratri

Devi is worshipped during the Vasanta Navaratri. This occurs during the spring. The worship of Devi is ordained by Her own command. You will find this in the following episode from the Devi Bhagavata.

In days long gone by, Dhruvasindhu, a noble and virtuous king of solar dynasty, ruled over the Kosala country. He had two wives, Manorama and Lilavati. Manorama was the senior queen. Both of them gave birth to beautiful sons. Manorama’s son was named Sudarsana and Lilavati’s son, Satrujit.

King Dhruvasindhu was killed by a lion when he went out for hunting. Preparations were made to crown the crown-prince Sudarsana. But king Yudhajit of Ujjain, the father of queen Lilavati and king Virasena of Kalinga, the father of queen Manorama were each desirous of securing the Kosala throne to their respective grandsons. They fought with each Other. King Virasena was killed in the battle. Manorama fled to the forest with prince Sudarsana and a eunuch. They took refuge in the Ashrama of Rishi Bharadvaja.

King Yudhajit crowned his grandson, Satrujit, at Ayodhya, the capital of Kosala. He went out to search Manorama and her son in order to put them out of the way, but could not find them. After some time, he came to know that they were in the Ashrama of Rishi Bharadvaja.

He at once started with a big army to the Ashrama. Yudhajit arrogantly demanded of Rishi Bharadvaja the surrender of Manorama and her son. The Rishi said that he would not give up those who had sought protection under him. Yudhajit became very furious. He wanted to attack the Rishi. But his minister told him about the truth of the Rishi’s statement. Yudhajit returned to his capital.

Fortune began to smile on prince Sudarsana. The son of a hermit called the eunuch by his Sanskrit name ‘Kleeba’. The prince caught the first syllable ‘Klee’ and began to pronounce it as ‘Kleem’. This syllable is a powerful, sacred Mantra. It is the Bija Akshara of Parasakti. The prince obtained peace of mind and the grace of the Divine Mother, by the repeated utterings of this syllable. Devi appeared to him, blessed him and gave him divine weapons, and an inexhaustible arrow-case.

The emissaries of the king of Banares passed through the Ashrama of the Rishi, and saw the noble prince Sudarsana and recommended him to princess Sasikala, the daughter of the king of Banares.

A Svayamvara was arranged. Sasikala chose Sudarsana. Yudhajit also was there. Sasikala was wedded to Sudarsana. Yudhajit began to fight with the king of Banares. Devi helped Sudarsana and his father-in-law. Yudhajit mocked at the Devi. Devi reduced Yudhajit and his army to ashes.

Sudarsana and his wife and his father-in-law praised the Devi. She was highly pleased and ordered them to perform Her worship with Homa and other means in all the four Navaratris of the months—Ashadha, Asvina, Magha and Chaitra, beginning with the Sukla Prathama. Then She disappeared.

Thereupon, prince udarsana and princess Sasikala came back to the Ashrama of Rishi Bharadvaja. The great Rishi blessed them and crowned Sudarsana as the king of Kosala. Sudarsana and Sasikala and the king of Banares implicitly carried out the commands of the Divine Mother and performed worship in a splendid manner during each of these Navaratri days.

Sudarsana’s descendants, Sri Rama and Lakshmana, also performed worship of Devi during the Vasanta Navaratri and were blessed with Her assistance in the recovery of Sita.

IIt is your duty also to perform the worship of Devi for your material and spiritual welfare during the Vasanta Navaratri and follow the noble example set by Sudarsana and Sri Rama. You cannot achieve anything without Mother’s blessings. Sing the prayers of the Divine Mother. Repeat Her Mantra and Name. Meditate on Her form. Do Puja. Pray and obtain Her eternal grace and blessings.

Gauri Puja

Goddess Gauri or Parvati is the consort of Lord Siva. She is the Sakti of Siva. She is recognised as the highest ideal of Indian womanhood. She is a perfect model of feminine virtues. Maidens worship Gauri and invoke Her grace and blessings for securing a suitable bridegroom. She is adored by married women also for securing long life for their husbands.

Certain days are held very sacred to Her memory. Hindu ladies observe fast on these days and worship Goddess Gauri in and through the crescent moon, before breaking the fast.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: Reproduced, with the general permission, from Lord Siva and His Worship, WWW edition 2000, By Sri Swami Sivananda © The Divine Life Trust Society