On the occasion of Mahaa-Shivaraatri, we present to you the Shiva-Stuti – a prayer to Lord Shiva. Mahaa-Shivaraatri, according to the Hindu Shaaliwaahana (शलिवाहन) calendar, occurs on the 13/14th day of the dark-half of the Maagha (माघ) month. This year, it is on the 2nd of March 2011.
Lord Shiva, as described by the Puraana (पुराण) scriptures, is
- The source of all creation and hence symbolized with the Linga (लिंग) i.e. ‘Phallus’
- The primary source of 14 Branches of Learning and 64 Branches of Arts (१४ विद्या,६४ कला ) representing intellect and creativity
- A symbol of complete detachment — living in the Himalayas, wearing a serpent as a garland and the elephant-skin as a garment, without ornaments, property or possessions.
- Part of the Trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
- Himself Creator, Protector and Destroyer, aided by his wife Devi who assumes the form of Parwati, Durga or Kali as the case may be.
The Sanskrit word ‘Shiva’ means auspicious/kind.
Other names of Shiva – Pashupati (पशुपति The Master of all beings), Maheshwara(महेश्श्वर The Chief Gods), Nataraaja (नटराज The foremost amongst artists), Rudra ( रुद्रा The fierce deity of storm), Panchaanana ( पंचानन The one with five Heads), Aashutosha (आशुतोष आशु=quick; तोष=satisfaction – A deity who is quickly pleased, hence the epithet).
Rudra (रुद्र) is a Vedic deity, considered to be fierce & benevolent, harsh & kind, disease giver & disease curer, all at the same time. Shiva (शिव), the Pauranic deity also possesses similar characteristics and the word ‘Shiva’ meaning ‘auspicious’ has also been used to describe Rudra in the Vedas themselves. Hence, Rudra & Shiva are linked with each other and considered, most of the times, to be one and the same.
According to scholars, the cosmic dance of Shiva, called Ananda Tandava (आनंद तांडव meaning,‘the Dance of Bliss’) symbolizes the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction,as well as the daily rhythm of birth and death. The dance is a pictorial allegory of the five principle manifestations of eternal energy – creation, preservation, destruction, illusion and salvation.
It is said that the performance of Ananda-Tandava led to the creation of the universe, and is the reason to celebrate Mahaa Shivaraatri
There are several ways of celebrating Mahaa Shivaraatri and rituals vary from region to region, however, the following rituals are a part of festivities all over:
- Observing a fast throughout the day
- Worshipping the Shiva-linga with Bilwa leaves (बिल्व )white flowers, chandan, ashes, milk, coconut water, sugarcane juice, opium or bhang
- Chanting the mantra Om namah Shivaaya ओम नमः शिवाय for 11 or 111 or 1111 times.
Following verse is written in the Mandaaramaalaa (मंदारमाला)meter.
Here, the poet describes the compassionate form of Lord Shiva along with Goddess Parwati (Bhawani) and prays that the Lord always stay in the hearts of his true devotees. Although this verse is usually sung before an Aarti (probably because it begins with the word ‘Karpuura’), it is a prayer for Lord Shiva.
Shiva has been described as a very handsome and fair God and only his throat turned blue as he drank poison and contained it in that area. Another name for Shiva is Neela-Kantha
नीलकंठ (the one with a Blue Throat).
karpuura–gauram karuNaa–awataaram samsaara–saaram bhujagendra-haaram |
sadaa wasantam hridaya—arawinde bhawam bhawaanii—sahitam namaami ||
I bow down to Lord Shiva who is fair like the camphor, wears a garland of king of serpents, is an incarnate form of compassion, an essence of all material being, who always resides in the lotus-like heart (of his devotee) and who is accompanied by GoddessBhawani.
- नमामि is the present tense, 1st person, singular form of root नम् meaning ‘to bow down / to salute.’
- All the epithets/words used for Lord Shiva like कर्पूरगौरं करुणावतारं etc. are in the accusative (objective) case because he is the object of salutation.
- Lord Shiva’s name is nowhere directly mentioned in the verse, but is clearly suggested through his epithets, which are compound समास words( Karmadhaaraya -कर्मधारय्या
Bahuvrihi-बहुवरीही ), a feature very typical to Sanskrit language.