Indian thought and practices over time immemorial have commemorated certain days
and festivals as ways and means for people to understand, remember and reunite with the
Universe and the divinities of the Universe. Among the Indian pantheon of divinities, few are historical (like Rama and Krishna) and many others are Tattva, principles, essence in nature like the Shiva Tattva.
Shivaratri is one such festival which is a gateway to reach out and understand the divinity called Shiva or Shiva Tattva.
From a metaphysical perspective, Shiva can be split as sha+ee+va where
‘sha’ stands for Shareeram, body,
‘ee’ stands for eeshwari, life giving energy (Shakt”ee”) and
‘va’ stands for vayu or motion.
If the Shakt“ee” is removed from Shiva (potential of life), it gets reduced to sha+va or shava (lifeless body)
Making this potential manifest as matter, life and the cosmos, is Shaktee the energy tattva, the female counterpart of Shiva. Without Shaktee, Shiva stays as the potential. It is Shakti that triggers Shiva into manifesting as life.
Meaning of the term Shiva
The term “Shiva” has a much larger connotation which includes-
- having the potential,
- being capable of,
- boding well,
- being favourable, promising.
Thus this Shiva, auspiciousness is the very life of the universe. Not just the life we see around us in a very limited perspective of life in humans, animals or plants but the very concept of life itself.
Understanding Night, Ratri
The word Ratri means “comfort giver”. It is derived from the root word “ram” meaning “to be content”, “to give contentment”.
It is during the ratri or night of any being, that the being gets rejuvenated and refreshed for its next cycle or day.
What is a Pralaya?
Laya means to merge or dissolve into. Music that makes one forget everything and makes one blend with the music is said to have Layam. It is also a rhythm.
The prefix Pra denotes special as in Prakrithi which is primordial or ultimate Nature.
Pralaya thus simply means the rhythmic, special dissolution or merging back into ultimate natural form.
The interim state between a dissolution and a regeneration is a period of both serenity and tranquility when all bodies are calm and preparing for regeneration. Following this tranquility is the joy and celebration which comes with having been regenerated and refreshed.
Shiva, being the potential to manifest, is the divinity for dissolution and regeneration.
Hence the time one readies for rejuvenation and regeneration that comes with a Pralaya, is associated with Shiva as Shivaratri.
When there is resistance to a change, there is pain. Where there is willful acceptance, there is no pain. When we understand and willingly accept that a dissolution is only for a regeneration, the dissolution or change ceases to cause pain.
Shivaratri is an occasion that makes us aware of the need to change along with the ever changing cosmos and to renew our cosmic connect.
It is a window to prepare ourselves to accept the change, to let go of the past, to make way for the new and the rejuvenation that comes forth.
It is a celebration to welcome the change, the rejuvenation.
Therefore for time immemorial our ancestors have given this night of regeneration, a feeling of serenity through fasting and praying and have followed it with celebration
through music, singing and dance.
Rishi Kahola Kaushitaki in his Kaushitaki Brahmana records that Maha Shivaratri was celebrated even during the Mahabharatha times, i.e. 5100 years ago.
Every Shivaratri, let us connect with this Shiva Tattva and get rejuvenated to face the coming phases of our lives.
(A more detailed article is available on bharathgyanblog.wordpress.com/
-D.K.Hari and D.K.Hema Hari, Founders, Bharath Gyan
Celebrate Shivaratri at the Art of Living International Center, Bangalore-
More information on these aspects of Shiva is available in our book, “Understanding Shiva”, and a film, “Understanding Shiva” which are a part of the Bharath Gyan Series.