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Koshur Music

An Introduction to Spoken Kashmiri

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The Secret of Shivaratri

by T. N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Shiva is eternal existence and, therefore, the Supreme Truth. He is free of bondages, devoid of attributes, all pervading and yet above everything (Ati tishthat dashangulam). He is Conscience (Chit) and Bliss (Ananda). Everything emanates from Him and everything merges with Him. He answers the form of Brahma and with the attribute of Rajas (Rajoguna) creates the universe. He assumes the form of Rudra and with the attribute of Tamas (Tamoguna) destroys the creation. In between He assumes the form of Vishnu and with the attribute of Saiva (Satoguna) looks after and preserves the creation. He is free to desire, to manifest and to act but all this needs energy or power and that takes the form of Shakti which in essence is itself an aspect of Shiva. Sometimes Shiva propitiates Shakti and She enters Him to enable Him to perform five acts of knowing (Jnan), desiring (Iccha), implementing (Kriya), concealing or covering (Pidana) and showering His grace (Anugraha). While explaining the importance of Bhawani Sahasranama Shiva says to His favourite devotee, Nandi, "It is the grace of Bhawani that I have been able to create the entire universe, humans, animals, birds, devas, asuras, gandharvas, stars, planets, flora and fauna, et al."

Some other time the Bhawani herself meditates on Shiva, invokes Him, merges with Him whose inseparable aspect She is and becomes the cause of the birth of Kumara Kartikeya. This brings an end to the demon Tarkasur and saves the devatas from his wrath. This merger or marriage of Shiva with Shakti is what is celebrated as Shivaratri in Kashmir called Herath or Hara ratri, the night of Shiva. This festival has the same importance in our part of the country as Durga Puja in Bengal, Ganesh Puja in Maharashtra, Ayyapa festival in the south, Holi in Brajdam and Baisakhi in the Punjab. This is the only festival in India which lasts a full fortnight and has becomes a unique socio-religious celebration. It starts on the first day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna, with cleansing and renovation of the houses and concludes on the amavasya day with the distribution of prasada of walnuts after performing the-prescribed puja. Every married daughter is regarded as a Parvati and is sent by her parents to her Shiva's home along with new clothes, money and gifts.

Although the fact of one God is universally accepted, the relationship between Jeeva and Param Brahma, the individual soul and the universal soul is perhaps extensively discussed and explained only in our scriptures, both in Nigamas (Veda) and Agamas (Other Shastras.) There is a oft-quoted Vedic saying, "Ekam sat viprah bahuda vadanti", the Truth is one yet it is explained by the wise in different ways. This has given rise to different schools of philosophy propounding daulism and non dualism. The Shaiva school of philosophy espouses non- dualism, yet the Trika system of Kashmir or the Kashmir Shaiva Darshan stands for non dualism in its pristine purity. It advocates that the entire creation is the manifestation of Shiva and therefore it is real and not an illusion or Maya. We worship Shiva in both His aspects of Shiva and Shakti. Shakti for us is Rajna, Sharika, Jwala and many more forms of the energy aspect of Shiva. Worshipping Her gives us unflinching faith in Shiva, the source of all knowledge and the end destination of all (Eko gamyah. Mahimnastotra.) Shiva for us is the Supreme Truth. Worshipping Him leads us to un- wavering trust and belief in the Mother, the giver of protection, solace and divine grace.

The celebration of Shiva-ratri, therefore, is symbolic and this symbolic leads to the Real. Attainment of the Real coincides with Self- realisation and Self-realisation is the ultimate aim and goal of a true Shaiva Sadhaka. The faiths world over have believed that it is from the mundane that one advances to the spiritual and supra-mental. Even Sufis have proclaimed that from Ishqe Majazi, the worldly love, one rises to Ishqe Haqiqi, the true eternal love where one is able to realise (Ham o ast) I am He or (Man Khuda) I am the God. This undisputedly establishes the importance of idol and symbol worship in general and of Vatuk-puja in the context of Shivaratri. The various pots that constitute vatuk: Dul, Ryesh-dul, Sanivar, Machavar and No't etc. stand for various deities or the different aspects of the Divine. We propitiate them and pray for world peace and well being of the mankind. From here we march on to Self-realisation and for this what is needed is an inward journey.

In the words of the great Lal Ded:

         Go'ran dopnam kunuy vatsun,
            Nyebra dopnam andar atsun.

 

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