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.