What exactly is Maha Shivratri ?
I am 23 as I am writing this and the only thing that I had heard about Maha-Shivratri for the last 22 years was the fact that “People fast on this day”. When your quest for answers doesn’t get satiated, you become restless. But thanks to Shiva or rather thanks to Wikipedia and some blogs from where I learned more about the significance of this day. The era in which we are born is one of the most fascinating eras and we should thank our stars for that. We haven’t yet forgotten the significance of Vedas, thanks to our wonderful ancestors and at the same time we have multiple platforms like Quora, Wikipedia, Blogs to turn to when we need some answers or let’s say opinions.
ShivRatri based on my understanding :
There are multiple reasons for celebrating Maha-Shivratri. On this day, Lord Shiva was united with Shakti ie). Goddess Parvati. And being an Indian, we understand how grand are the celebrations when it comes to marriages. The celebration falls on the 13th night and 14th day of the Hindu calendar month of Phalguna or Maagh every year. In layman terms, Shivaratri occurs every month on the new moon day but the one which falls in the month of Feb or at times March is considered the most auspicious day.
Legend has it that it was Lord Shiva to whom all the Gods turned to, when they realized that river Ganga had been poisoned ( the concept of Samudra Manthan ) Lord Shiva happily agreed to consume all the poison himself. From this day onwards, the poison rests on his throat, giving a blue tinge to his throat (and that’s why he is referred to as the Neelkanth)
Neel is blue and Kanth refers to throat.
Beyond Infinity :
There are two phases of the same coin and we all know about this fact. But do we really understand? The things that you may consider wrong might be right for someone else and vice verse. Let’s take for example the Aghoris, they are one of the hardcore worshipers of Shiva and do you know they drink human blood and consume things which we consider impure. Can we say our views on Purity is subjective? In the same manner, Cannabis or Marijuana is termed as illegal in our society but it is said that Lord Shiva was an ardent consumer of Marijuana (perhaps the reason they say holy weed)
The significance of ShivRatri :
It is believed that on this day the planetary positions of Northern hemisphere are aligned in such a way that an individual’s spiritual energy is on a whole new high. Wikipedia tells me this and I am not the right person to comment on hemispheres and stuff, so I beg your pardon on this one. Sorry, Grahs and Nakshatras are too technical for me at this point of time. Researches have shown that when you are fasting, it’s easier for you to focus on meditational activities or let’s say spiritual enlightenment or let’s say Nirwana. Perhaps that’s why everyone fasts. Turn to a believer or an atheist and no one will disregard the benefits of Upvaas (Fasting).
For people who are trying to shell out some kilos, fasting is a good way unless you are ordering Butter Chicken and Ghee Rice as soon as the fast is over. For others it’s a good detox. These days we talk about digital detox and detoxifying lungs but what about detoxifying your soul or Atman! Meditation is the answer and fasting helps you to concentrate more as you are no longer worried for three meals or let’s say the modern good way of eating 6 meals. Stay focused, and try deep shit like meditation and fasting if that’s what you love. But there’s no harm in trying it out even if you don’t really love it.
Darkness as a metaphor :
Shivratri is celebrated during night time when it’s dark, on the contrary to mainstream light. Don’t you feel there is a hidden message in there!
One of the greatest poets of all time from Afghanistan, Rumi quotes
“Be a blank sheet of white paper on which anything new can be written”
“Be that spot of ground on which nothing is growing but something can be grown”
It is also said that the most creative people on this planet first try to unlearn things before creating something ever-lasting.
Shiva and India :
My definition of Shiva is something which is eternal. I mean there’s no right or wrong. No this way or that way. He accepts or loves from all his devotees equally, be it you or me. Be it Aghoris or no-Aghoris. That means age no bar, caste no bar. Religion what are we talking! Now compare this to the idea of our country India. A place so diverse which houses all religions together. A place which respects the beliefs of every individual. You see no right way or wrong way.
There’s light hidden in darkness.
There’s love hidden in diversity.
Story of Gokarna :
Once upon a time. Yeah it always has to start with “once upon a time..” . Ravana went all the way to Lord Shiva in order to obtain the divine Atmalingam. Ravana wanted this Lingam for his mother who was an ardent worshiper of Lord Shiva. Ravana went all the way to Mount Kailash to perform ‘Tapasya’ (worship) for Lord Shiva. The lord was eventually pleased with all his devotional worship and decided to gift him with the Lingam (source of infinite energy). Shiva gifted this to Ravana only at one condition…
The condition being that Ravana shouldn’t place the Shivalinga at ground. Once grounded none would be able to lift it back.! Ravana was well on his way towards Lanka unaware of what Lord Ganesha had in store for him. Ganesha disguised himself as a kid and presented himself before Ravana. Ravana went to attend Nature’s call and asked Ganesha to take care of the Shivalinga until he comes back. He also advised Ganesha to not place it on the ground.
Ganesha cheated and placed the Linga on the ground. And as conditioned, once grounded no one could uplift the Shiva Linga! After returning, Ravana tried his level best but the Linga didn’t even move an inch. And this is the reason why the temple is referred to as the “Mahabaleshwar Temple”
Maha means Great. Bal means Strength. And it was associated to Lord Shiva’s immense power
After realizing that he had been tricked, Ravana tried to destroy the Shiva linga. Due to his force the pieces of Shiva Linga has been scattered around various places in and around Karnataka. The head of the linga is believed to have falled in a place called Surathkal. He threw the case covering Linga to a place called Guneshwara and Dhareshwara. He threw the cloth which was covering the Atmalinga to Murudeshwara.
The Shivratri trail :
Gokarna – Murudeshwara – Surathkal – Gunavanthe – Dhareshwar
Did I find peace ?
When I decided to head towards Gokarna on the day of Maha Shivratri there were two reasons behind it. Firstly, I love Gokarna. Secondly, It’s the land of Shiva and I wanted to give it a shot on this significant day just for the sake of it. What I saw on this day was long queues of people waiting for hours just to get a glimpse of deity. Of course its all personal faith. But I came here for something else.
I came here for Gokarna and if Shivratri is all about meditation and fasting, you don’t necessarily have to go somewhere else to fulfill that. If Shivratri is all about being enlightened and being spiritually high, I personally didn’t feel like standing for hours in such a long queue. That would be a paradox. Instead I continued doing what I love. Observing things, clicking pictures, feeling Gokarna. Of course each individual has it’s own way of doing it. But I don’t have to prove my devotion to God by just going inside that temple.
From Gokarna I headed towards Murdeshwara. FYI : There are no direct buses. You have to take a local bus till Kumta and from there head towards Honawara from where you can take a shared auto to Murdeshwara. After stepping in that bus, I came to realize that almost everyone was heading towards Murudeshwara once they were done with Gokarna Darshan. I unknowingly was part of a Shiva Trail.
Soon to come : Full fledged guide on Gokarna.