Maha Shivaratri

Maha Shivaratri

Overview
Maha Shivratri or Maha Sivaratri or Shivaratri or Sivarathri (Great Night of Shiva or Night of Shiva) is a Hindu
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 festival celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Maagha
Maagha
Maagha is a month of the Hindu calendar. In India's national civil calendar, Maagh is the eleventh month of the year, beginning in January and ending in February....

 (as per Shalivahana or Gujarati Vikrama) or Phalguna
Phalguna
Phalguna is a month of the Hindu calendar. In India's national civil calendar, Phaalgun is the twelfth month of the year, beginning on 20 February and ending on 21 March .In lunar religious calendars, Phaalgun may begin on either the new moon or the full moon...

 (as per Vikrama) in the Hindu Calendar
Hindu calendar
The hindu calendar used in ancient times has undergone many changes in the process of regionalization, and today there are several regional Indian calendars, as well as an Indian national calendar. Nepali calendar, Bengali calendar, Malayalam calendar, Tamil calendar, Telugu calendar, Kannada...

 (that is, the night before and day of the new moon). The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael
Bael
Bael Bael (Aegle marmelos) Bael (Aegle marmelos) (Bengal quince, stone apple, Sanskrit : विल्व, Malayalam: കൂവളം, Bengali: বেল, Hindi: बेल (Sirphal), Marathi: बेल or कवीठ (Kaveeth), , Sindhi: ڪاٺ گدرو , Sinhalese: beli, Tamil: வில்வம் is a species of tree native to India...

 (Bilva) leaves to the Lord Shiva, all day fasting and an all night long vigil.
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Encyclopedia
Maha Shivratri or Maha Sivaratri or Shivaratri or Sivarathri (Great Night of Shiva or Night of Shiva) is a Hindu
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 festival celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha (waning moon) of the month of Maagha
Maagha
Maagha is a month of the Hindu calendar. In India's national civil calendar, Maagh is the eleventh month of the year, beginning in January and ending in February....

 (as per Shalivahana or Gujarati Vikrama) or Phalguna
Phalguna
Phalguna is a month of the Hindu calendar. In India's national civil calendar, Phaalgun is the twelfth month of the year, beginning on 20 February and ending on 21 March .In lunar religious calendars, Phaalgun may begin on either the new moon or the full moon...

 (as per Vikrama) in the Hindu Calendar
Hindu calendar
The hindu calendar used in ancient times has undergone many changes in the process of regionalization, and today there are several regional Indian calendars, as well as an Indian national calendar. Nepali calendar, Bengali calendar, Malayalam calendar, Tamil calendar, Telugu calendar, Kannada...

 (that is, the night before and day of the new moon). The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael
Bael
Bael Bael (Aegle marmelos) Bael (Aegle marmelos) (Bengal quince, stone apple, Sanskrit : विल्व, Malayalam: കൂവളം, Bengali: বেল, Hindi: बेल (Sirphal), Marathi: बेल or कवीठ (Kaveeth), , Sindhi: ڪاٺ گدرو , Sinhalese: beli, Tamil: வில்வம் is a species of tree native to India...

 (Bilva) leaves to the Lord Shiva, all day fasting and an all night long vigil. Per scriptural and discipleship traditions, the penances are performed in order to gain boons in the practice of Yoga and meditation, in order to reach life's summum bonum
Summum bonum
Summum bonum is an expression used in philosophy, particularly in medieval philosophy and in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, to describe the ultimate importance, the singular and most ultimate end which human beings ought to pursue. The summum bonum is generally thought of as being an end in...

 steadily and swiftly. International Mandi Shivratri Fair
Mandi Shivaratri Fair
Mandi Shivaratri Fair is an annual fair that is held for 7 days starting with the Hindu festival of Shivaratri, in the Mandi town of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh...

 is held every year.

Legends


The hunter pulled leaves from the tree and threw them to the ground, hoping to attract some deer. One deer came. It spoke to the hunter, telling him of his family who would worry when the deer did not return home. The hunter took pity of the deer and kindly let it live.

The hunter resumed throwing leaves from the tree and continued to do so all night. Unknown to the hunter there was a Shiva linga
Lingam
The Lingam is a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva used for worship in temples....

 under the branch he was sitting on. The leaves fell on the linga
Lingam
The Lingam is a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva used for worship in temples....

 and as they were his favorite, they pleased Lord Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

.

The next morning Lord Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 appeared to the hunter and gave him the blessing of wisdom. From that day the hunter gave up meat and spent his life doing good works. This is why Hindus do not eat meat on Maha Shivarati. It is thought that those who fast on the evening on Maha Shivaratri will please Lord Shiva and also be granted a blessing.

Samudra manthan (the Churning of the Ocean)


During the samudra manthan
Samudra manthan
In Hinduism, Samudra manthan or Ksheera Sagara Mathanam, Churning of the Ocean of Milk is one of the most famous episodes in the Puranas...

 (the churning of the ocean) by the Gods
Deva (Hinduism)
' is the Sanskrit word for god or deity, its related feminine term is devi. In modern Hinduism, it can be loosely interpreted as any benevolent supernatural beings. The devs in Hinduism, also called Suras, are often juxtaposed to the Asuras, their half brothers. Devs are also the maintainers of...

 and demons, haalaa-hala
Halahala
Halāhala or Kalakootam is the name of a poison created from the sea when Devas and Asuras churned the sea in order to obtain Amrita, the nectar of immortality.Fourteen different ratnas were recovered in this exercise mostly retained by Gods after Demons tried to cheat...

, a poison, came out of the ocean. It was so toxic, it could have wiped out all creation. At this juncture, on the advice of Lord Vishnu
Vishnu
Vishnu is the Supreme god in the Vaishnavite tradition of Hinduism. Smarta followers of Adi Shankara, among others, venerate Vishnu as one of the five primary forms of God....

, the gods approached Lord Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 and prayed to him to protect their lives by consuming this poison. Pleased with their prayers, and out of compassion for living beings, Lord Shiva drank the poison but it was so intense that something was required to cool its effects as his throat became blue. Help was taken from Chandra
Chandra
In Hinduism, Chandra is a lunar deity and a Graha. Chandra is also identified with the Vedic Lunar deity Soma . The Soma name refers particularly to the juice of sap in the plants and thus makes the Moon the lord of plants and vegetation. He is described as young, beautiful, fair; two-armed and...

 (Moon God) and finally a snake was placed around his neck which cooled the effect of the poison and the throat became blue. Thus Lord Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 is also known as Neelakantha
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

. This hari-dasa story involving Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva is often depicted in Hindu households.

Pralaya (the Deluge)


In another version, it is believed that the whole world was once facing destruction and the Goddess Parvati
Parvati
Parvati is a Hindu goddess. Parvati is Shakti, the wife of Shiva and the gentle aspect of Mahadevi, the Great Goddess...

 worshipped her husband Shiva to save it. She prayed for the Jivas (living souls) remaining in space – like particles of gold dust in a lump of wax – during that long period of pralaya
Pralaya
Pralaya, in Hindu cosmology, is an aeonic term which specifies different periods of time during which non activity situation persists, as per different formats or contexts...

 (deluge) night, should, upon becoming active again, have His blessings, but only if they worshipped Him just as she did then. Her prayer was granted. Parvati named the night for the worship of Ishwara by mortals Maha-Sivaratri, or the great night of Shiva, since Pralaya is brought about by Him.

Shiva's Favourite Day


After creation was complete, Parvati asked Lord Shiva which rituals pleased him the most. The Lord replied that the 13th night of the new moon, during the month of Maagha, is his most favourite day. Parvati repeated these words to her friends, from whom the word spread over all creation.

The Story Of King Chitrabhanu


In the Shanti Parva (chapter) of the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

 epic, Bhishma
Bhishma
Bhishma or Bheeshma or Devavrata or 'Bhishma Pitamah' was the eighth son of Kuru King Shantanu who was blessed with wish-long life and had sworn to serve the ruling Kuru king. He was one of the most prominent characters of the great Indian epic, the Mahabharata. He was the grand uncle of both the...

, whilst resting on the bed of arrows and discoursing on Dharma
Dharma
Dharma means Law or Natural Law and is a concept of central importance in Indian philosophy and religion. In the context of Hinduism, it refers to one's personal obligations, calling and duties, and a Hindu's dharma is affected by the person's age, caste, class, occupation, and gender...

 (righteousness), refers to the observance of Maha Shivaratri by King Chitrabhanu. The story goes as follows:

Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty
Ikshvaku dynasty
The Ikshvaku dynasty, in Puranic literature, was a mythical dynasty founded by Ikshvaku, grandson of Vivasvan or Surya and son of Vaivasvata Manu. This dynasty is also known as . The important personalities belonging to this royal house are Harishchandra, Dilīpa, Sagara, Raghu, Rama and Prasenajit...

, who ruled over the whole of Jambudvipa
Jambudvipa
Jambudvīpa is the dvipa of the terrestrial world, as envisioned in the cosmologies of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, which is the realm where ordinary human beings live...

 (India), was observing a fast with his wife, it being the day of Maha Shivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra
Ashtavakra
Ashtavakra is a sage mentioned in Hindu scriptures. He is described as one born with deformities in eight limbs of the body . In Sanskrit, Ashtavakra means "one having eight bends". Ashta means eight, while Vakra means bend or deformity...

 came on a visit to the court of the king.

The sage asked the king the purpose of his observing the fast. King Chitrabhanu explained that he had a gift of remembering the incidents of his past birth, and in his previous life he had been a hunter in Varanasi
Varanasi
-Etymology:The name Varanasi has its origin possibly from the names of the two rivers Varuna and Assi, for the old city lies in the north shores of the Ganga bounded by its two tributaries, the Varuna and the Asi, with the Ganges being to its south...

 and his name was Suswara. His only livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. The day before the new moon, while roaming through forests in search of animals, he saw a deer, but before his arrow flew he noticed the deer's family and their sadness at its impending death. So he let it live. He had still not caught anything when he was overtaken by nightfall and climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a Bael
Bael
Bael Bael (Aegle marmelos) Bael (Aegle marmelos) (Bengal quince, stone apple, Sanskrit : विल्व, Malayalam: കൂവളം, Bengali: বেল, Hindi: बेल (Sirphal), Marathi: बेल or कवीठ (Kaveeth), , Sindhi: ڪاٺ گدرو , Sinhalese: beli, Tamil: வில்வம் is a species of tree native to India...

 tree. His canteen leaked water, so he was both hungry and thirsty. These two torments kept him awake throughout the night, thinking of his poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously waiting for his return. To pass away the time he engaged himself in plucking the Bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground.

The next day he returned home and bought some food for himself and his family. The moment he was about to break his fast a stranger came to him, begging for food. He served the food first to stranger and then had his own.

At the time of his death, he saw two messengers of Lord Shiva, sent to conduct his soul to the abode of Lord Shiva. He learnt then for the first time of the great merit he had earned by unconscious worship of Lord Shiva during the night of Shivaratri. The messengers told him that there had been a Lingam
Lingam
The Lingam is a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva used for worship in temples....

 (a symbol for the worship of Shiva) at the bottom of the tree. The leaves he dropped had fallen on the Lingam, in imitation of its ritual worship. The water from his leaky canteen had washed the Lingam (also a ritual action), and he had fasted all day and all night. Thus, he unconsciously had worshipped the Lord.

As the conclusion of the tale the King said that he had lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for a long time before being reborn as Chitrabhanu.

This story is also told in the Garuda Purana
Garuda Purana
Garuda Purana is one of the Puranas which are part of the Hindu body of texts known as smriti. It is a Vaishnava Purana and its first part contains a dialog between Vishnu and Garuda, the King of Birds...

.

Rituals of Maha Shivratri


Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath temple
Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most significant Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world, located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. The temple served as the seat of the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath, Nepal is a secular country...

 (Kathmandu, Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

) one of the most important shrines of Lord Shiva hosts one of the biggest gatherings on Maha Shivaratri. Hindu worshipers all over the world gather at Pashupati to offer their pilgrimage. Worshipers must wait in line for hours to present their offerings at the temples. Outside the temple naked Sadhus can be found offering tourists and worshipers blessings and marijuana in the name of Lord Shiva.

Tripundra
Tripundra
Tripundra or பட்டை / Pattai in Tamil is a saivite tilaka. 'Tripundra' refers to the three mukti. tri means three, pundra means one which is released. There are three horizontal lines of vibhuti on the brow, often with a dot as the third eye. The three lines represent the soul's three bonds:...

 refers to the three horizontal stripes of holy ash applied to the forehead by worshippers of Lord Shiva. These stripes symbolise spiritual knowledge, purity and penance
Tapas (Sanskrit)
Tapasya in Sanskrit means "heat". In Vedic religion and Hinduism, it is used figuratively, denoting spiritual suffering, mortification or austerity, and also the spiritual ecstasy of a yogin or tāpasá . In the Rigveda, the word is connected with the Soma cult...

 (spiritual practice of Yoga), so also they represent the three eyes of Lord Shiva.

Wearing a rosary made from the rudraksha
Rudraksha
Rudraksha Rudraksha Rudraksha (also Rudraksh; Sanskrit: ("Rudra's tears") is a large evergreen broad-leaved tree whose seed is traditionally used for prayer beads in Hinduism. The seed is borne by several species of Elaeocarpus, with E. ganitrus being the principal species used in the making of a...

 seed of the rudraksha tree (said to have sprung from the tears of Lord Shiva) when worshipping Lord Shiva is ideal. A rudraksha seed is a mahogany-like color, sometimes black, and sometimes may have traces of sacred sandalwood
Sandalwood
Sandalwood is the name of a class of fragrant woods from trees in the genus Santalum. The woods are heavy, yellow, and fine-grained, and unlike many other aromatic woods they retain their fragrance for decades. As well as using the harvested and cut wood in-situ, essential oils are also extracted...

 powder, turmeric
Turmeric
Turmeric is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to tropical South Asia and needs temperatures between 20 °C and 30 °C and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive...

, kumkum, or holy ash if the rosary was used in worship ceremonies or anointed.

On Shivaratri, only cold water and bael
Bael
Bael Bael (Aegle marmelos) Bael (Aegle marmelos) (Bengal quince, stone apple, Sanskrit : विल्व, Malayalam: കൂവളം, Bengali: বেল, Hindi: बेल (Sirphal), Marathi: बेल or कवीठ (Kaveeth), , Sindhi: ڪاٺ گدرو , Sinhalese: beli, Tamil: வில்வம் is a species of tree native to India...

 leaves are offered to the Lingam
Lingam
The Lingam is a representation of the Hindu deity Shiva used for worship in temples....

. Other traditional offerings, such as bathing Him in milk and Panchamruta (milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey (symbols of sustenance) one after the other respectively, or anointing it with vermilion (kumkum) or white consecrated rice (Akshata) (symbols of fertility, or creation), are done on this day, when Lord Shiva is worshipped as the deity of dissolution...

Chanting the Rudram is considered very auspicious.

Other Traditional Worship of Lord Shiva



The twelve Jyotirlingas (lingams of light) are sacred shrines of Lord Shiva, and centres for his worship. They are known as Swayambhus, meaning the lingams sprung up by themselves at these places and temples were built there afterwards.

Temples are listed in the India tourist guides.

Mahashivaratri in Southern India


Mahashivaratri is celebrated widely in the temples all over Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Shiva is considered the Adi (first) Guru from whom the yogic tradition originates. According to tradition, the planetary positions on this night are such that there is a powerful natural upsurge of energy in the human system. It is said to be beneficial for one's physical and spiritual wellbeing to stay awake and aware throughout the night.
On this day, artists from various fields such as music and dance perform the whole night.

Celebrations in Nepal


Mahashivaratri is one of the biggest festivals in Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

. Police and volunteers are used extensively to manage the mob around Pashupatinath temple
Pashupatinath temple
Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most significant Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world, located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. The temple served as the seat of the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath, Nepal is a secular country...

 in Kathmandu while the festivals are celebrated in all the Shiva Temples around the country. They worship lord Shiva
Shiva
Shiva is a major Hindu deity, and is the destroyer god or transformer among the Trimurti, the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. God Shiva is a yogi who has notice of everything that happens in the world and is the main aspect of life. Yet one with great power lives a life of a...

 while some women fast during the entire day. Hindu Baba are seen with marijuana which are allowed on this day because it is believed that Lord Shiva himself used marijuana on this day. Naked babas are seen around the temple. Since this festival falls in the winter season, there is a tradition of staying awake for the entire night. People put on fire using firewoods and logs of trees, tree trunks, roots of the trees for putting on fire and staying awake for the entire night.

Rope pulling by kids


In Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

, on this day, kids pull ropes and block the roads with long ropes and ask for money with pedestrians, bicycles, bikes and smaller vehicles. They are allowed to go after they give money to kids and they put away their ropes to let them go and once they are gone, they keep their ropes intact again to block others.

Sahasrakalasabishekam


This is a very special and rare puja conducted during 10 days of Mahasivarathri festival. It is well known that Lord Siva is abhishekapriya (lover of ablutions). Lord Parasurama and Kroshta Muni, during their worship of the Lord here, are believed to have bathed the deity with Sahasrakalasam or a thousand pots of holy water according to Vedic rites. Now during Mahasivarathri festival days the Head Priest (Thanthri) and his team perform this puja. It is a ten day function, each day an offering of 101 Kalasam or pots of holy water (100 being made of silver, while one is made of gold), surcharged with mantras recited by learned Brahmins seated on the Mukhamantapam. These are emptied on the deity, the golden pot Brahmakalasam being the last one. A magnificent light is the indication or identity of Lord Shiva and the Shiva Lingam is considered to be the symbol of it. Hence, the formal worship on Maha Shivaratri consists of bathing the Shiva Lingam. Lord Shiva is said to be burning with the fire of austerity and so only those items are offered to Him that have a cooling effect. A cool water bath is believed to propitiate Him best. There is a belief among devotees that participation in Sahasrakalasam and offering holy worship materials, will lead to blessings with prosperity and peaceful life. Hundreds of devotees thronging the shrine with chants of “Namah Shivaya”, “Hara hara Mahadeva”, and “Sambho Mahadeva”. This year Mahasivarathiri is observed on 2 March 2011 in all of South India's temples.

Sivarathri Nrutham


Sivarathri Nrutham at Thrikkuratti temple, according to religious scholars, resembles the cosmic dance of Shiva, called ‘Anandatandava,' meaning, ‘the Dance of Bliss’ symbolizing 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, destruction, preservation, salvation, and illusion.

The Priest keeps sheeveli vigraha (idol) fixed on decorated frame on his head. He makes seven rounds on Pradakshina Vazhi (holy walkway made of granite around Sanctum Santorum). When the fifth round is reached at the west nada (Parvathi nada), the door opens for just 10 minutes. This is an annual ceremony. Thousands of Pilgims rush to have a glance of this auspicious moment. At this time all the pradakshina vazhi will be lit with camphor and brass temple lamps by thousands of devotes who stay awake through the night while chanting “Nama Sivaya”, “Hara Hara Mahadeva” and “Sambho Mahadeva”. Older devotees sing “Hara sankara siva sankara duritham kala sivane”. In this enlightened serene mood, the Priest performs Nrutham and runs the pradakshina vazhi towards the east nada. During the next two rounds he accepts “Valiya kanikka”. The Sivarathri Nrutham is followed by the well known magnificent display of fireworks.

Mahasivarathri Procession


On Sivarathri day evening a grand procession starts from Kadapra Kainikkara Temple. It includes, several decorated floats, Kaavadi Aaatam, Mayilattom, Amman Kudom, Thaiyyam, Vela Kali, Kuthiyotta Chuvadu, richly caparisoned elephants and folk art forms etc. attracts thousands of devotees and tourists. When the main procession reaches Market Junction, other mini processions from Kurattikkadu Mutharamman Temple, Kurattissery Kannamkavil Mutharamman Temple, Thrippavoor Mahavishnu Temple, Vishavarsherikkara Subrahmanya Swami temple and Alumoodu Sivaparvathy Temple joins and makes the procession quite livening. The marvellous as well as magical effect of the Sinakari melam and Panchavadyam, a combination of five percussion and wind instruments is to be felt and enjoyed. Among the varieties of festivals celebrated in Kerala, Thrikkuratti Sivarathri Procession is one of the most thunderous, spectacular and dazzling. It is an expression of popular fascination for sound and colour, and because of the pageantry, it appeals to all people including foreigners. Once the procession reaches the temple, Deeparadhana is followed by colourful display of fireworks.

Panchaakshari


Shiva, as the god of destroying evil, is the third among the divine trinity of Hindu mythology. The holy mantra consisting of five-syllables: "Na" "Ma" "Shi" "Vaa" "Ya" (Om NamaH Shivaaya) in praise of Lord Shiva is chanted incessantly on special occasions like Shivaratri. His thousands of names, each of which describe His greatness, may also be chanted. Shiva means "auspicious". As Shankara, He is the giver of happiness to all. Nataraja (the king of dancers) is a favourite form adored by dancers and musicians.

Rudra Abhisheka


There is a special mantra in the Vedas (the most ancient scripture in the history of human race and which forms the fountain-head of the Hindu culture) - Rudra Sukta - which is recited by pundits while they offer a holy bath to Lord Shiva by way of washing a Shiva-linga or a Shaligrama which are the symbols of god with the waters of sacred rivers like the Ganges. This ritual is known as "Rudrabhisheka". A Shaligrama constitutes a sacred pebble that often conceals ammonite fossils within. Such precious stones are brought from the river Gandaki at the frozen summits of the Himalayas.

Washing the Shaligrama as a part of Shiva-puja symbolises the removal of impurities from our mind. It also means washing off false ego. Unless we attain self-realization, we all become the victims of a false-self or an ego. False-self is due to an illusion (or ignorance), a covering upon our real soul, of our mind, which then acts from mistaken identity. According to Vedanta (philosophical doctrines), this accumulation of false-self upon our real Self is often the root cause of our bondage and sufferings in life. This notion of purification (of Shaligram stone by holy waters) also symbolises at the philosophical level, the eradication of the accumulated material interests (of us) which often blur the inherent spiritual hard core or Reality.

Mysticism


According to the mystic mythology of the Puraanaas, the Kailasa peak of the Himalayas is the abode of Shiva and He bears the Ganges on His head. As the Lord of creatures, He is metaphorically called as Pashupathi (with Nandi, the bull, His favourite animal) and His fearful nature is euphemised as Sarpabhushana. Shiva's posture in the meditation is ascribed to Him as the head of Yogis (Yogiraja) who practises various spiritual feats to attain salvation. Lord Shiva's divine consort, Goddess Parvati (who is also the daughter of Himalaya), is the deity of strength. Numerous stories in mythology describe the births of their two sons - Lord Ganesha and Lord Kartikeya (or Guha or Shanmukha or Skanda or Murugha) and their various significances.

Mrtyunjaya Mahaa Mantra


The Mrtyunjaya-maha-mantra, which is found in the Rudram, is said to eradicate diseases, pain, sufferings and death:

Om Tryambakam Yajaamahe
SugandhiM Pushti-vardhanam
Urvaarukamiva Bandhanaan-
Mrityor-muksheeyamaamRtaat - Om (for chanting Purpose only)

Om. O three-eyed one (Lord Shiva), we worship you, the One of sublime fragrance who is the source of all vitality, growth and splendour. Just as a ripe cucumber is plucked from its vine, May we transcend death and gain Immortality.

A procedure, Trayambak Homa, is associated with this.
It consists of an offering of drops of cow ghee
Ghee
Ghee is a class of clarified butter that originated in South Asia and is commonly used in South Asian cuisine....

 on a fire, in a havan kund (sacrificial fire-pot), that uses ghee soaked cow dung as fuel. During this procedure, a prayer is said, a swaha:

Swaha
Om Tryambakam Yajaamahe
SugandhiM Pushti-vardhanam
Urvaarukamiva Bandhanaan-
Mrityor-muksheeyamaamRtaat - swaha

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