The above picture is of Arunachala Hill, considered as Shiva. People go round this mountain as a meditation. This is located in south india, 100km from Pondicherry, 200kms from Chennai, known as Tiruvannamalai. Festivals are a way to celebrate heritage, culture and tradition. They are meant to invoke something higher in our lives. They play an important role to add structure to our social lives and connect to the roots. Each festival is in line with the weather and circumstances we live in. They give meaning and direction to what we do and how we celebrate it. Maha Shivaratri is a festival dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is observed on the eve of the new moon falling in the month of Feb-March. It is the time to gather ourselves and commit to the worship of Shiva by meditating, fasting and keeping awake. In a way we are putting ourselves out of comfort zone to observe how we feel especially when we deny ourselves of the most essential things like food and sleep. So on this festival, we fast and keep awake and is a time to offer the most loved things to Shiva by meditating. This is a festival of Meditation and Prayer. There are number of Mythological stories connected to this festival and most of them reveal higher truths. One such story is mentioned here. In ancient times, once a fight broke between Brahma, the creator and Vishnu, the sustainer. (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are like the trinity of the creation). Brahma and Vishnu wanted to assert their supremacy. Both became arrogant and started fighting. It continued for a long time. Then suddenly there appeared a stunning column of effulgent light. Brahma and Vishnu saw this and wondered as to what it was. They could not find it's beginning or end of it. They agreed that whoever finds it's beginning or the end will be accepted as superior. Brahma took the form of a swan and flew up to see the beginning and Vishnu took the form of a wild boar and went down. Though they travelled a great distance they couldn't find the beginning or end of the light. Their egos got crushed with this. Both returned. Vishnu told that he could not find the end. But Brahma lied that he saw the beginning. Then and there Shiva appeared from that column of light and told Brahma that he lied and because of this he will not be worshiped. That is how there are hardly any temples for Brahma in India. Also Shiva removed the top head of Brahma. Brahma was left with 4 heads. Removal of head indicating, removal of arrogance. This appearance of Shiva happened on Shivaratri. Maha is great. Shiva is Shiva, the auspicious and good; Ratri is night. The auspicious and good God Shiva appeared in the night as a column of light removing the darkness of ignorance. Philosophically it is understood that the Truth reveals when we keep our ego aside. we need to sacrifice a little to achieve something higher. So let us meditate on lord Shiva with the mantra 'Om Namaha Shivaya'
I invite you to meditate on this day :
Preparation : whenever possible sit for 2 to 3 mins quietly.
Quieten your mind - Sit comfortably. Take a few minutes to practice deep breathing and centering your mind on the present moment before beginning to meditate. Diaphragmatic breathing or yogic breathing will help.
Focus on invoking the light from within : Visualise the column of light within and allow it to spread into your entire being. With every inhalition this light is growing and with every exhalation it is removing all stress, anxiety and worry. Repeat the mantra OM Namaha Shivaya. Invoke the best from within.
Closing : Close the practice with positive affirmations.