Observance of Maha Sivarathri and its significance

Austerities by way of day/night fasts and dedicated devotion on Maha Sivaratri falling on Krishna Paksha or dark fortnight of Phalguna month every year are considered as the sure steps to ‘Iham and Param’ viz. Happiness in the current phase of Life and Attainment of Salvation threafter! In the early morning of Sivarathi day, a devotee should take a vow to observe day/night austerities. In the night or Sivarathri, there must be Archana, Abhisheka, Japa and full fledged worship either at a Temple or at home depending on convenience; actually the worship by way of continuous ‘Maha Nyasayutha Abhisheka’with Archana along with ‘Shodasopacharas’ or the sixteen types of Services and Arti, but for the sake of convenience, the Puja may be repeated every three hours during the night along with Laghu Nyasa Abhisheka, Archana, Arti etc. The night long austerity must be followed by ‘Punah Puja’ next morning and Bhojan (meals) along Brahmanas, who should also be satisfied with ‘Dakshinas’. After observing ‘Sivarathris’ for fourteen consecutive years, one could perform ‘Udyapan’ or successful completion of the Sivarathri Vratha.
Observance of Maha Sivarathri even by mistake could yield fruits, let alone proper and systematic worship; this was illustrated by an incident said Sutha Muni at the congregation of Sages at Naimisaranya. There was a poor hunter named Gurudruha who became extremly hungry along with his family members on a whole day and that night happened to be a Sivarathri. He entered a forest on the eve of Sivarathri and waited for any animal to kill and satisfy the hunger; he waited near a waterbody over a bel tree nearby under which there was a Siva Linga as a coincidence. Having waited for the first ‘Prahara’ (three hours) of the night, he was lucky to have sighted a female deer along its kids approaching the water body to quench its thirst. He pulled out his bow and an arrow ready to aim at the mother deer and by a twist of fate the branch of the bel tree on which he sat moved, some bel leaves fell on the Siva Linga and some water in a vessel carried by the hunter got spilt down on the Linga, thus performing the first Phahara puja.The deer which was very sensitive even to small sounds of leaves and water falling from the tree noticed that the hunter was ready to kill it. The animal made a sincere and convincing request to the hunter that if allowed it desired to leave the deer kids to their father and definitely return bach to be killed by him. Very reluctantly, the hunter agreed and let the animals leave. The second Prahara was closing but there was no trace of the mother deer. But the sister of the earlier deer approached the pond along her kids and the happenings of the earlier Prahara repeated viz.the hunter pulled out his bow and arrow, the bel tree leaves as also the water drops from the hunter’s vessel fell on the Siva Linga, the sister deer made a similar request and the hunter let the animal leave as he did to the earlier one, thus accomplishing the worship of the third Prahara. As the third Prahara was closing, the husband of the original deer came in search of the female deer and the kids and the earlier happenings repeated once again and the earlier Prahara puja too was executed successfully. It was a great sight of all the deers of both the families approached during the final Prahara and the hunter was delighted that he could have a feast any time but the earlier happenings repeated and the fourth Prahara worship too was implemented. But, after the fourth worship, Gurudruha’s psychology was transformed; he repented for his evil thoughts and took a vow to eschew his erstwhile acts of violence. Bhagavan Siva revealed Himself before Gurudruha as a transformed person and blessed him that in his next birth, he would be Nishad during Rama’s incarnation and the latter would give him the boon of attaining Vaikuntha.

Sri V.D.N.Rao and Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham

Kamakoti.org presents the Essence of Puranas in English, condensed by Sri. V.D.N.Rao, devotee of Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam.

Compiled, Composed and Interpreted by
V.D.N.Rao, Former General Manager,
India Trade Promotion Organisation, Pragati Maidan, New Delhi
Ministry of Commerce, Govt. of India
The author can be contacted at raovdn@yahoo.co.in