hivaratri is a festival of great significance for Hindus all over the globe. Literally meaning Shiva’s night, it represents the high state of spiritual realization when the world of relativity fades away and perfect peace and calm prevails. On this phenomenal night, the seeker remains fully aware of his identity with Shiva, the source of perennial joy and thus experiences eternal truth, bliss and lasting beauty-Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram. Esoterically, it is the most sacred moment of the union of Jiva, individual soul, and Paramatma, the Supreme Godhead.
As part of the therapy, the divine physicians advised the gods to keep Shiva awake during the night. Thus, a constant vigil was kept by the gods who took turns performing various dances and playing music to amuse Shiva.
Yet a third legend has it that when Shiva and Parvati decided to live on the top of Mount Kailas, Parvati asked the Lord as to which of the many rituals observed in His honor pleased Him the most. Shiva is said to have replied, "The 14th night of the new moon, in the dark fortnight during the lunar month of Phalgun, is my most favorite day.”
Shivaratri in Kashmir
For centuries, the Hindus of Kashmir have been observing Shivaratri with utmost zeal and elaborate rituals covering three-fourths of the lunar month of Phalguna, corresponding to Feb-March of the Gregorian calendar. The age-old traditions are followed even to this day, modified, of course, to suit the changing times. The way our displaced and uprooted brethren have been celebrating Shivaratri festival in tents and make-shift tenements for nearly two decades now shows how close this festival is to our hearts.
Keeping in view its length and its religious-cum-social overtones, Shivaratri may be compared to Durga Puja and Ganapati festivals celebrated with equal fervor, devotion and enthusiasm by the Hindus of Bengal and Maharashtra respectively.
Unlike in the rest of India and the world, where Hindus celebrate Shiva Chaturdashi, Kashmiri Pandits observe Shivaratri on the night of the 13th (trayodashi) and not 14th (chaturdashi) of the dark fortnight of the lunar month of Phalguna, for it is believed to be the day when Shiva solemnized His union with Uma, the beautiful daughter of the Himalayas. This fact also explains why some of the devotees among Kashmiri Pandits, known for their hospitality, offer even non-vegetarian food in this Puja to entertain the meat-eating Bhairavas who formed an important and major part of Shiva’s marriage party.
Shiva Chaturdashi & KPs
Perhaps because of their comparative geographical isolation from the rest of the sub-continent, Kashmiri Pandits also celebrate Shiva Chaturdashi one month earlier in the dark fortnight of the lunar month of Magha when they keep a three-day fast, worship Shiva with great devotion and completely avoid non-vegetarian preparations in their homes on these days.
Shiva Mahimna Stotra
At the end of the Shivaratri puja, one of the favorite prayers with Kashmiri Pundits is that of MAHIMNAPAAR. This is the hymn written by Pushpadanta, extolling the virtues of Shiva as an appeasement after having stolen flowers from the garden of a king named Chitraratha meant for His worship. Legend has it that the author of this most popular prayer in praise of Shiva, popularly known as Shiva Mahimna Stotra, acquired the name Pushpadanta when during his worship of Shiva he offered his teeth (danta) as flowers (pushpa) after he had been denied access to the king’s flower garden.
In recent times, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, one of the famous saints of the 19th century, went into Samadhi just by reciting a few verses from this beautiful hymn.
Here I am reproducing the first two of the forty-three verses from this great Stotra with meaning for the benefit of our readers:
महिम्नः पारं ते परमविदुषो यद्यसदृशी
Mahimnah paaram te paramavidushho yadyasadrishii
O, Shiva, remover of all types of miseries, what wonder is there, if the prayer to thee, chanted by one who is ignorant about thy greatness, is worthless! Because, even the utterance (speech) of Brahma and other gods is not able to fathom thy merits ( i.e. greatness ). Hence, if persons with very limited intellect like me try to offer thee a prayer, their attempt deserves thy special favor. If it is so, I should not be an exception. Hence, (thinking like this) I begin this prayer.
अतीतः पंथानं तव च महिमा वाङ्मनसयोः
Atiitah panthaanam tava cha mahimaa vaanmanasayoh
O, Great God, so great is your majesty that it cannot be reached by speech and mind. Who can praise that which even the Vedas describe with trepidation by merely saying `Neti', `Neti' (not this, not this). Who can praise thy greatness? None can enumerate thy qualities nor can the Absolute be made the object of perception. And even then the thought, mind and speech of every devotee turn eagerly to thy Saguna form.
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Shivaratri The greatest Festival of Kashmiri Pandits
On Icy Trail of the Lord of Immortality
|*A journalist by profession, a scholar by temperament and a writer by choice, Gopinath Raina was inclined to the study of religion from his very young age. It was Swami Vivekananda’s dynamic exposition of Hindu thought that fired his imagination while he was still at school, and by the time he entered college, he had been drawn to the writings of Gandhi, Aurobindo, Narayana Guru, Radhakrishnan and Bertrand Russel.
After retiring from Indian Information Service (I.I.S.) in 1983 where he distinguished himself as an editor, correspondent, commentator and administrator in All India Radio, he edited, AICC Journal, Varnika, (Jan.'84-Dec.'90), Koshur Samachar (March'91-Oct '95, Sanatana Sandesh,(1997-2005) and KASHEER (2003-2004),
He has been writing profusely on various aspects of Hindu thought. He enjoys writing, particularly on saints and sages, not only of Kashmir, but of the other parts of India as well. Presently he lives in Miami, and spends his time writing personal memoirs.
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Awesome..Simple & Perfect Information on Maej Kashmir & the Crown Festival Shivratri Herath.. Naman to you Sir a million times
Added By SANJAY KHER
Thanks for the article and the knowledge shehjar shares with millions of people. this makes us feel more nearer to our culture and customs. I hope all our kashmiri youth go through this once and be proud of kashmiriyat. Thanks a lot
Added By Sunanda Handoo
A MASTERPIECE....Thanks Raina Sahib
Added By Chander M. Bhat
A must to read especially for youth of KPs ....it gives a candid account of this great festival....
Added By subhash razdan
Thanks for writing such a beautiful informative article on this greatest festival of Hindus all over the world.
Added By Bipnesh Dhar
Great. We need people like Mr. Raina to keep us inforrmed about our inheritance.
Added By Ashok Handoo
Thank you very much for the story behind Mahashivratri
Added By Bela saraf
THANKS FOR OFFERING SUCH A HEART WARMING AND EYE OPENING ARTICLE . CAN YOU WRITE SOMETHING ON LALDED
Added By VIMAL KOUL