Lord Shiva (left) and the Shiva family with Mother Parvati and young Kartikeya (Murugan) seated on Nandi
"O gatekeeper of Vrndavana! O Soma, all glories to you! O you whose forehead is decorated with the moon, and who is worshipable by the sages headed by Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Narada! O Gopisvara (Shiva), desiring that you bestow upon me that prema for the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha-Madhava who perform joyous pastimes in Vraja-dhama, I offer obeisances unto you time and again."
The Story of King Chitrabhanu
Other perspectives on Shivratri - Maha Shivaratri
How to perform the pujas and Abhishekam (bathing of the Linga) during the night. by Pandit Narottam dasa
"Lord Siva Saves the Universe by Drinking Poison"
All good qualities are in Sankara (Shiva).
Some dvevotees observe a strict fast on this day. Some really strict devotees perform a nirjal fast i.e. they do not even have a sip of water. They keep virgil the entire night. The Shiva lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, yogurt, ghee, honey and so forth, whilst chanting of the mantra “Om namah shivaya”, continues. Offering of bael leaves are made to the Lingam. Bael leaves are very sacred (as Tulsi to Lord Vishnu and dhar to Mother Durga are very pleasing to Them) and Lord Shiva becomes pleased with that offering. Many different hymns glorifying Lord Shiva are sung with intense fervour and devotion. Aspirants perform japa of the Panchakshara mantra “ Om namah Shivaya” (At the end of this article there is a very detail explanation of each syllable of this mantra.)
He who utters the names of Lord Shiva during Shivaratri with perfect devotion and concentration is freed from all sins that he/she have committed. He/she reaches the abode of Lord Shiva and resides very happily there.
NOTE: the Vaishnava/ aspiring Vaishnava however, worships
Lord Shiva on this day in order to receive His blessings to become a better
devotee of Lord Krishna (Vishnu) and not to attain residence in the abode
Lord Krishna (Vishnu) is in this analogy considered to be likened
to Milk. Milk is the origin of so many dairy products - Krishna tu bhagavan
swayam, and so Krishna or Vishnu is the origin of everything. When Krishna
wants activity overseen of the modes of Tamo guna He expands Himself transforming
His supreme powers to act in that way, as no-one else could, and in that
state He is Shambu - Shiva. So it may be seen that milk that is transformed
becomes yogurt, but that yogurt can never again beome milk, this is presented
in Brahma samhita 5:45.
ksiram yatha dadhi vikara-visesa-yogat
sanjayate na hi tatah prthag asti hetoh
yah sambhutam api tatha samupaiti karyad
govindam adi-purusam tam aham bhajami
Quotes from Vaishnava smriti compilation Hari Bhakti Vilas of Srila Gopal Bhattar Goswami, and the Dikdarshini Tika of Srila Sanatan Goswami Prabhupada.
SIVA RATRI VRTAM KRSNA CATUR-DASYANTU PHALGUNE
VAISNAVER API TAT KARYAM SRI KRSNA PRITAYE SADA
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 14/187 from GAUTAMIYA TANTRA)
On the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Phalguna (February-March), for the pleasure of Lord Sri Krsna, a Vaisnava should always take a vow to fast. (It is called Siva Ratri, or the night of Lord Siva.)
PARAT PARATARAM YANTI NARAYANA PARAYANAH
NATE TATRA GAMISYANTI YE DVISANTI MAHESVARAM
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 14/189 from KURMA PURANA the Supreme
Lord speaks to Bhrgu
(One who avoids fasting on Siva Ratri or the "night of Lord Siva", he becomes very offensive. Whatever offenses one accumulates by not fasting on Siva Ratri day is explained here.) The destination of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Narayana, is certainly in the spiritual world. But if one is envious of Lord Sri Siva, he does not attain the spiritual world.
YANI KANY ATRA LINGANI STHAVARANI CARANI CA
TESU SANKRAMATE DEVAS TASYAM RATRAU YATO HARAH
SIVARATRIS TATAH PROKTA TENA SA HARI VALLABHAH
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 14/200 from SKANDA PURANA, NAGARA KHANDA)
Whatever genital deities of Lord Siva that can be found on this earthly planet, on the night of this fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Phalguna, Lord Siva, who is a leading demigod, enters into them. For this reason, this day is called Siva Ratri. For this reason, this day is very dear to Lord Sri Hari.
SRI KRSNE VAISNAVANANTU PREMA BHAKTI VIVARDHATE
KRSNA BHAKTI RASA SARA VARSI RUDRA ANUKAMPAYA
(HARI BHAKTI VILASA 14/221 from SKANDA PURANA)
Being a Vaisnava, if somebody fasts on Lord Siva's
night (Siva Ratri day), by the mercy of him (Lord Siva) who is diving in
the ocean of the mellow of devotion to Krsna, one's devotion to Krsna increases
In the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhishma, whilst resting on a bed of arrows and discoursing on Dharma, refers to the observance of Maha Shivaratri by King Chitrabhanu. The story goes as follows.
Once, King Chitrabhanu was observing a fast with his wife, and it was the day of Maha Shivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the king’s court. The sage asked, “ O king why are you observing a fast today?” King Chitrabhanu explained the reason, as he had the gift of remembering the incidents of his previous birth. The king said to the sage, “in my past birth I was a hunter in Varanasi (Kashi). My name was Suswara. My livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. One day, I was overtaken by the darkness of night. Unable to return home, I climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a bael tree. I had shot a deer that day, but I did not have time to take it home. I bundled it up and tied it to a branch on the tree. As I was tormented by hunger and thirst, I kept awake throughout the night. I shed profuse tears when I thought of my poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously awaiting my return. To pass away time that night I engaged myself in plucking bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground. “The day dawned and I returned home and sold the deer. I bought some food for myself and for my family. I was about to break my fast when a stranger came to me, begging for food. I served him first and then took my food.”
“ At the time of death, I saw two messengers of Lord Shiva, they were sent down to take me to his abode. I then learnt for the first time of the great merit I had earned but the unconscious worship of Lord Shiva during the night of Shivaratri. They told me that there was a lingam under that tree and that I had dropped the leaves on that Lingam. My tears, which I had shed out of pure sorrow for my family, fell onto the Lingam and washed it. And I had fasted all day and all night. Thus, I unconsciously worshipped Lord Shiva on that most auspicious day.” “I lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for long ages. And now I am reborn as Chitrabhanu.”
Lord Shiva’s assurance
When creation was completed Lord Shiva and Parvati Mata
went to live on the top of Mount Kailash. Parvati asked, “O adorable lord,
which of the many rituals observed in your honour pleases you the most.”
The Lord replied, “the fourteenth night of the new moon in the dark fortnight
during the month of Phalgun, is my favorite day. It is called Maha Shivaratri.
My devotees give me great joy and happiness by mere fasting than by ceremonial
baths and offerings of flower, sweets and incense.”
“The devotee observes strict spiritual discipline in the day and worships me in four different forms during each of the four successive three hour periods of the night. The offering of a few bael leaves is more precious to me than precious jewels and flowers. My devotee should bath me in milk in the first period, in yogurt in the second period, in ghee in the third, and in honey in the fourth and the last. In the morning he should feed Brahmins (that is if this is possible), and after doing that he/she breaks his/her fast. No ritual can compare with this simple routine in sanctity.”
Parvati was deeply impressed by the words of her husband. She repeated this to her friends, who in turn passed it on to everyone else. Thus the sanctity of Maha Shivaratri was broadcast all over the world.
The Shivaratri fast is aimed at controlling a persons two great vices (rajas – the quality of passionate activity) and (tamas - that of inertia).
The entire day is spent on worshipping Lord Shiva. Continuous worship of the Lord necessitates the devotee’s constant presence in the place of worship. Ones motion is controlled and evils like lust, anger and jealousy, born of Rajas, are ignored and subdued. The devotee observes virgil throughout the night and thus conquers tamas also. Constant control is exercised over the mind. Every three hours a round of worship of the Shiva lingam is conducted and thus Shivaratri is the perfect vrat.
At many ashrams around the world Shivaratri is celebrated in the following manner.
Aspirants fast the whole day, many of them without taking a single drop of water. Some ashrams perform a grand havan (fire yajnas) to Lord Shiva for peace and welfare of all. The whole day is spent in chantinge of the mantra “Om namah Shivaya” and in meditation upon the Lord. At night all assemble in the temple and chant this mantra and during the four quarters of the night the Shiva lingam is worshipped with intense devotion.
Nagendra Haaraaya Thrilochanaaya
Bhasmaanga Raagaaya Maheshvaraaya
Nityaaya Suddhaaya Digambaraaya
Tasmai Nakaaraaya Namah Shivaaya
I offer my humble salutations to Lord Mahesvara - who has a garland of serpents around the neck; who has three eyes; whose body is covered with ash (vibhuti); who is eternal; who is pure; who has the entire sky as His dress and who is embodied as the first letter Na.
Mandaakini Salila Chandana Chaarthitaaya
Nandeesvara Pramatha Naatha Mahesvaraaya
Mandaara Pushpa Vahu Pushpa Supoojitaaya
Tasmai Makaaraaya Namah Shivaaya
I bow to Lord Mahesvara, who is embodied as Makaara (letter Ma), whose body is anointed with holy waters from the river Ganges and sandal paste, who is the sovereign king of the Pramatha Ganas and who is adorned with innumerable divine flowers such as Mandaara.
Shivaaya Gauri Vadana Aravinda
Sooryaaya Dakshaadhvara Naashakaaya
Sree Neelakantaaya Vrisha Dhvajaaya
Tasmai Shikaaraaya Namah Shivaaya
I offer my salutations to Lord Shiva, who is the resplendent sun for mother Gauri`s lotus face, who is the destroyer of Daksha`s sacrificial ritual, who is the blue necked Lord (due to the Haalahala poison which He agreed to consume), whose banner bears the emblem of a bull and who is embodied as the letter Shi.
Vasishta Kumbhodbhava Gautamaaya
Muneendra Devaarchita Sekharaaya
Chandraarka Vaishvaanara Lochanaaya
Tasmai Vakaaraaya Namah Shivaaya
I prostrate before the God of Gods, who is worshipped and prayed to by great sages such as Vashishta, Agastya and Gautama, whose eyes are sun, moon and the fire and who is embodied as Vakaara (letter Va).
Yajna Swaroopaaya Jataadharaaya
Pinaaka Hasthaaya Sanaatanaaya
Divyaaya Devaaya Digambaraaya
Tasmai Yakaraaya Namah Shivaaya
Prostrartions to the sacred Lord who is the Yaksha incarnate, whose hairs are long and matted, who holds Pinaaka (trident) in His hand, who has the entire sky as His attire and who is embodied as the letter Ya.
Panchaaksharam Idam Punyam
Yah Pateh Shiva Sannidhau
Shivena Saha Modate
Whoever repeats this prayer composed with the five holy letters before Lord Shiva, attains that supreme abode of His and enjoys the eternal Bliss.
Brahma-murari surachit lingam, nirmal bhakchit shobhita lingam
Janma ja dukha vinashaka lingam, tat pranamami sadaa shiva-lingam
I bow before that Sada-Shivalinga, which is adored by Brahma, Vishnu and revered by others, praised in mantras and which destroys the cycle of births and deaths.
Deva muni prawa-rarchita lingam, kamadahang karunakara lingam
Ravan darp vinashana lingam, tat pranamami sadaa shiva-lingam
I bow before that Sada-Shivalinga, which is the focus of the worship of Saints, infinitely compassionate and the subduer of the pride and passion.
Sarva-sugandhi sulaypita lingam, budhi vivardhan kaarana lingam
Sidha-surasur vandita lingam, tat pranamami sadaa shiva-lingam
I bow before that Sada-Shivalinga, smeared with Vibhuti, scented with perfumes and which elevates the power of the mind and kindles the light of discrimination, to which the Suras and Asuras prostrate.
Kanak maha-mani bhukchita lingam, phani-pati veksh-tita shobhit lingam
Daksha suyagya vinashana lingam, tat pranamami sadaa shiva-lingam
I bow before that Sada-Shivalinga, destroyer of King Daksh’s ego, and which is decorated with various ornaments glowing within the embrace of the coiled serpent.
Kumkum chandana laypit lingam, pankaj haar sushobhita lingam
Sanchit paap vinashana lingam, tat pranamami sadaa shiva-lingam
I bow before that Sada-Shivalinga, adorned with Saffron, Sandal- paste & garlands of lotus flowers, which exonerates all sinful actions.
Deva ganarchit sayvita lingam, bhavai bhakti bherewa-chaa lingam
Dinakar koti prabha kara lingam, tat pranamami sadaa shiva-lingam
I bow that before Sada-Shivalinga, worshipped by the Sages & Saints with full faith and devotion and which is the source of unlimited brilliance.
Ashta dalopari veksh-tita lingam, sarva samudbhava kaarana lingam
Ashta daridra vinashana lingam, tat pranamami sadaa shiva-lingam
I bow that before Sada-Shivalinga, destroyer of manifold wretchedness, which is the cause of creation and dissolution.
Soorguru soorwar poojit lingam, soorwan pushpa sadachita lingam
Paraatparam paramatmaka lingam, tat pranamami sadaa shiva-lingam
I bow before that Sada-Shivalinga, the Transcendent Being, worshipped by the learned and all devotees, offering Bael leaves, flowers, fruits and water.
Lingaashtak medang punyang yuh, pathay-chiva sannidhow
Shiva-loka mawapanoti, shivena saha moditay
Whomsoever repeat these eight Slokas glorifying the Shivalinga in the
divine presence of Lord Shiva attains final and everlasting relationship
in the abode of Shiva Loka (if that's what you want and where you want
Demon Çaìkhacüòa Killed - taken from Krsna Book
Once upon a time, the cowherd men
of Våndävana, headed by Nanda Mahäräja, desired to
go to Ambikävana to observe the Çiva-rätri ceremony. The
räsa-lélä was performed during the autumn, and after that
the next big ceremony is Holi, or the Doläyäträ ceremony.
Between the Doläyäträ ceremony and the räsa-lélä
ceremony there is one important ceremony called Çiva-rätri,
which is especially observed by the Çaivites, or devotees of Lord
Çiva. Sometimes the Vaiñëavas also observe this ceremony
because they accept Lord Çiva as the foremost Vaiñëava.
But the function of Çiva-rätri is not observed very regularly
by the bhaktas, or devotees of Kåñëa. Under the circumstances,
it is stated in Çrémad-Bhägavatam that Nanda Mahäräja
and the other cowherd men “once upon a time desired.” This means that they
were not regularly observing the Çiva-rätri function but that
once upon a time they wanted to go to Ambikävana out of curiosity.
Ambikävana is somewhere in the Gujarat province, and it is said to
be situated on the river Sarasvaté. Yet we do not find any Sarasvaté
River in the Gujarat province, although there is a river named Savarmaté.
In India, all the big places of pilgrimage are situated on nice rivers
like the Ganges, Yamunä, Sarasvaté, Narmadä,
Godävaré and Käveré. Ambikävana was situated
on the bank of Sarasvaté, and Nanda Mahäräja and all the
other cowherd men went there.
They very devotedly began to worship the deity of Lord Çiva and Ambikä. It is the general practice that wherever there is a temple of Lord Çiva, there must be another temple, of Ambikä (or Durgä), because Ambikä is the wife of Lord Çiva and is the most exalted of chaste women. She doesn’t live outside the association of her husband. After reaching Ambikävana, the cowherd men of Våndävana first bathed themselves in the river Sarasvaté. If one goes to any place of pilgrimage, his first duty is to take a bath and sometimes to shave his head. That is the first business. After taking a bath, they worshiped the deities and then distributed charity in the holy places.(SP - Krsna Book. Ch 34.)
Çiva-rätri, Nanda Mahäräja and all the cowherds men,
they increased their attachment for Kåñëa. That is wanted.
(A.C.Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. 1st May 1974, Morning Walk excerpt, Bombay, India.)
"In this verse Lord Çiva is
described as méòhuñöama, the best of the benedictors.
He is also known as Äçutoña, which indicates that he
is very quickly satisfied and very quickly angered. It is said in Bhagavad-gétä
that less intelligent persons go to the demigods for material benedictions.
In this connection, people generally go to Lord Çiva, and because
he is always quickly satisfied and gives benedictions to his devotees without
consideration, he is called méòhuñöama, or the
best of the benedictors. Materialistic persons are always anxious to get
material profit, but they are not serious about spiritual profit.
Sometimes, of course, it so happens that Lord Çiva becomes the best benedictor in spiritual life. It is said that once a poor brähmaëa worshiped Lord Çiva for a benediction, and Lord Çiva advised the devotee to go to see Sanätana Gosvämé. The devotee went to Sanätana Gosvämé and informed him that Lord Çiva had advised him to seek out the best benediction from him (Sanätana). Sanätana had a touchstone with him, which he kept with the garbage. On the request of the poor brähmaëa, Sanätana Gosvämé gave him the touchstone, and the brähmaëa was very happy to have it. He now could get as much gold as he desired simply by touching the touchstone to iron. But after he left Sanätana, he thought, “If a touchstone is the best benediction, why has Sanätana Gosvämé kept it with the garbage?” He therefore returned and asked Sanätana Gosvämé, “Sir, if this is the best benediction, why did you keep it with the garbage?” Sanätana Gosvämé then informed him, “Actually, this is not the best benediction. But are you prepared to take the best benediction from me?” The brähmaëa said, “Yes, sir. Lord Çiva has sent me to you for the best benediction.” Then Sanätana Gosvämé asked him to throw the touchstone in the water nearby and then come back. The poor brähmaëa did so, and when he returned, Sanätana Gosvämé initiated him with the Hare Kåñëa mantra. Thus by the benediction of Lord Çiva the brähmaëa got the association of the best devotee of Lord Kåñëa and was thus initiated in the mahä-mantra, Hare Kåñëa, Hare Kåñëa, Kåñëa Kåñëa, Hare Hare/ Hare Räma, Hare Räma, Räma Räma, Hare Hare.
(Sria A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. Srimad Bhagavatm 4:7:7. purport.)
On the occasion of Siva Ratri we are pleased to make the following offering:
"Lord Siva Saves the Universe by Drinking Poison"
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I hope this meets you well and happy
With affection and love
Your servant in the service of Srila Prabhupada
Gauranga Sundara dasa
Hare Krishna Centre for Vedic Studies
UK Registered Charity No 1107565
28 Evington Road
Leicester LE2 1HG
Sri Sanatana Gosvami has written that some Vaisnavas don’t observe Siva Caturdasi, the appearance day of Lord Siva or Sankara. In Hari Bhakti Vilasa he has written that Vaisnava s should honor Sankara, and they may observe that date. I observe that date. I know Sankara, because in his form of Bankandi Mahadeva in Vrndavana he was the friend of Sanatana Gosvami. He became Bankandi Mahadeva from Gopisvara. Do you know this history?
When Sri Sanatana Gosvami became old, Sankara told him, “Now you are old. You should not come daily to see me, because you are coming from so very far away. Sanatana Gosvami replied, “I should come. I cannot change this habit.” Then Gopisvara Mahadeva said, “Then I’m going to come very near to you – as Bankandi Mahadeva.” He thus became Bankandi Mahadeva and resided very near the Madana Mohana Temple. Srila Sanatana Gosvami is also the very dear friend of Cakralesvara Mahadeva in Govardhana. He also used to be with Sankara in Kamyavan, where he is known as Kamesvara. He cannot be without Sankara.
As Nandisvara, Sankara has become the mountain of Nandagaon. He wanted that all Krsna’s pastimes be performed on his back. Regarding Brahma, he has become Brahma-parvata in Varsana. Because he is so near to Radhika, he is therefore our Gurudeva
These are the tattvas. We should try to honor Sankara as a great Vaisnava and as Guru. Don’t dishonor him. We don’t worship him separately, but we can observe Siva Caturdasi and glorify him in relation to his relationship with Sri Krsna. We should offer pranama to him with prayers like:
vrndavanavani-pate! Jaya soma soma maule
prema prayaccha nirupadhi namo namaste
"O gatekeeper of Vrndavana! O Soma, all glories to you! O you whose forehead is decorated with the moon, and who is worshipable by the sages headed by Sanaka, Sanandana, Sanatana and Narada! O Gopisvara, desiring that you bestow upon me that prema for the lotus feet of Sri Sri Radha-Madhav a who perform joyous pastimes in Vraja-dhama, I offer obeisances unto you time and again."
Sankara is telling Sri Narada that Prahlada Maharaja is superior to him. Why? Because he is “tricky”. He does this only to give some encouragement to worldly persons. Actually, Prahlada cannot go to Vrndavana, but Sankara, as Gopisvara, resides there. As Hanuman, Sankara is always with Rama. As Bhima, he is with Krsna. When Hanuman and Bhima combine together in Kali-yuga, they become Madvacarya, our Sampradaya-guru.
Thus, Lord Sankara serves in so many ways, and we should always honor him as our Guru. He is hundreds of thousands of times superior to Prahlada because he knows and meditates on asta-kaliya-lila. Parvati also meditates on asta-kaliya-lila. This is very secret, yet they both do it. Although Sankara is so much superior and more worshipful than Prahlada, still he says that Prahlada is superior. Why? There are some reasons which I will explain later.
The Arya Samaj say: "The fourteenth day of the dark half of the month of Magh is celebrated as
Mahashivratri all over Gujarat. According to Puranas on the midnight of Magh Vad
14 Lord Shiva had created his idol in the form of a linga to pacify Brahma and
Vishnu, the other two of the triumvirate. Twelve such linga created by Shiva are
called jyotirlingas of which Somnath at Prabhas Patan is one. Devotees observe
fast on this day and recite rudri or mahimanstrota. A big fair is held at Bhavnath in
Junagadh on this day. Being a post harvest festival the farmers can zealouly
indulge in its celebration.
12 Jyotir Lingams page
Shivaratri the Hindu perspective
Maha Shivaratri - a slightly different Hindu perspective
Maha Shivaratri - at Dattapeetam, Mysore - Shiva the cleanser of the devotees
MahaShivaratri - Shivananda Ashram explanation of the significance of Shivaratri
Various Meanings and observances for Pradosh - Shivaratri - with astro' links too