Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Meaning of Shivaratri

Above picture is a small deity of Lord Shiva near the Tota Gopinath Temple in Puri

Dhirama Das Prabhu wrote and asked: Prabhu is it possible to know what is Shivaratri?

Our reply:

Here are a few notes from an article we plan to print in the next issue we make of Krishna Kathamrita about Lord Shiva (no date is yet fixed, it will likely be a few years away). Hari-bhakti-vilasa mentions Shivaratri as a festival observed by Vaishnavas:

siva-ratri-vratam krsna-caturdasyam tu phalgune
vaisnavair api tat karyam sri-krsna-pritaye sada

On the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Phalguna (February-March), for the pleasure of Lord Sri Krishna, a vaisnava should always take a vow to fast on this day. (It is called Shivaratri, or the night of Lord Shiva.)
- Gautamiya-tantra quoted in Hari-bhakti-vilasa 14.187.

Why devotees observe worship of Mahadeva on this day is also described in the same section:

yani kanyatra lingani sthavarani carani ca
tesu samkramate devas tasyam ratrau yato harah
sivaratris tatah prokta tena sa hari-vallabha

On the night of the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of the month of Phalguna Lord Shiva enters into whatever siva-lingas are present on this earthly planet. For this reason, this day is called Shivaratri. For this reason, this day is very dear to Lord Sri Hari. - Nagara khanda of Skanda Purana quoted in Hari-bhakti-vilasa 14.200.

sri krsne vaisnavanam tu prema-bhaktir vivardhate

The loving devotion of the vaisnavas for Lord Krishna greatly increases by the mercy of Lord Shiva who distributes the essence of krsna-bhakti-rasa. - Hari-bhakti-vilasa 14.203

In the beginning of the 34th chapter of Krishna Book, Srila Prabhupada describes that devotees sometimes observe Shivaratri and sometimes they don't:

Once upon a time, the cowherd men of Vrindavan, headed by Nanda Maharaja, desired to go to Ambikavana to observe the Shivaratri ceremony. The rasa-lila was performed during the autumn, and after that the next big ceremony is Holi, or the Dolayatra ceremony. Between the Dolayatra ceremony and the rasa-lila ceremony there is an important ceremony called Shiva-ratri, which is especially observed by the Saivites, or devotees of Lord Shiva. Sometimes the Vaishnavas also observe this ceremony because they accept Lord Shiva as the foremost Vaishnava. But the function of Shivaratri is not observed very regularly by the bhaktas, or devotees of Krishna. Under the circumstances, Srimad Bhagavatam states that Nanda Maharaja and the other cowherd men "once upon a time desired." This means that they were not regularly observing the Shivaratri function but that once upon a time they wanted to go to Ambikavana out of curiosity.

The next Shivaratri is on the 23rd of February 2009.

Hari Hari!

Das, MD