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Maha Shivratri, A Night of Diamonds and Rubies

25 February 2011 No Comments Print article Print article

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Shiva is the ultimate state, beyond Brahma, toward which the yogis work continuously to unite jiva (the individual soul) and Shiva. Those who become one with Shiva have indeed made their lives fruitful. The significance of Shiva is limitless. Shivratri is His day, His night of extreme importance and the yogis make maximum use of this time to attain Him. Lord Shiva Himself has said, “One way to attain me is to chant my name, do puja or other spiritual practices throughout the night on this auspicious day.”

The scriptures state that the guru is the living form of Shiva so, for all practical purposes, when a disciple thinks of the physical form of Shiva, it is the physical form of the guru.


The scriptures state that the guru is the living form of Shiva so, for all practical purposes, when a disciple thinks of the physical form of Shiva, it is the physical form of the guru.

Whatever one may consider as the Divine—with form and qualities or without form and qualities—Shiva is beyond that. Shiva is manifest and unmanifest, the energy that was never born, indestructible, formless, and a state of everlasting bliss. This is personified in the elliptical shape of the Shiva linga, the physical representation of this energy, which denotes no beginning, no end and no center.





photo: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra





There is a story of a hunter who takes his bow and arrow and goes deep into the forest to hunt on the day of Maha Shivratri. On the way he met many people repeating, “Shiva! Shiva!”

The hunter stopped a man and asked, “Oh brother! Why are you all repeating ‘Shiva, Shiva’? Have you no other work?” The man did not reply but went on his way.

As is known, the name of the Lord repeated in any way, even unknowingly or with the intent to make fun of it, still gives positive results. So while ridiculing the people who were repeating Shiva’s name with love and devotion the hunter was indirectly repeating “Shiva, Shiva” himself.

The hunter reached the forest but spent the greater part of the day without finding any prey. Finally, as it was getting dark, he came to a stream and decided to climb a nearby bilva tree, the leaves of which are offered to Lord Shiva in worship.

During the first quarter of the night a doe came to drink water at the stream. The hunter heard the noise, and in order to aim the arrow he moved on the tree, and as a result a few bilva leaves fell on a Shiva linga below the tree.

As the leaves fell, the doe heard the noise and spotted the hunter. She thought briefly and said, “Oh hunter! Please let me go now. Let me go to my family, after which I shall return, and you can kill me then.”

The hunter refused, but the doe swore and said, “If I do not return, let me attain the bad karma of a great sinner.” The hunter’s heart changed, and he released the doe to go who danced away with joy.

During the second quarter of the night, the doe’s sister came to drink water at the stream. Again the hunter moved on the tree to shoot and again a few leaves fell on the Shiva linga. The second doe also requested the hunter to let her go and said, “If I do not return, let me attain the negative karma of killing Brahma Himself.” The hunter kept faith in her words and let her go.

During the third quarter of the night, the doe’s husband came to drink water. Again the hunter moved, and again a few bilva leaves were accidentally and unknowingly offered on the Shiva linga.

The buck promised to return later to be killed and said, “Let me attain the sin of torturing one’s own father, if I do not return.” The hunter fell compassionate and let him go.

After this, the hunter began to feel very restless and angry and shook the tree strongly, whereby more bilva leaves fell on the Shiva linga. Thus, all night the hunter indirectly worshipped Shiva.

Finally, during the fourth quarter of the night the hunter saw the does and the buck returning. To see them clearly, the hunter broke off a few leaves and threw them down and these, too, fell on the Shiva linga.

At this time, arati began in a temple in the distance. The bells were ringing and devotees were chanting, “Hara Hara Mahadeva!”

At this point the deer had reached the hunter and said, “Now you can gladly kill us.”

The hunter climbed down from the tree. Seeing such love for truth in these animals, he bowed down to them and said, “Please be fearless. From today, I won’t hurt another being. I will earn my living in another way, but I won’t kill innocent animals.”

Then a messenger of the Lord came near and said, “Oh hunter! You have performed an anusthan of Shivratri, although unknowingly. All your sins are destroyed. So please come with me to the divine world, even though you still have a human body. You have kept awake for all four quarters of this auspicious night, and during each quarter you have unknowingly offered the bilva leaves to Lord Shiva on this linga. Therefore, you have worshipped Shiva. By performing Shiva puja in this way, all your karma is destroyed and you are entitled to attain heaven. Also, these deer who have been the cause of your worship, and because of their truthfulness, will be liberated.”

The hunter, repeating “Shiva! Shiva!” left with the messenger.

This is the historical significance of Maha Shivratri. It is a night of diamonds and rubies, while other nights are like gold.

Check with your local group about any plans to chant for all or part of this special night.



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