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Region 2 - Maha Shivarathri Celebrations

Maha Shivaratri, the night of the worship of Lord Shiva, occurs on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna. It falls on a moonless February/early March night, when followers of Lord Shiva offer special prayer to the lord of destruction. Shivaratri (Sanskrit ‘ratri’ = night) is the night when Shiva is said to have performed the Tandava Nritya or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. The festival is observed for one day and one night only. It is also believed that whoever performs sincere worship of Lord Shiva attains moksha or salvation.

R2 Maha Shivaratri celebration at Heston Community Hall started at 7:45 pm on Friday 28th February with 3 Aums, Ganapathi Atharva Sirsam, Sai Gayatri, 9 x Gayatri Mantra, and 3 x Aum Shanti.

An uplifting session of very melodious bhajans commenced and lasted for a couple of hours followed by a short meditation. This was followed by a short ten minute video on the “Significance of Shivaratri”.

R2 Chairperson then introduced Panditji who was to conduct the Puja. Pandit Rajashekar Gurukka (Shiva Temple) has completed a 6 year course in vedic rites and chanting and has earned the title Shiva Gama Shiromani. Panditji has also been involved in teaching vedas to the children, in particular he taught them for the Sai Mahima Play and is currently a resident priest at the Wimbeldon Shiva temple.

Panditji explained the sequence of the puja starting with Ganesh Prathana (Aum Shanthi x 3), Guru Prathana (Aum Shanti x 3), Rudram (Namakam), Rudram (Chamakam), Shananthi Paath. Puja Aarthi, and Sankalpam/Aarchanai.

All the devotees were provided with a thali, lingam, vibhuti, bilva and flower so that all could participate in offering vibhuti to the lingam while the 300 Names of Lord Shiva were chanted by Panditji. The Veda chanters started with Mantra Pushpam, Chathur Vedham, Lingastakam, Bilvastakam and the final Puja Aarthi. The whole puja was done so beautifully with Vedam that all the devotees present were really blessed by being a part of the puja.

Closing Sai Prayers and Kshama Prathana & Meaning thus brought an end to a very blissful Shivaratri Programme.

London West Team

"Shivaratri - (night) of Shivam (goodness, Godliness, good fortune). It is an auspicious night, because the mind can be made to lose its hold on man by dedicating the night to prayer. This is because on this night the moon and the mind, which it rules over, are both drastically reduced, so if the night is devoted to vigilant adoration of God, the remnant of the wayward mind is overcome and victory is ensured. With firm faith and clean heart, the night should be spent in glorifying God. No moment should be wasted in other thoughts"
– Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

It was with these teachings from Swami in mind, that devotees across Region 2 gathered at the Heston Community Sports Hall to celebrate this holiest of festivals in the Hindu calendar, and with our beloved Swami’s grace and presence what a blessed occasion it turned out to be. Weather did not affect attendance. Young and old came from the whole Region.

As devotees arrived they were able to do Abhishek to lord shiva before proceeding to the main hall with their personal lingam and thali. This included children who thoroughly enjoyed the night.

The event began at 7:45pm with three hours of non-stop bhajan singing, as singers delivered pitch perfect bhajans accompanied by music from talented tabla and harmonium players as well as other musicians, to purify the atmosphere and get the evening off to an auspicious start. By 9pm the Divine vibrations could be felt in the crisp winter air outside, as the energy and pace of the bhajans continued to increase and one sublime Shiva bhajan after another was offered at the Divine lotus feet.

At 10.30pm, the bhajans made way for a comprehensive and sacred Shiva Lingam pooja performed by the revered priest Pujya Pandit Rajashekar Gurukka and his assistant Priest supported by brother Ranjan . As they bathed and made holy offerings to the Shiva Lingam, brothers and sisters from region 2 who had prepared weeks beforehand for this golden opportunity, chanted the Sri Rudram Namakam followed by the Chamakam, Shivopasana, Lingastakam, in one strong united voice to increase the divine vibrations as the dark night set in and the holy midnight hour approached.

Then it was a chance for the devotees themselves to get involved as Pujya Pujya Pandit Rajashekar Gurukka began the chanting of holy names from the Sri Rudram Namakam and on the chant of each name devotees offered holy vibhuti ash, to their own personal Shiva Lingam which had kindly been provided on the day and which devotees were fortunate to take home afterwards. This was followed by unison chanting of the sublime Bilvastakam and Mantra Pushpam, which concluded the Pooja itself and made way for the Mangala Araathi, Vibhuti Mantra and Kshama Prarthna. As the auspicious Shivratri event came to a close, devotees left feeling energised and hopefully another step closer to our beloved Bhagavan.

Delicious food and refreshment was on offer all night by dedicated seva daals. They worked tirelessly following swami’s much quoted saying “Love all serve all”. ‘Almond’ milk was on offer as a treat [replacing the bhang].

Priya

Swami says:
When Desire is destroyed, Love reigns supreme

The Vibhuuthi Abhisheka has a potent inner meaning which Swami wants you to grasp. The Vibhuuthi is the most precious object, in the truly spiritual sense. You know that Shiva burnt the God of desire or Kaama, called Manmatha (for he agitates the mind and confounds the confusion
already existing there) into a heap of ashes. Shiva adorned Himself with that ash, and thus He shone in His glory, as the conqueror of desire. When Kaama was destroyed, Prema (love) reigned supreme. When there is no desire to warp the mind, love could be true and full.

What greater offering can you give God to glorify Him than the ash signifying your triumph over tantalising desire? Ash is the ultimate condition of things; it cannot undergo any further change. The Abhisheka with Vibhuuthi is done to inspire you to give up desire and offer Shiva the ashes of its destruction as the most valuable of all the articles you have earned. Ash cannot fade as flowers do in a day or two; it does not dry and disappear or get soiled and unpotable as water does; it will not lose colour as leaves do, in a few hours; it does not rot as fruits do in a few days. Ash is ash for ever and ever. So, burn your viles, your vices, your bad habits; worship Shiva, rendering yourselves pure in thought and word and deed.
Baba.

Feedback from devotees:

Region 2 ,Regional Shivratri Programme was a great success, due to united efforts by all. Bhajans and vedam practices took place in different areas to make it more easy commute for devotees who wanted to make an offering . Musicians and bhajan coordinators made themselves available for all. From planning to the execution it was team effort. Vibrations were strong and the power of the puja was felt by all, as all participated in the puja with the Lingams given at the entrance to all devotees.

A devotee.
'Jai Sairam.2014 R2 Mahashivaratri program was one of those Regional programs that garnered participation from all devotees right from the very start. It started with the participative process of involving every centre devotee's opinion in selecting the venue and timing and continued all the way in making the event participative for all by virtue of every devotee offering vibhooti to their own lingams. Overall it gave a highly divine participative experience for the devotees who attended from Slough Sai centre as well as myself and enabled us to leave the venue with genuine divine vibrations. It was a good moment for all of us to be enjoying in the planning process right from the start along with the regional team. Thank you all for the lovely opportunity provided this year which uniquely stood out from previous years/ programs. I also want to place on records that this participative and inclusive attempt by R2 team is truly reflective of the steps being taken to remove feelings as articulated in the orientation conference by UKCC as 'Them Vs Us' between devotees and larger organisation. R2 ensured that every centre had representation along with devotees involvement in the planning to execution and I want to express my love and gratitude for the steps taken to bring all of us together even further in Swami's divine mission.- Aneesh Mohan (Slough Centre Chair and Student- Sri Sathya Sai Institute of higher learning)

Aneesh Mohan
[Slough Centre Chair]