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Region 2 - Mahashivarathri Celebrations

Maha Shivarathri – a night to merge the mind in God

Devotees from region 2 and beyond came together to celebrate one of the holiest of festivals in the Hindu calendar - Maha Shivarathri on Tuesday 17th February 2015 at Oxhey Wood Primary School in Watford – and what an auspicious occasion it was.

From the moment one entered through the double doors of the venue and was met by the divine fragrance of the burning incense at the front altar, and allowed to offer abhishekham to the Shiva Linga placed there in front of a most striking picture of Lord Shiva, the mind was tuned to God.

In the main prayer hall, the beautifully decorated altar in shimmering blue with a picture of our beautiful Bhagawan in the middle and his chair on the right, with a smaller picture of Lord Shiva on the left, soothed the sight and filled the mind with an inevitable excitement for the evening of prayers and chanting that was to follow.

Sister Gayatri, the new regional chair welcomed everyone and on this holy night, with the garland of Devotion around our neck and our thoughts, words and deeds saturated with Divine Love, the event started at 8pm with invocatory prayers including Ganesh prayer, Gayatri mantra and Sai Gayatri followed by over 2 hours of the most uplifting bhajans dedicated to Lord Shiva, sung with great fervour and accompanied by tabla, harmonium and other musical instruments played by some of the most talented musicians in Region 2. As the divine vibrations filled the air both inside and outside the hall, one couldn’t fail to be moved by the palpable energy that was the surest sign of our Lord’s divine presence.

Bhajans then made way for a short meditation on Sohum and a video clip from Radio Sai about the significance and importance of Maha Shivarathri. This is a festival that Swami has talked much about in his discourses and stressed the importance of on many an occasion. The festival of Shivarathri is a monthly event in the Indian calendar – marked by the 14th day of the dark night of the month where only a fraction of the moon remains. The moon being the presiding deity of the mind and the ultimate goal of all sadhana (spiritual striving) being to eliminate the mind and move beyond maya to attain mergence with God, Shivarathri offers us the opportunity to easily subdue the mind through puja or japam or dhyaana (ritual worship, one-pointed repetition of holy names and meditation), be as close to God as possible.

Then once a year when Shivarathri falls in the month of Phalguna we celebrate Maha Shivarathri which not only marks the emergence of the Linga (symbolising the formless aspect of Lord Shiva) millions of years ago but also the union of Shiva (symbolising Paramapurusha or the Eternal Absolute) and Shakti (symbolising Prakriti or nature). As our beloved Swami puts it, this day is dedicated to recognising the Shiva that is in each of us. During a discourse Swami delivered on Maha Shivarathri in February 1969, he said:

'If you make the slightest effort to move along the Path of your own liberation, the Lord will help you a hundred-fold. That is the hope that Maha Shivarathri conveys to you. Man is called so, because he has the skill to do manana; manana means inner meditation on the meaning and significance of what one has heard. Resolve, on this Holy Shivarathri in the Presence of Shiva Sai, to visualise the Shiva as the inner power of all.'

Many Sai devotees will also know this as the day that our beloved Lord would often materialise the auspicious Linga from his stomach known as Lingodbhavam (emergence of the Linga), in front of thousands of devotees gathered in Sai Kulwant Hall in Prashanti Nilayam during his earthly sojourn.

So what is so special about the Shiva Linga and why is it revered so highly? Swami says the Linga is the fittest symbol of the All-pervasive, the All-knowing, the All-powerful. It is a symbol, a sign, an illustration, of the beginningless, the endless, the limitless - for it has no limbs, no face, no feet, no front or back, no beginning or end. As a matter of fact, Linga means leeyathe (that in which all forms and names merge) and gamyathe (that towards which all names and forms are proceeding, to attain fulfilment).

Having thus been reminded of the significance of Maha Shivarathri, devotees were then blessed to witness a most sacred and divine Maha Rudra Abhisekam performed by Pandit Chandrasekara who is the 12th generation of Head Priests who lead the rituals at the Madhurai Meenakshi Amman Temple in South India.

Against a backdrop of powerful chanting of the Sri Rudram and Chamakam,
the Maha Abhishekam was performed and consisted of 11 types of offerings, including milk, curd, ghee, honey, fruits, tender coconuts etc, with each offering bearing a religious significance.

This was followed by more bhajans, chanting of the 300 names of Lord Shiva, Mantra pushpam, Chatur Vedam, Lingastakam, and Bilvastakam.

The Holy Night culminated at 01:30 with Mangala Arathi, Vibhuti Mantra and Kshama Prarthna.

Afterwards Sister Bharti, the regional vice-chair thanked Pandit Chandrasekera and all those who made the event possible, including our beloved Bhagavan and told the congregation, ‘Let’s make this the start of a continuous journey of contemplation on God and let him guide us through our days. But unlike New Year’s resolutions which slowly start to fade, let this resolution be a firm one, both individually and collectively, and let us work together to nurture our spiritual progress.’

So this event gave devotees the opportunity to come together and collectively merge their mind in God through prayer, meditation and puja and make the most of such a sacred and divine occasion in the spiritual calendar.

Om Sai Ram
Priya Kotecha
Spiritual Coordinator

For more information

Click on this link to watch the video - http://media.radiosai.org/journals/vol_11/01MAR13/Significance-of-Shivaratri-A-short-video-presentation.htm

Click on this link to read Swami’s MahaShivarathri discourse delivered in February 1969 – http://sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume09/sss09-03.pdf

Click on this link to read about the significance of Shiva Linga in a discourse delivered by Swami in 1971 http://sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume11/sss11-13.pdf