Mahashivratri - Union of Shiva and Shakti -By Avadhoot Dandekar
Today is a Mahashivratri day. The night of this day is celebrated as a never-ending night of love, dance and celebration. In the Indian tradition Shiva is considered to be a symbol of love, dance and celebration. He is actually considered to be a God of love, dance and celebration. What does the word 'Mahashivratri' mean? It is made up of three words - Maha, Shiva and Ratri. 'Maha' means everlasting, never-ending and eternal. It means something that is beginingless and endless. 'Shiva' means the name of a true lover. The one who represents that everlasting love, dance and celebration. Shiva is a person symbolic of love, dance and celebration. 'Ratri' literally means the night. It is a dark night of the soul. It is really very strange that the symbol or metaphor is 'Night' and not 'Day'. This metaphor 'Night' has so many meanings in the Indian tradition. Mahashivratri also means an union of Shiva and Shakti. Shiva is a lover and Shakti is his beloved. It seems they are eternal friends. It appears they are an eternal couple. Shiva and Shakti are two energies. Mahashivratri is a fusion of these two energies. Shiva and Shakti are also symbolic of Purusha and Prakriti. It is a merging of Purusha in Prakriti. It is like the yin and yang of the Chinese mythology. In Chinese mythology the whole creation is a union or perfect balance of these two energies. Yin is the feminine energy, the female fish and Yang is the masculine energy or the male fish. The whole creation is a perfect fusion of these two energies. In the same way in the Indian tradition, Shiva and Shakti are these two primordial energies. In the Indian tradition they represent the whole creation. The symbol 'Night' is also representative of a feminine energy. The one that has the capability of embracing the other. Feminine energy has the capability of embracing or encompassing the masculine energy. Day represents masculine energy or active energy or Shiva and Night represents feminine energy or passive energy or Shakti. It is the representation of Shakti embracing Shiva. It is the indication of Night embracing the Day. Day meeting the Night, dissolving and disappearing into each other. Mahashivratri is symbolic of the meeting of these two energies. Meeting and merging of these two energies and becoming one and universal. The meeting of the two bodies and merging into one soul. The people of the East have really been very intelligent in choosing these symbols. They must have worked very hard on these esoteric meanings. Night also indicates a particular time, a particular period. Night is symbolic of a time that is absolutely suitable for rest, relaxation and love. We can't take a nap or sleep while standing. We have to lie down and take this particular posture. Similarly, it becomes very difficult sometimes to sleep, rest or relax in the presence of light. Night has also been chosen a symbol of rest and relaxation. That's why when we want to take a nap or sleep, we ensure that the lights in the room are switched off, the window curtains are pulled down, the mobile phone is either switched off or kept on the silent mode. We make sure that the atmosphere is cozy. We also get angry if anybody disturbs us while we are sleeping. Night or evening or afternoon is also chosen as a good and suitable time for meditation. This is the time when the active energies of the morning and day are descending. This is a perfect time for meditation. Night is also symbolic of a time that is suitable for dance and celebration. If we look into a tribal or village life, we will be surprised to know that the tribals or villagers after working the whole day in the forest and the farm assemble in the night and sing, dance and celebrate before the fire. It is a time of festivity for them. Night is also symbolic of all creation. All the creation in the universe is taking place during the night. The sprouting of a plant, petals coming out of a bud, dewdrops falling on the buds and the flowers, is all happening during the night time or in the dark. Night is also symbolic of pain and suffering. While somebody is suffering of any pain, we encourage by saying, "Let this night pass and everything will be alright". All pain, anguish and suffering is like passing through the dark night of the soul. We also say, "There is always a light at the end of the tunnel". The first light of the day brings us freshness, life and hope. It is again a beginning of something new. A new day and a new beginning. It is also symbolic of the death of the ugly past and the beginning of a new future.
One day I was listening to 98.3 FM while driving my car. The RJ was asking a girl about the man of her dreams. The RJ was actually asking the girl as to what kind of a husband she wants. The girl instantly replied and said that she wants a husband like Shah Rukh Khan and a boyfriend like Shahid Kapoor. This is really asking for too much, but that is how it should be. This is asking two things in one. This is basically asking two different and unique qualities in one. I thoroughly agree with this girl. See, the thing is that if the husband is also not a good boyfriend, then he is not a true husband and if the boyfriend is also not a good husband then he is not a true boyfriend. The husband indicating the role or quality of a responsible person. Taking care of the house, wife and the kids. That he is a truly family oriented person. The boyfriend indicating that he is fresh, lively and romantic. Being a boyfriend means making a space for each other. Allowing and respecting freedom and friendship for each other. This is like a tight rope walking, I know. The legend of Shiva is also something like this. Shiva was very poor but was a free and daring spirit. He had no house of his own and hence he was living in the Himalayas. The whole Himalaya was his home. He was a wanderer. But the mantra of his life was love, dance and celebration. He was like the hippies of the West. It seems he was the first Indian hippie. But he was a man of true love. Parvati, who was also known as Shakti was a daughter of a rich man. She fell madly in love with Shiva and insisted on marrying him. She was not willing to marry anybody except him. But her father was unwilling and unyielding. But she was very adamant and hell bent on marrying this guy. This guy though poor was a fantastic lover. Somehow, they eloped and got married. In India the mythology is that there are three Gods who are considered to be the custodians of the whole creation. Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Mahesh is another name of Shiva. Each one of them handles an independent portfolio. But when it comes to the affairs of the creation they three consult each other and take decision. Brahma means beginning. He takes care of the creation. Vishnu means sustenance. He takes care of the sustenance of the creation. Shiva mean annihilation or destruction of creation. He takes care of destruction. Whatever that has come in existence, has to stay, sustain and disappear in non-existence. The old dies and the new comes. Whatever that is born, is bound to die one day. If the existence has come out of non-existence, it has to disappear one day again in non-existence. Ignorance has to die for the intelligence to emerge. Unconsciousness has to die for the consciousness to flower. Ignorance has no beginning but an end. Unconsciousness has no beginning but an end. Consciousness has a beginning but no end. Consciousness is endless, deathless and eternal. This way the three guys were handling three independent departments. They are considered to be the architects of the whole creation. The legend is that one day there was a great crisis and all the three were to meet, consult, take a decision and conclude. Somehow, Brahma could trace Vishnu but Mahesh was not traceable. They tried all possible ways to communicate him but in vain. He was not available on the internet. He was not responding to the Gmails. He was not found online on the Google chat. He was not replying to the SMS. His Nexus One mobile phone was switched off. Both of them also tried to Wave him but in vain. All the efforts of communication and collaboration gone in vain. But the matter was very urgent and critical and he was to be consulted. Brahma and Vishnu decided to reach him at his home directly in the Himalayas. They both reached the Himalayas. There was nobody at the gate of his house. There was no security guard even. They rang the door bell. Tring...tring....tring..... There was no response. They were really worried now. They saw if the door was locked. They pushed the door and it opened. It was open and unlocked. They entered his house and found there was nobody in the drawing room. They yelled his name. Shiva....Shiva.....Shiva..... There was absolutely no response. They tried to see him if he is there in his bedroom. But they hesitated. It could be a trespass. It may amount to be immoral and unethical. But there was no other option available. It was the last chance. Hesitantly they both peeped into his bedroom. Shiva was absolutely busy with his beloved Shakti. They both were busy loving each other. Shiva looks at both Brahma and Vishnu but ignores them. He acts as if he has seen and not seen them. This is the reason why he was popularly known as the God of love. He was a lover of lovers. Both Brahma and Vishnu feel sorry for him and wait outside in the drawing room for Shiva to come out. They wait for a long time but Shiva does not come out. Both of them get very angry on Shiva and curse him. They curse him saying that for the rest of his life he will be known and worshiped in his phallic symbol 'Shivalinga'. This is how Shiva is also worshiped all over the world in the form of Shivlinga. This is again a symbolic, metaphoric and esoteric thing and we should not feel bad about it. We must know and understand the esoteric meaning behind this story. The whole story is the story of the union of Shiva and Shakti. It is the story of Shiva merging into Shakti and disappearing totally. Who will come and who will meet Brahma and Vishnu? If Shiva is there he will come and meet. In the eternal love Shiva has become one with Shakti. They both have disappeared into each other and dissolved in the universal and eternal love. They both have become one. Two bodies meeting and merging in one soul. Shiva represents intellect and Shakti represents intuition. The result of their union represents pure innocence. That is the reason why Shiva is also known as Ekalinga, meaning one gender. That is, now they are no more He and She. They are no more Shiva and Shakti. They are no more Prakriti and Purusha. They are no more two but one. They are one single pure energy. One single primordial energy of love, dance and celebration. The Chinese mythology also says that the whole cosmos is one single energy called 'Chi'. This same energy appears as yin and yang in its manifestation. Such was their divine love and such was their eternal love.
The East has represented the whole creation in three layers - He, She and It. That is, thinking, feeling and being. He represents the masculine energy. It is the active energy. It is the intellectual energy. It is the thinking energy. She represents the feminine energy. It is the passive energy. It is the intuitive energy. It is the emotional energy. The meeting of the two, merging of the two, union of the two, the perfect balance of the two is a transcendental state called 'It' or the 'Being'. These two energies are not opposites but complementaries. They appear as opposites but are compensatories. They complement, compensate and complete each other. This is also the reason why Shiva and Shakti are also called the God and Goddess of Tantra. They both are symbolic of the science of Tantra. Tantra is the natural way of meeting, merging and becoming one. It seems as if God himself has desired the Tantra way. All the devotees of Shiva are praying, dancing and wakeful the whole of night. Now, what does this waking in the night mean? This means when we are wakeful to our lust, it will transform into love. When we are wakeful to our ignorance, it will transform into innocence. When we are wakeful to our ugly past, it will transform into an eternal future.
I wish you all a Happy Mahashivratri from the bottom of my heart. Can we then meditate on the Shiva Mantra? Om Namah Shivaya. Om Namah Shivaya. Om Namah Shivaya.