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The Secret of Shivratri

by T.N. Dhar 'Kundan'

Shiva worships Bhawani

Shiva is the eternal existence and, therefore, the Supreme Truth. He is free of bondage, devoid of attributes, all pervading and yet above everything, ‘Ati tishthat dashangulam’. He is Consciousness, ‘Chita’ and Bliss, ‘Ananda’. Everything emanates from Him and everything ultimately merges with Him. He adopts the form of Brahma and with the attribute of Rajas (Rajoguna) creates the universe. He assumes the form of Rudra and with the attribute of Tamas (Tamoguna) destroys the creation. In between He holds the form of Vishnu and with the attribute of Sattva (Sattvaguna) looks after and preserves the creation. He is free to desire, to know and to act (Iccha, jnana and kriya). All this, however, needs energy or power and that takes the form of Shakti, which in essence is an aspect of Shiva Himself. Sometimes Shiva propitiates Shakti and She enters Him to enable Him to perform five acts of creation, ‘utpatti’, sustenance, ‘sthiti’, and destruction, ‘samhara’, concealing, ‘pidana’, and showering His grace, ‘anugraha’. While explaining the importance of Shakti, in Bhawani Sahasranama, Shiva says to His favourite devotee Nandi, “It is the grace of Bhawani that I have been able to create the entire universe, humans, animals, birds, devas, asuras, gandharvas, stars, planets, flora, fauna, et al.”

Bhawani worships Shiva

Some other time the Bhawani herself meditates on Shiva, invokes Him, merges with Him whose inseparable aspect She is and becomes the cause of the birth of Kumara Kartikeya. This brings an end to the demon Tarkasur and saves the devatas from his wrath. This merger or marriage of Shiva with Shakti is what is celebrated as Shivaratri in Kashmir called ‘Herath’ or Hara ratri, the night of Shiva. This festival has the same importance in our part of the country as Durga puja has in Bengal, Ganesh puja in Maharashtra, Ayyapa festival in the South, Holi in Brajadam and Baisakhi in the Punjab. This is perhaps the only festival in India that is celebrated in Kashmir for a full fortnight and has become a unique socio-religious event. It starts on the first day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna (February/March) with cleansing and renovation of the houses and concludes on the fifteenth amavasya day with the distribution of prasada of walnuts after performing the prescribed puja. Every married daughter is regarded as a Parvati and is sent by her parents to her Shiva’s home in new dresses carrying money and gifts.

We worship Both

Although the fact of one God is universally accepted, the relationship between ‘jeeva’ the individual soul and ‘Brahman’, the universal soul is perhaps extensively discussed and explained only in our scriptures both in ‘Nigamas’(Vedas) and ‘Agamas’(other Shastras). There is an oft-quoted Vedic pronouncement, ‘Ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti’ the Truth is one, yet it is explained by the wise in different ways. This has given rise to different schools of philosophy propounding ‘dvaita’ (dualism) and ‘advaita’ (Non-dualism). The Shiva school of philosophy espouses non-dualism and the Kashmir Shaiva Darshan, also called ‘Trika’ system stands for non-dualism in its pristine purity. It advocates that the creation being the manifestation of Shiva cannot be an illusion or Maya as propounded by Shankaracharya. It is, therefore, real and pervaded by Shiva. We in Kashmir worship Shiva in both the aspects of Shiva and Shakti. Shakti for us is Rajna, Sharika, Jwala and many other forms of the energy aspect of Shiva. Worshipping Her gives us unflinching faith in Shiva, the source of all knowledge and the destination of all the seekers (‘Eko gamyah’ as stated in Mahimnastotra). Shiva for us is the supreme Truth. Worshipping Him leads us to unwavering trust and belief in the Mother, the giver of protection, solace and divine grace.

Shivaratri Celebration

The celebration of Shivratri, therefore, is symbolic and this symbolic leads to the Real. Attainment of the real coincides with self-realisation and self-realisation is the ultimate aim and goal of a true seeker. The faiths world over have believed that it is from the mundane that one advances to the spiritual and supramental. Even Sufis have proclaimed that from Ishqe Majazi, the worldly love one rises to Ishqe Haqiqi, the true eternal love where one is able to realise (Ham O ast), I am He or (Man Khuda), I am the God. This is called ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, I am the Divine in Vedantic parlance. This undisputedly establishes the importance of idol or symbol worship in general, which takes the form of Vatuk Puja on Shivaratri in Kashmir, The various pots that constitute the Vatuk - Dul, Ryesh Dul, Sanivar, Machivar and No’t, etc, stand for various deities or in other words, the different aspects of the same Divine. We propitiate them and pray for world peace and well being of Mankind. From here we march on to self-realization and for this is needed an inward journey.

In the words of the great Lal Ded :

Go’ran dopnam kunuy vatsun
Nyebra dopnam andar astun.

My preceptor revealed to me the single truth and that was to go from without to within.

(Taken from the Book ‘A Window on Kashmir’ written by T.N. Dhar)

T. N. Dhar Kundan's Articles

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