The science and significance of Shivaratri

published on February 25, 2014

The following article will help devotees of Deity Shiva get scripturally accurate and authoritative information about the meaning of Deity Shiva’s Principle, His physical attributes, etc. We pray that this knowledge assists devotees in creating a firm foundation for effective spiritual practice, so that they can obtain the Divine grace of Deity Shiva.
        Mahashivratri falls on Magh Krishna Chaturdashi. This year it falls on  27th February 2014. On this day, Shiva principle descends to Earth a thousand times more than usual. So to obtain the full benefit of Lord Shiva’s principle, one should chant ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ as much as possible on this day.

Meaning of Shivaratri

Shivratri is the time when Shiva takes rest. Shiva rests for one ‘prahar’ (three hours) of the night. This ‘prahar’ is referred to as the Shivratri. When Lord Shiva takes rest, the function of ‘Shivtatvam’ (Shiva Principle) ceases, i.e. Lord Shiva goes into a meditative state. Shiva’s meditative state is the time when He is engrossed in His own spiritual practice. During that time, the ‘Shivtatvam’ does not accept any tamogunam (most basic of the 3 elements in us – sattva, raja & tama) or any halahal (venom churned from the ocean) coming from the Universe. As a result, the ratio of halahal or the pressure of the negative energies in the atmosphere increases. For protection from this pressure, things like ‘bel leaves’, white flowers, ‘rudraksha’ beads etc are offered to Lord Shiva and also ‘vratam’ (vowed religious observances) is undertaken. The things like white flowers, attract the ‘Shivtatvam’ from the atmosphere, thus providing protection from the increasing effect of the negative energies.

Benefits of Shivatari ‘vratam’ : Lord Shiva Himself has blessed His devotees thus – “those who undertake vratam on Mahashivaratri day, will be blessed as following : 1. the desires of all men will be fulfilled, 2. unmarried girls will get a husband as per their wish, 3. the women will lead a happy married life.

Origin & Definition of Deity Shiva’s Principle

1. The word Shiva has been derived by reversing the letters of the word ‘vash’. Vash means to enlighten; hence, the one who enlightens is Shiva. Shiva is Absolute, self-radiant. He remains radiant and illuminates the universe.
2. Shiva is an auspicious and prosperity-bestowing Principle.
3. Shiva means Brahman and Paramshiva means Supreme Brahman

Physical attributes of Deity Shiva

The appearance of Deity Shiva has profound spiritual meaning and significance. Let us gain some insight so that we can interpret the knowledge in it.
1. Deity Shiva’s colour
The colour of Deity Shiva is white. It is difficult for seekers to tolerate the intense vibrations of Deity Shiva’s original white colour. Hence, Shiva’s body is enveloped with ash colour.
2. Ganga : Few meanings of Ganga, are as follows :
a. Ganga means the one who elevates (the bathing person) to the state of God.
b. The one, to who those desirous of Liberation turn, is Ganga.
c. Ganga on Earth : The Holy River Ganga has its origin at Gangotri in the Himalayas. It has a small percentage of the subtle Principle of the spiritual Ganga. Hence, however impure it might become due to pollution of its water, it always remains Holy.
3. Moon
Shiva adorns the Chandra (Moon) on His forehead. The moon is a stage with the combined existence of qualities of affection, compassion and maternal love.
4. Third Eye
a. The vertical eye on Shiva’s forehead and in the subtle form, just above the midpoint of the eyebrows is considered to be His Third Eye. It is also the greatest seat of extrasensory energy and has been named as Jyotirmath, Vyaspeetha etc.
b. Shiva’s third eye is a symbol of the Absolute Fire Principle. Even in Shiva’s picture His third eye has the shape of a flame.
c. Shankar is three-eyed, which means He can perceive events in the past, present and future.
5. Naga (Serpent)
a. The naga (Serpent) is also considered to be Shiva’s weapon. The nine serpents in the universe are also referred to as ‘Navanarayan’. The Navanathas have originated from these nine serpents.
b. The serpent is a representation of the Purushtattva (God Principle). He is the Deity that bestows progeny.
6. Bhasma
Pure ash is known as bhasma. Shiva has applied bhasma (Holy ash) all over His body. Bhasma is also referred to as Shiva’s Semen.

It is a misconception that ash that remains after burning some object is known as bhasma. Strictly speaking, the remains of samidha (Sacrificial firewood) and ghee (Clarified butter) after they are burnt in a Yadnya (Sacrificial fire) are known as bhasma. Some people bathe the Idol with ash as part of ritualistic worship. The ash that has turned Holy because of contact with the Deity’s Idol is then used as bhasma.
‘Bha’ in the word bhasma means elimination and ‘sma’ means remembrance. It is because of bhasma, that demerits are eliminated and God is remembered.

What does bhasma teach us ?

1. If you sacrifice yourself and become bhasma, you will be sacrificing your (worldly) aims, personality defects, lack of knowledge and ego, and acquiring purity of the mind.
2. Since the human body has limited life, it is going to turn to ash after death. Hence, none should be desirous of the body. Bhasma signifies this. You should always be aware of the fact that death can come any moment. Hence, you should put to full use the human birth you have received after great effort. For this, you should make efforts to ensure that every moment is Holy and blissful.
3. Bhasma teaches us detachment.
7. Rudraksha
Shiva adorns chains of rudraksha beads around the knotted hair on His head and around the neck, arms, wrists and waist. Rudraksha is a fruit which never gets destroyed. Our soul is similar to it. Rudraksha is a symbol of our soul.
8. Vyaghrambar
Tiger (denoting the Raja and Tama components) is a symbol of cruelty. Shiva killed such a tiger (the Raja-Tama) and made a vyaghrambar (Seat) from its skin.

Deity Shiva’s Family

Every Deity has a family comprising other Deities and many other beings from the subtle world. This section is an eye-opener on Deity Shiva’s family.
1. Consort : Shri Parvatidevi
2. Sons :
a. Shri Kartikeya – ‘He is the son of Shiva and Parvati. He is named Kartikeya because He was nurtured and brought up by Deities of the constellation of six stars known as Krutikas.’
b. Shri Ganapati
c. Others – Many infant Deities such as Murugan, Shvasta, Shasta, Skanda, Atavi, Atavishvar, Avalokiteshvar, Avaloki, Kotaputra etc. later merged into Shiva.
3. Shivagan (Attendants of Shiva)
Attendants of Shiva reside in Shivaloka (Shiva’s abode) and are His servitors. Nandi, Shrungi, Bhugiriti, Shaila, Gokarna, Ghantakarna, Veerabhadra and Mahavikata are considered to be the main groups of attendants. The different types of Shiva’s attendants are as follows.

Offerings to Shiva and science behind them

Why and how to offer Bel leaves to Lord Shiva? : As Bel leaves have the capacity to absorb maximum frequencies of Shiva principle, these leaves are offered to Lord Shiva. The leaves should be offered with their stalks facing oneself and the leaf should be placed upside down on the pindi. When the Bel leaves are offered upside down on the pindi, the nirgun frequencies are emitted in greater amount from them and the devotee is benefitted by it.

Offering of white flowers and food grains : Frequencies of Deities are attracted to Akshata, an offering of rice (white in colour). Hence white rice (Akshata) are offered to Lord Shiva. Also nishagandhi, mogra and other white flowers are offered in tens or multiples of ten to Shivalinga. The flowers should be offered with stalks facing towards Shivalinga.

Udbatti and Attar : Frequencies of Deities are attracted towards the fragrance emitted by udbatti and attar. Kevda and Jasmine Udbattis and Kevda attar is used in Shiva puja.
Do not use turmeric and Kumkum! : Turmeric and Kumkum represent evolution, hence do not offer turmeric and kumkum to Lord Shiva, who is a Deity of dissolution.

Circumambulation (Pradakshina) of Shivalinga

When circumambulating Shivalinga, one should begin on the left hand side and continue till the channel of the shalunka from where the water offered during the ritualistic bathing (abhishekam) flows. Without crossing it one should complete a circumambulation by moving in the reverse direction upto the other side of the channel (source). This rule applies only if the Shivalinga is installed or created by man; it does not apply to a svayambhu or a chala linga (kept in the house). Lot of energy flows from the channel of Shalunka, which a normal person may not be able to bear if he crosses it repeatedly. Hence, only ardha pradakshina is offered to Shivalinga.


In the broad sense, denigration means displaying something in an undesirable form/shape, different from its original form/shape. Denigration can find expression in a painting, sculpture, text, words, sentences, play, films etc.
If we are a true devotee of Lord Shiva, we will not ever be able to tolerate defamation of Shiva. To prevent denigration of Deities :
1. Do not wear clothes with Names or pictures of Deities printed on them !
2. Stop those who beg by dressing themselves as Deities !
3. Avoid movies, dramas, newspapers and products which denigrate Deities !
4. Legally protest those who organise exhibition of pictures of Deities, drawn in a distorted way !
5. Educate and stop those who make fun of Deities through speech or writings !
Denigrating Deities mounts to lot of sin. It is our duty to stop this denigration & earn God’s grace. Remember – Dharmo Rakshati Rakshitaha (ie. Dharma protects only those who protect Dharma !)

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