Symbolism of Shiva & Significance of Shivaratri!

SHIVARATRI represents the State of Realisation – Jivanmukti. Ratri signifies darkness – the darkness of spiritual ignorance (Avidya). Shiva is the personification of Auspiciousness – the Awareness or the Knowing Principle. 

Where Shiva “is”; Ratri “is not” (Tamasoma Jyotirgamaya). To reach this Highest State, the spiritual seeker is advised UPAVASA and JAGARANA. 

Upa means “near”. Vasa means “to stay”. Therefore, UPAVASA not only means “fasting”, but in its broader perspective it means “to stay connected with the Higher God-principle”. JAGARANA means “to be alert and aware”. Hence, Upavasa and Jagarana means “to be constantly and consistently identified with the Lord and simultaneously to be in a state of inner awareness, so that the mind does not move away from its focus. In the inner Upavasa-Jagarana State alone, the Vision of the Divine can take place and this is referred to as Shiva Darshana. 

Lord Shiva is the Lord of Ascetics (Sanyasins). He is also the personification of Dispassion (Vairagya). As Dakshinamurthi, he represents the Adi Guru, imparting the Atma Vidya (Subjective Science) to his disciples through eloquent silence with the help of the Jnana Mudra (Chinmudra). As Nataraja, the Lord of Naada and Nritya, he represents the dynamic cycle of creation, sustenance and dissolution – at the universal and individual levels. The SHIVA-LINGA represents the Formless-form of Lord Shiva. The Linga, in its truest form is actually elliptical in shape. It represents the entire Cosmos wherein all planets and celestial bodies are moving in elliptical paths (Keplers Laws of Planetary Motion)! The upper half of the elliptical-shaped Shiva Linga which is visible to us in the sanctum of the temples represents the manifested universe of things and beings. The lower portion of the elliptical-form which is not visible represents the Unmanifest, Absolute Substratum or the Adhishtana for the manifested universe. The elliptical-shape allows maximum absorption of spiritual energy from the Cosmos and radiation of the same to the surroundings.  

To the spiritual seeker, Lord Shiva represents both the PATH and the GOAL. Lord Shiva residing on the snow peaks of Kailasa represents Tapascharya (austerity). The All-pervading Lord is clothed with the very directions from all sides (Dik-ambara). The perennial flow of Ganga from his matted locks stands for the “flow of Spiritual Knowledge”. The moon adorning his head represents the mind which is well integrated with Knowledge! Parvati seated next to the Lord represents Shakti – the ability and capacity to walk the spiritual path. Sankara wears the eternal flow of Time as an ornament round his neck in the form of a snake. The Lord has three eyes representing the sun, moon and fire – the natural sources of light. The two horizontal eyes represent EXPANSIVENESS or SPACE. The third vertical eye represents DEPTH or TIME. Also, the Lord’s RIGHT eye represents the SUN (Life-force, Purusha). The LEFT eye represents the MOON (Matter, Prakriti). The relation between the two factors: Matter and Energy or Prakriti and Purusha, gives rise to the entire universe of things and beings. The THIRD EYE of the Lord represents VIVEKA or DISCRIMINATION or the FIRE-of-KNOWLEDGE which helps the seeker to transcend the concept of duality.

Shiva wields the three-pronged weapon in his hand – Trishula. The three prongs represent transcendence over: the three states (waking, dream, deep sleep), the three gunas (sattva, rajas, tamas), three periods of time (past, present, future), and the three equipments (body, mind, intellect). Lord Shiva resides in the burning ghat (smashana vasi). The burning ghat represents the “inner state” of a realised person where the entire world of plurality with its names, forms, qualities and activities are all burnt up and transcended in the Fire of Spiritual Knowledge (Jnana-Agni). The only residue left behind is the One, Homogeneous White Ash – the Truth behind the entire plurality! The Lord adorns himself with this “Ash”. This is the Ultimate Glory – the Real Vibhuti – of a Man of Realisation. Lord Shiva has Nandi (Bull) as his vahana (vehicle). Nandi represents an individual who has complete mastery over his equipments as well as one who has totally surrendered to the Lord. Such an individual becomes the “fit instrument” for the Lord to function through for the welfare of the world. The Lord is invoked and worshipped with the sacred bilva leaves which are a cluster of three leaflets. The three represent all the tri-groups which one has to transcend in his seat of meditation to reach the State of Enlightenment – Iswara Darshana.

“Om Namah Shivaya! Hara Hara Mahadeva!!”

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