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Celebrating SHIVA: the Lord of Lords

Among the Hindu pantheon of Gods Shiva occupies an important place as one of the supreme trinity. He is also known as Mahadev, the God of all gods. He is benevolent to his devotees and keeps them guarded from troubles. The fifth Hindu month of Shraavan is dedicated to him all over the country.

Shraavan:

This is the fifth month in the Hindu calendar and one which can be said to be the beginning of celebrations as a number of festivals comes to be celebrated during this month. Hindu calendars luni-sidereal meaning they follow the lunar and astronomical patterns. While northern states of India follow the Purnima (Full moon), states in the west and south of India follow the Amavasya (No Moon) based calendar due to which there is a 15 day gap between the two. Shraavan began on 20 th July in the former states and on 3 rd August in the latter.

Some of the significant festivals celebrated throughout the country during Shraavan are Nag Panchami, Narali Purnima/Rakshabandhan and Krishna Janmashtami. Thereby this month is significant for people of both Shaiva and Vaishnava traditions.

Shraavan and Shiva:

We are all too familiar with the “˜Samudra Manthan”™ event. The ocean of milk was churned using Mount Mandara as the churning rod and Shiva”™s snake Vasuki as the churning rope. Many precious items emerged from the churning including the Kalpavriksha and Kamadhenu among others. But along with these precious things also came the Halahala poison. It was a poison so potent and destructive that it threatened to destroy the whole universe. The task of rescuing the universe fell on Mahadev who stepped forward and drank the poison. Since the poison was very powerful Goddess Parvati prevented it from going down the Lord”™s throat by holding his neck and thus Halahala remained there giving Shiva a blue throat. This episode took place in the month of Shraavan which makes it a significant month for Shiva.

Vrats and Yatras:

Besides festivals this is a month for Vrats (fasting) and Yatras (pilgrimages). Mahadev is the ruling deity of Monday and hence the Shraavan Somwar vrat is said to be particularly beneficial for devotees. Some Shiva bhakts fast all through the month of Shraavan seeking His grace and benevolence. It is in this month that the famous Amarnath Yatra seeking the blessing of Barfani Baba, ice Shiva Lingam situated in the Amarnath caves, takes place. Besides this Kanwar Yatras take place particularly in northern India. Shiva bhakts all over the country visit various Shiva temples to seek divine grace.

Shraavan Somwar Vrat:

The Shraavan Somwar Vrat is particularly significant if one wants to be blessed by Shiva. It is believed that by fasting on all Mondays of this month and performing the prescribed poojas one can achieve all that one desires be it materialistic or spiritual. Shiva is also known as Shambu and Shankara which means abode of joy and giver of joy respectively. One can seek eternal joy by praying to the God of Gods Mahadev who is bliss personified in this holy month.


Latha Iyer

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