PROLOGUE TO PRADOSHA AND SIVARATRI WORSHIPS
(I-DISCOURSE BY N. R. SRINIVASAN, FEBRUARY2012)
Vedas say Supreme Principle could be meditated upon as Twelve Suns (Aadityas). There are eleven other Suns besides what we visualize as burning bright Sun in the nature. Vedas also sometimes refer to Supreme Principle as the cool bright Moon. They also talk about the divine light within all of us which need to merge with the Supreme Light and compacted. This is the one Puranas hail as Aridra Nakshatra (Star Betelgeuse) which we worship on the Aaridra Darsanam night, the eternal source of Intelligence. So Puranas have imagined Supreme as Siva with three eyed Trayambka and chant the Vedic Mantra "Tryambakam Yajamahe". Puranic Siva has the Sun, the Moon and the most compact light beam Aaridra Star (situated at Ajnaa chakra, seat of Intelligence) as his three eyes. Many say the Third eye is Agni. Since Soorya is a fire-ball it will be logical to conclude the three eyes are the Sun, Moon and the Star.
Vedas also say Supreme Principle is Time. In Panchabrahma Vedic mantras he is described as "Kaala" and "Kalavikarana" which Purans have attributed to Panchanana the five faced Siva--Sadyojata, Vaamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusaha and Easaana. Supreme Principle is Cause of Time (Kaala) and the Cause of Divisions of Moment, Kshana, Muhurta…. Samvatsara etc of time (Kalavikarana). Even otherwise Supreme Principle is Samvatsara in Sanskrit as Samvatsara means, all entities exist in this--"samyak vasanti sarvabhootaani asmin iti". So we concentrate on an ideal time on these days as Puranas suggest. Can this be day to start with or night? Undecided we are in the twilight zone which Purans prescribe as Pradosha Kaalam. Doubtful as to the arrival, we continue whole night to visualize Him.
In the Temple at Tiruvaanaikoil in the district of Tirucchirapalli in Tamilnadu in India there is a rarest type of Siva Lingam, the one of its kind in the whole of India. This Linga has five faces which differ from each other. Four faces face the cardinal points of the compass and the fifth is on the top, facing the sky. The Vedic names of these are Tatpurusha facing the East, Vaamadeva facing the West, Sadyojaata facing the West, Aghora facing the South and fifth Easaana on the top, facing the sky. The Vedic mantras for the worship of Panchaanaana as Panchabrahma are found in Mahaa Naaraayana Upanishad. Astonishingly the five faces in this Linga are depicted quite correctly in keeping with the descriptions of such in the Panchabrahma Mantras. (Please refer to my discourse on Vedic Mantras from MNU and their meanings in the discourse posted on the BLOG: <nrsrini.blogspot.com>)
Puranas hail Mahsivaratri Night as the birth of Lingodbhava-moorti as column of fire with no beginning or end. Puranas created a tradition of worship in the form of Linga in the form known yet unknown-"vyakta-avyakta" form. They had the material in view but not the shape. What we know is one third and what we don't know about the Supreme Principle is two-thirds says Vedanta. Supreme Principle as creative force and with its vastness covering the entire universe had a third revelation in the shape of column of fire rising to unknown heights. It gave scope for more thrilling Puranic stories. It is possible that the fire Moses saw later in the wilderness on the mount of Sinai and received the Ten Commandments to carry to people that were not fortunate like him may have been the above column of fire. Zoroastrians started worshiping the Supreme Principle as Fire learning the wisdom from Vedas. When Parsis were in trouble they found religious freedom in India. Sakta followers and Tantrics called this fire as Primordial Energy and started Devi worship. They say Subhadra in Puri-Jagannath is Devi or Parabrahman. Aptly in Sanskrit language "Sakti" is feminine and therefore Puranas had no trouble in creating host of Devis. This column was Sadyojaata—instantly born, from where and how nobody knows! So Puranas narrate another "Sadyojaata" as blazing fire and ferocious at the same time, as Jwala-Narasimha emerging out of a lifeless pillar constituting of tiniest elemental atoms and started worshiping him with Panchabrahma Vedic mantras. Puranas also identify Sadyojaata and Easaana with Rama as found in Nirvanakhanda of Skanda Purana. Somebody pointed out "Eko Viprah bahuda Vadanti", the One the wise call many and so they say Puranas are not wrong in their projection.
Why do our religious scriptures make these rituals specific for thirteenth and fourteenth nights of the month in Phaalguna and also say that the birth of Siva as Lingodhbhava-moorti took place that night though he is ever born, Sadaasiva (omnipresent) and self-born, Svayambhu?
Siva-Raja-yoga has an answer to these figures says Swami Sivananda. The Yogi passes through various stages, all of which are subdivisions of the four states—waking, sleeping, deep sleep and super-conscious state. Each one of these states is further sub divided into four states. The first three states thus comprise of twelve sub-states. The thirteenth is the fourth-Waking to reach Supreme Principle. Hence, the thirteenth day prayer is prescribed for Pradosha Vrata.
Sankaracharya says we have to transcend five Karmendriyas, five Jnaanedriyas and four Anthakaranas to reach Supreme Principle. Karmendriyas are five organs of perception. Jnaanedriyas are five sense organs. Anthakaranas are the Mind, Intellect Consciousness and Ego. They constitute 14. Hindu Religious Scriptures understood these meanings and made the Pradosha and Sivaratri worship an all-round Pooja in the whole year. Ardent religious and health conscious followers observe these two Vratas on every Trayodasi (thirteenth day) and Chaturdasi (fourteent day) of dark and bright fortnights of all the Hindu calendar months, constituting 24 pradoshas and 24 Sivaratris.
Let us meditate on Panchbrahman as suggested in MNU on these sacred days as follows:
Nidhana-pataye Namh|Nidhan-pataantikaaya Namah |Ordhvaaya Namah| Oordhva Lingaaya Namah | Hiranyayaaya Namah | Hiranya Lingaaya Namah |Suvarnaaya Namah | Suvarna Lingaaya Namah |Divyaaya Namah | Divyalingaaya Namah | Bhavaaya Namah | Bhavalingaaya Namah | Sarvyaaya Namah | Sarvya Lingaaya Namah |Sivaaya Namah | Sivalingaaya Namah | Jwaalaaya Namah | Jwalalingaaya Namah| Aatmaaya Namah Aatmalingaaya Namah | Paramaaya Namah | Paramalingaaya Namah | Ethat Somasya Sooryasya Sarvalingag-sthaapayati paanimaatram pavitram ||
[While worshipping Siva in vyakta-avyakta form we are worshiping one of the aspects of Brahman above—Sivalinga. For meanings for all these mantras including that below please go to <nrsrini.blogspot.com> on Vedic Mantras from MNU]
TWARITA RUDRAM (QUICK CHANTING OF RUDRAM)
Sarvo vai rudras-tasmai rudraaya namo astu | purusho vai rudras-san maho namo namah Viswam bhootam bhuvanam chitram bahudhaa jaatam | jaayamaanancha-yat | sarvo hyesha rudraas-tasmai rudraaya namo astu ||Kadrudraaya prachetame meedhushtamaaya tavyase | vochema santamagam hride | Sarvo hyesha rudras-tasmai rudraaya namo astu || Namo Hiranya-baahave Hiranya-pataye Ambikaa-pataye Umaa-pataye namo namah ||
The Puranic story behind Pradosham
The story behind Pradosha is one often heard, beginning with the churning of the milk ocean by the devas and the asuras on a holy Dwadasi day. The very first product which came out of the milk ocean was the deadly poison, HalaHala. The devas and asuras were now in a fix. The poison from the sea came rushing after them, scaring them out of their wits. Vishnu was already holding the Meru mountain from below in his Kurma form, and unless the poison was removed from the milk ocean, the churning could not be resumed. It was while pondering over a possible solution, did Indra remember his grave folly No. 1. He had not seeked the blessings of Maheshwara prior to the commencement of the churning. He felt like kicking himself with the Vajraayudha. He was sure that SarpaBhooshana (The one who uses serpents as ornaments) would be the one who could pull them out of this mess. With fear clinging onto him like death and the poison chasing after them, he ran towards Mount Kailash with the rest of the devas in tow. “Namah Shivaya Om, Shivaya Namah Om”, they chanted on their helter skelter mad run towards Kailash. Kailash drew nearer and so did the gap between the poison and the devas. Finally, huffing and puffing, they made it to the foot hills of the Himalayas, and there what a sight awaited them.
A very angry Nandi stood at the gates to Kailash, looking close to murderous. “Go back, you filthy unloyal scums. You don’t seek the blessings of Eashwara when you start on this earth wrecking experiment, but now in a time of difficulty you come running here”, he roared. “Go back before I gore you to death with my horns”, he warned. Having warned, he lowered his sharp tipped horns.
Flabbergasted, thedevas retreated, only to be met by the rippling waves of hala hala behind. Shocked to death and having no other go, Indra and the devas ran towards the left of the mountain, chased by the Poison. They circumambulated the Holy Kailasa and came back to the starting point, where, at the entrance they were once again met by Nandi, his sharp horns glinting in the sun. “Back up”, shouted the devas all over, and they turned around, running back around the mountain once again to be driven forward by the poison. This very funny running-around-the-mountain game went on, leaving the devas (who were already weak) totally exhausted. Shiva finally decided to have pity on them and came down from his divine abode, shining like a thousand majestic suns.
“Nandi,” he commanded, “ibring me the hala hala”. Nandi immediately collected the poison and gave it to Shiva. With a smile on his lips, he rolled all the poison into a single ball and swallowed it. The Lord of the universe had swallowed the deadly poison, forgetting that all of creation was sustained within him. The three worlds were now open to the deathly effects of Hala Hala. Parvathi, the mother of all creation, sensing imminent danger to all her children, came thundering down the steps of her mountain palace and gently held up their hands against Shiva’s neck, forcing the poison to stay there. Shiva’s neck turned violently blue and the poison started taking its toll on Him. Beckoning Parvathi, he said, “Oh Gauri, don’t panic. I had to do this. I now feel light headed… Maybe it’s the poison…. May I rest on your lap, divine mother?”
Parvathi sat down, and gently took Shiva’s head into her lap. What a sight it was, Parameshwara, his neck all blue, resting on the lap of Jagathjanani. The devas thanked Shiva in their hearts and waited with bated breath for the lord to show signs of normalcy. The whole of Kailash was engulfed in a deathly silence, waiting for its lord to revive. One and a half days passed, and the thithi of Thrayodasi on Saturday was nearing its end and still Shiva showed no signs of motion. The devas grew worried and their feeling of guilt increased.
The sun was sinking low on the horizon on the sacred thrayodasi day, when the anklets of Shiva moved around producing the ever resonant Om. Shiva sat up, as though from a blissful sleep and cast an eye full of grace on the devas. “Namah Parvathi pathaye”, Indra praised, immediately followed by all the devas resonating, “Hara Hara Mahadeva”. The lord was back to normal.
Nandi was overjoyed and kept shaking his head like an adamant small child. When he had carried the poison over to Shiva, the fumes of the deadly halahala had entered him and had slightly damaged his senses. The joy that he felt now was not due to the recovery of Shiva, but rather due to a baseless pride that the poison which had affected even Shiva had done nothing to him. But of course, it was only due to the damage of his senses that Nandi ever had let such blasphemous thoughts enter his head.
Parvathi threw a concerned glance at Nandi and then turned back to Neelakantha (The blue throated one), her eyes full of question. Shiva decided to cure Nandi of his current head weight and at the same time show all of the world that he was indeed alright and that nothing could destroy him. Summoning Nandi, the God of Dance placed his tender feet on Nandi’s head and stood on his forehead. Then, with Vishnu blowing the panchajanya, Indra at the mridangam, Saraswathi playing the veena, Lakshmi clanging the cymbals, Brahma clicking the nattuvangam and Gauri herself leading the vocals, Nataraja, sounding his drum all by himself, danced over the head of Nandi, between the two horns, to show to the world that he was just as normal as ever. The whole world watched this divine dance with absolute raptness. They had seen nothing as beautiful as this before. For the next one and a half hours leading to sunset, Shiva performed his Sandhya Thandava (evening dance), his lotus feet hitting on Nandi’s head, driving out his insanity. What an awesome sight it was. The world was indeed blessed.
These one and a half hours, spanning from 4:30 PM to 6 PM in normal human days, form the period of pradosha every day. However, since Bhagawan had danced on the thithi of Thrayodashi, these one and half hours on thrayodashi are observed as the time of pradosha in all the shiva temples in the world. There are five types of pradoshas known. They are:- Nithya pradosha (Daily), Paksha Pradosha (Every Thrayodashi), Maasa Pradosha (thrayodashi of Krishna paksha), Maha pradosha (when pradosha falls on a saturday) and Pralaya Pradosha (At the end of all times, when all creation will recede into shakthi and shakthi herself will recede into Shiva). There are people who observe pradosha every day too.
Pradosha vratha has a number of unique observances and was preached by Sandilya Maharishi to a woman, her son Suchivratha and an orphaned prince Dharmaguptha. It is said that after 8 pradoshas, Suchivrata got to drink the amrutha and Dharmaguptha married a celestial princess and by the grace of Shiva was able to regain his kingdom. Such is the power of the vratha.
The general procedures of the vratha match closely to the other vrathas and should essentially include Ahimsa, Sathya (truthfulness), Daya (compassion), kshama (forgiveness) and brahmacharya. The vratha is ended in the evening with the visit to a Shiva temple during pradhosha kalam and taking part in the worship there. Over the one and half hours, the lord is bathed in various substances and special pooja is offered. Nandidevar gets equal importance and is given special abhisheka in milk, sandal, water, fragrant fluids among others. He is offered a special dish made out of red rice (Puttarisi) and worshipped by everyone. People even take the liberty of whispering their wishes into his ears to pass them onto Shiva, for during pradhosha, Nandi is said to be closest to the Lord. It is also customary to have a darshan of the shiva linga through and in between the horns of Nandi, just the way he had danced at the very first pradosha.
The highlight of every pradosha is the Soma Sooktha Pradakshinam. The Pradosha Nayakar is a small statue of Shiva and Parvathi, standing on Nandi. He comes out only during the pradosha and hence the name. The Pradosha Nayakar is carried in a procession around the temple three times, followed dutifully by all the devotees in what is called the Somasooktha pradakshinam.