Thursday, February 26, 2009

Maha Shivaratri

I have been observing Maha Shivaratri vows for over 13 years now - Except for the last year, I missed observing it when I was in Washington :-( [I had not missed it in S. Korea or even San Jose, California!] 

2008 will go down my memory as the worst year in my existence :-) [I hope I don't change that statement!] - I wanted to start this year auspiciously, by celebrating Maha Shivaratri.

Over years, my fasts have become stricter. I woke up early on Monday, and decided I'll take up the strictest form of the fast. In this version of the fast, one cannot eat or drink anything (including water) till the next day morn, after staying up the whole night. 

I did a simple japa of the Panchakshari (Om Namah Shivaya) few rounds (108 counts) in the morning. Then after a break, I started Ekadasi Rudram at 1:00 pm. Sri Rudram occurs in all Vedas. I follow the popular one in Sri Krishna Yajur Veda. [The word Krishna, does not indicate Lord Sri Krishna, an avatar of Sri Maha Vishnu - I'll explain the two different types of Yajur Veda in another blog entry]

The chanting consists of two parts - Namakam and Chamakam. The word 'nama' is occurs repetitively in namakam - The word 'nama' means 'to bow down in respect. In this part we mentally bow down to different aspects of Lord Shiva. 

For e.g., one verse goes
Namo Ugraya cha Bheemaya cha
[One who is Intense and Terrifying]

Namo Agre vataya cha Dhoore vataya cha
[One who can destroy things in His proximity and also things at a distance]


Namo Meghyaya Cha Vidhyuthya cha
[One who is the clouds, and the Lightning]

There is a lot more, but I'll restrict to these. Shiva takes a terrifying posture of 11 Rudras when the Universe is destroyed - The first few verses seem to indicate those forms.

The famoush Panchakshari [Na ma shi va ya] is also from Sri Rudram - I bow to the One who is all Auspicious (Shivaya) - It occurs in the central part of namakam (Incidentally, Rudram is in the central part of Sri Krishna Yajur Vedam) 

After namakam, usually chamakam is chanted. Chamakam seeks blessings from Lord Shiva. The word 'cha me' is used repetitively in Chamakam and hence it gets its name. Chamakam is the best way to seek blessings (we may ask for something lame!) - chamakam makes us to request Lord Shiva different things - Long life, health, wealth, concentration, sufficient food etc. 

Chamakam consists of 11 parts. In ekadasi rudram, full namakam is chanted once, and first part (anuvakam) of chamakam is chanted. Then full namakam is chanted again, and then the second anuvakam is chanted and so on. It can take from 3-4.5 hours based on your speed. 

I did one round  ekadasi Rudram from 1:00 pm to 4:30 pm. And, then I went to my brother-in-law's (Deepak Rajaram, my sister's husband) home. He is an intense Shiva Bhakta, and is extremely well read in scriptures and rituals. Though he is only 30, he has been doing ritualistic pooja for about 20 years now!!! I joined him and couple of his friends at his home - So, I had to do Ekadasi Rudram again that night. The prayers were elaborate with tons of flowers, cut fruits, honey, ghee, dhoopam, deepam, curd etc offered to the Lord - The Shiva Lingam that Deepak had, should definitely be satisfied with the level of Abhishekam done that night!

I had intermediate pangs of hunger, but faith helped me survive my temptations :-) - I reached home at about 5:00 am and finished one final set of prayers at my house, and it was about 6:00 am when I had my first sip of water after almost 24 hours. Who said water doesn't have taste? :-)

Then, at the conclusion of prayer, I had planned to ask certain things from the Lord (which I never do!) - Thankfully, at the end of the prayer, by Lord's Grace, I forgot to ask what I wanted to ask :-) - I wouldn't have forgiven myself if I had gone ahead and asked what I wanted!

To summarize, I had a great Maha Shivaratri celebration and am looking forward to an awesome 2009! 


jeyashrisuresh said...

awesome sriram really learnt more about shivratri and i really appreciate ur control over hunger which i normally don't have.I think i shoild practice that.And i know deepak is a shiv devoteee,but i dont know to which extent.for the past 20 years wow.

Sriram V Iyer said...

Hi Jeyashri: I am usually surprised myself :-) - I usually feel hungry the time I wake up! (That explains my gait)

Thiruvasagam says 'Avan arulal avan thaal vanangi' - We can pray to Shiva only if He gives us the Grace to pray to Him' - I guess, I have been able to observe the fasts only by His Grace.

Deepak is pretty awesome!

Arjuna said...

Man - thats awesome -- I remember having chicken burger during sivarathi in 2006! And that year was the best ever for me! :D

This year I made sure I ate veggie 4 times in the day and slept in the night (to be awoken by Nandha)..Actually I am having intermittent shivarathri daily ;)

Man ur a saint :D -- keep up the good work and do proxy for me -- c u in Shiva Loka :D

G Shankar said...

I am a huge fan of your blog and I look forward to reading more of your writing. Not only is it interesting and stimulating, it warms my heart on reading the blog and the comments to know that there are so many folks out there with faith in God, Shiva and there is still Faith, Goodness and subscription of our Way of Life in the world. Keep up the good work and I truly encourage you to write with the honesty, the clarity and passion with which you have written so far. My entire family in India and USA is now reading your blog

Sriram V Iyer said...

Arjuna: Good to know you attempted to be veggie during Shivratri. I know how tough it is for you :-) - We'll sure meet in Shivaloka as Bhoota Ganas (LOL)

Shankar: I really feel glad that you like the blog and am really honored when you say your entire family is reading the blog - I started this blog as an exercise to share my thoughts among friends and relatives.

I'll sure keep writing! (Thanks to your kind words) - I haven't written much of late, but, I'll write my next entry very soon.

I may not write about devotional stuff all the time (I usually mix my writing with some science, gadgets also) - Please pass on your kind comments for future entries also.

Sreemathy Mohan said...

Good article. After all, life's about faith and belief. Have you heard the Shiva Sahasrama Slokam and Shiva Mahima - The one I am referring to is by Prema Rangarajan and its divine

Sriram V Iyer said...

Thanks Sreemathi Mohan - I have read the Sahasranamam and the Shiva Mahimna Stotram - Both beautiful works. I have not heard the rendition by Ms. Prema Rangarajan though...