I was introduced to Shiva, the multi-faceted and multi-talented god as a little girl at the tender age of three or maybe four.That was the beginning of my journey with him. Little did I know that he would play a pivotal role in my spiritual journey?
WHO IS SHIVA?
Shiva = Sha+aa+ ee+va
Sha = shareeram or body
ee= eeshwari or life giving energy.
va= vayu or motion
Thus Shiva represents the body with life and motion.
Shiva is the lord of divine energy and the Supreme Being. He is the Nirguna Brahman. Shiva is Rudra, the fierce force of destruction but also the ultimate healer. He is Adiyogi or the first yogi and Adi Guru or the first Guru. He is Anant someone without a beginning or an end. He is Nirguna without form, at the same time looks vibhatsa or scary with ash on his body, snake and elephant skin and when adorned in the fineries he looks even more handsome than Vishnu himself.
SAWAN, THE MONTH OF SHIVA AND RITUALS COMMONLY PRACTICED…
Currently we are in the fifth month of the Hindu calendar that is Sawan. Praying to Bholenath in this month, is a popular practise. Kawadiyas carry water in vessels on their shoulders and walk a substantial distance to a designated Shiva temple to offer water to their dear god on Shivratri. Water from the Triveni sangam in Prayag Raj is carried by many to the Kashi Vishwanath temple in Varanasi. This is just one of the many temples where this tradition is followed.
During this month Tuesday fasts are observed by young girls for a good husband. It is called the Mangala Gauri fast done to please Parvatiji, Shiva’s consort and the ultimate suhagaan. Monday fasts during this month are observed too for the same reason by unmarried girls. This fast is observed by others too for invoking Shiva’s blessings. Many people fast for the entire month, a good test of will power.
Rudra Abhishek is another ritual which is elaborate and very commonly practised during this period. People worship him in their own ways. Some offer milk and water daily, some offer counted belva patra like a hundred one or one lakh twenty-five thousand in the entire month. Chanting Om Namah Shivaya is another common practice.
SHIVA AS RUDRA IN THE VEDAS…
The earliest mention of Shiva is as Rudra in the Rig Veda. Rudra is someone who roars, is fierce and at the same time a divinity of the mid sphere, or one of the subtle world. He is intermediary between our intellect and physical existence. He is the God of the storm in Rig Veda therefore connected to our pran vayu. Therefore inspite of being fierce he has healing qualities too. He is mentioned as someone with thousand medicines. Like end leads to a new beginning so destruction leads to new life; is the concept behind him being the destroyer and healer.
RUDRASHTADHYAYI AND NAMAKAM AND CHAMAKAM
Rudrashtadhyayi is one of the most powerful Vedic hymns dedicated to Lord Shiva; from Shukla Yajur Veda and contains eight chapters. The first chapter asks him to bless us with determination and the second contains the Purush Sukta. Other chapters have Rudra Sukta, Surya Sukta and Vishnu Sukta. The 5th and 8th chapters have the Namakam and Chamakam.
These are also there in the Taittiriya Samhita of Krishna Yajurveda. The first part is known as Namakam and the second part is known as the Chamakam. It is famous for giving us the Panchakshari mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” and the Mahamrityunjaya mantra. It consists of two parts namely Namakam and Chamakam. It is a prayer invoking the Rudra to bless us with healing, liberation and transmutation.
The prayer requests for forgiveness of sins and the presence of the benevolent aspect of Shiva. Rudram is a hymn in praise of the all-pervading Brahman who is the Rudra, Shiva. His presence can be felt in the auspicious forms and terrible destructive forms too. Chamakam states the blessings we receive on praying to the Shiva or Rudra. It is recited after the Namakam to attain the highest blessing from him.
Both Rudrashatadhyayi and Namakam and Chamakam are chanted during a popular ritual called Rudra Abhishek where milk, honey, curd, ghee, sugar, sugarcane juice and many other products are offered to the Shiv ling. Belva patra, bhang, dhatura, durba and beautifully scented flowers too are used in the puja to appease Bholenath. Shiva loves the cool effect of chandan so chandan is popularly applied to the Shiv ling. Many people conduct the abhishek on the Mondays of the Sawan, month.
EXPERIENCE OF CHANTING THE NAMAKAM AND CHAMAKAM
Being an ardent devotee of Shiva, I have learnt many beautiful hymns and chants along the years which I love reciting including the Shiva Tandav. Last year I was fortunate and blessed to visit Kailash Mansarovar and complete the Parikrama in the month of Sawan. Towards the end of the trip we sat, singing Shiv hymns.
Out of the blue someone asked me to learn the Rudram and I laughed at the comment, considering it beyond my reach to do so. So this year when my teacher who taught me Vedic chanting mentioned that she will be teaching Rudram; I jumped at the opportunity. It seemed like a sign. The experience of reciting the Rudram at surya udaya every morning has been divine. I feel drawn inwards followed by calmness and energy at the same time. I love the rhythm and the meaning which asks the supreme Brahman to purify my whole being.
WHY IS SAWAN MONTH DEDICATED TO SHIVA?
The legend goes that devtas and asuras did Sagar Manthan and got various attributes like goddess Laxmi, Chintamani jewel, Kalp tree, Kamadhenu cow, Amrit or nectar and poison. No one wanted the negativity or poison. To save the world from disaster Shiva came forward as he is the only Supreme Being who accepts negativity along with positivity without qualms.
Just like he accepts the diminishing as well as the cursed moon and wears it on his head, he applies ashes from freshly burnt dead bodies and wears the snake who is dreaded by everyone. He consumed the poison and Devi helped him contain it in his throat as a perfect ardhangini would do. Devtas out of gratitude offered him Ganga Jal to calm the heat. This happened in the month of Sawaan. That’s why Sawaan is a special month for pleasing Shiva.
So let’s invoke Bholenath during this special month of Sawan. Realising the Shiva Tattva within us will lead us to the ultimate Ananda or bliss.
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Written by Astrologer Shalini Modi