Tag Archives: SHIVRATRI

Lord Spontaneous (Shivratri-Herath)

The esoteric form of Shiva as Swacchand Bhairava with his consort Agoreshwari is central to Kashmir Shaivism, writes Sunil Raina

Shivaratri, celebrated on the 13th day of the dark fortnight of the month of Phalgun, is also called Har-ratri or Herath in Kashmiri. The festival has great religious and spiritual significance as it coincides with the emergence of Shiva tattvas on the physical plane. Shiva, at the early dawn of human creation, thought of Shakti, and in her search, donned the form of 18-armed Swacchandnath Bhairava.

Shakti, frightened by this form of Shiva, cast a glance on a pitcher full of water, wherefrom emerged Vatuk Bhairava and Rama Bhairava to defend her. Shiva at that time changed his form to Jawalalinga. Amazed by Shiva’s new form, Shakti along with her defending bhairavas merged with the Jawalalinga. Since this event is believed to have taken place on triyodashi, Kashmiris celebrate Shivaratri on this day, whereas the rest of the country, celebrated the festival on chaturdashi when the linga was pacified.

The esoteric form of Shiva as Swacchand Bhairava with his consort Agoreshwari is central to Kashmir Shaivism, and has been in existence since medieval times. Swacchand Bhairava signifies the prakasha, or the light consciousness, and Agoreshwari signifies vimarsha or Self-awareness. Swacchanda — as the term is understood — means free, independent and spontaneous and is synonymous with Swatantra. Kashmir Shaivism says that nondual conscious freedom is the only freedom that exists where the union with the Absolute is singular, amounting to you being Shiva, and is not dual.

This esoteric form of Shiva is imagined and deified as:

lWhite, five-faced and wide-eyed lord.

lHe is adorned with serpents and wears a necklace of scorpions which is called gunas. The word gunas in Kashmiri means serpent; Kashmiri women wear gunas bracelets that have at their ends, two serpents or red scorpions gazing at each other. This is symbolic of his instantaneous play with the bonds of soul.

lHe wraps a lion skin around his hip and an elephant hide over his shoulders.

lHe wears a garland of skulls, has a black throat and 18 arms.

His consort, who sits on his right thigh, has the same characteristics. By the power of his autonomy, the lord manifests this form with the highest level of Shakti. The lord has done so to facilitate and allow aspirants to enter the light of impartible that is indivisible or nondual as there is nothing like this in appearance anywhere else.

He is wide-eyed. He is in Bhairava Mudra intent on liberation of souls. He is focused within. He neither opens nor closes his eyes. He is overflowing with consciousness and bliss and has three power tools: icchha or will; jnana or knowledge and kriya or action. It is with these tools that Swacchandnath Bhairava manifests this universe with his fivefold acts of shristi or creation, stithi or sustenance, samhara or dissolution, triodanha or concealing and anugraha or revealing.

lBy his act of shristi, he holds and nourishes the universe in a way that he manifests the universe on the panoramic canvas of his identity.

lStithi is the persistence, the moment in which the consciousness is immersed in its projected content.

lSamhara is retraction; consciousness reabsorbs the content it has projected, essentially turning it towards nondual essence.

lTriodanha is enfolding or concealing of creation with respect to time and space.

l Anugraha is unfolding or revealing projections in the manifest world.

With these fivefold acts, Swacchandnath Bhairava, along with Agoreshwari, create an animate and inanimate world, thus unleashing the divine play of reality. The world is nothing but the mirror image of Swacchandnath Bhairava, and to recognise this unity between the individual soul, is the purpose of a well-meaning life. Shiva spreads the nectar of creativeness; shields the jivatman from torturous transmigration; brings forth the inner consciousness by tearing apart the individual ego, which essentially is ignorance; terminates maya; binds the universe and brings forth bliss, which is unlimited.

The night of Shivaratri is essentially considered to bring supreme awareness of Shivahood on the physical plane among aspirants. It removes nonduality among the souls and pushes the seeker to the higher orbit of Self-realisation. The festival of Shivaratri is celebrated with grandeur and reverence in every Kashmiri Hindu household, where each family member observes a fast and contributes towards making this festival a great success.

 

Written by:-Sunil Raina

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Hairath(Shivratri)

Once Jabbar Khan, the Afgan Governor , continuing the Islamic-proselytism and hegemony,  banned the Kashmiri-Pandits from celebrating “Shiv-ratri” on the usual day(normally feb-March). KP’s believed that Rain and Snow will definitely accompany “Hearath” .To break their faith in the myth accompanying “Hearath”, He ordered that  Shivratri should be celebrated instead in June-july. Distressly, KP’s were forced to abide the tyrannical-dictum. To the surprise of everyone, though, that year, the Shivratri was observed in June-july, It snowed in the valley of Kashmir that day, and the belief of KP’s in their religion strengthened and increased manifold.

During the last 25 years-in exile, My memories of celebrating the “Hearath” or “Shivratri”(in Kashmir) have faded to an extent. But the feeling of the “Heart” in Kashmir is still fresh. The smell of the burning “Kantgun”,  the havan, cold water-soaked-walnuts. The happy faces of my family. “Hearath Kharach”. “Haare”(shells).The shrilled voices of the exciting-children of our neighborhood. The weather. Rain and snow. The fervor. ….

Shivratri normally begins from the lunar calendar of Falgun Krishan paksh-Dwadishi/Triodishi(12 or 13th day of descending moon) and  culminate on falgun-paksh-Amavasya(new-moon).

In Kashmir, My Grandfather would be pre-occupied whole day on Haerath. First with the preparations of the pooja, and then with the actual pooja. It would take him anything between 4-7 hours to go through the intricacies and religious-hymns of the festival .During the pooja, of and on, he would look down towards his right and read the shlokas from the Pooja-Book. And if anybody , accidentally, interrupted him , while he was amidst  chanting the sacred mantras, He would get agitated and would shout loudly, “ Keep quiet, Don’t you see I am chanting the Mantras.” After the pooja was over, his face would reflect a sense of  accomplishment.

Mother and Grandmother would be busy whole day, mostly in the kitchen, during the festival of “Hearath”, that would last for 3 consecutive days. On religious occasions such as “Hairath”, I recall them smearing the floors with the mixture of special-clay(gurut maicz) and cow-dung.( This is still a regular-practice in the rural-India.).There used to be a unit of 2-3  earthen-Chulhas(Stoves) in our old house. These dry-wood-fuelled Stoves would only be used on special occasions and festivals. And Shivratri definitely topped the chart of religious festivals of Kashmiri-Pandits. In new house, However, there was no “Chula”, but the floor of the room where the “stahpana” and ritual had to be performed was smeared.

Children would wait impatiently for Salaam(13th or 14th day of Falgun-Krishan Paksh). “Hearath-Kharach”-Money to be spent away-was given by the elders to the young.(This is still widely practiced).The celebrations would culminate on the Amavasya(New-moon).

Over the years, I have seen 24 “hearath’s” outside the valley. Since, I didn’t had my own house after being forced-exiled in my own country, I have changed as many as 5 houses and as many different locations. But, my elders always made it sure, as is in our traditional ritual, to leave Shiva and his consort alone in the room, where  we do staphana(invoke and arrange the Shiv-parivar in a particular manner), even when my whole family of eight was living in a small quarter of 2 rooms.

I am a link between the past and the future. I feel blessed to have seen and lived with my elders, not only in Kashmir but elsewhere also. The elders have mystically carried on the Kashmir, in their own-self. The aura of “Kashmir-ness” is visibly written over them. So are their stories of Kashmir and the unique tradition of “Hearath”.

In Kashmir, our compound comprised of two independent houses with at least 40 members. It used to abuzz with the activity and energy of not only my whole family, but our neighbors too. The “Prasaad”-in the form of walnuts was distributed amongst the in-laws of my Aunts as well as neighbors. The Muslim shopkeepers and Children would often pester us to give them our days old water-soaked-walnuts.

However, Today, most of us are scattered all over the Globe. The prasaad of walnuts are still handed over to the in-laws of our Daughters and Aunts, in case they live in the same city.Otherwise, Walnuts are couriered to the family members in  various parts of India and Globe. Almost all Pandit-neighbors of Kashmir are forgotten and seldom are walnuts sent over to them. Nonetheless, they form a part of  sweet memory of the “Shiv-ratri” that was once celebrated with zeal in the valley.

Today, I am celebrating 25th “Hairath” outside Kashmir, like most of KP’s. Preparations have already started since yesterday .Kalash, Kand, flowers, wood for havan etc is ready and the pooja will start today at around 6.00 p.m and will last till 10 or 10.30 p.m.

But for strange reasons; I am thinking about how it might have looked in Kashmir today. If I would have been in Kashmir; though still cold, the windows would have  been opened today and the fresh cold-air would rush-in and titillate  the chocked walls of the first floor. Sometimes the occasional sunshine would tease the freshly-drenched soil and its  sparkle on the quagmire would look like the shining-jewels. The passing clouds over my house would block the sunshine for a while and the wind would then merrily swing it away over the mountains…..

I do not know, how many more “Haeraths” will a KP  have to spend outside Kashmir. History is a witness to the seven exoduses of Kashmiri Pandits. It is also a witness that the “KP’s” did come back although their numbers dwindled with each exodus. I pray to Shiva, today, on “Hairath”, and ask for his “Anugrah”(Blessings) to the entire KP community..

A Muslim friend just whatsapped me that it is raining today in the plains of Kashmir and snowing in upper reaches of Kashmir. The legend of Hairath lives on.

Happy Hairath to all…