Shivaratri is celebrated at midnight to celebrate Shiva. Why at night ? That is because Shiva comes to this world when it is enveloped in the darkness of ignorance —– when everyone has forgotten their true identity as souls, and instead believe they are bodies. This body-consciousness gives rise to vices such as lust, anger and greed, which are the root causes of all human suffering. Shivaratri thus stands for not just one night but the entire Kaliyug period of ignorance and unrighteousness that is brought to an end by Shiva.
The incorporeal Shiva enlightens ignorant minds by giving spiritual knowledge and instilling virtues in humans. He performs this task through a human medium remembered as Brahma. This is alluded to in the Shivapurana, which says that Shiva, the Jyotirlinga, the column of divine light, had mercy on all beings of the world and appeared in the forehead of Brahma and recreated the Satyug world through him.
Shiva reminds humans that they are spiritual and not physical beings, and that purity, peace, truth and love are their original qualities. In this way, Shiva creates a new consciousness that’s the seed from which emerges a virtuous and righteous world order. Following this process of creation, the old unrighteous order gets destroyed, subtly as well as physically. As evil reaches extreme proportions, misguided human intellects devise deadly weapons of mass destruction.
Shiva, whose name literally means “Benefactor” then nurtures the new world order through those who imbibe His teachings and spread His light in the world. The “Tripundi” —- the 3 lines on the Shivalingam —- which is one of the forms in which Shiva is represented —- signifies his three-fold task of ‘creation, sustenance and destruction performed. Since His divine intervention delivers all humans from suffering and ushers in a new era of peace and happiness. Shiva is remembered in various forms by people of different cultures and faiths.
Shiva’s incorporeal form is universally represented by light. The 12 famous Shiva Temples, in India, are known as Jyotirlinga Math signifying His divine light form. Shivaratri commemorates a momentous occasion, marking the beginning of a new cycle of time when the world passes from Kaliyug unto the Satyug.
In a world where levels of corruption, crime and violence are ringing alarm bells, it is becoming clear to more and more people that are lost in the darkness of ignorance. We can help dispel the gloom by carrying out in our personal life what Shivaratri commemorates ——– destroying the negative ways of thinking .and nurturing a positive attitude ——- to illuminate our lives with Truth.
—– B K Brijmohan