February 19 – February 25
Early in the morning of Shivaratri, we saw our beloved Swamiji sitting in asan by the sacred fire and chanting many, many scriptures – the Chandi, Rudri, Shiva Sahasranama. For 24 hours, the fire was blazing with the offering of various mantras, especially “Om Namah Sivaya�.” The temple was decorated and Maa adorned Lord Shiva with new cloth, flowers and decorations. Everybody was busy preparing for the evening – making prasad, arranging flowers, setting up puja. In the bustle of activity was the sweet feeling of love, fellowship, devotion and anticipation.
At 6 in the evening, Maa and Swamiji arrived at the Temple and we all sang “Jai Shiva Omkara”�, arati to Lord Shiva. We began the worship by doing a group Shiva puja led by Maa and Swamiji. Then devotees went up to the Shiva lingam, one by one, as Swamiji guided them with mantras to offer milk, chandan (sandalwood), ganga jal (Ganges water) and flowers to Lord Shiva. Swamiji says we should build a personal relationship with God and through this guided puja, He taught us how to do it!!! It was thrilling, exciting and enlightening at the same time.
Everybody offered milk to the Shiva Lingams in the temple and then walked up to Napeswar to make offerings. As we walked to Napeswar, we burnt frankincense and rang bells and blew conches and sang together “Om Namah Sivaya.” It felt like we were in the Himalayas going to see Lord Shiva in Kailash!
There were four pujas conducted through out the night. In the first puja we offered milk, followed by yogurt in the second puja, and ghee and honey in the last two pujas. In addition to this, various prasad items such as kitchuri, vegetables, moong daal, sweet pudding etc were offered following scriptural guidelines.
As devotees were doing puja, Maa sang to Lord Shiva. Her voice resounded within the temple and across the word via the web cam. In fact, viewers from twenty-nine countries watched the festival and communicated by email and chat. As Maa sang “Shiva Shiva Shiva Shambo”, devotees danced around the room waving white flags. We prayed we could be ambassadors of peace and love and carry these magical moments in our hearts and into our lives.
As the evening slipped into night, Swamiji led us in a powerful group chanting of the Rudri. From time to time, Swamiji welcomed our online viewers from different parts of the world. He said, “Welcome to viewers from Czechoslovakia.” A little later He said, “Welcome to our family in India, where it is morning now. Thanks for joining us!” It felt like we are all one family, praying together and lighting the lamp of purity in every heart in temples all over the world.
After the four pujas were over, Swamiji blessed us with Holy Ash and Maa fed everybody with “Paaran”, a drink made of milk, cashews, raisins and powdered rice, traditionally taken to break the Shivaratri fast.
The next day, Shree Maa and Swamiji led us at Devi Mandir and all across the globe in a Nava Graha homa. We offered flowers, mantras and various grains to each of the 9 planets and prayed for world peace.
Later in the week, on the first day of the next lunar month, the Shiva sankalpa was completed. The over 3,000 Shiva lingams that Shree Maa had made during the preceding month were taken to the flowing water of the Devi Mandir creek and dissolved. Some devotees carried the Shiva lingams in baskets on their heads and others accompanied the procession playing drums, conches, bells and everybody sang â€œOm Namah Shivaya.
Swamiji led us in reciting the appropriate mantras to dissolve the Shiva lingams. We did arati and danced back to the temple with God’s name on our lips. On the way, we saw a line of peacocks watching the entire procession intently. It felt like all of nature was joining us in our prayers to Lord Shiva to bring peace and love to all creation!
Om Namah Sivaya!