Visiting a Hindu temple, receiving the Shakti from the majestic Gods of our religion, can all together change the life of an individual. It alters the flow of the pranas or life currents within his body. Shakti coming from the great temples of our Gods can change the patterns of karma dating back many past lives, clearing and clarifying conditions that were created hundreds of years ago and are but seeds now, waiting to manifest in the future.
If a temple or shrine is not available for worship, then it is possible to establish a communication with the Deity through visualization. Take for example, Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed governor of nature, dharma, science and knowledge. Worship of Lord Ganesha is immediate; to think of His form is to contact Him. Close your eyes for a second visualize His murthi or form. According to Vedas, to worship of Lord Vishnu in the Morning and Lord Shiva in the evening Especially during Pradosha Kaala is highly beneficial to the Sadhaka. When the 12th tithi (Dwaadashi) in Krishna Paksha or Shukla Paksha ends before midnight.
When the 6th tithi (Shashti) ends before 1.5 Prahara (one Prahara is equal to ¼ duration of night) of night or 3rd (Tritiya) Tithi ends before 1 Prahara of Night, it is called Pradosha. But generally people observe Pradosha Vrata on every Trayodashi tithi (i.e. 13th Lunar day falling in Krishna and Shukla Pakshas) during Sandhya Kaala (ie. During or after sunset).
The Lord of 13th Trayodashi Tithi is Kaama Deva whereas the Lord of the succeeding Tithi i.e. 14th Chaturdashi is Lord Rudra (Shiva) himself. The 14th day of the dark half of every month – is called Sivaratri or Masa – sivaratri. The one in the month of Magh (Feb-Mar) is called Mahasivaratri, since it is the greatest of all.
The origin of Mahasivaratri When Brahma and Vishnu were disputing each other’s greatness to establish their own supremacy, a huge Linga or pillar of fire appeared suddenly that who ever finds the starting or ending point of this Linga would be the greatest of all. Neither of them succeeded and was hence obliged to accept the greatness of Siva who had manifested as that pillar of light. This was the origin of Sivalinga and Mahasivarati. It is also attributed as being the day of marriage of Siva with Parvati.
The other example of the Siva’s Greatness Siva Mahadeva, drank the halahala posion that emerged out of the milky ocean (ksirasagara) when it was being churned by devas and the danavas (gods and demons), and thus saved the worlds from destruction.
This vrata is open to all human beings. The basic disciplines to be kept up on this day are:
1. Ahimasa (non-injury)
2. Satya (speaking the truth)
3. Brahmacarya (continence)
4. Daya (compassion)
5. Ksama (forgiveness)
6. Anasuyata (absence of jealousy).
So also jagarana or keeping vigil in the night.
Worship of Siva throughout the night, bathing the Sivalinga with pancamrta (five tasty things – milk, curds, ghee, sugar and honey), homa, japa of the mulamantra (basic mantra – Aum Nama Sivaya) and prayer for forgiveness are the other items involved in its observance. The person can then, at the end of vrata, do parana (breaking the fast by partaking of the offerings)
One may take a vow to observe this varta for 24 or 14 or 12 years. At the end of this period the person has to perform the udyapana, a concluding rite indicating the completion of the vow. In the modern days, fasting, visiting Siva temples and keeping awake in the night are common.
There are five types of SIVARATRI:
1. NITYA SIVARATRI- The evening time on all days, between just 3 ghatis (72 minutes) before sunset and the time when the stars rise or become visible in the sky.
2. Paksha SIVARATRI- Sandhya (evening) time of Shukla Paksha Chaturthi (4th Lunar day after New Moon) every month.
3. Maasa SIVARATRI- Sandhya Krishna Paksha Trayodashi (13th Lunar day after Full Moon) every month.
4. Maha SIVARATRI- Sandhya time of Krishna Paksha Trayodashi which falls on a Saturday.
5. Pralaya SIVARATRI- The time when the entire universe gets annihilated of merged with Lord Shiva. Pradosh Vrat is observed on every 13th Lunar day after full and new Moon, by the wife and husband jointly with the hope of being free from, miseries or for gaining material prosperity.
They should bath early in the morning, adore Lord Shiva, and fast during the day, and after bath in the Evening, perform Pujas to Lord Shiva and his consort Pravati with the offerings of flowers and Naivedyams.
They then take their supper or meal. This Vrat is brought to a close at the end of a year.
All the four Purushaarthas, i.e., Dharma (good deeds), Artha (wealth), Kama (material pleasures) and Moksha (emancipation) are attained by any person who performs good deeds like observing Vratas, constructing temple, etc.
Reciting AUM NAMAH SHIVAYA devoutly for 108 times during this period will enable the devotees to gain a lot of mental peace and material benefits.
PRADOSHA VRATA By SRI SWAMI SIVANANDA
ALL THINGS in this vast creation function upon definite cosmic laws or laws of God. There is always a beautiful system and sound rationale governing every phenomenon and process, mundane or mystical.
Just as the gross elements and physical forces operate differently under different states and conditions, so also the subtler and higher forces respond and react in the inner mystic planes, and in the purely spiritual processes like meditation, prayer, worship, etc.
Therefore, you will find definite injunctions for performing certain types of worship in the morning, certain other injunctions for the midday prayers, and still others for the evening worship.
Again, some observances are performed during certain phases of the moon, some when a particular star is in the ascendant, or at the time of a particular conjunction of planets.
The Pradosha worship is to be done in the evening twilight on the thirteenth day of each lunar fortnight. It is the worship of Lord Siva for victory and success in all undertakings, and the fulfillment of all your heart's cherished desires. Pradosha is the worship of Lord Siva and Parvati when they both are in an extremely propitious mood. Repeatedly worsted in war by the demons, the gods approached Lord Siva to bless them with a leader for their celestial hosts.
They came to the Lord at twilight on the thirteenth day of the lunar fortnight and found Him in the blissful company of His consort, Parvati. Hymned and glorified by them, Siva immediately granted their prayer’s. Hence, the importance of the period.
The Skanda Purana relates how Sandilya Muni prescribed this Vrata to a Brahmin lady. She came to the sage with two boys, her son, Suchivrata, and an orphan prince, Dharmagupta, whose father was slain in battle and the kingdom overrun by enemies.
Acting upon the advice of the sage, the woman and the boys performed the Vrata with great devotion. After four months, that is, in the eighth Pradosha, Suchivrata obtained a pot of nectar and drank the divine ambrosia. Prince Dharmagupta won the hand of a celestial princess and, as ordered by Lord Siva, with the help of the celestial king himself, his enemies were slain and his kingdom restored to him. Then Dharmagupta attained the Lord's supreme abode.
One who takes this Vrata fasts on that day, and keeps vigil at night after the fast is over. Bathing an hour before sunset, the worshipper first performs a preliminary worship of Lord Siva, together with all the others of His divine family, namely, Parvati, Ganesha, Skanda and Nandi. After the worship of Ganesha, Lord Siva is invoked in the special kalasha placed on a square mandala with a lotus drawn in it and spread over with darbha grass. After the formal worship has been completed, a Pradosha story is read and heard by the devotees. This is followed by the recitation of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra 108 times. In the end the sacred kalasha water is partaken of, the sacred ash is applied to the forehead, and the water which was used to bathe the Lord, is drunk. A gift of a pot, a cloth and an image of the Lord are given to a Brahmin to conclude the worship.
A very important point to be remembered in this connection is that during this auspicious period all the hosts of celestial beings and gods come down from the heavens and attend the worship in their subtle forms. This adds immensely to the sanctity of the worship.
The mere sight of the Deity in a temple during this period will destroy all sins and bestow bountiful blessings and Grace upon the fortunate beholder. Even a single bael leaf offered to the Lord at this unique, auspicious moment equals a hundred Mahapujas. It is usual to have special additional lights in the shrine during the Pradosha.
To light even a single wick at this juncture is highly meritorious and productive of untold benefits, spiritual as well as material. Most fortunate and blessed is the person who performs the Pradosha Vrata, for upon him Lord Siva showers His choicest Grace and blessings in a very short time.
Here is the Yogic interpretation of the Pradosha:
According to the Siva-Raja Yoga, concentration is directed towards the central point in the middle of the eyebrows, where the spiritual light can be perceived by the Yogi who turns the vision inwards. The Yogi passes through various stages, all of which are subdivisions of the four states of waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and the Super conscious State or Samadhi. Each one of these states is further sub-divided into four states, for example, the waking-dreaming, waking-sleep, waking-fourth, and waking-waking. It will be seen that when the states are sub-divided in this way, the first three states comprise a total of twelve sub-states. The thirteenth is the fourth waking. There is correspondence between this and the thirteenth day of the lunar fortnight, either bright or dark.
Those who worship Mother Shakti have certain beliefs of their own, one of which is that the Goddess that is worshipped acquires one ray on each of the days of the bright fortnight, starting from the first day.
Thus, on the full moon night, the Goddess would have received fifteen rays and would be ready for the final form of worship intended to benefit the devout worshipper in all ways. The moon is believed to have a direct influence on the mind. Incidentally, the word mati means both the moon and the mind. According to Siva-Raja Yoga there are two channels through which the Prana flows. These are the Ida and the Pingala, ruled respectively by the moon and the sun.
Midway between these two there is a third, known as Sushumna. The Yogi is asked to start the practice of Yoga when the breath is passing through the lunar channel. This coincides with the flow of the breath through the left nostril. If, however, at the time of practice the flow is through the right nostril, the Yogi is asked to perform a special exercise by which to change the flow to the left.
When the Yogi concentrates on the point between the eyebrows, he transcends, stage by stage, the first twelve sub-states. The current of breath continues flowing through the lunar channel. The "moon" is gaining more and more strength. When the thirteenth day is reached, the spiritual power of the Yogi has correspondingly increased, and he is in a condition to see the lights, which appear in the nerve center in between the eyebrows.
In inverse proportion to the increase in concentration is the duration of the Yogi's breath. At the start of the practice, the breath will occupy a space of 16 fingers (inches approximately).
The moment the concentration has led him from the waking to the Dream State, the length of the breath becomes only 12 fingers. In this way, when he reaches the thirteenth stage, only 4 fingers of breath would remain. As this breath now circulates only within the nostril, no breath is noticeable at the tip of the nose. From that moment the light is fixed permanently at the center between the eyebrows, and the Yogi would have realized the object of his practice. Let me now describe the actual process of Siva-Raja Yoga. The Yogi sits in utter darkness, with the head and body erect, eyes open, and the gaze directed to the center of the eyebrows. He utters the Mantra in his mind and, without restraining his breath, concentrates his gaze at the middle of the eyebrows, ever on the thought of the appearance of the lights. The deep concentration resulting thereby yields the following fruits, in order.
First, he overcomes the distractions of his mind. He reaches a stage wherein he seems to hear somebody talking somewhere in the distance. The words are not distinct, but a sort of murmur is heard. Nevertheless, since his mind is elsewhere, he pays no attention to it. In fact, the sound comes from nowhere outside.
It is one's own mind that produces these sounds. The mind is actually functioning in its form as sound. Soon afterwards, this sound ceases, and he begins to see all sorts of visions, in the same manner as we see pictures in a movie. It appears (as if in a dream) that he is passing through hills of varying degrees of beauty, through seas and lakes of all sorts of colors and shapes, and through clouds of different hues. The clouds appear dark and thick at first and thin out gradually.
These are scenes, which are very pleasant to witness. But they are only thought-forms; imagery created by the mind as it is functioning as a form. It is in this stage that the Yogi may hear musical notes as well—of the flute, violin, cymbals or any other instrument.
The Yogi then passes through an entirely different experience. He suddenly awakens from a deep sleep. He does not remember when he got into the Sleep State, but he is conscious of the sudden awakening. The truth is that he had not slept at all. His mind became a complete blank; he lost consciousness of the workings of the mind, which was nonetheless still active all the time. When he regained consciousness, he suddenly felt his awareness once again.
He is now tempted to examine himself to ascertain if his posture is still erect and if his eyes are still fixed between his eyebrows. Finding no change in these he realizes that the temporary loss of consciousness was only a stage which he passed through in his Yoga.
Next comes the stage when he feels as if something of the nature of a hot nail is pricking him at the center of his eyebrows. In the earlier period of his practice there will only be this sensation, but as he advances, this is followed by the appearance of the lights. Even then there are various stages which have to be passed before the lights get their proper shape.
At first a yellow and a red light appear the red being in the center and two yellow flame-like lights on either side. After a few days, all these colors pass away and he begins to see a steady light of the shape and color of the moon.
As his practice advances, this grows brighter and brighter, and the whole room in which the Yogi sits is gradually illumined, starting with the intensity of twilight until it becomes a flood of bright light.
Yet in this state nothing that is in the room is seen; other things which are not there, begin to appear. They come and go with amazing rapidity, and reveal many things to him. Thus far, we have dwelt upon only the first four stages of the entire series of sixteen stages, which have to be passed through by the Siva-Raja Yogi before he finally attains union with Lord Siva. The details of the experiences at each stage vary from man to man, as also from day to day. But, in the main, these are the stages:
At first, the Yogi is aware of what transpires about him. He is in the waking part of the waking state. Then the pictures come in the dream part of his waking state. The feeling of overpowering sleep occurs in the deep sleep part of the waking state. The appearance of the light occurs in the fourth part of the waking stage.
The dream and the deep sleep states also have their four sub-divisions, which have to be passed. When the Yogi comes to the thirteenth stage, he is in the waking part of the fourth state. The vision of Lord Siva in the form of self-consciousness now begins. The form of the Lord appears before him as though coming out of the lights, which began at stage four of the sixteen stages. From this stage onwards the mind loses its sense of separate activity. It becomes deeply absorbed in the Self within.
On the thirteenth lunar day nature assists the worshipper in waking up from his mental deep sleep and in becoming aware of the fourth state. The Yogi who practices his Yoga on the Pradosha day gets these experiences of Lord Siva quite readily.
Similar to the above is the significance of the worship of Lord Ganesha on the fourth day of the lunar fortnight. This corresponds to the fourth part of the waking state, when the lights are first seen.
On the eighth day or the Ashtami, Mother Durga is adored. This corresponds to the fourth part of the Dream State.
Ekadashi or the eleventh day corresponds to the deep sleep part of the deep Sleep State. In this state there is complete unawareness of the mind. This is the most favorable moment for a direct contact with God, the indweller. If we fast and pray on this day, we can reduce our bodily activities to the minimum and can have the vision of the Lord who resides in our heart.