I, along with Naad team, would like to greet all the readers and writers on Shivratri, also known as har-ratri or heyreth in Kashmir. The festival of Shivratri is an important festival among the aborigines of Kashmir who celebrate this festival with great spiritual fervor. The festival involves components of cultural and social togetherness and subtly plays a role of spiritual awakening among the people. Shiva and Shakti have a special connection to Kashmir, as there are innumerable tirthas and shrines dedicated to divine couple across the length and breadth of the valley. Hence, the festival of Shivratri becomes a part of journey which takes an individual from peripheral to ephemeral and onto eternal.
Kashmir and Shiva are not inseparable. As per Kashmir Shaivism, Shivratri is the time when Lord Shiva is worshipped in esoteric form as Swacchand Bhairava along with his consort Agoreshwari. This concept is central to Shaivism and has been in existence since ages. 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. This esoteric form of Shiva is imagined and deified as:
One who 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 Swacchand Bhairava manifests this universe with his five fold acts of shristi or creation, stithi or sustenance, samhara or dissolution, triodanha or concealing and anugraha or revealing.
By his act of shristi, he holds and nourishes the universe in a way that he manifests the universe. The world is nothing but the mirror image of Swacchand Bhairava, and to recognize this unity between the individual soul, is the purpose of a well-meaning life. According to Kashmir Shaivism, 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 non duality among the souls and pushes the seeker to the higher orbit of Self-realisation.
Abhinavagupta in Tantraloka explains the etymology of Bhairava whom we worship as following;
- Bhairava is one who removes fear of bondage among souls.
- Bhairava is one who stops the process of transmigration of souls.
- Bhairava is one who protects frightened souls from the fear of rebirth.
- Bhairava is one who shines as pure Consciousness among yogis.
- Bhairava is one who transcends Time and Space.
- Bhairava is one who bestows Grace to the earnest seeker.
- Bhairava is one who creates, nourishes and dissolves the world.
Great Devotee Shri Utpaldeva writes in Sivastotravali,
Where light exists not even in name, where entire world is in deep slumber in such a mystical state of Shiva’s night thy devotee worships thee uninterruptible.
Therefore, let us all pray to the Swacchand Bhairava to remove the traces of ignorance, dissolve all impurities (malas-anava mal, mayiya mal, karma mal) and nourish us with His grace of pure Consciousness. May the Bhairava permeate our lives and make it more rewarding and spiritual.
– Sunil Raina Rajanaka