Today is Maha Shivaratri – the day when Lord Shiva is worshipped with special fervour. Several characteristic means of worship mark this day with people fasting the whole day and staying up the entire night, praying and singing bhajans in praise of the lord.
For me, the day brings memories of the small temple near my parental home. This otherwise non-descript temple – one among the several little ones that spring up in a locality, gets completely transformed on this day. The festivities begin a week in advance, with the temple premises being thoroughly cleaned with all nooks and corners scrubbed and shiny. The deities are given special baths and decked with various adornments each day. The small gopuram and the temple structure with the compound and surrounding roads are set ablaze with serial lights and there is a general air of excitement all around.
Visiting the temple on this day for the lord’s darshan is never an easy task. People start thronging the place right from dawn and this continues throughout the day. One has got to plan to time one’s visit to avoid the crowds. I remember this used to be a tedious affair during my engineering days, inevitably this would be around the time when we’d have our semester exams and I would be in the throes of exam-anxiety. One such year, the temple visit had taken an inordinately long time and I remember it was excruciating – waiting in the queue thinking about the chapters to be covered and all the while feeling guilty that it was wrong to think about my time being wasted when I was there for the lord’s darshan! I would fervently pray for my exams to go well 😀
This is also the day when the differences in the social strata are blurred, albeit temporarily. People – rich and poor, high and low are treated equal. The temple is graced by the political luminaries and dignitaries from the surrounding MLA layout; the ministers choose to walk down with their families for a special pooja and darshan and what’s more, nobody is in awe of them on the occasion 😀
As the day progresses preparations are made for the nightly celebrations and ‘jaagarane’. A pandal is put up at the back of the temple and TV and music systems with big speakers are set up. People start settling in to spend the night singing bhajans and songs. I never really got to know what the TV was for; probably some devotional movies are played over the night. Though the music with the blaring speakers are a nuisance for the surrounding neighbours people do take this liberty once a year.
I don’t remember staying up the whole night anytime, but yes exam times would inevitably see me up till late nights – I would call it studies cum jaagarane!
Finally, on a lighter note, my earliest memory of Shivaratri jaagarane is quite funny. I remember accompanying my dad to a nearby tent to watch a movie of Baby Shamili named Durga or something of the sort. Well now, neither does the tent exist at the place nor is Shamili a baby anymore!! 😀
Wish you all a very happy Shivaratri! 🙂