Mahashivarathri Celebration at Sri Meenakshi Temple

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Priests getting ready to do 108 Shankha Puja and Homam

By Chittoor Ramachandran

PEARLAND: Hundreds of Hindu devotees assembled in the evening of the most auspicious Mahashivarathri ( February 17) to offer their respect to Sri Sundareswar, withstanding the chilly weather.

Ardent Shiva devotees believe that opportunity to participate in the rituals and listening to the specific vedamanthrams on this day is a divine sanction.  Musicians consider that the ability for singing is a blessing from Sri Shiva and singing his glory on Shivarathri is an expression of their gratitude. The basic lesson a classical dancer says that :-

“Aangikam bhuvanam yasya, vachikam sarva vaangmayam
Aahaaryam chandra thaaraadi, tam namah saathwikam Shivam”

Meaning: To whom the whole world is the movement of His ( Shiva’s) body, all sound His speech, the Moon and the Stars His ornaments, Him the Almighty being Shiva, the embodiments of divine serenity, I salute.  -: Natya Shashtra.

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Consul General of India, P. Harish doing Athmalinga puja

Mahashivarathri celebration at Sri Meenakshi Temple facilitated both cultural and religious aspects of the importance of this day to the full satisfaction of the devotees who were looking forward to this day.

The newly expanded Sri Ganesha sannidhi was set for the artistic presentations in which dozens of aspiring young and older students from various local dance schools performed classical dances.  Several musicians offered their prayers by singing highly regarded compositions by great composers.

Hordes of Shiva devotees started arriving by evening to the beautifully decorated main temple prepared to have convenient darshan of the detailed rituals.  As the sun started disappearing, for a brief period, the glowing periphery of the gopuram appeared like a giant jwala-lingam as a signal to begin the elaborate Mahashivarathri pooja.

Concentrating on the open flame in the homam, and a plead to Agni, the priests jointly chanted a series of vedamanthrams. It took no effort to draw the attention of all the devotees at the auspicious moment of poornaahuthi. As the flame rose, so did everyone’s energy.

Among the ways to adore and admire the majesty of Lord Shiva, abhishekam of Shivalinga with the water poured from the shankha (Shankha- abhishekam) is considered very auspicious. The priests ceremoniously carried 108 shankha filled with sanctified water to Sundareswara sannidhi to perform the abhishekam. The temple resounded with the most auspicious Rudram during the course of abhishekam. The flawless chanting of veda by the priests and the ritwiks eleveated the impact of the rituals to an exalted level. About 500 devotees including the Consul General of India, P. Harish and his wife participated in the various pujas. Devotees also enthusiastically lines up to pour milk on the Shiva lingam ( Athma Linga puja).

Many Shiva devotees continued to be present near Sri Sundareswara sannidhi to attend chathur kala pooja, singing bhajans and chanting veda manthrams. As a tradition, abhishekam and archana were repeated every 3 hours during the night.  Shivarathri is the only time the temple remains open to the public in the nighttime. This year, nearly one hundred devotees stayed awake throughout the night.

The successful Mahashivarathri celebration at MTS was a demonstration of how serving the Lord with ardent devotion leads to great happiness and peace.