|Lord Shiva And Pradosh Vrat or Fasts|
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.
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:
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 Pradosh:
1. NITYA Pradosh- 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 Pradosh- Sandhya (evening) time of Shukla Paksha Chaturthi (4th Lunar day after New Moon) every month.
3. Maasa Pradosh- Sandhya Krishna Paksha Trayodashi (13th Lunar day after Full Moon) every month.
4. Maha Pradosh- Sandhya time of Krishna Paksha Trayodashi which falls on a Saturday.
5. Pralaya Pradosh- 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 (liberation) 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.
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.
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 bel 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.
Pradosh means Trayodashi, Tithis falling in the evening of both Shukla and Krishna Paksha. When the above coincides with Saturday it is known as ‘SHANI PRADOSH.
It is said that on this day all Gods and goddesses assemble at Mount Kailesh to worship Lord Shiva. This bestows all kinds of wealth and comforts to Sadhaka
Bathing an hour before sunset the worshipper first performs a preliminary worship of Lord Shiva together with all the others of the divine family, namely, Pravati, Ganesha, Skanda and Nandi.
After the Ganesha worship, Lord Shiva is invoked in the special Kalasha placed on a square Mandala with drawn lotus spread with Darbha grass. After formal worship has been completed, the SIVARATRI story is read. (OR SHIVA PURANA IS READ)
This is followed by the recitation of the Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra 108 times.
AUM TRYAMBAKAM, YAJAAMAHE, SUGANDHIM PUSTIVARDHANAM, URVAARUKAMIVA, BANDHANAAN, MRITYOR, MUKSHEEYA, MAAMRITAAT.
In the end the sacred kalasha water is taken, the sacred ash is applied to the forehead and the sacred water, which is used to bathe the Lord, is drunk as prashad.
A gift of a pot, a cloth and an image of god have to be given to a Brahmin or in charity to conclude the worship. Even a single BILVA leaf (leaf taken from the wood-apple tree) offered to the Lord at this unique auspicious moment equals a 100’S OF Mahapujas.
HAVE SPECIAL ADDITIONAL LIGHTS IN THE SHRINE DURING THE SIVARATRI.
To light even a single Diva at this time is very meritorious and productive of untold benefits, material as well as spiritual.
This is the most favorable moment for a direct contact with god. When we fast and pray on that day, we can reduce our bodily activities to the minimum and can have the vision of the lord who resides in our heart.
In all this rites, the Brahmin or poor people shall be feed according to one's ability for the completion of the sacred rites.