Sivaratri in Uttarkashi


This year, I had the blessing to celebrate Sivaratri (the holy night of Siva) in Uttarkashi, high in the Himalayas. Traditionally, this auspicious night is is marked by four pujas that span from dusk to dawn. I participated in the ones at Sivananda Ashram, Uttarkashi.Swami Gambiranandaji (successor of Swami Chaitanyanandaji), as head of the ashram, suggested that all participants make the sankalpa (spiritual intention) of "Loka samasta sukhino bhavantu" - May the whole world be happy and peaceful.

The Sivalingam was worshipped with milk, curds (yogourt), ghee and honey. Bathing was done with pure Ganges water, as we were sitting on the bank of the Ganga Herself.

One interesting thing that I've noticed about Sivaratri is that it always comes the same week as the Christian holy day of Ash Wednesday. Siva is said to dance in the cremation ground - and is covered with ashes. I have also noticed that this particular dark night of the moon, in the Indian tradition, is the new moon that preceeds the full moon of Holi (the beginning of Spring).

Holi is usually seen to celebrate the play of Krishna with Radha and other gopis. However, in South India both Sivaratri and Holi are sometimes connected to the story of Siva and Kāmadeva.

Kāmadeva was deputed by the gods to aid Pārvatī in her attempts to marry Siva. Their union was of utmost importance, as only their son could defeat the demon Taraka, who was terrorizing the world. However, drawing Siva out of his meditation was no simple task; the god was too deeply immersed in it to notice Pārvatī. So the gods sent Kama to stimulate Siva's lust and disrupt his practice.

When Kāma shot his arrows-of-desire at Siva, the ploy backfired with severe consequences. Angered by the distraction, Siva opened his dreadful third eye and reduced Kāma to a pile of ash with a fiery glance. The annihilation of Kāma left the earth barren and infertile.

Eventually, the marriage of Siva and Pārvatī took place. They conceived the child Kartikeya (Subramanya), who defeated the demon Taraka and saved the world.

then, at the behest of Kāma's lamenting wife Rati (Spring), Siva resurected Kāma from the ashes. He brought him back to life not as a physical being but as a bodyless mental concept.
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