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Shiva resides in the cemetery, is surrounded by the ghosts, wears the garland of snakes, and adorns himself with Bhasma the holy ash. This wandering mendicant has conquered Kama the amorous one and in spite of living the most inspirational marital life with his consort Parvati, he appears an eternal ascetic and we celebrate Shivaratri, the day when Shiva and Parvati got married.

Shiva is a paradox for us since none of his qualities coincide with our worldly conceptions of life. While we comprehend the values of matter, Shiva is the embodiment of detachment with material. This perpetual nomadic hermit in spite of having a family life restores the ideal of refrain from earthly enticements that incarcerate redemption imprisoning one in the vicious circle of life and death. The deity is regarded in Hinduism as the destroyer. Brahman is believed to be the creator and Vishnu is protector while Shiva is identified as the one who demolishes. The age-old conception of creation from destruction is famous. Shiva is the paradigm of this notion wherein he destructs so that there is to be an origin independent of evil. In this sense, Shiva restores the auspicious. Daksha’s fire sacrifice can be considered a valid example wherein Shiva appeared as Bhairava and ruined the entire ritual. This annihilation was an act of purification wherein the deity freed the King from the negative impulse of pride that had consumed him and deprived him of sense. Shiva’s Rudra Roopa that became evident during his confrontation with Daksha followed by his equally fierce Tandava signifies the inevitable ruin that leads to sacred creation. It was Sati’s dead body in Daksha’s sacrificial altar that had infuriated the God and he started dancing furiously which brought about ultimate catastrophe engendering the birth of the sublime prakriti as Parvati to redeem the world.

Shiva and Parvati embody Purusha and Prakriti- the masculine and feminine tatva/ the binary essence which defines the world. However, this apparent division does not indicate male-female opposition as commonly understood by us. The purusha and prakriti are not two but in fact one symbolized in Shivalingam wherein the phallus blends inseparably with the vagina epitomizing creation in the metaphysical sense which effaces the worldly division of masculine and the feminine and creates a sexless divinity –the ardhanareshwara for us. The marital alliance of Shiva and Parvati is not merely an ordinary phenomenon of marriage between a purusha and a stri/male and female. It in fact signifies the union which is inevitable to engender a balance which counters opposition. This is the reason that the entire world rejoices during the festival of Shivaratri and celebrates it with devotion. It is far from being just a materialistic ritual. In fact, Shiva’s marital life appears as an observation of the celibacy needed to retain the integrity in a nuptial which validates the physical intimacy between two sexes as is symbolized by the lingam. Shiva is a hermit in spite of being married and his destruction of kama indicates the annihilation of the overbearing lust which consumes the dignity in a man woman relation and reduces it to the level of merely a banal fulfillment of sensual desires. The abhisheka or anointment of Shivalingam with milk and water indicates cleansing; the offering of flowers to the Lingam fills the fragrance of bliss which purifies our thoughts and the burning of incense sticks is the incineration of our sensory urge in front of the lord in order that we comprehend the significance of physical man woman union instead of misreading it as a gratification of our hedonistic pleasures.

Shivaratri is the proud acknowledgement of the tradition that worships the ideal of “marriage” as a sacred practice which erases the distinction between a man and a woman and equalizes both of them. In this sense, the festival represents 'modern' concept of equality of sexes and becomes the most relevant example to propagate in front of the orthodox society that underlines the sexual difference stringently.   Thus,Yes I celebrate Shivaratri.

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