Mahadeva (the Great God), Paramatma (the one unbounded universal Self), pure bliss, pure love, the first yogi, the first guru, That which is not – Shiva is all of these, and ‘The Great Night of Shiva’, Mahashivaratri, is one of the most important spiritual observances in Hinduism, a celebration which occurs once a year on the 14th day of the Hindu month of Magha (in February-March), just before the new moon. Why on this date and why is it so significant? At this exact time the planetary influences or forces of nature are such that they offer us the opportunity to make the very best use of our natural energies to merge with the Divine, with Shiva, and to receive his grace.
The scriptures, and indeed Swamiji, encourage devotees to observe Mahashivaratri by fasting and staying awake all night while keeping our thoughts continuously on Lord Shiva, and engaging ourselves in various spiritual practices. In the Ashram those practices include meditation, abhishekams, chanting ‘Om Namah Shivaya’, singing devotional songs, as well as taking part in or watching devotional dramas, dance and musical performances.
In Sanskrit nava means nine and ratri means night (just as we have Shivaratri – the night of Shiva) and so, according to tradition, during this festival consecrated to the Divine Mother, we perform abhishekams to worship her and to ask for her grace and her blessings. In Sanskrit riti means “to return to the source”. By means of ritual, therefore, we will acquire the capacity of returning to our divine origin, of rediscovering the Divine within ourselves. Swamiji generally encourages spiritual aspirants to perform or attend a pooja regularly, if they like, because during ritual the mind and body are fully absorbed in the worship of the Divine. It is a means of learning to control the mind and it also purifies the mind. At the same time, we absorb much spiritual energy and enjoy the physical and mental connection to the sacred divine.
When Swamiji was living in the Ashram the devotees at that time were very fortunate to have been able to do Pada Puja to him. Swamiji said, “During a Pada Puja, you are able to touch the master’s feet. Through his grace and extraordinary power he can remove your karma, illnesses and difficulties that would have affected you for many lifetimes. (….) The divine power comes from Mother Earth through the feet of the saint or sadhu…
The Ashram celebrates Swamiji’s birthday in a very grand way each year. This will be the second year that we will take the statue of Swamiji out of Swamiji’s samadhi temple to go on procession for his birthday. The statue of Swamiji is placed in a chariot and then everyone gathers in a procession to sing bhajans, chant mantras and to walk together through the Ashram. Rose petals, flowers and other pure offerings are made to Swami as we walk…
After the procession is finished, Swamiji is brought back to the temple and a very special milk abhishekam is performed to him…
Navaratri is a nine day festival during which various aspects of the Divine Mother are worshipped every day. To read more about this festival please go to, ‘Archives > religious festivals.’
“Mother’s grace is boundless and her mercy limitless. Use this Navaratri time to obtain her loving grace. May the Divine Mother transform you into a vessel of her peace, wisdom and glory. Om Shakti Om.” Swami Premananda
In the following satsang, Swamiji talks about how to pray to the Divine Mother, especially during this auspicious festival period.
“Why should you be afraid? You should not be afraid of anything or anyone. I am always reminding you that the Divine lives within you. The Divine Mother is the sole, yet omnipresent, primordial force that activates all of us and all that lives. The more you remember the Divine, the more the grace and protection of the Divine Mother will fill your heart. The Divine Mother always protects all living beings, including those who are ignorant of her. The Divine Mother is in everything and knows everything…”
– Swamiji talks about women in spirituality –
A large part of Swamiji’s mission is about the uplift of women not just in society but in their role in spirituality too. Swami often spoke about the fact that women can advance in spirituality very quickly once they choose to follow the spiritual path. He said, “I would like to tell you something. There is nothing that ladies can’t do. They can attain enlightenment! They can come to a higher state and do everything! But you should surrender attachment to the maya that is within you. Maya is residing within you, without your knowledge.” He also said, “I feel that ladies should develop in spirituality. I want them to develop, mature and be accepted as great spiritual people. I like to teach them and show the world how great they are, but it is a very difficult task. They must have more self-confidence and less attachment.”
He wholeheartedly encouraged the ladies in the Ashram not only to take an active part in the running of the Ashram but also to perform the daily worship. This has continued since Swamiji’s samadhi and ladies are performing the temple worship to Swamiji’s samadhi lingam and performing abhishekam to the puja hall deities on a daily basis.
In Sri Premananda Ashram we perform an ancient ritual called abhishekam to the Goddess Bhuvaneshwari every night of the year. During Navaratri however, Her presence is even more powerful and everybody gathers in the puja hall each night to worship Her. Swamiji always talked about the original force in the universe, Adi Shakti. Bhuvaneshwari is often referred to as Adi Shakti. That essence of Adi Shakti is the original, that which came before name and form. Adi Shakti or Bhuvaneshwari is therefore the supreme spirit without form. She also takes a form as Parvati, the consort of Lord Shiva. Bhuvaneshwari is the formless energy or consort of the formless Shiva. All of the Sri Premananda Centres around the world also have a five metal statue of Goddess Bhuvaneshwari, which they perform regular abhishekams to.
Swamiji gave many satsangs about the necessity of having a Guru if we want to progress well on the spiritual path, about the Guru-disciple relationship, how we benefit from having a spiritual master, and advised how to celebrate Guru Poornima. Here are some of his golden words.
“Guru Poornima is a day to remember the saints, sages, avatars and spiritual masters who guide us on the spiritual path and who have been born on this earth from the time the world was created.
This day comes once in 365 days. On this day, let us think about those great souls and in our minds chant, “Gurur Brahma, Gurur Vishnu, Gurur Devor Maheshwaraha” and think of the Supreme who is the Guru of Gurus.
Guru Poornima is celebrated in Sri Premananda Ashram in India and in the Sri Premananda Centres, Groups and Youth Groups around the world.
Typically on Guru Poornima we perform a pada puja, the worship of the feet of a saint or of his/her traditional sandals called padukas. It is understood in the Eastern spiritual tradition that the feet of the sage are to be venerated as symbols representing Divinity. We also present the Guru with a tray of traditional offerings containing fruits, some money, flowers and – particular to Guru Poornima – a set of clothes.
The lingam is the symbolic form of Lord Shiva. For more than forty years, lingams manifested through Swamiji’s body and emerged from his mouth on the auspicious nights of Mahashivaratri. This phenomenon is known as Lingodbhava. Even after Swamiji left his physical body, he materialized a lingam at this special time when the energy of Lord Shiva is strongly working on earth.