Shiva should not be nomenclature-d at all as He is Infinite and ‘Nirakara’. Yet He has been named more than a thousand times possibly with the naïve intention of adding more and more dimensions to His Infiniteness !!
Though every name is supposed to mitigate His infinite glory, on the contrary, it adds a few more dimensions to His mystical existence.
His consecration as Mahakala is the name that appears to be the most mystical one. It has compelled humanity to discern and acknowledge convergence of Science and Adhyatma which existed eternally yet human frailties dissuaded us to do that for long.
That Science is a progeny of Adhyatma would have been too explosive a revelation for the frail human wisdom to assimilate. Proposition of Einsteinian Theory of Relativity and it’s affirmation through discovery of Gravitational Waves on the surface of Universal Akasa-Kala Matrix revealed beyond an iota of doubt to gross human wisdom that Kala is one of the most fundamental parametres of creation, sustenance and dissolution. It happened to be a scientific affirmation in a small measure, what Rsi-s and Maharsi-s had established thousands of years ago.
Kala is the dimension that cannot be pinioned at all. If at all it is pinioned or shackled, it is in the manifest of Vartamana, very Vartamana that is incessantly passing away, never to return at all. Akasa exists because Kala exists as Akasa is a proceed of Kala.
Manifestation of Sakara is the proceed of Akasa as various physical / gross attributes exist within the domain of Akasa alone. It is Kala that transforms itself within the domain of Akasa to allow innumerable manifests of physical existence to come into being. This cosmic reality of mysticism, most fundamental of all realities, is reverentially adored as Shiva. Literally, Shiva means ‘Nothing’ as also, almost 99% of the cosmos !! It is in reality, the vibrant and dynamic aspect of Shiva that is named as Kala Bhairava.
When He is as tranquil as absolutely stilled, He is transformed into Mahakala. Kala Bhairava is also annihilator of Ajnana which then, leads to Moksa, Ultimate Emancipation from shackles of cycles of birth and death. When the last citadel of Ajnana is demolished, Moksa is attained in the eternity of Vartamana, not only here itself but also within ourselves. Nothing more remains to be attained or renounced, in the midst of Absolute Nothing i.e. Mahakala.
Androgyne manifest of Shiva is Ardhanarisvara wherein left half of the deity is depicted as Devi in compatible contours and hues. In this manifest, Shiva and Shakti enjoy equal prominence being Purusa and Prakrti respectively. Just as fire and it’s blaze are distinguishable albeit inseparable, Shiva and Shakti too, are not only inseparable but also mutually inclusive. In the state of intense meditation, divine splendor of Devi is perceived to have overshadowed bright white of Shiva imparting an illusion of Shiva having been assimilated into Her. This experience allowed the doctrine of Sakta, also known as Kaula’s, to rise wherein only Shakti need to be worshipped as Shiva-Tattva stands absorbed within Shakti. Theory of creation and dissolution propounds cyclical and evolutionary nature of Shiva and Shakti.
So vividly narrated Jagadguru Adi Samkaracarya in his Saundarya Lahiri –
Jagatsute Dhata Hariravati Rudraha Ksapayate Tiraskurvannetat Svamapi Vapurisastirayati I
Sada Purvaha Sarvam Tadidmanugrhnati Ca Shivastavajna-malambya Ksanacalitayorbhulatikayoha II 24 II
Brahma brings forth universe; Hari sustains and protects; Rudra destroys that; Mahesvara absorbs all these deities into Himself, then disappears into SadaShiva. Then Sadashiva, when mandated by Her through the movement of Her brows, impels them into activity.
Therefore, there can be no maiden creation or final conclusion in the manifest of dissolution. Creation is reversal of the state of involution and both states are known as Kalpa and Pralaya respectively each, continuing for billions of human years. In Sakta doctrine, Shakti and Prakrti appear to be differentiated with Prakrti being effect of Shakti while in most others, both are identified to be one. At the instance of Shakti, Shiva initiates creation based on the template of imprints retained from previous creation. Hence, in Sakta doctrine, Shakti is supreme and initiator of creation while in others, Prakrti initiates creation at the instance of Shiva. Without Shakti, Shiva is entirely incapable creation or any movement.
Shiva crushes the demon of Ajnana during Shiva-Tandava, emancipates all from fetters of Karma by raising one foot and initiates cosmic phenomenon of destruction which is in reality, re-construction devoid of all desecrations. By opening Ajna Cakra, He dissolves all delusions including irrational identification with gross body and reminiscences of past. His Yogic posture of deep meditation with eyes semi-closed, focused on nose-tip symbolizes intense engagement through introversion merged in the Supreme Self. This is the state of Vairagya i.e. ultimate renunciation of Prakrti, it’s Maya and Shiva abides in the manifest of Existence-Consciousness-Bliss.
According to Trika Darsana with three systems of Pratyabhijna, Krama and Kaula, also recognized as Kashmir Saivism, ubiquitous Shiva consciousness itself is the universe. Trika implies all compacted into one entity with Shiva discerning Himself from Shakti only to dominate the universe through Shakti on the auspicious night of Shivaratri. All manifestations of bliss are expressions of self-recognition in the spirit of Aham Brahmasmi. This self-recognition has been held to be Prakasa i.e. blaze of Supreme Consciousness and Vimarsa i.e. faculty of self-discernment. At the core, both are innately and inseparably integrated. It is this Vimarsa that every Jivatma is mandated to strive for. Each expression of this Consciousness is Spanda i.e. subtle wave and every Spanda is superceded by another, immediately after. All Spanda-s are interdependent and integrated just as no two waves on ocean surface are separable in spite of being identifiable individually. Ultimately, all Spanda-s are integrated with Supreme Consciousness just as all waves are with the ocean, all inseparably albeit identifiable. Bliss of consciousness is perfect identification and harmony with the Supreme Consciousness after shedding infinite multiplicity just as two or more sound-waves of identical amplitude and frequency create a node upon superimposition. As we dive deeper into the cosmic ocean of consciousness, we migrate deeper into non-duality, deeper into omni-existence, an existence that exists at the core of all entities. MahaShivaratri is celebrated on 14th day of Krsnapaksa of the month of Phalguna. Due to planetary configurations, northern hemisphere of Planet Earth is positioned in such a way that natural upsurge of cosmic energy in human beings is inevitable. On this day-night, we are inspired to stay awake, fast and meditate on Shiva to arrogate ourselves with as much cosmic energy as possible. For a Grihastha, Mahashivaratri is a celebration of His wedding anniversary, for the ambitious ones it is a day when Shiva conquers all His foes and finally for ascetics / renunciants, Shiva is absolutely still like Kailasa Parvat. Shiva is Adi-Guru i.e. first point of universal wisdom. After infinite number of millennia in intense Samadhi, Shiva is absolutely stilled, celebrated and adored on Mahashivaratri. On this auspicious occasion, we are inspired to discern infinite vastness of Shiva overriding all infinite number of creations in the entire expanse of universe.
Jvala Linga is another name of Shiva that appears on Mahashivaratri radiating immense energy all around which cooled down by mid-night. Sunya Putula is the prime representation of Jvala Linga worshipped as 18-armed Svacchanda Bhairava. Entire universe is visualized as Visvadeva and oblations are offered to all entities as a mark of conclusion to the festival. According to Shiva Purana, worship of Shiva on Mahashivaratri must include offering Bilva leaves after the ritual of His bath symbolizing sanctification of Atma through dissolution of unredeemed Samskara-s, applying vermilion paste on Linga symbolizing virtues, offering food conducive to longevity symbolizing gratification of desires, fragrance of incense-sticks / oil lamp symbolize attainment of wealth / knowledge respectively and finally, offering betel leaves symbolize attainment of joys of life.
Vatesvara, an ancient Shivalingam worshipped by Ravana, used to prognosticate impending events through luminescence emanating from Sri-Cara engraved on it, as described in ‘Rajatrangini’. Somyara Lingam of Habbakadal too, emits effulgence synchronized with lunar waxing. These may be perceptible only to highly advanced Sadhaka-s. Rabindranath Tagore said about Kashmir Saivism, “Kashmir Saivism has penetrated to that depth of living thought where diverse currents of human wisdom unite in a luminous synthesis.” What renders Kashmir Saivism different from Advaita Darsana is that Shakti is manifestation of Absolute Consciousness in the entire universe. On the contrary, Advaita Darsana holds Absolute Consciousness being absolutely inactive and the universe, being it’s Maya. Kashmir Saivism is mostly based on monistic elucidation of Bhairava Tantra-s while Advaita, on Upanisad-s and Brahmasutra-s. Kashmir Saivism claims to have superceded dualism enunciated in Saiva Siddhanta. Citi i.e. Universal Consciousness, Mala i.e. Consciousness that evolves into innumerable, Upaya i.e. tormented owing to entanglement and longing to emancipate and finally Moksa i.e. supreme liberation, are the four elements that constitute Kashmir Saivism. Three Mala-s are individual Mala, mind Mala i.e. Maya and Karma-Mala. It prescribes four pursuits to be attained to the Supreme viz. Anavopaya i.e. method of body, Saktopaya i.e. of mind, Sambhavopaya i.e. of consciousness and Anupaya i.e. un-defined method. Sadhana that is pursued in Kashmir Saivism is mostly Astangayoga of Maharsi Patanjali and it demands attainment of Infinite Bliss here, in this life itself.
Mahashivaratri is also celebrated on the day of Trayodasi as Bhairavotsava wherein elaborate Bhairava Yajna is performed propitiating Bhairavi, Vatuka Bhairava, Rama Bhairava etc. who emerged from vessels of various shapes and sizes. All others celebrate the festival on Caturdasi when the Deity is presumed to have been pacified. Bhairavi, also known as Sarika, is regarded as full-fledged Devi in her own right. Sarika Pitha, also known as Cakresvari, is located on a hill-top in central Srinagara. Esoteric manigest of Shiva as Svacchanda Bhairava with His consort Aghoreswari had been in existence even in medieval times. Svacchanda implies liberty of spontaneity and Advaita Consciousness alone signifies singular, non-dual union with the Absolute. Endowed with Iccha i.e. will, Jnana i.e. discriminatory wisdom and Kriya i.e. faculty of action, Svacchanda Bhairava creates this universe with actions of Srsti i.e. creation, Stithi i.e. sustenance, Samhara i.e. dissolution, Triodanha i.e. concealment and Anugraha i.e. revelation. Through His acts of Srsti, He creates and sustains the universe. Stithi is persistence wherein consciousness merges with manifest. Samhara is dissolution through retraction of consciousness towards non-dualism. Triodanha is enfolding creation from Space-Time matrix and Anugraha is it’s reversal. Entire creation is regarded as reflection of Svacchanda Bhairava alongwith Aghoreswari. Thus, auspicious festival of Mahashivaratri is essentially a celebration of Advaita.