February 24th marked the annual Maha Shivaratri celebration, a sleepless night of fasting and austerities in honour of Lord Shiva.
Amma celebrated this year’s Shivaratri in Mangaluru with the tour group and a handful of local devotees. It was a humble occasion free from the busyness of the previous day’s public program.
As the sun began to set over the city, all the devotees gathered in the courtyard of the Amrita Vidyalayam. Singing Om Namah Sivaya to the pastel colours of dusk, the devotees awaited Amma’s arrival.
Just after the sky had gone dark, Amma arrived to a courtyard filled with the sound of Lord Shiva’s name.
Taking her seat next to a large statue of Saraswati, Amma delivered her annual Shivaratri message. In Her Message, Amma said, “Many people believe that life is something that begins at a fixed time and terminates after a few years here. In truth, life is like a river. Those who live on the bank of the river can see only one portion of it. So, is it correct for them to say that the river’s full length is what they can see? Of course not. We neither see nor are we aware of the river’s source or mouth. So too it is with life. Life is a beginning-less and endless river, constantly flowing and changing. The human mind and intellect cannot measure or know its depth or length. This mystery, itself, is Shiva. Our mind is finite and filled with fragmented thoughts and feelings. Shiva, or God, is one and infinite. That which is imperfect can never grasp perfection.
“When we see a puppet show, we forget everything else and temporarily feel that the puppets are moving and dancing by themselves. However, in reality, a person’s invisible hands behind the screen are making them move and dance. In a similar way, there is a Supreme Power acting behind the whole creation. Sivaratri is a festival that reminds us to keep up the remembrance of the Supreme Power at all times.
“Lord Siva has the name of Bholenath. It means he is easily pleased, approachable by everyone and humble. It means that if we have an open heart and the innocent, loving devotion and prayer of a small child, then the Lord will be pleased very quickly.
Afterwards, Amma led the group in a long session of Shiva bhajans. The devotees revelled in musical adoration of Lord Shiva for nearly two hours, ecstatic to sing old classics like, “Prabhum Isam Aneesam Ashesha Gunam” and “He Amba He Amba He Amba Bol.”
At the conclusion of bhajans, Amma guided the group in meditation and prayer for world peace before distributing prasad.
Amma retired to her room and the devotees headed to the Brahmastanam Temple to carry on the Shivaratri festivities.
Some devotees circumambulated the temple all night long, some mediated before the Shiva idol, others sang Shiva Bhajans until the early hours of the morning.
Around 4:30 am the tour group had to say goodbye to Mangaluru as they loaded onto the buses and headed for the public program in Udupi scheduled for that evening.