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Maha Shivratri, which means “great night of Shiva” is a Hindu festival. It is observed on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha every year on the month of Maagh according to the Hindu calendar. This year it is celebrated on 27th February 2014. Shiva is worshiped throughout the night with honey, milk, curd, Vilva leaves etc. on Shivaratri day. Meditation and chanting of mantra ‘Om Namashivaya’ is done as part of the puja. Devotees fast and keep awake throughout the night ans worship Shiva.

 Mahashivaratri marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the 'Tandava'.
 It is also believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Mother Parvati.

There is a popular legend on Shivaratri. A hunter who went to a forest could not find anything to kill for his food. When night approached he claimed on a branch of a Vilva or Bilva tree. While passing the night he unknowingly started throwing the leaves of the tree on the ground. There was a Shiva Lingam beneath the tree. The fallen leaves and his whole day fasting brought him merit of Shiva worship. When it was dawn pleased with his act Lord Shiva appeared in front of the hunter and blessed him.

Courtesy: mahashivaratri.org, wikipedia

Shiva Temple, Dakshineswar

Shivalinga, Dakshineswar

Mother Kali

Kalyaneshwar, Near Belur Math




Sri Ramakrishna
Monday, January 1, 1883
At eight o'clock in the morning Sri Ramakrishna was seated on a mat spread on the floor of his room at Dakshineswar.  Since it was a cold day, he had wrapped his body in his moleskin shawl.  Prankrishna and M. were seated in front of him.  Rakhal, too, was in the room.  Prankrishna was a high government official and lived in Calcutta.  Since he had had no offspring by his first wife, with her permission he had married a second time.  By the second wife he had a son.  Because he was rather stout, the Master addressed him now and then as "the fat brahmin".  He had great respect for Sri Ramakrishna.  Though a householder, Prankrishna studied the Vedanta and had been heard to say: "Brahman alone is real and the world illusory.  I am He." The Master used to say to him: "In the Kaliyuga the life of a man depends on food.  The path of devotion prescribed by Narada is best for this age."

A devotee had brought a basket of jilipi for the Master, which the latter kept by his side.  Eating a bit of the sweets, he said to Prankrishna with a smile: "You see, I chant the name of the Divine Mother; so I get all these good things to eat.  (Laughter.) But She doesn't give such fruits as gourd or pumpkin.  She bestows the fruit of Amrita, Immortality-knowledge, love, discrimination, renunciation, and so forth."

A boy six or seven years old entered the room.  The Master himself became like a child.  He covered the contents of the basket with the palm or his hand, as a child does to conceal sweets from another child lest the latter should snatch them.  Then he put the basket aside.

Suddenly the Master went into samādhi and sat thus a long time.  His body was transfixed, his eyes wide open and unblinking, his breathing hardly perceptible.  After a long time he drew a deep breath, indicating his return to the world of sense.

Vision of Divine Mother:
MASTER (to Prankrishna): "My Divine Mother is not only formless, She has forms as well.  One can see Her forms.  One can behold Her incomparable beauty through feeling and love.  The Mother reveals Herself to Her devotees in different forms.

"I saw Her yesterday.  She was clad in a seamless ochre-coloured garment, and She talked with me.

"She came to me another day as a Mussalman girl six or seven years old.  She had a tilak on her forehead and was naked.  She walked with me, joking and frisking like a child.

"At Hriday's house I had a vision of Gauranga.  He wore a black-bordered cloth.

"Haladhāri used to say that God is beyond both Being and Non-being.  I told the Mother about it and asked Her, 'Then is the divine form an illusion?' The Divine Mother appeared to me in the form of Rati's mother and said, 'Do thou remain in Bhāva' I repeated this to Haladhāri.  Now and then I forget Her command and suffer.  Once I broke my teeth because I didn't remain in bhava.  So I shall remain in bhava unless I receive a revelation from heaven or have a direct experience to the contrary.  I shall follow the path of love.  What do you say?"

PRANKRISHNA: "Yes, sir."

MASTER: "But why should I ask you about it? There is Someone within me who does all these things through me.  At times I used to remain in a mood of Godhood and would enjoy no peace of mind unless I were being worshipped.

"I am the machine and God is the Operator.  I act as He makes me act.  I speak as He makes me speak.  Keep your raft, says Ramprasad, afloat on the sea of life, Drifting up with the flood-tide, drifting down with the ebb.

"It is like the cast-off leaf before a gale; sometimes it is blown to a good place and sometimes into the gutter, according to the direction of the wind.

"As the weaver said in the story: 'The robbery was committed by the will of Rama, I was arrested by the police by the will of Rama, and again, by the will of Rama, I was set free.'

"Hanuman once said to Rama: 'O Rama, I have taken refuge in Thee.  Bless me that I may have pure devotion to Thy Lotus Feet and that I may not be caught in the spell of Thy world-bewitching maya.'

"Once a dying bullfrog said to Rama: 'O Rama, when caught by a snake I cry for Your protection.  But now I am about to die, struck by Your arrow.  Hence I am silent.'

God's nature like that of a child:
"I used to see God directly with these very eyes, just as I see you.  Now I see divine visions in trance.

"After realizing God a man becomes like a child.  One acquires the nature of the object one meditates upon.  The nature of God is like that of a child.  As a child builds up his toy house and then breaks it down, so God acts while creating, preserving, and destroying the universe.  Further, as the child is not under the control of any guna, so God is beyond the three gunas-sattva, rajas, and tamas.  That is why paramahamsas keep five or ten children with them, that they may assume their nature."

Sitting on the floor in the room was a young man from Agarpara about twenty-two years old.  Whenever he came to the temple garden, he would take the Master aside, by a sign, and whisper his thoughts to him.  He was a new-comer.  That day he was sitting on the floor near the Master.

MASTER (to the young man): "A man can change his nature by imitating another's character.  He can get rid of a passion like lust by assuming the feminine mood.  He gradually comes to act exactly like a woman.  I have noticed that men who take female parts in the theatre speak like women or brush their teeth like women while bathing.  Come again on a Tuesday or Saturday.

(To Prankrishna) "Brahman and Śakti are inseparable.  Unless you accept Śakti, you will find the whole universe unreal-'I', 'you', house, buildings, and family.  The world stands solid because the Primordial Energy stands behind it.  If there is no supporting pole, no framework can be made, and without the framework there can be no beautiful image of Durga.

"Without giving up worldliness a man cannot awaken his spiritual consciousness, nor can he realize God.  He cannot but be a hypocrite as long as he has even a trace of worldly desire.  God cannot be realized without guilelessness.

Cherish love within your heart; abandon cunning and deceit:
Through service, worship, selflessness, does Rama's blessed vision come.
Even those engaged in worldly activities, such as office work or business, should hold to the truth.  Truthfulness alone is the spiritual discipline in the Kaliyuga."

PRANKRISHNA: "Yes, sir.  It is said in the Mahanirvana Tantra: 'O Goddess, this religion enjoins it upon one to be truthful, self-controlled, devoted to the welfare of others, unagitated, and compassionate.'"

MASTER: "Yes.  But these ideas must be assimilated."
Sri Ramakrishna was sitting on the small couch.  He was in an ecstatic mood
Rakhal Maharaj
and looked at Rakhal.  Suddenly he was filled with the tender feeling of parental love toward his young disciple and spiritual child.  Presently he went into samādhi.  The devotees sat speechless, looking at the Master with wondering eyes.

Regaining partial consciousness, the Master said: "Why is my spiritual feeling kindled at the sight of Rakhal? The more you advance toward God, the less you will see of His glories and grandeur.  The aspirant at first has a vision of the Goddess with ten arms; there is a great display of power in that image.  The next vision is that of the Deity with two arms; there are no longer ten arms holding various weapons and missiles.  Then the aspirant has a vision of Gopala, in which there is no trace of power.  It is the form of a tender child.  Beyond that there are other visions also.  The aspirant then sees only Light.

"Reasoning and discrimination vanish after the attainment of God and communion with Him in samādhi.  How long does a man reason and discriminate? As long as he is conscious of the manifold, as long as he is aware of the universe, of embodied beings, of 'I' and 'you'.  He becomes silent when he is truly aware of Unity.  This was the case with Trailanga Swami.

"Have you watched a feast given to the brahmins? At first there is a great uproar.  But the noise lessens as their stomachs become more and more filled with food.  When the last course of curd and sweets is served, one hears only the sound 'soop, soop' as they scoop up the curd in their hands.  There is no other sound.  Next is the stage of sleep-samādhi.  There is no more uproar.

SOURCE: The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna

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In 2014 Saraswati Puja is celebrated on 4th February. The Saraswati Puja festival (also known as Basant Panchami or Vasant Panchami) is a festival devoted to Goddess Saraswati, the Goddess of Knowledge, Music and Art. Traditionally during this festival children are taught to write their first words.
May Mother Sri Saraswati, the Goddess of learning bless us all with Devotion and Knowledge.

Saraswati Puja at Belur Math:

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