Mahashivaratri is being celebrated today, 17th Feb 2015 throughout the globe by the hindu community. This festival brings back lots of fond memories of how it was celebrated at our home when I was a kid.
Lord Shiva was my mother’s favourite deity. She would not exhaust writing His holy name as Likhita japa daily without fail. She had written about atleast 50 plus notebooks filled with the ‘Om Namashivaya’ during her life span. Every Monday would see her going with all the puja items to the local Shiva temple whether rain or shine to offer abhishekam to her dear Lord. This again went on for more than a decade.
If on a daily basis it was so, how could she not be elated and full of zeal to celebrate the most auspicious festival of her dear Lord ‘The Shivaratri’ . Almost a month before the festival, my mum would all be geared up to start the collection drive for the ‘Leprosy camp’ held every year during Shivaratri at one of the oldest Shiva temples in Ambernath (Near Mumbai). Mum would first keep aside her contribution of rice, pulses, onion, potatoes and good usable clothes before she took pains despite her failing health; to call more than 100 plus people of our colony to contribute for this noble cause. All her ‘vanarsena’ (doting Balvikas children) would take lead and insist their parents to contribute. Our small flat of just abt 500-600sqft would be piled up with sacks of potatoes, onions, rice, pulses and clothes in many forms; some of which maybe in quite a pathetic condition. Mum and her team of dedicated volunteers sorted out the usable clothes in different categories of adults, kids, ladies etc. The whole month our house would be so chaotic much to the joy of our parents and to us kids’ displeasure. (Though now I realise what positive impact later this has made in our lives now). I guess about 50-70kg potatoes, onions and around 100kg rice would be collected along with loads of clothes. I could see how much satisfaction and joy it brought on my parents faces.
Just a day or 2 before Shivaratri, I still remember one old gentleman about 60 plus age named ‘Shantaram’ would come in his typical khaki shorts and white shirt in a huge lorry to take away all the collected stuff. Our house would suddenly feel so empty as if someone had looted the house.
Now for the D-day. The morning of Shivaratri day would start off with the hymns of Sri Rudram and Chamakam, followed by abhishekam and ashtotra namavali chanting for the Lord at home. Dad still continues to do the daily shiva puja at home. Then parents would rush to the Ambernath Shiva temple to take part in the puja celebrations and then the feeding and distributing of the clothes to the leprosy patients.
My mum would be so touched and moved by their (leprosy patients) plight and would often come and share with us as to how those people who were shunned by the society had eyes filled with tears of joy and gratitude when someone showered so much love and kindness on them. This prompted her to keep doing this for more than a decade till she was in Mumbai. I had a great learning in this. One really needs only a good and pure thought and intention to do something good for someone in need irrespective of who they are. Once the intention is so strong and good, things just happen. My mom was a great example of this. No physical discomfort deterred her from doing this which she considered was her true seva to her Lord Shiva and to the teachings of her Master Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba; who always gave prominence to the service of poor and needy. ‘Service to Mankind is Service to God.’
The day would come to a close with night long Sai bhajans at the centre which my mother would enthusiastically participate.
Thus Shivaratri brings back to me much cherished memories of my childhood days and especially of my mother’s love and devotion for Lord Shiva.