Shri Datta Swami

Posted on: 15 Mar 2024


English »   Malayalam »  

What is the meaning of Upavaasa and Jaagaranam on this Shiva Ratri festival?

[Maha Shiva Raatri Satsanga on 8th March 2024 at Hyderabad]

[Ms. Thrylokya asked:- What is the meaning of Upavaasa (fasting) and Jaagaranam (awakening in the night) on this Shiva Ratri festival?

Swami replied:- Upavaasa means staying close to God and not fasting without taking any food. Moreover, Shiva Ratri festival is the marriage day of God Shiva and Goddess Parvati. If anybody goes to a marriage function and does not eat anything, it means that he is protesting against the very marriage function. Here, he is opposing God Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Today, you must eat special food items also. Moreover, if you fast, you will have no energy to worship God. In fact, when somebody fasts, it is said that he eats his own excretory matter leftover in the last part of digestive system, called rectum. When you get up from sleep, doctors advice you to take a heavy breakfast, a moderate lunch and a heavy dinner. The heavy dinner followed by heavy breakfast leads to free motion eliminating all the excretory matter from the digestive system. If you fast, the remains of excretory matter are leftover in the rectum for the sake of emergent need. On the fasting day, the digestive system digests this leftover excretory matter. Therefore, it is said that the fasting person eats his own excretory matter on the fasting day. A person protesting the marriage of God Shiva and Goddess Parvati really deserves this punishment!

Jaagaranam means awakening in the night. This also should not be taken in a literal sense. If you don’t sleep at night, the next day, your brain will become a ghost. The internal sense of this means that the night or darkness represents the ignorance of spiritual knowledge, in which you are trapped by the illusion created by God Shiva as Shankara. Shankara told that every ordinary soul is God. This is to test the ambition of an ordinary soul to become God without a trace of effort. Several human beings are trapped by this illusion and think themselves as God. Such ignorance is the night and you should not sleep means that you shall be aware about yourself that your self is not God. Shankara told clearly to all His disciples after drinking molten lead that He alone is God Shiva (Śivaḥ kevalo'ham). If food is spontaneously forgotten by the devotee due to devotion to God, such type of not taking food is the real fasting or Upavaasa because the devotee became very close to God. Similarly, due to such climax devotion, if the devotee does not sleep in the night, such awakening is called as real Jaagaranam. We must remember all this on this festival of Shiva Ratri and be close to God through prayers and worships. You must also develop the firm decision that you are an ordinary soul and not God. If these two are done, you are blessed by God Shiva on this festival.

Therefore, on this day of Shiva Ratri, one shall not fast without taking food and one shall not be awake at night. The Gita says that you shall analyze any tradition and then practice it (Jñātvā kurvīta karmāṇi…). One shall not practice any tradition saying that his ancestors did so. Such repetition of the actions of ancestors is called ‘Abhyaasa’ and the Gita says that analytical knowledge of any action is far far better than blind practice of tradition. Even God Krishna told at the end of the Gita that Arjuna shall analyze whatever He told and then only practice it. When God Himself told this about His own speeches, do you think that the traditions followed by our ancestors are more greater than the Gita and should not be analyzed?