Shivaratri is the tithi or lunar day on which Brahma and Vishnu worshipped Shiva. A vrata is a distinct religious rite that is done. A vrata observed on shivaratri (the night dedicated to Shiva) is particularly important. It brings undying punya or blessing. One stays up at night and prays to a linga. One also has to observe a fast.
There used to be a hunter named Rurudruha. He was not at all righteous. In fact, he was quite evil and cruel. He killed many deer and he was also a robber and thief. Naturally, Rurudruha knew nothing about shivaratri vrata.
But it happened to be shivaratri when the hunter's parents, wife and children felt very hungry. They asked Rurudruha to go and get some meat so that they might eat. The hunter went to the forest to kill deer, but could not find any. It was already evening and no hunt was to be seen. Rurdruha found a water-hole and decided that he would keep a vigil there. Sooner or later, some animal was bound to turn up. He climbed up onto a bilva tree that was by the side of the water-hole. And in case he should feel thirsty, he kept a pot full of water next to him. There he waited.
Soon a doe turned up to drink water. The hunter picked up his bow and arrow. When he did so, the tree shock and a few bilva leaves fell on a linga that was right under the tree. Bilva leaves are sacred to Shiva. Some water spilled from the pot and also fell on the linga. Rurudruha did not of course know this. But the doe saw the hunter. Don't kill me right now, said the does. My children and husband are at home. Let me go and bid them farewell. When I return, you are welcome to kill me.
The hunter was in no mood to let the doe go. Does an animal return to be killed? But the doe took an oath and Rurdruha let her go. After a short while, another doe turned up to drink water. The two does were sisters and both of them married to the same deer. As before, the tree shook and bilva leaves and some water fell on the linga.Scroll Down to read more
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The doe saw the hunter and said, "Wait for some time before you kill me. Let me say goodbye to my husband and children". The hunter was reluctant to let the doe go. But the second doe also took an oath that she would return. So Rurudruha decided to wait.
After the doe had gone, the deer turned up to drink water. And when the hunter picked up his bow and arrow, bilva leaves and water again fell on the linga. The deer said, Hunter, let me go now. I will come back and you can kill then. I wish to bid adieu to my two wives and children.
The deer also took on oath that he would return and Rurudruha let him go.
After some time had passed, the two does and the deer came to where Rurdruha was. Each said, Kill me and spare the others. They need to stay alive to look after the children. The baby deer had also accompanied their parents. They said, Kill us. We don't wish to stay alive when our parents are gone. The hunter was so surprised at these developments that the tree shook again. Bilva leaves and water fell on the linga.
Shiva now took pity on Rurdruha and removed all evil thoughts from his mind. The hunter spared the deer. Shiva himself appeared before Rurudruha and said, "From now on your name will be Guha. You will be so blessed that Rama will become your guest".
This story demonstrates that even if shivaratrivrata is performed unconsciously, great punya is obtained.
Article Written by Neeta Singhal
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