Photos of self-inflicted piercings and flagellation are striking to see, but I do find myself tensing up once in a while. Thanks, quelowat:
PIERCING FOR PENANCE: An Indian Tamil Hindu devotee with a steel rod pierced through his cheeks took part in a religious procession for Lord Murugan in New Delhi Thursday. Tamil Hindus seeking penance and blessings of the Lord Murugan, son of Lord Shiva, pierce their bodies and carry pots of milk on their heads. (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty Images)
~reblogged by Trent Gilliss, senior editor
Hindus Honor the Destroyer During Maha Shivratri
by Susan Leem, associate producer + Trent Gilliss, senior editor
In preparation for the Maha Shivratri festival, an Indian girl touches up these in-demand statuettes of Lord Shiva at a roadside stall on the outskirts of Amritsar. (photo: Narinder Nanu/AFP/Getty Images)
Lord Shiva, one of the Trimurti in the Hindu trinity, is recognized today during the festival of Maha Shivratri. At this time, Hindus offer special prayers and fast to worship Lord Shiva, the Lord of Destruction. Lord Shiva’s devotees consider him to be the destroyer of the world, ego, and attachments. At temples devoted to Shiva, the devout pray and burn incense as offerings during a night-long vigil.
The Shiva Lingam
Shiva is often represented symbolically with a Shiva Lingam (photos below), an ancient phallic figure that is incorporated into the ritual of bathing as part of the Maha Shivratri celebrations. Subhamoy Das offers this helpful description:
The phallus symbol representing Shiva is called the lingam. It is usually made of granite, soapstone, quartz, marble or metal, and has a “yoni” or vagina as its base representing the union of organs. Devotees circumambulate the lingam and worship it throughout the night. It is bathed every three hours with the 5 sacred offerings of a cow, called the “panchagavya” — milk, sour milk, urine, butter, and dung. Then the five foods of immortality — milk, clarified butter, curd, honey, and sugar — are placed before the lingam. Datura fruit and flower, though poisonous, are believed to be sacred to Shiva and thus offered to him.
Nepalese Hindu women offer prayers to Shiva on the banks of the Shali River on the outskirts of Kathmandu. Hundreds of married and unmarried women in the Himalayan nation fast for the month leading up to Maha Shivratri with hopes of a prosperous life and conjugal happiness. (photo: Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images)
A Hindu priest scatters rose petals on the Shivling at the Shree Pshupatinath Mandir at Singarwa village on Mahashivratri. The Shree Pshupatinath Mandir at Singarwa, a replica of that in Nepal, is thronged by Nepalese Hindus across Gujarat state. (photo: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images)
The next morning followers break their fast after the nightlong worship with a family feast.
Prayer to Shiva
by Shubha Bala, associate producer
The Shiva Lingam at the Hindu Temple of Minnesota, decorated for the holiday Shivarathri.
Priest Sri Gowtham Sharma, at the new Hindu temple of Minnesota, sings a prayer to his family God, Lord Shiva. This particular temple offers equal devotional space to 19 Hindu deities, unlike many other temples which focus primarily on one. As a result, it’s unique in welcoming the many different Hindus, and also Jains, that make up the local South Asian-American community. For Sri Sharma, although Shiva may be his family God, he prays to all the deities at the temple since, as he puts it, “all the power [of the Gods] is one — like all rivers go to the sea.”
Priest Sri Gowtham Sharma (courtesy of Hindu Temple of Minnesota)
My parents, like many of the members of this temple, were once new Hindu immigrants to North America. My interest in visiting the temple is in part my childhood experience of Hinduism — it helps me create a larger context for my personal experience and shed new light on my own family traditions.
What are some of your stories of reconnecting with your traditions, and where have they taken you?