I shall now describe the mode of practicing the
Shivaratra Vratam, the performance of which confers
all wished-for blessings on the practiser. The goddess Gouri learnt it of yore from the god Mahadeva, the lord of all created beings. The god said:-"He
who keeps a vigil and worships the god Rudra on
the night of the fourteenth phase of the moon's wane
which comes between the months of Magha and Phalguna,
becomes entitled to the pleasures of life and the liberation of self. The god Mahadeva emancipates the votary from the chain of necessary existence in the
instance, as the god Keshava does on the occasion
of an Edadasi Vratam.
Once upon a time, the vicious Sundara Sena,
the king of the country of Arvuda, went out, with
his dogs, on a hunting excursion in the forest. But
the day wore on and night came without any game
even being sighted. The hunter, hungry and jaded
with the dev's trouble sat down weary and watchful
in a bower on the bank of a pool on the hill-brow.
But lo, there happened to be a phallic emblem in
that bower, and the leaves of the Vilva tree, which
was shaken by the impact of the hunter's body as
he strove to lie down on the ground, rustled and fell
in heaps over the emblem, without his knowledge.
The fowler fetched water from the pool and sprinkled it over the floor of the bower to lay down the
dust; and drops of water thus dribbled down over
the head of the emblem from the tips of his fingers.
Suddenly there fell down a shaft from his quiver on
the ground, and the fowler crawled on his all fours
to lift it up, when unknowingly he touched the emblem
with his chest. Thus he touched and bathed and
worshipped a phallic emblem on the night of the
Vratam. which he passed in a vigil, though for quite
a different purpose.
The fowler returned home on the following morning
and took his meal with his wife and children. So
years came and years went away, and the fowler
died a natural death at the end of his appointed
days, when the emissaries of Death came to take his
unclean spirit in fetters to the mansion of their lord.
But lo, my own warders sprang upon them, and
overpowered them in the scuffle that ensued, and
finally brought him, a free and unfettered spirit, to
my own special region of bliss (Shiva-loka) in the
company of that faithful dog which watched by him
on the night of the chase in the bower."
The votary shall practise self-control on the day
of the thirteenth phase of the moon's wane, and worship
the god Rudra by praying as follows:-"Next night,
I will keep a vigil in thy honour, 0 lord, and worship thee and meditate on thy divine self. I under-
take to perform a Homa ceremony and give alms to
the poor for the glorification of thy honoured name.
I will fast on the day of the fourteenth phase of the
moon's wane, and break it on the day following for
the emancipation of my self. Be thou my help in
that, 0 thou, the origin-less, all-pervading deity. The
phallic emblem should be bathed with the compositions known as the Panchagavyam and the Panchamritam,
and worshipped by reciting the Mantram running as,
"Om, obeisance to Shiva." Libations of clarified butter
containing rice. Vrihi, sesame seeds and little morsels of the cooked sacrificial porridge should be cast
into the fire, after which the closing libation should
be cast. The votary shall hear the legend of the Vratam
recited by the priest, and worship the god once in
each quarter of the night and recite the sacred Mantra
till the break of dawn, when he shall bid farewell to
the deity by asking his pardon as follows:-"I have
safely and peacefully fulfilled this vow by thy grace,
0 thou the lord of the three worlds. Most humbly do I dedicate the merit of these performances to thy
self. I supplicate thy grace, 0 lord, I have invoked
thee on the occasion of my Vratam, now I beseech
thee, 0 lord, to go back to thy mansion from whence
thou hast come. Thy very presence has absolved me
of all sins. Graciously accept my humble offerings,
0 thou the god of the gods, who art the origin, stay
and goal of all created beings, and kind and com-
passionate to all."
Thus the Vratam should be practised for twelve
consecutive years, the reward of which is fame, opulence,
kingdom and progeny in this life and residence
in the region of Shiva after death. The Vratam
may be practiced as welt on the same night in
each month of the year, and should be closed
by feasting a dozen hermits and by illuminating
the temple of the deity, by which a perpetual
residence in heaven may be ensured.