Pradosha is a festival that is primarily dedicated to Lord Shiva, and also to Lord Narasimha.
Pradosha is an important day for the devotees of Shiva. It is on this day the popular Pradosha Vrat is undertaken. Pradosha is observed on Trayodashi, the 13th day of both Shukla Paksha, the waxing phase of moon and Krishna Paksha, the waning phase of Moon, every month, in Indian calendar.
This day is thus observed twice every month. This day of Pradosha is observed in a grand manner, across all Shiva temples.
Pradosha means dusk, the evening twilight. The hours before and after the dusk on Pradosha, is the most important period on Pradosha, wherein ardent worship, puja of Shiva is carried out across houses and temples.
Pradosha, a day to wipe out our Negative Karmas
Pradosh also means corrupt. In his everyday life, man accumulates many negative karma. Pradosa is an occasion wipe out these Karmas by observing the Pradosha Vrat, dedicated to Bhagavan Shiva and Devi Parvati.
The story of the origin of Samudra Manthan is attached to the popular Samudra Manthan legends.
As per the legend of Samudra Manthan, the pot of immortal nectar, Amrit came out of the Milky Ocean, when the Devas and Asuras, churned the milky ocean with a snake, Vasuki as a rope.
Shiva’s becoming Nilakanta on Pradosha Day
During this churning, along with the pot of immortal nectar, all the good and bad in the Universe were also produced. Poison, the Halahala, also appeared. This Halahala, which represent collective Karma was powerful enough to destroy all lives in the universe. The Devas couldn’t endure the poisonous fumes that were spreading everywhere and took refuge in Shiva.
Lord Shiva in his kindness drank the poison, saving the universe. This is symbolic of Shiva absolving us form the fruits of all our wrong actions on Pradosha day.
Devi Parvati pressed Shiva’s neck, so that the poison stopped in the neck, forming a blue spot.
From thereon Shiva came to be known as Nilakanta, the blue-throated One, which was on a Trayodasi Day.
Shiva’s performance of Ananda Tandava on Pradosha Day
All the Devas and Asuras praised, and in response, Shiva being pleased by their devotion, performed His Ananda Tandava, the Divine Dance of Bliss, standing in between the horns of Nandi, His Vahana. This blissful dance of Shiva happened on a Trayodasi Day. The significance of this is that when we are free from the ill-effetcs of our karma, then there is Ananda, and only Ananda, bliss.
Significance of Nataraja
Shiva is also called as Nataraja. Natana or Natya means dance and Raja is King. Nataraja is the Lord of Dance.
The Nrttya, dance form of Nataraja is called Tandava Nrttya and it is from this dance that the dance forms of India have drawn inspiration. There are many types of Tandava Nrttya, the prominent ones being Ananda Tandavam or Blissful dance and Rudra Tandavam or a fierce dance.
Shiva is a Universal phenomenon, a formless phenomenon, a Cosmic Form and the body of the cosmos itself. His dance has therefore got to be nothing but the dance of the cosmos itself. The Tandava Nrttya is thus a cosmic dance, a dance of the cosmos and based on the state of the cosmos is called Ananda Tandavam or Rudra Tandavam.
See our short film on Nataraja:
Why does Shiva dance in between Nandi’s horns?
Dance in between horns of Nandi
Nandi, the Vahana of Shiva denotes the natural, physical body which needs to be tuned with the mind, and once this union is achieved, then our body acts as a support through which the bliss of realization can be experienced. Nandi then becomes the stage and Shiva is then said to dance between the horns of the Nandi.
More on Nandi in our short film, Nandi:
Pradosha is as occasion to contemplate on this Cosmic Dance of Shiva, which has a Universal Significance.
Fasting on Pradosha day
On Pradosha day, people observe fast the whole day. Fasting is prescribed in Ayurvedic healthcare of cleansing body. According to this ancient discipline, fasting is an effective way to kindle the digestive fire and burn away accumulated toxins from the body and mind. It also eliminates gas, lightens the body, improves mental clarity, provides a clean tongue and fresh breath, and preserves overall health. All this in turn leads to a meditative mind, which can go inwards. Hence fasting is highly recommended for days such as Pradosha.
Adorning oneself with Rudraksha and Vibhuti
On this day, people also wear Rudrakhsa and Vibhuti, and worship the Lord with bilva leaves and perform abhisheka to the Shiva Linga at home.
What is the significance of Rudraksha and Vibhuti?
From modern science, today we know that the space in the Universe contains various particles which are in continuous motion and form the interstellar matter. It is the spread that is left behind after the destruction of the various stars and other cosmic bodies. It is this spread of these various particles in space that leads to further creation and regeneration of matter. It is the continuous spread of these particles in space that allows for the various objects in space to connect to one another and can in one sense be called the body or fabric of the Cosmos or Creation.
The winds caused by the movement of these particles are not our earthly winds but cosmic winds, which make their own howling sound, unheard by our ears, and is known as Rudra.
Rudraksha can be taken to be that which is capable of seeing and attracting the Rudra winds and particles moving in the cosmos and to channelize them through our body. It is like an antenna.
For more, access our short films, on Rudra and Rudraksha:
Shiva is depicted as having a third eye on His forehead. this is a depiction by our ancients of the Pineal gland and the power it exudes over man. The 3rd eye of Shiva and this subtle gland in our body, therefore are a way to remind us to open ourselves up to understand Shiva in all His 3 states and to realize Him in His formless Arupa state, in all the vastness which is at once terrific and terrifying too.
For more on the 3 states of Shiva and the 3rd eyes of Shiva, see our short films:
States of Shiva:
Shiva’s 3rd Eye:
As a constant reminder to man of the 3 levels of manifestations of Shiva and man’s ability to realize them, our ancients also brought in a symbolic practice of adorning the forehead, neck, chest and arms with 3 stripes of ash called the Vibhuti mark.
The smearing of the ash or Vibhuti is meant to destroy one’s ego and ignorance and give rise to a new self – glowing with the realization of Shiva.
On Pradosha day, people specially adorn themselves with Rudraksha and Vibhuti, understanding their special significance.
More on Tandava, Nandi, Rudraksha and Vibhuti in our book and film, “Understanding Shiva”.
The hours before and after sunset is revered as highly sacred. In the evening people visit the nearest Shiva temple, to witness the abhisheka, bathing of Shiva Linga.
For more, see our short film, Lingam:
After witnessing this abhisheka, they break their fasts. On this day, special worship is also performed for Nandi, the vahana of Shiva. A procession of the vigraha of Shiva and Parvati on Nandi is carried through the streets, the witnessing of which is considered highly sacred.
All these make Pradosha as a day of special sanctity.