There are lots of legends about the significance of Mahashivratri like the marriage of lord shiv and goddess Parvati, the day when he saved the earth by consuming the poison etc.
I was brainstorming how I should explain Shiv to my kids ( A daunting task I know , because people spend their lives to understand the essence of it, I know I am not going to divulge in to philosophical aspects or dig in to the religious fundamentals). My aim is simple how to make the little mind understand what we worship and how to relate it to the real world.
SHIV (शिव ) can be explained as combination of 3 hindi letters : sh (श) + i (इ )+ v (व)
Sh denotes “Shareer” (शरीर ) body our physical self, I denotes “Eeshwar” (ईश्वर ) the God , the supreme or the power and V denotes “Vaayu” ( वायु ) literal meaning of Vaayu is air ,the life or the movement. So basically Shiv is the God , the knowledge or the power within us .
The day this knowledge or conscience within us stops working meaning the I or (इ ) is no more the SHIV becomes the Shav(शव ) a Hindi word for death body, meaning the body becomes life less. Thus to be alive keep growing your knowledge and feed your conscience it will help you lead to be the Shiv and not turn in to Shav.
Shiv is depicted with loads of adornments and each of them to my understanding has its own significance (Note : This is how I perceive through what I have read and relate to teach my kids)
1) Ganga River : Shiv is shown holding River ganga on his head (there is story related to it you can find on internet). Ganga or Ganges is supposed to be one of the most Holy river in Indian culture. Ganga represents knowledge , try to grasp as much knowledge as you can from everywhere (nature,books,tv,plays,movies,games). Yes, you can learn from any and everything if you keep your mind open and have willingness to learn. The most basic characteristic of a river is that it flows continuously, similarly try to learn throughout your life just like the flow of the river try to pass the knowledge to the next generation , to others basically if you know something don’t keep it to yourself share with others and help everyone grow.
2) Moon : Shiv adorns Crescent shaped moon on his head.Indian calendars have always been based on the positioning of moon.Hence moon signifies time . Always keep time in mind , be conscious about the importance of time and work accordingly. Once a time gone its gone forever so give your best to each and every moment. When having fun enjoy it to the fullest, when studying give your best ,basically live every moment to its fullest because time will never be the same.
3) Trishul/Trident : Shiv is always depicted with trishul or trident as his weapon. The three prongs of trident depicts Knowledge (ज्ञान) , Action (कार्य) and Will(शक्ति /इच्छा ). This means that as an individual you should use your knowledge to direct your will in performing the best of actions. Meaning you can accomplish any action or task by nurturing your will with the knowledge you gain. You can use your knowledge as your weapon by performing the right actions.
4) Third Eye : Shiv has a unique feature – his third eye on the forehead. The basic function of eyes are to see , We see the physical stuff around us through our eyes, physical meaning like trees , mountains, river,lakes, a person through his outer appearance, but one needs to use the mind’s eye meaning conscience , meaning learn to observer beyond what is physical. Don’t just rely on what you see but learn to use your conscience too.
5) Damroo/The Drum : Shiv holds damroo (डमरू ) an hourglass shaped drum in his hand. The way you create sound through it is by shaking it and its done in a unique style the top becomes bottom and then vice-versa. This means nothing in this world is going to remain as is , change is inevitable. Learn to accept it , just like how Himalyas were once within the sea and then came out similarly change is bound to happen that’s the rule of life. Learn to adapt yourself to changes and also not to be proud of your achievements as everything changes.
6) Snake : Snake means always be vigilant be aware of what goes around you .Snakes don’t have external ears (again not going in the biological details) but still they can feel the vibrations and watch the movements hence just like them be aware and alert of what goes around you.It can also be represented as ego, meaning tame your ego in such a way that it becomes your adornment.A humble soul is always respected and appears beautiful than a loud mouth.
7) Tiger skin : The tiger skin represents power, lust or our desires. Shiv sits on tiger skin hence signifies that one should always have control on their desires and power. The path to success is through self control.
9) Blue Throat: The legend is that Shiv held poison in his throat to save the whole world . Holding the poison in his throat turned his throat blue hence the name “NeelKantheshwar”(Lord with the blue throat). Just like shiv try to control your anger in throat. When we get angry knowingly or unknowingly we start using words which we might regret later. Words spoken in anger can act as poison for the one whom they are spoken to, it can spoil your relations forever. Hence learn to control your anger , learn to hold your words in your throat.
Hope we can all inculcate these qualities not only in us but in our kids and make this world a happy place.