MahaShivratri Sandesh – What do Nandi, Tortoise, Hanumanji, Ganeshji, symbolise in the temple of Lord Shiv?

Maha Shivratri, the night of worship of Lord Shiv, is celebrated on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna according to the Hindu calendar.
One reason for this celebration is the incarnation of Lord Shiv in the form of Jyotirlinga from the absolute formless God.
Let us on this auspicious occasion, look at what the Shivalay (temple dedicated to Lord Shiv) symbolises. Why is there Nandi, tortoise, Ganeshji and Hanumanji in a Shiv temple?
A Shivalay depicts the eight components of Yoga:
1. Yam
2. Niyam
3. Aasan
4. Pranayam
5. Pratyahar
6. Dharana
7. Dhyan
8. Samadhi
One enters the temple of Lord Shiv by ascending five steps each of Yam and Niyam.
As soon as we enter the temple, Nandi ji is seen first. Nandi symbolises Aasan. This means, sitting in one place and posture to compose and fixate the body. Nandi also symbolises Dharma, meaning, the goal of religion should be Shiv, salvation.
After Aasan, we practice Pranayam. Hanumanji symbolises pranayam, meaning our mind is unsteady like a monkey. In order to steady the mind, we practice pranayam through Yogic breathing. Why is Hanumanji powerful? Because a controlled mind is powerful.
Once the mind is still, we need to withdraw our senses, signified by the tortoise in Shivalay. Just as a tortoise withdraws all its limbs within its shell, we must withdraw our senses from the worldly desires. This process is known as Pratyahar.
Now, we must focus on our goal. This is called Dharna signified by Ganeshji. Ganeshji means the knowledge on how to attach ourselves to Shiv, or, how to attain salvation.
On gaining knowledge, we want to keep our uninterrupted attention towards Lord Shiv (Dhyan). This is depicted by Gangaji, Parvatiji and the continuous dripping of water onto the Shiv Linga in the Shivalay.
In Dhyan, the meditator and the object of meditation are two separate entities. The continuous concentration unites the two into one. This state is known as Samadhi, depicted by the Shiv Linga. The soul becomes one with God leading to salvation.
Hence, the temple of Lord Shiv symbolises the eight stages of Yoga.

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