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I Have been visiting Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga for a couple of times this year.

Every time I visit there, it is a must for me to witness the awesome bhasma-aarti being offered to lord shiva i.e., lord Mahakal

My question here is, why we offer the bhasma ? and how that tradition got started ?

Is it true that the bhasma (Ashes) are of human body freshly burnt in crematorium or Samshaan?

What are the significance of witnessing that bhasma-arti ?

Why females are not allowed to watch the bhasma being offered ?

Why only an Aghori brings the bhasma ?

and

Why it happens so early in the morning?

Too many question yet very few for a curious mind.

Jai Mahakaal.

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Well trying to answer some of your questions from what I have read:

Bhasma Aarti at Mahakaleshwar

One of the most important rituals of Mahakaleshwar is Bhasma Aarti. The temple opens in the morning at 4 AM with a special aarti – the one of its kind Bhasma Aarti – where the aarti is performed with sacred ash – Bhasma. Since ancient times, this bhasma used to be the fresh and burning hot ash from a funeral pyre, since Lord Shiva is believed to live in and enjoy the atmosphere of a cremation ground. However, now, the temple has changed its ways in keeping with modern times and the aarti is now performed with bhasma made with cow dung, what we call Vibhooti. Read here

Why 4 AM?

The “Bhasm Aarti” is performed every day at 4:00 AM to awaken the deity.

Why we offer the bhasma ?

Maha Yogi Shiva, father of tantra, is usually depicted naked in sadhana, his whole body covered in bhasma. The first verse of the Shiva Panchakshara Stotram gives the following description: Naagendrahaaraaya trilochanaaya, bhasmaangaraagaaya maheshwaraaya. Nityaaya shuddhaaya digambaraaya – ‘Salutations to the mighty three-eyed Shiva, eternal and pure, wearing the king of snakes as his garland, naked and besmeared with sacred ash.’ Some other names given to Lord Shiva are Bhasmashayaaya (abode of bhasma) and Bhasmabhootaaya (covered with bhasma). Covering the body with ash is considered to be an auspicious act for discovering one’s Shiva nature. Shiva is said to be responsible for mahapralaya, the dissolution of the universe at the end of each kalpa. At this time he dances his tandava nritya, the dance of destruction. Read more here

Why Shiva smears ash on body?

Once Parvati asked Lord Shiva as to why His divine body is smeared with ashes. What is the reason behind it?Lord Shiva smiled gracefully and narrated a story;A Brahmin descending from Sage Bhrigu once performed an austere meditation. While doing so, he was not affected by seasonal changes such as scorching summers or stiffening winter nor was he disturbed by monsoons. All he was focused on was his inner strengths to be in meditation. When he felt hungry, he requested animals such deer, lion, bears and jackals to fetch him fruits. These animals unafraid of the Brahma served him relentlessly.The time passed by. He gave up feeding on fruits and only ate leaves which were called parna. Therefore, he was called Parnada.Years passed by. One day, Parnada was busy cutting some grass with a scythe. Suddenly, he got his middle finger sliced off. However, it didn't scare him instead he was amazed to find that no blood oozed out from the wounded portion. But a sap-like liquid, which plants unleash, came out. He wondered for a while and realized it was due to his long subsistence on the leaves he ate during the later years of his meditation. Parnada felt proud of his achievement and began to jump with delight. Having been observing Parnada, Lord Shiva decided to teach him a lesson.He disguised Himself as a Brahman and arrived before Parnada."Why are you so happy?" asked Shiva."Can't you see?" replied Parnada. "My tapasya has been so successful that my blood has become like the sap of plants.""This sort of vanity or self-important attitude destroys the fruits of all penances," said Shiva. "What have you got to be so proud about?" Your blood has only turned into the sap of plants. What happens when you burn plants? They become ashes. I Myself have performed so much penance that My blood has becomes ashes."Shiva sliced off his middle finger and ashes came out of it. Parnada was impressed. He realized that there was nothing that he could be proud about; here was a far greater hermit than he. He asked Shiva who he was. Shiva then displayed his true divine form to Parnada.Ever since that day, there have always been ashes on Shiva's body. Refer

Why Aghoris?

I assume they are (were) required to arrange the ashes for the aarti. Aghoris are devotees of Shiva manifested as Bhairava, are monists who seek moksha from the cycle of reincarnation or saṃsāra and any cremation ground would be a holy place for an Aghori ascetic. Read

Why are women not being allowed into certain temples?

Should women not enter the sanctum at all? They could if they were appropriately trained for it, but it would be much more difficult to train women than men for this purpose, simply because of a few biological advantages men have in this area of life. In the very nature of female biology, occult forces can have a deeper impact upon her system.

To remove occult influences and perform exorcisms, certain energies are used that are not nice for a woman at all. Shani is not nice. But he is a part of our lives – we have to deal with him too. Because of these occult forces, women are asked not to enter the area where such things are done. It would not be good for their physical well being. Read more

Here you can clearly see ladies witnessing Bhasma aarti.

  • My questions here were, "Who started the tradition of bhasma-aarti at mahakaleshwar?" and "What are the believes behind it?" Also i wanted to know "Why women are not allowed to witness bhasma-aarti?" i am not asking why they are not allowed in temples. Thanks for your answer but please, read all the questions before answering. – Vishwas Goswami Oct 24 '17 at 4:46
  • @VishwasGoswami The answer for this question "Why women are not allowed to witness bhasma-aarti?" will remain same, there are some occult practices in some temples where it wasn't considered safe for ladies hence they were denied entry. As for your other questions if you read answer carefully you will see why I stated stories about bhasma and it's relation with Shiva. Now you need to connect the dots. – Just_Do_It Oct 24 '17 at 12:07
  • thanks for the dots but still its not satisfying guess i need a better elaboration to answer. – Vishwas Goswami Oct 25 '17 at 4:25
  • Pointed to be noted here- "This sort of vanity or self-important attitude destroys the fruits of all penances," – Mr. Sigma. Oct 31 '17 at 4:50
  • Women should be allowed for seeing all rituals – Rakesh Joshi Oct 31 '17 at 13:23
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Am not an expert but a avid follower of Shiva, you can refer Sadhguru jaggi vasudev for all the intricate science behind the ash smearing and time significance for the bhasmarti. In following some points I will try to answer them :

  1. Shiva literally means one who has mastered the perception of "that which is not physical/periodic time bound thing" hence he is also known as Shiva and in this context Mahakaleshwar (one who is not only free and mastered from periodic time but aysmetric time also).

  2. Regarding the Ash and Aghori , the Aghori like Shiva live or stay in Smashan to utilize the leaving life energies from a corpse to target there kriyas and sadhana. Ash is regarded as the final product , and hence a symbol of mortality of a human being , hence Shiva always smears this Ash on himself to be reminded of his mortality , if he forgets this , ignorance will bliss and his arrogance will take him over.

  3. Hours starting from 3:00 AM are regarded as bramha muhurata , don't know the logic behind 4:00 am , may be they (the pandits) take some time to ready themselves.

  4. The ashes are from a person (preferably a learned Brhamin (not just by birth) , who has volunteered for the task ).

  5. Anywhere there is occult presence (ashes or aghori ), women are mostly forbidden .Occult is not used here as a bad word , Occult refers to highly concentrated energy , women in particular have more receptivity for energy , if they grasp this they will face more problem in there regular life , hence as a gesture of goodness they are kept away from these types of Pujas , not to distinguish but to keep them safe.

Hope this helps and you continue your way of seeking. Jai Mahakal

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