The main Hindu festival Maha Shivratri, which clearly means the “Great Night of Shiva”. It is the darkest night of the month. It is a Hindu tradition that is widely performed both in Nepal & India. Shivratri occurs each 14th day of the month but this specific Shivratri that falls in the month of the Magha according to the Hindu calendar, is believed has “Maha Shivratri”. In this Magha masa, Shivaratri occurs on the night of New Moon day called Amavasya. On this scared night if a devotee worship Lord Shiva it will absolve them from past sins and moksha will be blessed to them and offer tremendous well-being in life.
The Maha Shivaratri is observed to be celebrated at night, unlike the other Hindu festivals which are held during the day. On the day of Maha Shivratri, the planetary position is to align such that there is a natural increase of energy and spiritualism in the body. According to sages, this night is the perfect time for a non-believer to seek spirituality as the natural upsurge will move your thoughts in the right direction. That is why it symbolizes has “overcoming of darkness and ignorance in life. It is followed by singing prayers and recalling Shiva, large crowd devotees come to the temple and worship the Shiva Linga by offering a range of fruits, flowers, prasad, fasting, and they do maha abhishekam whereby the Shiva Linga is bathed with milk. On this particular day, temples like Kashi Vishwanath and Somnath see an outburst of devotees from different regions of the country.
Devotees all night singing “Om Namah Shivay” and “Mahamritunjaya” asking for light over darkness. Tourists are seen enjoying the scenery with interest, posing for selfies and engaging with disciples are seen as lively and watching colorful sadhus
Beliefs & Significance
Various myths define Maha Shivaratri’s significance:
- As per one legend in the tradition of Shaivism, on this night Lord Shiva conducted the Tandav, a spiritual dance of creation, preservation, and destruction
- According to another myth, Shiva and Parvati got married on this night.
- According to most of the legends, the day when Shiva saved the world from the bowl of poison that erupted from the ocean during Samudra Manthan. it is believed, Lord Shiva drank and kept the poison in his throat— which turned his throat blue and that is why he comes to be known as Neelkanth
- Another legend says, there was a Huge conflict among Brahma & Vishnu who is more superior over each other and they were punished by an angry Lord Shiva by taking the form of a massive fire that spread throughout the universe. Vishnu and Brahma then entered the race to find the fire’s end and to prove their prowess— only to be dismayed. Brahma resorted to a lie and deeply annoyed Shiva, who threatened that no one would ever pray to him. In remembrance of this day, this festival is celebrated
- As per a common legend, Hunder was waiting on the branch of a Woodapple tree could not find anything to kill for his food in a forest. He began throwing the tree’s leaves on the floor to draw deer attention, not aware of Shiva Lingam down the tree. Pleased with the Woodapple leaves and the hunter’s endurance, Lord Shiva is said to have stood before the hunter and has rewarded him with wisdom. The hunter stopped eating meat from that date on.
- According to the myths Lubdhaka story, Lubdhaka the shiva devotee was a poor tribal man who went to the forest to collect firewood and lost his path to home. by hearing the wild animal growls of tiger and wild animals. he climbed the bael tree for this safety. he started plucking the leaves of the tree so that he should not fall asleep by chanting Shiva’s Name. n the morning he noticed he had dropped thousands of leaves on Shiva Lingam He was terrified by the growls of tigers and wild animals, and he plucked one leaf at a time from the tree to stay up all night and dropped it while chanting Shiva’s name. and Lubdhaka was honored with eternal bliss and safe travel home due to his devotion to Shiva.
Rituals That are followed on Maha Shivratri:
The orthodox Hindu rises earlier in the morning on the Maha Shivaratri day and takes a bath in a holy river in Ganga or any other holy water. They extend prayers to Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva, the sun-god. wearing new fresh clothes and vibhuthi (sacred ash) is applied to the forehead creating a distinctive label of three horizontal stripes (Tripura). The three lines represent spiritual purity, knowledge, and penance. They’re also said to reflect Lord Shiva’s three eyes. Devotees to give the traditional Shivalinga bath go to the nearby Shiva Temple.
a special bath is given to shiva lingam with yogurt, milk, sandalwood paste, honey, and rose water after Every three hours, The ritual bath is followed by puja, meditation, and singing of’ Om Namah Shivaya.’ The vermilion paste is then spread on the linga. The Maha Shivratri worship will include six elements that have their own meaning, according to the Shiva Purana:
- Bael leaves –shiva lingam bath with bel leaves, honey, rose water, and milk represents a cleansing of the soul.
- Food items – Food items such as rice and fruits are presented to the Lord to ensure an accomplishment of desires and long life.
- Vermilion paste – Applying this on the linga after bathing it represents good value
- Incense (Dhoop) – Incense sticks symbolize prosperity.
- Lamp (Diya) – The lighting of the lamp means the achievement of knowledge.
- Betel leaves (Paan Patta) – presenting of piper betel leaves represents happiness.
Such six things form an essential part of Maha Shivratri and are still used in the Lord’s traditional worship.