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Viva Holidays Tours & Travels Pvt. Ltd. Home >> Festivals in India > Maha Shivaratri








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Viva Holidays Tours & Travels Pvt. Ltd. Maha Shivaratri
Maha Shivaratri or "Grand Night of Shiva" is a hindu festival celebrated every year in the Krishan Paksha of the Maagha Month of the Hindu Calendar.It is observed in honor of the Hindu God Shiva. Maha Shivratri is celebrated on the 14th night of the new moon of the Maagha month. Every year on this moonless night in February thousands of devotees worship Shiva and offer their prayers in the temple.
 Maha Shivaratri
It is believed that on this night he performed the ‘Tandava’, the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction. On the auspicious day, devotees observe fast and keep vigil all night. It is also believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Parvati Ma. On this day Shiva devotees observe fast and offer fruits, flowers and bel (also called bael) leaves on Shiva Linga. Devotees observe strict fast in honor of Shiva, though many go on a diet of fruits and milk some do not consume even a drop of water.

Devotees strongly believe that sincere worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of Shivaratri, absolves a person of sins and liberates him from the cycle of birth and death. Shivaratri is considered especially auspicious for women. While married women pray for the well being of their husbands unmarried women pray for a husband like Lord Shiva, who is regarded as the ideal husband.

About Mahashivaratri
There are many legends associated to the festival of Maha Shivaratri. One of the most popular legends, Shivaratri marks the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. It is blieved that it was on the auspicious night of Shivaratri that Lord Shiva performed the ‘Tandava’, the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction. Another popular Shivratri legend stated in Linga Purana states that it was on Shivaratri that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga.

Hence the day is considered to be extremely auspicious by Shiva devotees and they celebrate it as Mahashivaratri - the grand night of Shiva. Another well known legend for this festival is that of Samudramanthan. When the sea was churned during Samudramanthan, dreadful poison emerged which was capable of destroying the entire world. At that time, the gods and the demons ran to Shiva for help. Lord Shiva drank the poison and held it in his throat instead of swallowing it much to the relief of the gods and demons. Because of the poison, lord shiva's throat turned blue and he was given the name Nilkantha, the blue-throated one. Shivratri is the celebration of this event by which Shiva saved the world.

Ritual & Celebrations
According to the Shiva Purana, the Maha Shivratri worship must incorporate six items: the ceremonial offer of cooling bael leaves to the deity, representing purification of the soul; the vermilion paste applied on the linga after bathing it, representing virtue; food offering which is conducive to longevity and gratification of desires; incense, yielding wealth; the lighting of the lamp which is conducive to the attainment of knowledge; and betel leaves marking satisfaction with worldly pleasures.

Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva are sung with great fervor and devotion during the night of mahashivratri. People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya on the eve of mahashivratri festivals.It is believed that one who utters the name of Shiva during Maha Shivratri with proper devotion is freed from all sins. Shiva being an ascetic god, Maha Shivratri festival is very popular with ascetics. Thandai, a drink made with cannabis, almonds, and milk, is essentially drunk by the devout. This is so because cannabis is said to have been very dear to Shiva.

Shivaratri Pooja
Shivaratri Pooja has been given tremendous significance in Hindu mythology. It is said that ritual worship of Lord Shiva on a Shivaratri day pleases Lord Shiva the most. Devotees further believe that by pleasing Lord Shankara on the auspicious Shivaratri day, a person is absolved of past sins and is blessed with Moksha or salvation.

Merits of Shivaratri Puja
According to Shiva Purana, sincere worship of Lord Shiva yields merits including spiritual growth for the devotees. It also provides extensive details on the right way to perform Shivratri Puja. Shiva Purana further says that performing abhisheka of Shiva Linga with six different dravyas including milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water while chanting Sri Rudram, Chamakam and Dasa Shanthi pleases Lord Shiva the most. According to the mythology, each of these dravya used in the abhisheka blesses a unique quality:

Getting Ready for Shivratri Puja
To perform the worship of Lord Shiva on Shivratri, devotees wake up early and take a ritual bath, preferably in the holy waters of river Ganga. This is followed by worship to Sun God, Vishnu and Shiva in accordance with the purification rite observed on all-important Hindu festivals. Devotees then wear fresh new clothes and pay a visit to the nearest Shiva temple. As a tradition, devotees observe a fast on a Shivaratri day. Some do not consume even a drop of water.

Performing Maha Shivaratri Pooja
Following the method prescribed in Shiva Purana, priests perform ritual puja of Shiva Linga every three hours all through the day and night of Shivaratri Festival. During this pooja, chants of Om Namah Shivaya and sounds of bells reverberate in the temple. Following the bath with milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water that helps in the purification of the soul a vermilion paste is applied on the Linga as it represents virtue. These six items form an indispensable part of Shivaratri, be it a simple ceremony at home or grand temple worship After this, Bilwa leaves, which have to be a stalk with three leaves, is kept on top of the Shivalinga to cool the hot-tempered deity. Ber or jujube fruit is also offered to Lord Shiva, as it is symbolic of longevity and gratification of desires.

Some devotees also offer the auspicious betel leaves to Lord Shiva marking satisfaction with worldly pleasures. Garlanding of Linga with flowers and garlands is also a part of the ritual Shivaratri Puja. Devotees also burn incense sticks as is said to yield wealth. Many also light lamps to symbolize attainment of knowledge. It is said that by offering water, hugging the Linga, lighting the diya and incense and ringing the temple bells, devotees call into focus all their senses, making them acutely aware of themselves and the universe to which they belong. This ritual worship of Lord Shiva continues through the day and night of Shivaratri.

Devotees stay awake and spent the night in Shiva temples by chanting ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ and singing hymns and verses in praise of Lord Shankar. Devotees observing vrat on Shivaratri break it only the next morning by partaking prasad offered to Lord Shiva.

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