Maha Shivaratri is a pious Hindu festival that is celebrated in the month of either March of February as per the Hindu calendar with great pomp and show. The day is said to be the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The day marks the end of the winter season as per Hindu mythology. There are many stories related to Maha Shivaratri that you may narrate to your children to let them know about the importance of the festival.
Happy Maha Shivaratri Stories to tell
“This festival is celebrated on the night of (Maha) vad 14, when Lord Shiv manifested as Shivaling. There are numerous stories extolling the glory of Mahadev (Lord Shiv) in the Puranas.
The Shiv Puran relates a story of Maha Shivaratri’s glory.
In ancient times, a Bheel (forest inhabitant) named Gurudruha trudged through a forest to hunt deer. At night, without having sighted a single animal, he unknowingly climbed a bili tree on the banks of a lake. Later at night, a doe arrived to drink water. Gurudruha aimed his bow and arrow at her. While aiming, he unknowingly dropped some bili leaves and his drinking water below on a Shivaling. The deer then requested him to allow her to entrust her fawns to her husband, after which she would return. After much haggling he agreed. While awaiting her return, he stayed awake by aimlessly plucking leaves and dropping them below. Again they fell on the Shivaling. Thus he unknowingly performed its puja while remaining awake all night.
Finally the doe returned with her family, She informed him that along with her, he’d have to kill her family too. As he aimed, some more leaves fluttered down on the Shivaling. The collective punya (spiritual merit) accrued from the puja performed unknowingly, eradicated all his sins. This purified his heart. Repenting his flawed life of sin, he set the deer free. As he sat repenting, Lord Shiv manifested in front of him and granted a boon, “You shall be born in a town known as Shrungver, as a man named Gruha. Lord Vishnu will grace your home as Lord Rama and redeem you.”
Shivji also blessed the deer which attained a better destiny.
The Garud and Skand Puranas cite similar versions, about a king named Sundersenak and an evil hunter named Chand, respectively.
On this day, fasting and night vigil – jaagaran, are advocated. Hindus worldwide perform Shiva puja with bili leaves(Aegle marmelos) and milk abhishek. On Mt.Girnar in Saurashtra, a grand mela is held, where people throng to have darshan of sannyasis and mystics.
Bhagwan Swaminarayan has enjoined devotees to celebrate the day by doing Shiva puja and faraar in the Shikshapatri (79) and pujan with Bili leaves (Shik. 149). He has also included Shiv among the five foremost deities of the Hindu Dharma (Shik.84). Additionally, He regards Shiva and Narayan with equanimity (Shik.47).
During His time, He consecrated Lord Shiv’s murti in the Junagadh mandir, as Siddheshwar Mahadev. Continuing the tradition, HDH Pramukh Swami has consecrated the murtis of Shiv-Parvati in the new Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, in Neasden, London, where the festival is celebrated with great eclat, with special puja and milk abhishek, every year.”
“Mahashivaratri (the great night of Shiva) falls on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna (February- March), and is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. This festival is purely religious in nature and universally observed by all Hindus. On this day devotees sing bhajans in honor of Shiva, recite Sanskrit shlokas (verses) from scriptures, offer prayers in the morning and evening, and some observe fasting throughout the day. People visit nearby temples of Shiva and offer prayers in large crowds. The prayers and worship continue late into the night when the devotees offer coconut, Bilva leaves, fruits, and specially prepared sacred food to Shiva and his divine consort Parvati. Offering Bilva leaves to Shiva on Shivaratri is considered very auspicious by his devotees.
The origin of Shivaratri is attributed to several stories in Hindu mythology. One very popular story traces the origin of this festival to the churning of the Ocean of Milk by devas (gods) and asuras (demons). It is said that when both gods and demons were churning the Ocean of Milk to obtain amrita (water of immortal life), they came across many unusual substances, including the deadly poison Kalakuta. As soon as they touched the poison, it exploded into poisonous fumes that threatened to envelope the entire universe by darkness. When the destruction of the universe seemed inevitable, the gods ran for assistance from Brahma and Vishnu, but neither was able to help. At last they ran to Lord Shiva, who raised his trident and condensed the fumes. In order to save the creation, Shiva swallowed the poison without spilling a single drop. The poison left a dark blue mark on Shiva’s throat. The gods praised and worshipped Shiva for saving the universe.
The philosophical essence of the above myth is as follows: gods and demons symbolize all kinds of individuals (both good and bad) in the world. The Ocean of Milk represents the ideal world that is full of peace and happiness for all human beings. Churning the Ocean of Milk signifies the human activity in the world. The amrita symbolizes happiness and the poison represents human greed and selfishness. Shiva symbolizes the atman (self), the spiritual essence of an individual. Worship of Shiva denotes meditation and contemplation by an individual on his or her own self.
The above story is symbolic of the fact that individuals perform actions in the world in order to achieve happiness. In this process a person is usually overpowered by greed and selfishness, ruining his or her efforts for obtaining peace and happiness. Thus the only way to achieve peace and happiness is by worshipping Shiva at night, that is, by meditating on one’s own self during the night when the individual is free from the distractions of the physical world. When the individual attains self-knowledge, he or she can live in the world without being affected by anger, greed, and selfishness, the three enemies of one’s soul. Shlce Shivaratri symbolizes the worship of the atman within, this festival is celebrated as a purely religious festival by all Hindus, as stated earlier.
Another story in Hindu mythology also emphasizes the auspiciousness of Shivaratri: On the day of Shivaratri, a hunter, who had killed many birds in a forest, was chased by a hungry lion. The hunter climbed a Bilva tree to save himself from the lion’s attack. The lion waited throughout the entire night at the bottom of the tree for its prey. In order to stay awake to avoid falling from the tree, the hunter kept plucking the leaves of the Bilva tree and dropping them below. The leaves fell on a Shiva Linga that happened to be located at the bottom of the tree. Shiva was pleased by the offering of the Bilva leaves by the hunter, although inadvertently, and saved the hunter in spite of all the sin the hunter had committed by killing the birds. This story emphasizes the auspiciousness of worshipping Shiva with Bilva leaves on Shivaratri.”
“Legend of Shiva Linga
The legend of Shiva Linga or Lingodbhavamurthy is deeply related to Mahashivaratri. The legend narrates the story of vain search by Brahma and Vishnu to discover the Aadi (beginning) and the Antha (end) of Lord Shiva. The legend thus proves the supremacy of Lord Mahadeva over other Hindu Gods and explains why the lingam is believed to be one of the most potent emblems in Hindu ideals. The story is stated in the three of the puranas – the Kurma Purana, the Vayu Purana and Shiva Purana.
According to Puranas, once the other two of the triads of Hindu Gods, Brahma and Vishnu were fighting over each other’s prowess. Horrified at the intensity of the battle, the other gods asked Shiva to intervene. To make them realize the futility of their fight, Lord Shiva assumed the form of a flaming Linga in between Brahma and Vishnu and challenged both of them by asking them to measure the gigantic Linga (phallic symbol of Lord Shiva).
Awestruck by its magnitude, Brahma and Vishnu decided to find one end each to establish supremacy over the other. Lord Brahma took the form of a swan and went upwards while Lord Vishnu assumed the form of Varaha – a boar and went into the earth towards nether land. Both searched for thousands of miles but neither could find the end.”