Maha Shivratri 2016 Celebrations – The Night of Lord Shiva
Maha Shivratri means “great night of Shiva”. It is a festival of Hindus that is largely celebrated in India as well as Nepal. The festival is celebrated on the new moon day in the month of Maagha according to the Hindu calender. It is the day when Lord Shiva was married to Goddess Parvati. Maha Shivaratri marks the convergence of Shiva and Shakti.
The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael leaves to Shiva, all-day fasting and an all-night-vigil. Devotees chant “Om Namah Shivaya” throughout day.
Origin and History of Maha Shivratri: Puranas contain many stories and legends describing the origin of this festival. The legend of Shiva and Shakti is one of the most important legeds related to the festival of Maha Shiv Ratri. According to legend of Shiva and Shakti, Lord Shiva got married to Parvati this night.
According to another legend, during samudra manthan, a pot of poison emerged from ocean. To protect the world from its ill effects, Shiva drank the deadly poison but held it in his throat and didn’t let it go down by his “Yogik Powers”. His neck turned blue due to its effects and hence he is also known as Neelkanth.
Celebrations of Maha Shivratri: The great night of Shiva is Celebrated on the new moon light in the month of Phalguna which generally falls in early March), and is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It consists of a full day’s fast and anointing the idol of Lord Shiva with milk, water and honey. Literally ‘the great night of Shiva’, celebrated on the moonless night of the month of Phalguna, which is fourteenth day in the dark half, this festival is specially dedicated to Shiva, the destroyer. This is an important day for the devotees of Shiva, who stay awake throughout the night, praying to him. In all major centers of Shivalinga worship, Shivaratri, also called Mahashivaratri, is a grand occasion. From the very early morning, Shiva temples are flocked by devotees, mostly women, who come to perform the traditional Shivalinga worship and hence hope for favours from the god. All through the day, devotees abstain from eating food and break their fast only the next morning, after the night-long worship.
How the Lord is worshiped:
Devotees take bath at sunrise, offer prayers to the sun, Vishnu and Shiva and wear a clean piece of clothing. Worshipers carry pots of water to the temple to bathe the Shivalinga. Devotees circulate the lingam three or seven times and then pour water over it. They also pour milk over it.
According to Shiv Purana, the Mahashivaratari worship must incorporate six items:
- Bathing the Shiva Linga with water, milk and honey. Woodapple or bel leaves are added to, which represents purification of the soul;
- Vermilion paste is applied to the Shiva Linga after bathing it. This represents virtue;
- Offering of fruits, which is conducive to longevity and gratification of desires;
- Burning incense, yielding wealth;
- The lighting of the lamp which is conducive to the attainment of knowledge;
- And betel leaves marking satisfaction with worldly pleasures
Shivaratari Festival: The Mandi Festival or fair is particularly famous as this special fair transforms the town of Mandi into venue of grand celebration. This is International fair. The festival is celebrated with great passion and it is common to see many foreign tourists. Tilwara Ghat in the city of Jabalpur and the Math Temple in the village of Jeonara, Seoni are two other places where the festival is celebrated with much religious fever. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated widely in the temples all over Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.