Maha Shivaratri or Maha Sivaratri / padmarajarathri is a great festival in Hinduism, celebrated annually with the devotion and religious enthusiasm in the honor of the Lord Shiva, deities of Hindu Trinity. The literal meaning of Shivaratri is “The Great Night of Lord Shiva”. According to the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated in the Varanasi in the dark fortnight or Krishna Paksha at the 13th night or 14th day of the month Maagha or Phalguna (month of February or March according to the English calendar) to worship Shiva Lingam to make happy the Lord Shiva.
Maha Shivaratri 2016 would be celebrated all over India as well as abroad by the devotees of Lord Shiva on 7th of March, at Monday.
This festival is celebrated to respect Lord Shiva by offering leaves of Bael or
Bilva/Vilvam, Bhang, Dhatura, flowers, coconut, fruits, water, cow milk and other things. Devotees keep fast of full-day and full-night and pray to Lord Shiva for their beautiful life partner with healthy and prosperous life. According to the ritual belief and traditions, penances are performed to get benefited in the practice of Yoga and meditation. Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi is one of the most important places for tourist attractions in the UP state where a big fair is held on at Maha Shivratri in front of the Virla temple and Vishwanath Gali of the old Vishwanath temple.
Another myth of celebrating Maha Shivaratri in Hinduism is that, whole world was facing destruction and more near to the pralaya, and then the Goddess Parvati had worshiped her husband the Lord Shiva to save the world. Finally her prayer was approved by the Lord Shiva and then Goddess Parvati named that night, the Maha-Shivaratri, or the great night of Shiva.
Favorite Day of the Lord Shiva
It is believed that after completion of the creation of world, Goddess Parvati asked to Lord Shiva that which devotees and rituals satisfied him the most, and then Lord Shiva replied to Goddess Parvti that the 13th night of the Maagha month is his most favorite day. After that, she repeated the words of Lord Shiva to her friends, and then the words were spread all over world.
On Maha Shivratri, people keep fast of whole day and night and Kashi Vishwanath temple gets congregated by the young and old devotees from the very early morning. They come to the temple to perform the puja of traditional Shivalingam and hope to get what they have prayed to the god. They take bath in the holy water of the Ganga (Symbol of the purity) early in the morning before sunrise and wear a clean clothe after the sacred bath.
Every worshiper brings a pot full of holy Gange water to the temple to offer the Shivalingam. Women pray to God for her well-being of their husbands and sons, an unmarried woman pray to get their desired husband like Shiva (the ideal husband) in future; boys pray to get beautiful wife and successful life in future. The temple full of sound of bells and people shouts of “Shankerji ki Jai” or “Mahadevji ki Jai”. Devotees take 5 round of the Shivalingam and pour water on the Shivalingam. Some also pour cow milk on the Shivalingam.
According to the Shiva Purana, the Mahashivaratri puja involves six steps which are:
- Taking bath in the Gange for purification of soul, mind and body. Bathing of the Shiv Linga with the holy water of Gange, then bathing with milk and honey. God Shiva loves bel patra (three leaves stalked in one) so every rituals added it to the puja.
- After bathing of the Shiv Linga, vermilion paste applied on it which represents
- Offer fruits, flowers which are given to get long live and satisfaction of desires.
- Burning enrage yields wealth.
- The lighting with diya represents achieving more knowledge.
- Offering betel leaves provide satisfaction full of great pleasures.
- Worshipers also apply three horizontal lines of holy ash on their forehead just like the Lord Shiva which represents spiritual knowledge, cleanliness and penance. They wear garland made up of the Rudraksha (seed of Rudraksha tree) while worshiping the Lord Shiva. It is believed that Rudraksha tree was originated from the tears of Lord Shiva. Shivaratri is also considered as the wedding day of the Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati.
What makes the Lord Shiva please more?
It is written in the Shiva Purana that doing abhisheka of the Lord Shiva Linga with six dravyas such as cow milk, yoghurt, sugar, honey, ghee and Gange water while reading Sri Rudram, Chamakam and Dasa Shanthi pleases more the Lord Shiva. Milk is for the approval of cleanliness and faithfulness, yogurt for wealth and offspring, honey for sweet tongue, ghee for success, sugar for pleasure, and water for purity.
Significance of Mahashivaratri
Mahashivaratri Festival is of great and tremendous significance for the millions of Hindu devotee’s all over India as well as abroad. It falls every year on fourteenth day of the Phalgun month in the dark fortnight at the end of winter season. This festival is the big festival during which devotees can please the Lord Shiva in order to fulfill their desires. It has another great significance for the Women. Both married and unmarried women keep strict fast for whole day and do Shiva Linga Puja with very honesty to please the Goddess Parvati or Gaura Mata in order to get the marital bliss as well as long, wealthy and prosperous married life. At Mahashivaratri, the marriage of Lord Shiva with Mata Parvati took place in the ancient time, so the Hindu people celebrate this festival by performing the same ceremony every year. People in Varanasi start this ceremony from Mahamrityunjaya temple of Daranagar to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi.
This festival is especially auspicious for the women. At this day, married women pray to God for the wellness and well being of their Suhaag however; unmarried women pray to God to get good husband in future just like the Lord Shiva means an ideal husband. Devotees of the Lord Shiva wake up in the early morning and take a ritual bath especially in the holy water of river Ganga. They wear fresh or new clothes and go to nearest Shiva temple to offer the Milk Abhishek to the Shiva Lingum and then with honey and water. They also offer some fruits, peach, dhatura, bael patra, bhang leaves, sweets, Ganga jal, etc. They pray to the God to fulfill their long list of wishes. People also sing ritual songs, do arti, drink bhang and dance at music.
The process of worshiping, offering and praying continues whole day long from early morning till night. First of all in the early morning a ritual puja of the Shiva Lingam is performed by the temple’s priests. First they give bath to the Shiva Lingam with milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar (also called panchagavya) and then with water by chanting the mantra of “Om Namah Shivaya”. Somewhere people give bath to the Shiva Linga with milk, yoghurt, honey, sandalwood paste and rose water. They apply vermilion paste on the Shiva Linga and keep Bilwa leaves (especially three joined leaves in one stalk) on the top in the believe that Goddess Lakshmi resides in Bilwa leaves and it has cooling effects to the hot-tempered deity so it would help devotees in pleasing the Lord Shiva.
Devotees ring temple bells in full sound. Then they allow devotees to come inside the temple and do their ritual. In some cities, a nightlong jaagran is organized at Shiva temples where a big crowd of large number of devotees stay whole night to sing holy hymns and devotional songs praising Lord Shiva and Mata Parwati. And in the early morning, devotees again perform all the ritual like bathing, offering Jal to Shiva Linga, etc and break their fast by taking Prasad offered by priests of the temple.