India is a land of festivals. The Indian culture provides an opportunity for each and every individual to make his life a celebration. Talking about Hinduism, it believes that life is a celebration and provides numerous festivals for people to make their lives a truly remarkable celebration. One such important Hindu Festival is Maha Shivratri.
Maha Shivratri is an annual festival dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to the Goddess Parvati. It is popularly known as ‘Shivratri’ or the ‘Great Night of Shiva’ and marks the convergence Shiva with Shakti.
According to the Poornima-ant month calculation, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated on Krishna Paksha Trayodashi or Chaturdashi of Hindu Calendar month “Phalguna” which usually falls in the month of February or March as per the Gregorian calendar. In a year, there are 12 Shivaratri however, Maha Shivratri is the holiest.
The festival of Maha Shivratri is mainly celebrated by offering ‘Bael’ leaves to Lord Shiva. Devotees fast all day and keep an all-night vigil (Jagran) on Maha Shivratri. The chanting of the mantra “Om Namah Shivay” has a special significance on this day. Devotees chant this mantra all through the day.
Devotees also perform penances in order to gain boons in the practice of Yoga and meditation. On this auspicious day, the planetary positions are such that help a devotee to uplift his or her spiritual energy more easily. Devotees get benefitted by chanting the most powerful Shiva mantra, “Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra” on the day of Maha Shivratri.
On the day of Maha Shivratri, it is said that Nishita Kala is the most ideal time to perform Shiva Pooja.
According to Hindu Scriptures, it is the time when Lord Shiva appeared on Earth in the form of “Linga”. In all the Shiva temples, the most sacred Lingodbhava Puja is performed on the day of Maha Shivaratri.
Devotees usually celebrate the auspicious day of Maha Shivratri by fasting and offering special prayers to Lord Shiva. They pour milk and water on the Shiva Linga and adorn it with beautiful flowers. They also take a holy dip at various pilgrim destinations.
Devotees go to the temple to offer prayers and also witness the “Rudra Abhishekam” of the Almighty Lord Shiva. Some of the devotees and sadhus take “Thandai” a special drink which is made up of cannabis and milk.
Apart from India, Maha Shivratri is celebrated in various other parts of the world such as Nepal where millions of devotees attend Maha Shivratri celebrations at the famous Pashupatinath Temple. Likewise all around the World, Hindus celebrate Maha Shivratri across the country.
They offer special “Jhalls” to Lord Shiva.
Why Maha Shivratri is Celebrated – Its Origin and History
The Puranas contain many mythological stories describing the origin of the festival of Maha Shivratri.
According to one popular belief, it is said that the formless God appeared in the form of “Lingodbhava Moorti” at the midnight of Maha Shivratri. This is said to be the reason why Lord Shiva Devotees offer prayers to the Lord and keep vigil all through the night of Maha Shivratri.
According to another mythological story described in Puranas, a pot of deadly poison emerged from the ocean during the Samudra Manthan. This deadly poison was capable of describing the whole world. Devas and Demons became afraid of this deadly poison and approached Lord Shankar for help.
To protect the world, Lord Shankar drank the deadly poison and held it in his throat. This made his throat blue and he was named as “Neelakantha”, the blue-throated one. Maha Shivratri marked the celebration of this event when Lord Shankar saved the world from a deadly poison.
According to a legend mentioned in the Shiva Purana, once there was an intense fight between the other two triads of Hindu Gods, Brahma, and Vishnu over who was the most superior one. The intensity of the battle terrified other “Devas” and they requested Lord Shiva to intervene. Lord Shiva agreed to intervene in the fight of Brahma and Vishnu.
The Almighty Shiva assumed a huge column of fire between the other two triads. This awestruck Brahma and Vishnu as they decided to find one end each to establish their supremacy over the other.
Brahma took the form of a Swan and went upwards while Vishnu took the form of Varaha and went into the earth. However, both of them failed to find the end. On his journey upwards, Brahma came across a Ketaki flower. He decided to end his journey and take the Ketaki flower as a witness.
At this, Lord Shiva revealed his true form. He punished Brahma by cursing him that nobody would ever pray to him. This day was the 14th day in the dark half of the month of Phalguna that Shiva first manifested in Linga Form; it is especially auspicious and began to be celebrated as Maha Shivratri.
Worshipping Shiva on the day of Maha Shivaratri, one is said to be bestowed with happiness and prosperity.
According to another legend, there is a description of all-night worship of Lord Shiva on Shivratri. Once there was a poor tribal man who was a great devotee of Lord Shiva.
One day, it happened that he went deep into the forest and was unable to return home before nightfall. As darkness fell, he was terrified by the growls of wild animals and so climbed onto the nearest tree for shelter till sunrise.
However, he was afraid that he would doze and fall off the tree. So he decided to pluck a leaf from the tree and drop it while chanting the mantra of Lord Shiva. At dawn, he came to know that he had dropped a thousand leaves onto a Shiva Linga. The tree happened to be of Beal tree or wood apple.
This all-night worship by the tribal man pleased Lord Shiva and He rewarded him with divine bliss. This story is recited by devotees on fast on the day of Maha Shivratri.
It is believed that the day of Maha Shivratri is the union of Shiva and Shakti, the two greatest forces of the Universe. According to Puranas, Lord Shanker married Devi Parvati on the day of Maha Shivratri.
Thus, Maha Shivratri is one of the most auspicious festivals of the Hindus. It is celebrated by millions of devotees across the globe. It is the day when we remember the greatest cosmic power of the Universe that is Lord Shiva. It is also the day when Lord Shiva blesses his devotees with peace and prosperity.
Maha Shivaratri Date 2020
In 2020, Maha Shivaratri will be celebrated on 21st February 2020 (Friday)
Nishita Kaal Puja Time: 12:15 AM to 01:05 AM, February 22
Maha Shivaratri Date
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