Delhi, March 10: Maha Shivratri or the ‘Great night of Shiva’, is one of the major festivals in Hinduism dedicated to worshipping Lord Shiva. As per the Hindu calendar, Shivratri is celebrated on the new moon day in the month of Maagha.
The name Shiva means to enlighten. And, that’s exactly the essence of Lord Shiva who has several names like Mahadeva, Pashupati, Vishwanath, Nataraja, Bhava, and Bhole Nath. Lord Shiva, in the Hindu mythology, is recognized as the destroyer and the creator of the universe. So, on Maha Shivratri, let’s celebrate Shiva by understanding him and his leela!
Meaning of Maha Shivratri
‘Shivratri’ is a combination of two words – Shiva+Ratri, where ‘Shiva’ refers to Lord Shiva and Ratri means ‘night.’ The word “Maha” in Maha Shivratri means “Grand”. So, the grand night dedicated to celebrate this deity is called Maha Shivratri.
The difference between Shivratri and Maha Shivratri
Shivratri occurs every month, whereas Maha Shivratri is the great night of Shiva that occurs only once a year. The 14th day of every lunar month is known as Shivratri. So, there are twelve Shivratris in a calendar year that occur a day prior to the new moon.
Maha Shivratri, a special day of spiritual significance, marks Shiva and Parvati’s marriage.
There are a lot of fascinating stories associated with the history of Maha Shivratri, some of them include:
- Union of Shiva and Shakti: After the demise of Sati, the first wife of Lord Shiva, he went into deep meditation and undertook severe penance. Sati, reincarnated as Shakti, worshipped Lord Shiva with utmost devotion. She was then reunited with Lord Shiva. This union of ShivaShakti as Ardhnareshwar is celebrated as Maha Shivratri.
- Samudra Manthan: During the churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan), a pot of poison emerged out of it. This poison was extremely toxic and had the power to destroy the universe. To save his creation, Lord Shiva drank the poison that turned his throat blue. He then had to stay awake the whole night to save himself from the effects of the poison. The Gods took turns to dance and sing to keep him awake all night. Since then, this auspicious night is celebrated as Maha Shivratri– the night when Lord Shiva saved the world.
- Story of Lubdhaka: Lubdhaka, a tribal man and a devout worshipper of Lord Shiva went to the deep forest to collect firewood. He lost his way and decided to spend the night in the jungle atop the bilva tree. To stay awake, he plucked the bilva leaves and kept dropping them on the ground while chanting Shiva’s name. By sunrise, he noticed he had dropped thousands of leaves on a Shiva Lingam kept near the tree, that he’d failed to notice at night. Lord Shiva was pleased with his devotion and blessed him. This legend also justifies the popular tradition of offering bilva leaves to Shiva.
Maha Shivratri is considered auspicious and is considered important for the following reasons:
- Liberation from the past sins or bad karmas
- Attainment of moksha-liberation from the cycle of birth and death
- Married women attain marital bliss and prosperous family life
- Unmarried women pray for being blessed with ideal husbands like Lord Shiva
The auspicious festival of Maha Shivaratri marks various interesting traditions and customs, celebrated across India and abroad.
- Andhra Pradesh: Devotees go to Sri Kalahasteshwara Temple at Kalahasti and the Bharamarambha Malikarjunaswamy Temple at Srisailam and other Shiva temples to pray.
- Assam: The main spot of celebrations is the Umananda Temple on the Peacock Island in Guwahati and Sibsagar, where the devotees gather to pray.
- Himachal Pradesh: The Bhutnath Temple at Mandi leads a Shobha Yatra, inaugurated by the Chief Minister, and lasts for 8 days. This celebration is marked by the participation of artists from across the globe.
- Karnataka: A grand Sri Shidlingappa′s fair is observed where the deity is taken to the riverbed to be worshipped by Linagayats, people of the Shiva cult on a palanquin. The married women join this procession by wearing silver or gold linga.
- Madhya Pradesh: Devotees take a holy dip in Sagar tank in Khajuraho, at Shiva Temple. In the Bundelkhand region, people flock to Matangeshwar Temple to worship Shiva all through the night after the 10-day-long fair.
- Mauritius: A 3-day long celebration is observed where the devotees take a pilgrimage to the holy volcanic lake, Grand Bassin to pray and seek blessings of Lord Shiva.
- Nepal: Devotees reach the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, the holiest shrines of the Hindus to celebrate Maha Shivratri. They fast and then bathe in the holy water while praying and seeking Lord Shiva’s blessings.
By Lipakshi Seedhar (Feature Writer)
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