According to Hindu mythology, the first time Shiva did the Tandava Nritya was on Maha Shivratri. Lord Shiva prevented the end of the world by performing this act of devotion.
Maha Shivaratri commemorates the day Shiva united with Mount Kailash and the celebration of his wedding to the Goddess Parvati. Shiva is highly regarded in the yogic tradition, not as a deity, but as the Adi Guru—the first ever Guru from whom the yoga science descended. Hindu mythology gives the festival a lot of significance. According to tradition, a devotee who sincerely worships Lord Shiva on the holy day of Shivratri is pardoned for their sins and achieves moksha.
Maha Shivratri means the Great Night of Shiva. It is an annual festival dedicated to Lord Shiva. Unlike most Hindu festivals which are celebrated during the day, the Maha Shivratri is celebrated at night. Also, unlike most Hindu festivals which include expression of cultural revelry, the Maha Shivaratri is a solemn event notable for its introspective focus, fasting, meditation on Shiva, self-study, social harmony, and an all-night vigil at Shiva temples.
The celebration includes maintaining a Jaagaran, an all-night vigil, and prayers. This holy night is celebrated as “overcoming darkness and ignorance” in one’s life and the world through Shiva. Offerings of fruits, leaves, sweets, and milk are made to Lord Shiva. Some perform all-day fasting with vedic worship of Shiva, and some perform meditative Yoga. In Shiva temples, “Om Namah Shivaya”, the sacred mantra of Shiva, is chanted throughout the day.
History and Significance
Different legends describe the significance of Maha Shivratri. According to one legend in the Shaivism tradition, this is the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation, and destruction. The chanting of hymns, the reading of Shiva’s scriptures, and the chorus of devotees join this cosmic dance and remember Shiva’s presence everywhere. According to another legend, this is the night when Shiva and Parvati got married.
Yet another legend states that the offering to Shiva icons such as the linga is an annual occasion to get over past sins if any, to restart on a virtuous path and thereby reach Mount Kailasha and liberation.
A legend explains the all-night worship of Shiva on Shivratri. There was once a poor tribal man who was a great devotee of Shiva. One day he went deep into the forest to collect firewood. However, he lost his way and could not return home before nightfall.
As darkness fell, he heard the growls of wild animals. Terrified, he climbed onto the nearest tree for shelter till daybreak. Perched amongst the branches, he was afraid he would doze and fall off the tree. To stay awake, he decided to pluck a leaf at a time from the tree and drop it, while chanting the name of Shiva. At dawn, he realized that he had dropped a thousand leaves onto a Linga to keep himself awake. The tree happened to be a wood apple or bel tree. This unwitting all-night worship pleased Shiva, by whose grace the tribal was rewarded with divine bliss. This story is also recited on Maha Shivaratri by devotees on fast. After observing the all-night fast, devotees eat the Prasad offered to Shiva.
Immediately after Maha Shivaratri, almost like a miracle, the trees are full of flowers as if to announce that after winter, the fertility of the earth has been rejuvenated. And this perhaps is the reason why the Linga is worshiped throughout India as a symbol of fertility.
Maha Shivaratri is thus not only a ritual but also a cosmic definition of the Hindu universe. It dispels ignorance, emanates the light of knowledge, makes one aware of the universe, ushers in the spring after the cold and dry winter, and invokes the supreme power to take cognizance of the beings that were created by him.
Maha Shivratri 2023
Maha Shivratri usually comes in the month of March or February. In 2023, Maha Shivratri will be celebrated on 18th February 2023.
The Celebration of Maha Shivratri
Lord Shiva devotees mark the Shivaratri Celebration by performing the specified rites sincerely and devoutly. Devotees fast throughout the day and only break their fast the next morning, following the night of worship. Another noteworthy aspect of Shivratri traditions and customs is the ritual bathing of Shivalinga by Shiva worshippers, primarily women, in the many Shiva temples.
Offering Prayers And Performing Pujas
On the day of Mahashivratri, it is customary for devotees to rise early and take a sacred bath at daybreak, preferably in the Ganges River. On significant Hindu festivals, they also worship the Sun, Vishnu, and Shiva as part of a purifying ritual.
Devotees go to the closest Shiva Temple to provide the Shivalinga with the traditional bath after dressing in brand-new clothing.
People pray to god and do the traditional Shivalinga puja. The Shivalinga is round three or seven times by worshippers before being showered with water. Other people pour milk. Bell chimes and chants echo across the temple grounds.
Furthermore, explore: Maha Shivratri Puja
Religious Rituals And Customs
Every three hours, Shivalingam receives a unique bath made of milk, honey, yogurt, sandalwood paste, and rose water according to the rituals outlined in the Shiva Purana. Along with the ritual bath, there is puja, meditation, and chanting of “Om Namah Shivaya.” Vermilion is applied to the linga after the bath.
Shiva puja traditionally uses leaves from the Aegle marmelos wild tree. The Shivalinga is then covered with Bilwa leaves, which must be a stem with three leaves. On this day, the ber or jujube fruit is a special present to the god. Some also propose beetle leaves. In addition to presenting incense sticks and fruit, many worshippers adorn the linga with garlands and flowers.
Night-Long Vigils And Processions
Shiva Worship Throughout the Night During the Shivaratri Festival, Lord Shiva is worshipped all night long. To worship Lord Shiva, devotees spend the entire night awake and overnight in Shiva temples.
Along with the sincere recitation of Om Namah Shivay, the phrase claimed to absolve individuals of all their sins, the singing of hymns and lyrics in honour and devotion to Lord Shiva continues throughout the night on Shivaratri.
Priests continue their special adoration of Shiva throughout the all-night prayer vigil. Lord Shiva is served a special meal cooked from seasonal fruits, root vegetables, and coconuts during this customary worship. The following day, those keeping the Shivaratri fast end by eating the prasad that is dedicated to Shiva.
The Legend of Maha Shivratri
Story of Lord Shiva And Parvati
Most of us are familiar with the Lord Shiva love story. Even after Sati’s death, his devotion to the goddess Sati was so intense and sincere that it prevented him from falling in love with any other woman. Goddess Parvati, a stunning young woman who had never been married and had a great love and devotion for the Lord, waited for Shiva to embrace her love. Goddess Parvati ultimately won the Lord’s heart after enduring severe penance and intense meditation. On this day, Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva got hitched and became one. Therefore, unmarried women pray on this day for a spouse like Shiva, who is regarded as the perfect husband.
The Significance of The Festival In Hindu Mythology
Families celebrate Mahashivratri as the anniversary of Shiva and Parvati’s nuptials. Those with worldly aspirations consider that day to be when Shiva defeats all of his foes. For ascetics, though, it is remembered as the day he melded with Mount Kailash. He became utterly still, like a mountain. He spent countless ages in meditation until becoming ultimately still one day. It is Mahashivratri on that day. Ascetics refers to Mahashivratri as the “night of stillness” because all motion in him ceased, and he became utterly motionless.
How Is The Festival Associated With The Victory Of Good Over Evil?
Shiva saved the world on the festival of Shivratri, according to legend. One myth states that a pot of poison emerged from the sea. To prevent the poison’s evil effects from spreading throughout the planet, Shiva drank the entire dose and kept it in his throat instead of swallowing it. His throat turns blue as a result, giving him the title Neelakantha.
Maha Shivratri Celebrations Across India
The phrase “Night of Lord Shiva” refers to Maha Shivratri. It is a notable Hindu holiday that is cheerfully and exuberantly observed across the country. While all locations observe the same Shivratri celebrations, including fasting and Shiva Lingam worship, and a customary milk bath, some variations may be observed due to regional customs and peculiarities in different states.
- People in West Bengal have a tradition of using sand they purchase from the revered Ganga River to create the four statues of the Lord.
- The Maha Shivratri festivities last for 21 days, or three weeks, in Jammu & Kashmir. Water and pecans are placed in two pots representing Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. The pecans are removed from the pot on the third day and given to family members as “Prasada.” It is customary for family members to exchange presents on the final day of Mahashivratri.
- Lord Shiva is worshipped in Karnataka after being carried to the river in a chariot with drummers from a few nearby states.
Some places where Maha Shivratri is celebrated most grandly are Tamil Nadu, Varanasi, Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and Orissa.
Significance of Maha Shivratri in Today’s World
For many individuals, Maha Shivaratri has many different meanings. The idea of “conquering darkness and ignorance” is one of the main themes that appeal to believers the most. This night of self-denial, reflection, and stillness is a silent watch for the restoration of light and creativity to the planet and an embracement of darkness and nothingness.
The preservation of cultural assets and their transmission to subsequent generations include the conservation of the past and the assurance of the future. The protection of cultural assets, such as identity, cultural knowledge, meaning, and fundamental values ingrained in some traditional behaviours or rituals, can be aided by festivals.
Finding ways to make the celebration meaningful to the next generation is essential for maintaining traditional values and traditions in the current world. As early as possible, have children participate in festivals and convey to them the spiritual meaning.
The Shiva tattva is honoured during Mahashivratri. Spiritual seekers and followers practice meditation and celebration the energies of Lord Shiva. Shiva symbolizes our soul, and the Tattva is a fundamental truth. We dwell in the truth or essence of our soul throughout this time of year.
Shiva and Shakti, who embody love, power, and unity, are supposed to converge on this night. Mahashivratri also represents a married couple’s unity, passion, and love. Shiva and Shakti are two manifestations of the same force, and they are only complete or potent combined. Maha Shivratri is an essential element of Hindu culture because it has many connotations. The next generation must recognize the importance and holiness of this day so that our customs and culture don’t fade away.
FAQ Related to Maha Shivratri Festival
The purpose of the Mahashivratri fast is to strengthen prayers and atone for sins.
During the Maha Shivratri fast, buckwheat, sabudana, or ragi foods that are not cereal-based are allowed.
Every region has its way of celebrating Maha Shivratri. In some areas, processions are carried out, melas are hosted, and every region has different rituals.
The Bel tree is regarded as the best tree to venerate Lord Shiva because it is stated that every component of the tree contains the goddess Parvati. It is stated that by just placing bel leaves on a Shivling, devotees might receive special blessings from Shiva.
In some parts of south India, Lord Shiva is worshipped after being carried to the river in a chariot with drummers. In north India, people go to temples to worship Shivling.
In essence, remaining awake at night is a symbol of awareness; this nightly custom is meant to ensure that we can stay alert and allow the natural rush of energy to move higher.
Haridwar, Rishikesh, Mandi, Srikalahasti, Srisailam, Guwahati, Sivasagar, and Khajuraho are popular destinations in India for celebrating Maha Shivratri.
People used to celebrate Maha Shivratri at night and end it by morning, but nowadays, many people have started celebrating it in the morning.
Shiva and Shakti are two manifestations of the same force, and they are only complete or potent combined.
It is believed that Lord Shiva drank the poison to save the world on this day, and another legend says Lord Shiva did Tandav to save the world from destruction.
Shiva dances the divine dance of preservation, creation, and destruction on this particular night.
Since ancient times, worshippers have worshipped the Shiva Linga as a representation of energy, creation, and enlightenment. The Puranas and Tantras hold that the linga arises from the yoni, which denotes the beginning of the entire cosmos.