Maha Shivratri is one of the main festivals to be celebrated in India. Some of its neighboring countries to offer prayers to Lord Shiva. This is celebrated in each Luni-solar month which falls on the 13th or 14th day as per the Hindu Panchang or calendar. This monthly Shivaratri is adored in temples by the priests and irrespective of that the term Maha Shivratri has its own importance. Maha Shivratri is celebrated once the year which occurs in late winter and before the arrival of summer. Mythologically this auspicious festival falls on the fourth moonless night of new moon during Krishna paksha in the Maagh or Phalgun masa of Hindu Panchang, which corresponds to February or March as per the English calendar.
- MahaShivratri Date 2020: Friday, February 21st
- Chaturdashi Tithi Begins - 05:20 PM on Feb 21, 2020
- Chaturdashi Tithi Ends - 07:02 PM on Feb 22, 2020
- Nishita Kaala PujaTime: 12:09 AM to 01:00 AM, Feb 22
Meaning of the Shivratri
Maha Shivratri got its name from the Sanskrit word Maha which means great Shiva is our deity and Ratri means night. It is also known as the Great Night of Shiva when we offer our prayers to Lord Shiva. It is believed that Lord Shiva remains in every one of us, he is the only spirit in us and on this day we offer thanks to him to protect us. We offer our gratitude to him for giving us this precious life and providing security.
Our world is a big home to a total of 195 countries but have we ever thought why India is known as the most traditional and cultural country? The finest answer to this question is our vibrant tradition and culture. Indian culture and its age-old tradition make it different from all over the world. It is a country where people celebrate 365 festivals in 365 days. Many small and big festivals are celebrated here with the same fervor and enthusiasm. Some have their significance in a culture which became a tradition over years and some are directly related to our God, our Deity and when it comes to worshiping God then India is the best place to observe and thrive for the joy. Many such spiritual festivals are there out of which Maha Shivratri is the one having its significance in the history of Gods and Asurs.
This is a festival in which we pray and offer our gratitude to Lord Shiva, and it is widely celebrated in the Shaivism tradition of Hinduism. Shiva more than being a God is always been thought of as Adi Guru, who was the initiator of knowledge and conscience. He is the ultimate divine in himself and as per Hindu Mythology, he is the truth, peace, simplicity, and everything in this world. This world starts with him and ends with him. He is assumed to be very aggressive by nature, and it is believed that normally his aura and appearance are not handled by we humans. So he comes to earth once a year and that is on the night of Maha Shivratri when he is assumed to be in his pure and simple forms and humans can watch him without getting destroyed by his presence. This is the only reason that Shiva is worshiped on this day for the whole night starting from 10 pm till morning at 4 am.
Different Indian states celebrate this festival in their way and customs in which “Ujjain” in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh holds a special significance. A temple called “Mahakaleshwar” grandly holds the puja of Shivratri and this temple is assumed to be the residence of Lord Shiva. Like Ujjain, all other states also hold the puja in their way and with different names and cultures, Umananda temple in Assam’s capital Guwahati is another example. Many married women worship Shiva for a long life of their husbands whereas unmarried girls pray to get a husband like Lord Shiva. Not only women but men also pray to God on this day. In India its a tradition to keep fast on this day for 24 hours as per their convenience. Some keep Nirjala (without water) Vratam and some have fruits and other sweetened juices.
Maha Shivratri is also associated to dance and other art forms and has a special connection with ‘Nataraj’. Lord Shiva is also worshiped in the name of Nataraja. Natraja is the incarnation of Lord Shiva. It has its meaning in Sanskrit where ‘Nata’ means ‘dance’ and ‘Raja’ means ‘king’. As per the historical evidence the dance performed by Nataraja is also said as “Ananda Tandava” and “Rudra Tandav”. The Nataraja is surrounded by a Circe of fire representing our universe where all four hands of Nataraja are on the ring of fire.
Each of the hands is significant in the prospect of mankind. The upper right-hand holds “Damru” which represents prehistoric sounds of creation of life on Earth and time elapsing and lower right hand is in “Abhaya Mudra” which is a symbol of righteousness and shows the correct path to humankind. The upper left hand has a flame as a symbol of destruction and the lower left hand is pointing towards his feet in “Gaja hasta mudra” and represents emancipation.
In respect of Lord Nataraja, many cultural events are organized on the day of Maha Shivaratri in which some of them are very prominent at major Hindu temples like Konark, Khajuraho, Kattadakal and many more. These dance and art forms are known as “Natyanjali or Natya Shastra”. The organization of dance and art-related functions have special significance on Maha Shivratri.
Shivratri festival has its history in many Hindu holy books like Skanda Purana, Linga Purana, and Padma Purana. It has many historic instances associated with the name of Shiva and Parvathi. It's said that on this auspicious day Lord Shiva and Devi Parvathy married after a long Tapasya of Devi Sati of whom Devi Parvathy was the incarnation.
As per another mythological instance, on this day a great historical event of“Samudra Manthan”took place when a pot full of poison also churned out. To protect the earth from the ill effects of poison Lord Shiva drank that poison risking his own life. All Gods and Goddesses performed dance and other rituals to keep Lord Shiva awake for the whole night. This incident didn’t harm Shiva but his neck turned blue and from that day he is known as“Neelkantha”.
In one of them, another incident on the day of Maha Shivratri Lord Shiva performed the “Rudra Tandav”. As per the events, once Sati’s father Daksh did a Mahayagya in which he did not invite Lord Shiva and his wife Sati, but being a daughter of Daksh, when Devi Sati and Lord Shiva reached Daksh’s place, he insulted them. Out of anger, Devi Sati burnt herself in self atonement. This incident broke Lord Shiva and out of anger, he carried Devi Sati’s dead body on his body and started doing “Rudra Tandava” which caused huge destruction’s in the universe. The Tandava dance of Lord Shiva has five meanings which show his characteristic to the world.
- Shrishti - Creator
- Sthiti - Position and Support
- Anugraha - Emancipation
- Tirobhava - Delusion
- Samhara - Destruction
The music on which Lord Shiva danced was called “Tandava Stotram” recited first by the Ravana himself.
Many also say that on this day Lord Shiva took the form of Shivalingam, which is worshiped as a symbol of Lord Shiva all over the world. Many such incidents are still thought to be a reason behind the Shiva festival.
One of the interesting facts associated with this festival is consuming bhang mixed with sweetened milk as prasad which is also known as “Thandai” by Shiva followers. In some places, smoking marijuana is also practiced everywhere.
Rudra Abhishek Puja
Rudra is one of the names of Lord Shiva. Rudra Abhishek Puja is normally performed on the Shravana month, naturally, it falls on July-August month. If you do this puja instead of daily puja, there is a more chance of getting blessings from Lord Shiva. Mainly this Rudra Abhishekam is done by six items they are given below.
1. Jalabishekam: According to sacred books, if you perform Jalabhishek to Lord Shiva will give you good Virdhti and full fill your wishes.
2. Palabhishekam: If devotee flows milk on the Shivaling, and worshiping of Lord Shiva, that person will get a reward of longevity.
3. Shahad Abhishek: Shahad means honey. If a devotee is devoting the Shivaling with honey, he will live a long life with freedom from all problems, misfortunes. And he will live very happily.
4. Panchamrit Abhishek: Panchamrit contains five elements like milk, curd, sugar, honey, and ghee. If you perform Abhishekam with these Panchamrit will get more wealth and prosperity.
5. Ghee Abhishekam: if you perform the Ghee Abhishekam it gets rid of all illnesses or physical problems.
6. Dahi Abhishek: It aids the childless couple to have a child.
Customs and Traditions
Depending on the regional differences different states celebrate this festival in their ways and beliefs. Specifically, on this day, people worship the Shivalingam as a symbol of faith in Lord Shiva. Many women observe fast on this day and pray for their husband's long life. Unmarried women observe fast to have a husband like him as he treated as the best husband. In this festival, even males also observe fast on this day to make their dreams come true. It's very auspicious to observe a fast on Shivratri and widely celebrated in different Shiva temples all over India. In many temples, night Jaagran organized for the worshipers. The whole night they observe fast and sing songs to praise their Deity. It is strongly believed that Lord Shiva comes to see his followers in a form that can be accommodated by humans. After having the prasad in the morning, they break their fast and have food. This festival is very auspicious for all Hindus in the world, and they celebrate them in their style.
- In Jammu Kashmir, it is celebrated in the name of Hara-Ratri and lasts for three weeks or 21 days. Two pots of water symbolizing Lord Shiva and Devi Parvathy kept and filled with water and walnuts. After three days these walnuts are distributed in the form of prasad to everyone. After 21-day gifts and sweets are given to family members to celebrate the festivities.
- In West Bengal, sand bought from river Ganges is used to make four idols of Lord in the form of Shivlingam, and each of them worshiped in four periods of the day. In the first period, one Shivling is pour with milk, in the second period the Shivling is pour with curd, in the third ghee is used and in the fourth-period honey is used. The next morning food is offer to the pandit’s and purohit’s and fast broken.
- In Madhya Pradesh its a tradition to have a bath in the Shiv Sagar Tank. And many such traditions are followed from decades with beliefs and faith.
- In Coimbatore At Isha Yoga Center Mahashivratri has been celebrated with great pomp, and an even larger number of people witness and participate in the event online.
- In Bangalore Celebrating the Shiva Tattva in oneself is called Shivratri. Ratri means night, the time for rest, when everything becomes quiet and peaceful. Shivratri is not only resting for the body but the mind and Ego. – Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
Complete Process of performing puja During Sivartri
The procedure of performing Shivratri puja differs on the local customs and faith, but the essence of all remains in common. As per the decade long traditions, on this day devotees visit the temple and perform to the Shivlinga Abhishekam and pour milk, curd, honey, and other sacred things to god and this process is known as Abhishekam. Some special fruits like ‘ber’ and ‘bael leaves’ are also offered as they are thought of as the favorites of the deity. The whole day and night chants of “Om Namah Shivay” can hear everywhere. In temples, priests perform the Abhishekam every 4 hours and after Jagran fast is broken by everyone.
Observing fasts on spiritual occasions is one of the most important traditions of Indian culture be it for any religion, and it holds significance in Hinduism at its most. We celebrate so many festivals like Navratri, Ganesha Chaturthi, Teez puja, Karwa Chauth, and many more by following diverse rituals, but one thing in common is observing fasts.
Fasting is basically, striving one’s self from delicacies and other fancies of the world and dedicated towards the Almighty God. Being superstitious, we celebrate each of our festivals with enthusiasm, excitement, and remain very cautious for following each of our customs minutely. One such festival is Maha Shivaratri which is assumed as the festival of Lord Siva. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated to offer prayers to Lord Shiva and is celebrated with great fervor and spiritualism to pay our respect to the god.
People observe fasts and Jagran for the whole night and then food is consumed the next morning. In Maha Sivaratri Extremism of spirituality is displayed as “Nirjala fasting” is a common practice, when people don’t consume water for 24 hours, and the fast is broken the very next morning. Whole night bhajan, kirtan, and prayers are offered to please the god and to be blessed by his boons. Different region celebrates this festival in their ways and beliefs out of which Mahakaleshwar temple in Ujjain, Bhoothnatha temple in Mandi and Tilbhandeshwar temple in Varanasi hold special importance. Every individual takes part in this festival and celebrates it with high energy, devotion, and passion.
Masik Shivratri Puja Prasad:
One of the most important and famous sweet of this festival is bhang mixed sweets and Thandai. These are specially made sweets mixed with bhang in them and Thandai. It is a milkshake made by mixing milk with bhang along with all kinds of dry fruits, sugar curd, and jaggery. These sweets and milkshakes are called as prasad’s and are distributed all over among Shiva devotees. Besides being aware of the side effects of bhang and bhang mixed sweets, it is widely consumed by everyone as a tribute to Lord Shiva as he is assumed to be a lover of BHANG. And it was also an option of extravagance for him.
This festival celebrated by everyone in their way as per their convenience, some observe Nirjala fasts, some observe fast by having fruits, fruit juices, some may perform puja followed by the consumption of foods. In many places its famous to be in Shiva temple for the whole night offering prayers, dancing and singing hymns in praise of Lord Shiva. On this day it's very auspicious to offer milk, datura, Bhanga and other puja items on shiv linga, which pleases the lord which in turn assures us with health, wealth and happiness.
Why should we stay awake on the night of Shivaratri?
Shivaratri or Maha Shivaratri is one of the most famous festivals for Hindus in which Lord Shiva is being worshiped in all his forms. He is the only divine behind every existence in this universe and treated as the maker as well as the destructor of every creation. Maha Shivaratri marks his day when people worship him and all his avatars in different forms. This festival celebrated on the fourth night of the new moon in Krishna paksha of Phalguna(March) month.
As per ancient history, this day is also said as the association day of Goddess Parvathy and Lord Shiva, when they got married and Lord Shiva entered into Gruhastaasrama. It is said that this was the day when Lord Shiva drank the poison churned out during Samudra Manthan for the sake of humans and from that day itself. He has another name as Neelkantha. Maha Shivratri marks the occurrence of 64 - forms of shiv linga all over the world when 64-shillings which are the abode of Shiva occurred on the Earth and so this day known as the great night of Shiva.
Shivaratri is celebrated all over India and Nepal by all men and women with the same fervor and excitement. Pouring of all essential items and prasad's on shiv linga is important. Customers to followed and these customaries are followed by observing nirjala (not sipping water and food) fasts for the whole day and night. On this day, people remain awake the whole day and night. During night jaguars or night, vigils observed.
Visiting temples in the night, performing dance and singing hymns of Shiva have special importance. It is believe that while being awake for the whole night, we purify our sins and let the Lord bless us with His blessings and boons.
Every 5 hours the shiv linga is being worshiped and is poured with the five sacred offerings of a cow, which includes cow dung, milk, butter, Gowmutra or urine, and sour milk which together is known as “Panchgavya” and then the shiv linga is again poured with milk, honey, curd, sugar, and ghee. The devotees perform the puja and Archana whole night and then at 4 am final puja is done after which the fast is broken.
Night vigils or Jagran on Maha Shivaratri holds importance all over Indian despite following different culture and traditions because when it comes to worshiping we Indian’s unite in our ways without any differences.
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