Maha Shivratri

Lord Shiva is one of the Trinity Gods. He is powerful, gentle and merciful and adored by almost all Hindus. He has the power to destroy the universe and his anger is feared by all in the universe. He is the most intelligent God who is full of wisdom and kindness. He is known for granting wishes of his followers. People worship him because it is easy to propitiate him. His followers fondly call him by various names such as Neelkanth, Mahadev, Pashupati Nath, Bhole Nath, and Nataraja.

Maha Shivaratri Festival

He is ardently worshipped by Hindus in India, and Nepal. Though people pray to him throughout the year, Maha Shivratri is very special for Hindus. For all his devotees, this day comprises of full-day fasting and engaging oneself in puja and rituals for his benediction. It is believed that on the night of Shirvatri, he performed the Tandava, a famous dance form which depicts his powers to create, preserve and destroy.

Maha Shivrati is celebrated in Phalguna month. It falls on the 14th night of the new moon which occurs in the dark half period of this month. Hence, this day is also observed as the worship night of Lord Shiva. Usually, it falls in February, and the rituals start from the midnight of the day. Thus, the festival goes on for one day and one night. People worship to Shivlinga, which is the symbol of energy and creation.

Origin of Maha Shivratri

During the primeval time, demons and gods used to fight with each to gain supremacy and earn immortality. As devas had the upper hands, demons start dreaming about having all the pleasures that were the deities privilege. Since, deities had all the nectar (amrit) that helped them in leading an eternal life, the demons decide to steal it. When the gods come to know about this, they hide the nectar in the ocean. Later, in order to retrieve it, both gods and demons gathered at the ocean and start churning it. This episode is famous as 'Sagar Manthan,' which means churning of the ocean and is mentioned in the Garuda Purana. In the churning process, the ocean emits many things, including a pot which had strong poison in it. This toxin is so potent that even a single drop of it can destroy the entire universe. The worst thing is that it cannot be destroyed either. The only way to pacify the situation was that it must be drunk by someone. However, nobody from the both the could foster the courage to drink it.

Seeing no solution, they rush to Lord Shiva and request him for overcoming this dilemma. Seeing their pity condition, Shiva agrees to drink the poison. This decision shocks Maa Parvati. As he drinks the deadly position, Maa Parvati strangulates him and does not allow the liquid to pass into his stomach. For that too would have meant the destruction of the universe which is supposed to be in Shiva's stomach. The potent poison that has been stopped in his throat changes the color of Shiva's neck into blue which is why he is also called the 'Neelkanta.' This sacrifice of Shiva for saving the universe is thus celebrated in the form of Maha Shivratri.

Maha Shivratri Celebration

The celebration begins from the night itself by fasting and chanting sloka and mantra. Devotees bathe early in the morning and dressed in neat and clean clothes. The very thing that is essential in all Hindu festival is done first - the purification rite. For this, devotees wash the Shivalinga with fresh and clean water. Then, they offer a bath to the lingam with milk, honey, butter and curd. Incense sticks are burned near the idol. After that prayer and bhajans are chanted by offering flowers and bael leaves. Worshippers then make three or seven rounds around the lingam. People also prepare a special drink which is believed to be Shiva's favourite. This drink is known as Bhang which is made from the cannabis plant.

Shivratri is most auspicious for both men and women. Men feels like a source of energy running inside them after taking the darshan. Women pray to Shiva for the safety of their family. Unmarried girls offer prayer to get an ideal husband having similar qualities of Shiva. In the evening, people who are members of the temple trusts take out a procession. Other admirers of Shiva also join the procession. Worshippers apply the holy ash on their forehead in the shape of three horizontal strips. These stripes reflect the three aspects of spiritual practice - knowledge, purity and penance.

Maha Shivratri is special and auspicious for Hindus. There are many stories that revolve around the origination of this festival. Shiva's followers accept all of them and celebrate this festival by fasting for the whole day and performing pujas.