The festival of Maha Shivratri is celebrated with great religious fervor all over India as well as its neighboring country Nepal. This festival holds a great importance in the lives of Hindus, especially Shiva followers who await the coming of this special night every year on the 14th New Moon of Maagha (Hindu month of Jan and Feb) and Phalgun (Hindu month of Feb and March), as per the Hindu calendar on the Chaturdashi of Krishna paksha.
Many mythical stories associated with this “big night of Lord Shiva”:
Different reference books and Puranas associate the origin of this day with different events; some attribute Maha Shivratri as the night when Lord Shiva did Tandava, others associate it as the day when he drank the poisonous drink “halahal” and came to be known as Neelkantha. There are others who believe it as the night when he got married to Goddess Paravati while some communities celebrate it as the birthday of Lord Shiva when he came in the form of lingam. Despite the multiple reasons for celebration, the enthusiasm among the Shiva bhaktas is infectious. This year, Maha Shivratri falls on the 17th of February, 2015 and preparations have already started in all the Shiva temples.
The main rituals involving purification, virtue and enlightenment:
· It starts with bathing the lingam with milk, curd, honey, ghee and water. Later, the leaves of Bel fruit along with betel leaves, flowers and fruits like dhatura and baer are placed around the lingam.
· Sandalwood paste is applied on the lingam.
· Incense sticks are burned along with the ghee lamp.
· Hymns and mantras are recited which are concluded with Shiva aarti in the end.
Food and Fasting:
The significance of this festival is grand both for married as well as unmarried women and all those who want to fulfill their desires. Many devotees keep fast on this day till midnight and start their day with the worship of Lord Shiva. The Shiva temple is flooded with devotees who perform all the rituals of Shiva lingam pooja and all the rituals continue throughout the night.
Post rituals the other crucial thing is the procedure of fasting where you can have saatvik food like sabudana khichdi, bhang, thandai for dinner. Wearing a rudraksha mala is considered to be very auspicious as rudraksha beads are supposed to have been originated from the tears of Lord Shiva. There is constant recitation of “Om Namah Shivaya” and Mahamritiyunjay Jap.
Relevance of Maha Shivratri:
Apart from keeping fast, simply worshipping the lingam after taking bath grants the blessings of Lord Shiva and the person is said to achieve moksha. This day is celebrated more like a festival with feasting and fairs hosted in different cities. The worshipping of Lord Shiva helps in attaining liberation from all past sins and awakens spirituality.
The significance of this festival is associated with the revival of creative spirit and the whole notion behind creation, destruction and maintenance that are an intricate part of our lives. It helps in strengthening the body, mind and soul guiding us towards enlightenment and happiness. This day marks the union of Shiva and Shakti, the Goddess of energy.