‘Mahashivratri’ is observed for worshiping one of the three supreme Gods in Hinduism, Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is regarded as the destroyer god in the holy Hindu trinity, as opposed to the creator God Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the universe. ‘Mahashivratri’ is observed on the 13th day of ‘Krishna Paksha’ or the waning moon phase in the Hindu Lunar calendar month of ‘Phalgun’. A popular legend says that once when the whole universe was created, Goddess Parvathi asked Lord Shiva about his favorite day of all. Shiva replied that he is particularly fond of the 13th night of the waning moon phase in the month of ‘Phalgun’. The grapevine spread all over the creation, when Goddess Parvathi shared the fact with her friends and from then disciples of Shiva observed fast and ceremonies on this auspicious day to please their deity.
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Many legends and folklores have been associated with Shivaratri and the most popular among those is the legend of Gurudruha - the Hunter. The legend says once Gurudruha, a 'Bheel' (forest inhabitant) was out hunting in the forest. He wandered through the forest in search of his prey, but couldn’t find one until night. Terrified by predators he took refuge on top Bael tree, near a water hole. Three does came in his range, but all pleaded to leave them for some time and promised to return back once they have fulfilled their commitments. The kindhearted hunter granted all of them their last wishes but was concerned about his own family who was awaiting him back home for food. Unknowingly he was fasting all night and was aimlessly plucking leaves and dropping them below. A Shivlinga was placed beneath the tree and the leaves were falling on it as Gurudruha was dropping them from the tree. As time went by he started weeping, thinking of his hungry family and his tears cleansed the Shivlinga. By the time a deer came by and he when he had made up his mind and went ahead to aim his bow at the animal, it requested to take all of his family along if he was going to kill it, he granted the animals wish too. Finally, all of the animals came back to him as promised ready to give up their life. The selfless act of those innocent animals brought transformation in the hunter and he decided to never eat meat or hunt any animal. Shiva manifested in front of him and revived his soul for the merciful act and the Shivratri pooja he unknowingly did.
Another popular belief is that Shivratri is celebrated in commemoration of the night when Shiva revealed himself in his full glory when there was a conflict between Lord Brahma and Vishnu regarding their prowess. Overawed, by Shiva’s ‘rudra roop’ both Brahma and Vishnu bowed before him and accepted the lord’s supremacy. Another legend says that Shivaratri celebrates the union Shiva and Shakthi (Goddess Parvathi).
All of these folklores and legends glorify Lord Shiva, worshipping Lord Shiva on this auspicious day helps in attaining liberation from all past sins and awakens spirituality. The significance of this festival is associated with the revival of soul and purging oneself from his past sins. One who observes Shivratri fast and performs the rituals and ceremonies is also expected to good for his fellow beings and attain spiritual epitome.
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