‘Mahashivratri’ is observed for worshiping one of the three supreme gods in Hinduism - Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is regarded as the destroyer in the holy Hindu trinity, as opposed to the creator Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the universe.
When is Mahashivratri?
‘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 then onwards the disciples of Shiva observed fast and ceremonies on this auspicious day to please their deity.
Many legends and folklores have been associated with Mahashivaratri 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 the thought of predators he took refuge on top of a Bael tree, near a water hole. Three preys came in his range, but all of them pleaded him to leave them for some time and promised to return back once they had 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 fasted 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 time went by, he started weeping, thinking about his hungry family and his tears cleansed the Shivlinga.
By the time a deer came by and when he aimed his bow at the animal, it requested to take all of his family along with him. He granted its wish as well and 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 a transformation in the hunter and he decided to neither eat meat again nor 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 of Shiva and Shakti (Goddess Parvati).
All of these folklores and legends glorify Lord Shiva. Devotees worship him on this day to attain liberation from all past sins and awaken their spirituality. The significance of Mahashivratri is associated with the revival of the soul and purging oneself from their past sins. One who observes Shivratri fast and performs the rituals and ceremonies especially the rudrabhishek can attain the epitome of spirituality with the benign blessings of Lord Shiva.