The Maha Shivratri - the night that leads to the awakening of the soul is here again. The Shivratri date is 21st February 2020 and it is one of the most significant festivals in Hinduism that is celebrated all over the country.
The rituals of the Mahashivratri are a feast for the eyes and a pleasure for the senses. Just witnessing the rituals can leave a deep impact on your soul and provide you a pleasant experience for a lifetime. The Shivratri 2020 date and time is calculated on the basis of the new moon calendar. The different forms of rituals that are performed on this day are:
The Holy Bath: Thousands of devotees take a dip in the Holy Ganges river during the early morning hours to start the pious festival of Mahashivratri. They pray to the Gods to forgive their past sins and then proceed to wear new and clean clothes to visit the nearest Temple of Shiva.
Shivalingam: People usually flock to the temples to perform the puja of the traditional Shivalingam in hopes to achieve what they have prayed for to Lord Shiva. Married women pray for the well-being of their husbands and sons, bachelor men pray to get a beautiful wife and earn success while unmarried women pray to attain a husband like Lord Shiva.
The temples resonate with the sound of bells and devotees performing the puja shouting 'Shankerji Ki Jai' or 'Har Har Mahadev'. The devotees further take 3 to 5 rounds around the Shivalingam and pour water on the Shivalingam. Many of the devotees also use cow milk to bathe the shiva lingam.
Shivratri fast: Due to the immense importance that this Mahashivratri holds, people ensure to be in strict fasting for the whole day and night. Dishes prepared with almost every kind of fruit and root vegetables are offered to Lord Shiva and people remain awake all through the night. The devotees break the fast early next morning with the prasad which was offered to Lord Shiva the prior night.
Historical Drink: Ascetics bear a specific significance to Lord Shiva as he is worshipped as an ascetic God. There is a special drink made from almonds, milk, and Bhang commonly known as cannabis which is essentially made for Maha Shivratri. The devotees, in particular, the ascetics have this drink and offer their prayers to Lord Shiva to seek his blessings.
Mahashivratri Puja: The puja methodology for Mahashivratri includes 6 steps that are followed consecutively:
Taking bath in the Holy water of Ganges as the symbol of purification of the Soul, Mind, and Body which should be done at dawn and then one should drape oneself with clean clothes after the holy bath.
Bathe the ShivaLingam with the Holy water of Ganges followed by bathing it with Milk and Honey. Lord Shiva immensely loves the belpatra leaves so the devotees must add it to the puja offerings.
This is followed by applying the Vermilion on the ShivaLingam which represents virtue.
An offering of fruits and flowers must be made as these satvic food items help in attaining longevity of life and satisfaction of one's desires.
Incense burning will lead to wealth accumulation.
The lighting of diyas that represents the achievement of higher knowledge.
Offerings of betel leaves is expected to provide the satisfaction of substantial pleasures. Devotees apply 3 horizontal lines of Holy Ash on their forehead with regard to Lord Shiva which represents spiritual knowledge, cleanliness, and penance. They also wear rudraksha garlands as it is believed to be Lord Shiva's tears.
Most devotees will ensure a full night vigil and chanting of Bhajans and kirtans till the morning after. All of which is done with the chanting of prayers and full day and night fasting. It is believed that the best results can be achieved by performing the Puja 4 times during the night.
Devotees located around the world visit Temples of Shiva and offer their humble prayers to seek the blessings of the supreme Lord Shiva on Mahashivratri every year. They invoke him with faith that he will answer all their prayers and fulfill all their desires. Om Namah Shivaya!