Mahashivratri is celebrated with great zeal and religious fervor by followers of Lord Shiva – one of the Hindu gods forming the Trinity. Mahashivratri festival is celebrated in reverence of Lord Shiva, on the moonless, 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun. Phalgun is mostly during February or March. This time, the exact date for Mahashivratri celebrations is 20th February, 2012.
The literal meaning of Mahashivratri is The great night of Shiva. Mahashivratri festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael leaves to Lord Shiva. His followers are seen observing fast during day and keeping vigil at night. Meditation, Yoga and other worships are observed during night. It is believed that worshipping Lord Shiva on Mahashivratri bestows one with happiness and prosperity.
- The Legends Related To Mahashivratri:
The most popular legends about mahashivratri claim that Mahashivratri celebrations are made because it is the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. The devotees believe that Lord Shiva performed his cosmic dance called ‘Tandava’ – The dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction on the holy night of Mahashivratri.
According to another legend, Parvati performed tapas, prayed and meditated on this day to prevent any evil that might befall her husband on the moonless night. Mahashivratri is therefore believed to be a prosperous event for women to pray for the well-being of their husbands.
Then there is one more legend of Mahashivratri celebrations which is associated with Samudra Manthan – a battle during which a pot of poison came out of the ocean. Lord Shiva drank the poison. It changed the color of Lord Shiva’s neck to blue. For this reason, He is known as Neelkanth.
The legend of Ganga is also related to mahashivratri. This legend explains the popular custom of giving bath to Shiv Linga on Mahashivratri festival. According to this legend, Lord Shiva held out his thick matted hair to catch the river ganga, when she descended from heaven.
- Rituals and Celebrations Of Mahashivratri Festival:
On Mahashivratri festival, the devotees wake up early in the morning and take a ceremonious bath, by using black sesame seeds. After this they offer prayers to Sun God, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. This is called purification ritual and is a part of almost every Hindu festival, specially Mahashivratri festival.
Shiva temples are brimful of devotees as Mahashivratri celebrations mean the day to honour the deity. Among these devotees, mostly are women, who come to perform the traditional Shivalinga worship and hence hope for favours from the god. Holy water (Gangajal) is poured over the Shiva Linga, as a part of the ritual. According to the rituals prescribed in the Shiva Purana, Shiva Linga is given a ceremonious bath with milk, yogurt, honey, sandalwood paste and rose water, many times on Mahashivratri. This is called Abhishek ritual. While performing this ritual, bells are rung and devotees chant the names of Lord Shiva.
It is a custom to use leaves of Bilwa for the performance of Shiva pooja at Mahashivratri festival. Therefore, a stalk of three Bilwa leaves is placed on the top of the Shiva Linga. Jujube fruit is offered to the deity. Flowers and garlands are also offered to the Linga. Special pujas are performed in the temples, where bhajans of Mahashivratri are sung.
The night of Mahashivratri celebrations is the night of merry making. Devotees stay in the temples to offer pooja throughout night. Singing of hymns, bhajans and verses in the praise of Lord Shiva is one of the traditions of Mahashivratri celebrations. Special food is prepared by using fruits, vegetables and coconuts. The devotees, who observe the Mahashivratri fast, break the fast early in the next morning by eating the prasad that was offered to Lord Shiva, in the previous night.
The event of Mahashivratri festival is worth watching and quite a source of attraction for the tourists. The reason behind is the religious fervour and spiritual elevation related to one’s faith.