The Hindu God Shiva is perhaps the most widely worshipped of the holy trinity – Brahma ( the creator), Vishnu(the preserver) and Mahesh or Shiva(the destroyer). Known for his benevolent nature, Lord Shiva is widely worshipped on the day of Maha Shivratri. Lord Shiva is believed to be a family man and very fond of his consort – Goddess Parvati. The festival is hence celebrated by married women and men and even unmarried women in the hope of finding a husband as good as Lord Shiva himself.
Maha Shivratri – Indian Festival 2013
Maha Shivratri is celebrated on the 14th night of the new moon of the Hindu calendar month Phalgun Maha Shivratri falls on the 10th of March this year.
Legends surrounding the Maha Shivratri festival
There are a few common beliefs as to why this festival is celebrated. The most popular belief perhaps is the one as per which Lord Shiva had married Goddess Parvati on this night and had performed ‘Tandav nritya’ or the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction.
Yet another belief is that on this night Lord Shiva had manifested himself for the first time in the form of the Linga and from then on this night is celebrated with great fervour and devotion by Shiva devotees.
The origin of Maha Shivratri is also sometimes attributed to commemorate the churning of the ocean or Samudra Manthan. According to the ancient scriptures, the demons and the Gods liaised to churn the ocean to extract the nectar of immortality. However, before the nectar was churned, poison emerged. This deadly poison was consumed by Lord Shiva so that the activity of the extraction of nectar could take place without any problems. The poison was held by the Lord in his throat and so neck upwards he is depicted as blue hence his one of the names – Neelkanth. Till date, the sacrifice of Lord Shiva for the betterment of humanity is commemorated as Shivratri.
Celebrations and rituals followed for the Maha Shivratri
Lord Shiva is worshipped throughout the country and in parts of Nepal. It is believed that the Lord is fond of elaborate offerings and prayers and this reflects in the way devotees worship him on the auspicious day of Maha Shivratri
Like any other holy day, devotees bathe in holy water and clean clothes before visiting the temple It is common to observe a fast, sometimes having no water throughout the day. Usually fasts are broken the next morning or sometimes at midnight.
The devotees visit the temple to pay obeisance and carry their offerings.
At the temple, the devotees first circum-ambulate the form of Shiva – the Linga five or seven times. They then bathe the Linga with milk or water The milk or water is usually mixed with honey and bel ( wood apple)leaves. Lord Shiva is believed to be especially fond of the leaves of this fruit
Thereafter, the Linga is adorned with sandalwood or vermillion paste Offerings of sweetmeats, fruits is made and an incense stick and lamp is lit. The devotees while doing these activities often chant holy hymns and hail Lord Shiva.
Indian Photo Agency