The name Shiva means to enlighten. And, that’s exactly the essence of Lord Shiva who has several names like Mahadeva, Pashupati, Vishwanath, Nataraja, Bhava, and Bhole Nath.
Lord Shiva, in the Hindu mythology, is recognized as the destroyer and the creator of the universe.
So, on Maha Shivratri, let’s celebrate Shiva by understanding him and his leela!
What is the difference between Shivratri and Maha Shivratri?
What is the meaning of Maha Shivratri?
‘Shivratri’ is a combination of two words - Shiva+Ratri, where ‘Shiva’ refers to Lord Shiva and Ratri means ‘night.’ The word “Maha” in Maha Shivratri means “Grand”.
So, the grand night dedicated to celebrate this deity is called Maha Shivratri.
When is Maha Shivratri Celebrated?
As per the Hindu calendar, Maha Shivratri is celebrated every year on the new moon day in the month of Maagha. This year it will fall on the 21st of February.
What is the significance of Maha Shivratri?
Maha Shivratri is considered auspicious and is considered important for the following reasons :
3 Mystical Maha Shivratri Stories
There are a lot of fascinating stories associated with the history of Maha Shivratri, some of them include:
Union of Shiva and Shakti – After the demise of Sati, the first wife of Lord Shiva, he went into deep meditation and undertook severe penance. Sati, reincarnated as Shakti, worshipped Lord Shiva with utmost devotion. She was then reunited with Lord Shiva. This union of ShivaShakti as Ardhnareshwar is celebrated as Maha Shivratri.
Samudra Manthan – During the churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan), a pot of poison emerged out of it. This poison was extremely toxic and had the power to destroy the universe. To save his creation, Lord Shiva drank the poison that turned his throat blue. He then had to stay awake the whole night to save himself from the effects of the poison. The Gods took turns to dance and sing to keep him awake all night. Since then this auspicious night is celebrated as Maha Shivrati – the night when Lord Shiva saved the world.
Story of Lubdhaka- Lubdhaka, a tribal man and a devout worshipper of Lord Shiva went to the deep forest to collect firewood. He lost his way and decided to spend the night in the jungle atop the bilva tree. To stay awake, he plucked the bilva leaves and kept dropping them on the ground while chanting Shiva’s name. By sunrise, he noticed he had dropped thousands of leaves on a Shiva Lingam kept near the tree, that he’d failed to notice at night. Lord Shiva was pleased with his devotion and blessed him. This legend also justifies the popular tradition of offering bilva leaves to Shiva.
How is Maha Shivratri Celebrated?
The auspicious festival of Maha Shivaratri marks various interesting traditions and customs, celebrated across India and abroad.
Andhra Pradesh –
The main spot of celebrations is the Umananda Temple on the Peacock Island in Guwahati and Sibsagar, where the devotees gather to pray.
Himachal Pradesh -
The Bhutnath Temple at Mandi leads a Shobha Yatra, inaugurated by the Chief Minister, and lasts for 8 days. This celebration is marked by the participation of artists from across the globe.
A grand Sri Shidlingappa′s fair is observed where the deity is taken to the riverbed to be worshipped by Linagayats, people of the Shiva cult on a palanquin. The married women join this procession by wearing silver or gold linga.
Madhya Pradesh -
Devotees take a holy dip in Sagar tank in Khajuraho, at Shiva Temple. In the Bundelkhand region, people flock to Matangeshwar Temple to worship Shiva all through the night after the 10-day-long fair.
A 3-day long celebration is observed where the devotees take a pilgrimage to the holy volcanic lake, Grand Bassin to pray and seek blessings of Lord Shiva.
Devotees reach the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, the holiest shrines of the Hindus to celebrate Maha Shivratri. They fast and then bathe in the holy water while praying and seeking Lord Shiva’s blessings.
How to fast on Maha Shivratri?
Before you set out to soak in the deep bliss of fasting for your beloved Lord Shiva, here are a few tips:
-Without food and water (Nirjala)
-With water only
-With liquid including fruit juice and soups
-With fruits and liquids
-With light food devoid of grains
-Water chestnut flour halwa
-Sama ke chawal /barnyard millet
-Pumpkin soup/halwa with rock salt
Don’t forget to chant powerful and easy Panchakshari Shiva Mantra – ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ 108 times to purify your body and soul and connect on a deeper level with the Lord.
Happy Maha Shivratri!
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