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As per Hindu mythology, there is a divine force that governs our universe, and this energy or divine existence is known as Shiva. Shivratri is one of the most significant Hindu festivals there is, which is celebrated with full festive fervour, zeal and enthusiasm amongst Shiva devotees. If you wish to know the significance of this sacred Hindu festival and its associated rituals, we suggest that you go through the following article.
When and Why is Shivratri Celebrated?
Maha Shivratri is celebrated every year to honour the supreme power that is Lord Shiva. This festival is celebrated every year on the 13th night or the 14th day of ‘Krishna Paksha’ of the ‘Phalgun’ month, as per the Hindu Panchnag or calendar. This year it falls on Friday, the 21st February, 2020.
If you are looking for detailed Maha Shivratri information or reasons why this festival is celebrated, well, here are some of the stories or beliefs regarding this festival:
1. To Celebrate Lord Shiva’s Marriage to Devi Parvati
One of the beliefs regarding the celebration of this festival is that Lord Shiva married Devi Parvati on this day. In order to celebrate this divine love, married women fast for an eternal bond with their husbands, and unmarried girls fast, hoping to get an ideal husband like Shiva.
2. To Honour Lingodbhav Moorti
According to a famous mythological story, it is believed that the formless God appeared in the divine form of the lingam or ‘Lingodbhav Moorti’ at midnight on this auspicious day. To honour the divine power, this festival is celebrated.
3. To Celebrate the Day Lord Shiva Saved the World from Annihilation
According to the holy scriptures, when the ocean was churned by the gods and demons, a pot of deadly poison emerged. The poison was so deadly that it could easily destroy the whole world. Lord Shiva drank the poison and held it in his throat to save the world from destruction. This also made his throat turn blue, giving him the name ‘Neelkantha’ or the blue-throated one. Therefore, this day is celebrated to thank the almighty God for His supreme sacrifice.
Activities to Do on Maha Shivratri
People honour and celebrate the Maha Shivratri festival or Maha Shivratri parv in different ways. Here are some activities that people usually do to celebrate this day:
- People observe fasts, because fasting holds great significance in Hindu mythology. It is believed that fasting is not only a great way to slip into a meditative state and experience a direct connection with the divine existence, but it also helps you to feel at peace with your mind and body.
- People worship the Shiva lingam or the divine symbolic form of Lord Shiva.
- People visit temples and offer their prayers and chant mantras.
- The planetary positions on this occasion are also considered very auspicious, as they are believed to align in such a way that it creates an upsurge of energy in our bodies. Many people prefer to meditate to reap the maximum benefits of this alignment. It is also believed that meditation holds great importance on this day as it is one of the ideal ways of worshipping Lord Shiva.
How to Perform Maha Shivratri Puja at Home
You can offer prayers in a temple or at home. However, if you are planning to perform the puja at home and you wish to know the correct procedure and mantras or if you want to know how to celebrate Maha Shivratri at home, here’s what you should do:
People or devotees offer various kinds of offerings and prayers to their beloved deity. You should get up early in the morning and take a bath. Devotees usually use water that has been boiled with black sesame seeds. Change into fresh clothes; some people buy a set of new clothes for this day. A fast is observed the entire day and a Shiva Puja is performed too. People from different parts of the country perform pujas or offer prayers to the deity in different ways. However, more than prayers, it is your genuine feelings and the purity of your devotion that holds prime importance. Here are some ways in which people usually offer their prayers:
- The Shiva Lingam is bathed with water, curd, milk, and honey. Some people perform this ritual in four parts throughout the day.
- After the bathing ritual, the Shiva Lingam is adorned with a vermilion tilak. Chandan or sandalwood tilak can be used too.
- The offering of various kinds of fruits is considered pious and pure. Fruits are offered because they symbolize fulfilment of desires and longevity.
- Apart from offering fruits, the offering of ‘bael patra’ and ‘dhatoora’ is considered a must in many traditions and cultures. This offering testifies satisfaction and contentment in worldly matters.
- Incense sticks and dhoop are lit. These symbolize wealth and fame.
- Ghee lamps are lit too. Lamps are the symbol of eternal knowledge and bliss.
Shiva devotees believe that Lord Shiva is very innocent and gets easily pleased with love and devotion. For this reason, Lord Shiva is also lovingly known as ‘Bolenath’. If your heart is pure and your intentions are clear, offering a prayer is all you have to do to get the blessings of the almighty Shiva.
The importance of the Maha Shivratri mantra is something that cannot be missed. These mantras not only evoke divine feelings but they also vibrate immense positivity and help clear any kind of negative or ill feelings. One of the most widely chanted mantras that helps in elevating energy levels is ‘Om Namah Shivaya’. ‘Om’ resonates the sound of the entire universe, which depicts love and peace. The other syllables in the mantra indicate the five elements. Therefore, when you chant this mantra, the energy that gets channelized through your body is in harmony with that of the entire universe. People also chant all 108 names of Lord Shiva, recite the Shiv Chalisa and sing the Shiva aarti. People chant mantras and perform prayers during the day and at night too. Here are some famous mantras that can be recited:
Om Vande Dev Umapati Surguru Vande jagatkarnam
Vande Pannagbhoshan mrugdhar vande pashona pathim
Vande Surya Shashank vahni Nayan Vande mukundpriyam
Vande Bhakt Jana-ashraya ch varadam Vande Shiv-Shankaram
Shiv Mool Mantra:
Om Namah Shivaya
Om Tryambakam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pushti-Vardhanam
Urvarukamiya Bandhanan Mrityormukshiya Mamritat
What You Can Eat While Observing a Fast on Shivratri?
Some people observe fasts on this pious day. If you plan to observe a fast on this day, you should consume food items that are allowed during the fast. This includes fruits, milk, and dry fruits etc. Some people also make sago pudding, kattu ka halwa and even consume goodies made with ramdana. Regular food should only be consumed the next day after the fast is over.
There are many legendary stories that revolve around the importance and significance of this Indian festival. However, what remains static or similar across all these stories is the greatness and supremacy of Lord Shiva and His divine existence.
We celebrate festivals such as Maha Shivratri to celebrate our belief and devotion and get in touch with our spiritual sides. Wish you all a blessed Maha Shivrathri!