Celebrated In: India in Winter Season
Celebrated By: Hindu (Hindu)
Maha Sivaratri is a Hindu festival observed on the night of the fourteenth day of the dark half in the month of Magha in Tamil Maasi corresponding to the English months February March in honour of Siva, one of the Hindu Trinity, representing the destructive aspect in the universe.Though generally, the night time is considered sacred and suitable for the worship of the feminine aspect of the deity and the day time for that of' the masculine, yet on this particular occasion Siva is worshipped during the night time, and as a matter of fact, it is specially enjoined to be observed then. The observance of the Vratha is believed to secure for the devotee immunity from the eftects of sin committed either wittingly or unwittingly. The night is divided into four quarters, each quarter going by the name of a Jama called also Yama and pious people keep awake during every one of it worshipping Iswara.
On the day of Shivratri, a three-tiered platform is built around a fire. The topmost plank represents swargaloka the middle one antarikshaloka and the bottom one 'bhuloka. Eleven kalash or urns, are kept on the swargaloka plank symbolizing the 11 manifestations of the Rudra or destructive Shiva. These are decorated with the leaves of bilva or bael and mango atop a coconut representing the head of Shiva. The uncut shank of the coconut symbolizes his tangled hair and the three spots on the fruit Shiva three eyes.
Hindus celebrate Mahashivratri, because according to Vedic Literatures there is a legend associated with Samudra Manthan a process in which the asuras and the gods joined hands to churn out amrut(nectar) from the depths of the ocean, using a mountain as a churn-dash and a snake as a rope. The devas and the asuras (demons) counterparts were churning for a nectar of immortality.Among many things that came out, a pot of poison came out of the ocean. This poison was so potent that it has the power to destroy the whole universe. The problem that arose was that the poison could not be discarded, it had to be drunk by one of the devas or asuras. No one wanted to drink the poison because they all felt that they were too valuable or sacred to drink it. Shiva, upon the request of the gods, came forward in a calm disposition and said that he would drink the Halahala (poison) for the sake of his family to sustain peace and allow them to find the nectar of immortality By drinking the Halahala, he eliminated its destructive capacity.Shocked by his act, Goddess Parvathi strangled his neck and hence managed to stop it in his neck itself and prevent it from spreading all over the universe supposed to be in Shiva s stomach. However the poison was so potent that it changed the color of His neck to blue. For this reason Lord Shiva is also called Neelkanta.. After drinking the poison, Shiva went to the Himalayas to meditate. The nectar of immortality was found, and the asuras tried to steal it from the devas. They wanted to become more powerful than the devas to be able to destroy them. After a series of divine interventions the devas emerged as the winners and received the gift of immortality. By drinking the poison, Shiva sacrificed himself for the safety of his family and humanity.