Celebrated In: India in Winter Season
Celebrated By: Hindu (Hindu)
Maha Shivratri: A day of belief, worship, devotion and spirituality
Lord Shiva is the most revered god in Hindu mythology; the most powerful deity among the ‘Trinity’ (Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara). We worship lord Shiva as the deity of destroyer of evil energies. Lord Shiva is also regarded as the giver of prosperity and happiness as the devotees of him attain extreme happiness all through their life. Devotees call him by several names like Shiv Shambhu, Bholenath, Bhole Shankar, Mahadev, Rudradev, Neelkanth etc.
According to Hindu mythology Lord Shiva is believed to have drunken the pot full of poison (Vish ka ghada) at the time of ‘Samudra Manthan’; it is also believed that if he had not drunk the poison then all the universe would have finished with that. After drinking the poison his neck appeared to look blue in colour; this is the reason why he is named ‘NeelKanth’ (that literally means neck that is blue in colour). Lord Shiva has the power to destroy the evil and hence he is called the destroyer; he is also named as Mahadev as he has the power to save the universe from all the evils. Devotees also call him Maheswara (that is derived from two Sanskrit words, Maha and Ishwara that literally mean ‘great’ and ‘deity’ respectively). He is the deity who left all the worldly pleasures and used to stay in the graveyards to save all his devotees from the dangers caused by the evil spirits. It is also believed that if a person worships Lord Shiva with all his devotion then he can achieve the ultimate happiness in his life very soon.
The Hindus worship Lord Shiva every Monday with milk and ‘Belpatta’ (leaves of Bel tree). Devotees across India usually walk on bare feet with water pots of the holy ‘GangaJal’ (holy water of the river Ganga) in the month of ‘Shraavan’ (which is used to be the rainy season in India) to bath Lord Shiva. They believe that showering their God with holy water of Ganga will make them free from all the sin and bad fortune. There are so many beliefs attached with ‘Lord Shiva’ as far as Hindu religion is concerned.
Hindus celebrate another important day to worship Lord Shiva that is popularly known as ‘Maha Shivratri’ during the month of Phalgun; that falls on the 14th day of the Krishna Paksh. The day holds a lot of importance in the lives of Hindu devotees. Usually they keep fast and celebrate the day offering Lord Shiva, ‘Prasad’ and ‘Bhaang’.
Mythology behind Shivratri:
Shivratri is believed to be the wedding day of Lord Shiva with Goddess Parvati. Some devotees opine that Lord Shiva performed his famous dance ‘Tandav’ on this day. Tandav is significant of three main concepts that govern the earth; Creation, preservation and destruction. There is a mythological story attached with this auspicious day. As per the beliefs there was a ruthless king named ‘Yaksh’ and he had a daughter named ‘Sati’. Sati was in love with Lord Shiva and she was worshipping hard to get him as her husband. One day Shiva listened to her prayers and accepted to marry her. But Yaksh did not agree to give his princess to a person who lives in a graveyard. On the day of marriage he insulted Lord Shiva and refused to give his daughter to him. Sati could not tolerate his insult and jumps into the fire that was meant for their marriage. Lord Shiva got furious and did ‘Tandav’ at that place. The furious king after losing his daughter cursed Shiva that he will be worshipped in the form of ‘Linga’ (his gender was supposed to get worshipped in all the temples).
Sati took another birth as Parvati; the daughter of king of mountains ‘Kailash’ and they both get married to each other. From that day onwards devotees celebrate the 14th day of Krishna Paksh (dark half of the month) as ‘Maha Shivratri’ in the month of Phalgun with lot of devotion and belief.
Celebration and Fasting on Maha Shivratri:
Hindus celebrate ‘Maha Shivratri’ every year by keeping fast on that day. Young girls are believed to get married soon to an eligible person if they keep fast on ‘Maha Shivratri’. It is also believed that unmarred girls get married to a person as eligible as Lord Shiva if they observe this day with lot of devotion and dedication. Devotees visit the Shiva temple on Maha Shivratri with milk, juice, honey and Bel Patta (that is believed to be Lord Shiva’s favourite). In the evening they again visit to light the ‘diya’ for Lord Shiva. It is said that devotees do not let the diyas to extinguish that day and they try to keep lighting them the whole night. They believe that by lighting diyas for whole night will get them prosperity and happiness all through their life. That day people only take fruit juices as food; even some people do not drink water on that day to show their extreme devotion towards Lord Shiva. The auspicious day is celebrated all over India with lot of devotion and enthusiasm; all the famous Shiva temples are decorated with light and diyas. People also perform bhajans and Shiva Maha Mrityunjay Mantra in the premises of the temples.