Maha Shivaratri or Maha Sivaratri/padmarajarathri is a great festival in Hinduism, celebrated annually with the devotion and religious enthusiasm in the honor of the Lord Shiva, deities of Hindu Trinity. The literal meaning of Shivaratri is “The Great Night of Lord Shiva”. According to the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated in the Varanasi in the dark fortnight or Krishna Paksha at the 13th night or 14th day of the month Maagha or Phalguna (month of February or March according to the English calendar) to worship Shiva Lingam to make happy the Lord Shiva.
Maha Shivaratri 2023
Maha Shivaratri 2023 will be celebrated all over India by the Devotees of Lord Shiva on 18th of February, at Saturday.
History of Maha Shivaratri
This festival is celebrated to respect Lord Shiva by offering leaves of Bael or Bilva/Vilvam, Bhang, Dhatura, flowers, coconut, fruits, water, cow milk and other things. Devotees keep fast of full-day and full-night and pray to Lord Shiva for their beautiful life partner with healthy and prosperous life. According to the ritual belief and traditions, penances are performed to get benefited in the practice of Yoga and meditation. Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi is one of the most important places for tourist attractions in the UP state where a big fair is held on at Maha Shivratri in front of the Virla temple and Vishwanath Gali of the old Vishwanath temple.
Another myth of celebrating Maha Shivaratri in Hinduism is that, whole world was facing destruction and more near to the pralaya, and then the Goddess Parvati had worshiped her husband the Lord Shiva to save the world. Finally her prayer was approved by the Lord Shiva and then Goddess Parvati named that night, the Maha-Shivaratri, or the great night of Shiva.
Favorite Day of the Lord Shiva
It is believed that after completion of the creation of world, Goddess Parvati asked to Lord Shiva that which devotees and rituals satisfied him the most, and then Lord Shiva replied to Goddess Parvti that the 13th night of the Maagha month is his most favorite day. After that, she repeated the words of Lord Shiva to her friends, and then the words were spread all over world.
Rituals of Maha Shivaratri
At Maha Shivratri, People keep fast of whole day and night and Kashi Vishwanath temple gets congregated by the young and old devotees from the very early morning. They come to the temple to perform the puja of traditional Shivalingam and hope to get what they have prayed to the god. They take bath in the holy water of the Ganga (Symbol of the purity) early in the morning before sunrise and wear a clean clothe after the sacred bath.
Every worshiper brings a pot full of holy Gange water to the temple to offer the Shivalingam. Women pray to God for her well-being of their husbands and sons, an unmarried woman pray to get their desired husband like Shiva (the ideal husband) in future; boys pray to get beautiful wife and successful life in future. The temple full of sound of bells and people shouts of “Shankerji ki Jai” or “Mahadevji ki Jai”. Devotees take 5 round of the Shivalingam and pour water on the Shivalingam. Some also pour cow milk on the Shivalingam.
According to the Shiva Purana, the Mahashivaratri puja involves six steps which are:
- Taking bath in the Gange for purification of soul, mind and body. Bathing of the Shiv Linga with the holy water of Gange, then bathing with milk and honey. God Shiva loves bel patra (three leaves stalked in one) so every rituals added it to the puja.
- After bathing of the Shiv Linga, vermilion paste applied on it which represents the virtue.
- Offer fruits, flowers which are given to get long life and satisfaction of desires.
- Burning enrage yields wealth.
- The lighting with diya represents achieving more knowledge.
- Offering betel leaves provide satisfaction full of great pleasures.
Worshipers also apply three horizontal lines of holy ash on their forehead just like the Lord Shiva which represents spiritual knowledge, cleanliness and penance. They wear garland made up of the Rudraksha (seed of Rudraksha tree) while worshiping the Lord Shiva. It is believed that Rudraksha tree was originated from the tears of Lord Shiva. Shivaratri is also considered as the wedding day of the Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati.
What makes the Lord Shiva please more?
It is written in the Shiva Purana that doing abhisheka of the Lord Shiva Linga with six dravyas such as cow milk, yoghurt, sugar, honey, ghee and Gange water while reading Sri Rudram, Chamakam and Dasa Shanthi pleases more the Lord Shiva. Milk is for the approval of cleanliness and faithfulness, yogurt for wealth and offspring, honey for sweet tongue, ghee for success, sugar for pleasure, and water for purity.
Significance of Mahashivaratri Festival
Mahashivaratri Festival is of great and tremendous significance for the millions of Hindu devotee’s all over India as well as abroad. It falls every year on fourteenth day of the Phalgun month in the dark fortnight at the end of winter season. This festival is the big festival during which devotees can please the Lord Shiva in order to fulfill their desires. It has another great significance for the Women. Both married and unmarried women keep strict fast for whole day and do Shiva Linga Puja with very honesty to please the Goddess Parvati or Gaura Mata in order to get the marital bliss as well as long, wealthy and prosperous married life. At Mahashivaratri, the marriage of Lord Shiva with Mata Parvati took place in the ancient time, so the Hindu people celebrate this festival by performing the same ceremony every year. People in Varanasi start this ceremony from Mahamrityunjaya temple of Daranagar to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi.
Lots of other ritual activities also are performed by the worshipers of Lord Shiva all across the India. It is considered that devotees who observe strict fast for whole from early morning to next morning in the honor of the God Shiva, they become blessed with their all wishes. Devotees may eat some fruits, milk or juice and water. However, some devotees keep Nirajal fast without eating and drinking anything according to their strong believe and trust to the God. It is also considered that at this auspicious day of Mahashivaratri, true devotees are forgiven by the God for their all sins and gets released with the cycle of birth and death and finally blessed with Moksha.
This festival is especially auspicious for the women. At this day, married women pray to God for the wellness and well being of their Suhaag however; unmarried women pray to God to get good husband in future just like the Lord Shiva means an ideal husband. Devotees of the Lord Shiva wake up in the early morning and take a ritual bath especially in the holy water of river Ganga. They wear fresh or new clothes and go to nearest Shiva temple to offer the Milk Abhishek to the Shiva Lingum and then with honey and water. They also offer some fruits, peach, dhatura, bael patra, bhang leaves, sweets, Ganga jal, etc. They pray to the God to fulfill their long list of wishes. People also sing ritual songs, do arti, drink bhang and dance at music.
The process of worshiping, offering and praying continues whole day long from early morning till night. First of all in the early morning a ritual puja of the Shiva Lingam is performed by the temple’s priests. First they give bath to the Shiva Lingam with milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar (also called panchagavya) and then with water by chanting the mantra of “Om Namah Shivaya”. Somewhere people give bath to the Shiva Linga with milk, yoghurt, honey, sandalwood paste and rose water. They apply vermilion paste on the Shiva Linga and keep Bilwa leaves (especially three joined leaves in one stalk) on the top in the believe that Goddess Lakshmi resides in Bilwa leaves and it has cooling effects to the hot-tempered deity so it would help devotees in pleasing the Lord Shiva.
Devotees ring temple bells in full sound. Then they allow devotees to come inside the temple and do their ritual. In some cities, a nightlong jaagran is organized at Shiva temples where a big crowd of large number of devotees stay whole night to sing holy hymns and devotional songs praising Lord Shiva and Mata Parwati. And in the early morning, devotees again perform all the ritual like bathing, offering Jal to Shiva Linga, etc and break their fast by taking Prasad offered by priests of the temple.
Significance of Offerings to the Shiva Linga
- It is believed that bathing Shiva Linga with panchagavya or milk, honey, water, and bael leaves indicates purification of the mind, body and soul.
- Offering Gang Jal represents attaining the enlightenment.
- Applying vermilion paste to the top of Shiva Linga after ritual bath represents virtue.
- Offering fruits to the Shiva Linga indicates the longevity and fulfillment of the desires.
- Offering dhoop batti or incense sticks represents wealth.
- Offering ghee diya represents the attainment of knowledge.
- Offering betel leaves provides happiness, prosperity and satisfaction.
- Offering bhang (which has cooling effect) represents pleasing the Lord Shiva.
- Chanting mantras like “Om Namah Shivaya”, “Karpur Gauram Karunavataram, Sansara Saram Bhujagendra Haram, Sada Vasantam Hridayaravinde, Bhavam Bhavani Sahitam Namami”, etc during the worship represents the mind concentration and peacefulness.
- Keeping fast at Mahashivaratri represents control over great natural forces, control over desire, anger and jealousy and power to conquer the evil power.
- Taking bath in the Holy Gange water represents purification of body, mind and soul.
Traditions and Customs of Maha Shivaratri
Traditions and Customs of Maha Shivaratri in Varanasi
A variety of traditions and customs associated with the Maha Shivaratri are followed by worshipers of the Lord Shiva from era in Benares. This festival is celebrated in the dark fortnight or in a moonless night. It is also considered that, at the Shivaratri Lord Shiva had performed the Tandava Nritya which is known as the dance of primeval creation, conservation and demolition. Devotees keep strict fast on this day in the respect of Shiva, they eat only fruits and drink milk, some of them do not take even a single drop of water.
At Maha Shivaratri, worship goes on whole day and night. Three hours of ritual puja performed by priests of the temple by bathing Shivalingam with the cow milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and the Gange holy water with the chanting of “Om Namah Shivaya” and sound bells together. A large number of devotees take part in jaagran and spend their full night by chanting Shiva mantras and other devotional songs in the honor of Lord Shiva. In the next morning devotees break their fast by taking prasad of the Lord Shiva.
Shivaratri Pooja has remarkable significance in the Hinduism. According to the Shiva Purana, Shiva worship has merits means a sincere worship give up more blessings than others.
Traditions and Customs of Maha Shivaratri in Haridwar
Haridwar is known as the land of Yogis. Yogis are the great devotees of the Lord Shiva who celebrate Mahashivaratri with lots of preparations, devotion and enthusiasm every year. Haridwar is very famous place which is also known as way to God. It is popular for the temples and Ghats where thousands of pilgrims and devotees come here every year to celebrate mahashivaratri. They take bath in the holy water of Gange in the early morning to get free from their sins. Devotees of the Lord Shiva get together some days before the festival to the Haridwar in order to take a holy dip in the Har Ki Pauri (a famous Ghat at Gange river bank in Haridwar).
Devotees also visit the Lord Shiva temples at Haridwar and enjoy at Lakshman Jhula and water rafting in the Rishikesh. They also enjoy some adventurous activities like Bungee Jumping, etc. Mahashivaratri Festival is known as “The Grand Night of Shiva” and celebrated by the people of Hindu religion as a religious festival every year at Shree Jabreshwar Mahadev Mandir.
At this great day, the whole environment all over the country becomes full of a slogan of Lord Shiva “Bol Bam” with high pitch. At this day, Lord Shiva temples become full of devotee’s offers to God like fruits, flowers, bel leaves, bhang leaves, dhatura, peach, etc on the Shiva Linga.