Maha Shivaratri

Festivals of India, March 4th, 2024
illustration by Manish

Maha Shivaratri, also known as Shivaratri or Great Night of Shiva, is a Hindu festival celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva. It is observed on the 14th night of the dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Phalguna or Maagh (usually in February or March). The name “Maha Shivaratri” translates to “Great Night of Shiva.”

Key aspects of Maha Shivaratri include:

  1. Devotion to Lord Shiva: The festival is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the third deity in the Hindu Trinity (Trimurti), alongside Brahma and Vishnu. Lord Shiva is considered the destroyer and regenerator in the cosmic cycle.
  2. Fasting and Penance: Devotees often observe fasting on Maha Shivaratri as a form of penance and purification. Many abstain from food and break their fast the next day after performing the required rituals.
  3. Nightlong Vigil (Jaagran): Devotees stay awake throughout the night, engaging in prayers, chanting hymns, and performing various rituals to honor Lord Shiva. This nightlong vigil is known as “Jaagran.”
  4. Ritual Bathing of Shiva Lingam: The Shiva Lingam, representing the cosmic power of Lord Shiva, is often bathed with various substances, such as milk, yogurt, honey, ghee, and water. This ritual symbolizes the purification of the soul.
  5. Offerings and Puja: Devotees make offerings of fruits, flowers, incense, and bael leaves to Lord Shiva. Special prayers and pujas are conducted in temples dedicated to Shiva.
  6. Significance of Maha Shivaratri: According to Hindu mythology, Maha Shivaratri is associated with the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is also believed to be the night when Lord Shiva performed the cosmic dance of creation, preservation, and destruction.
  7. Celebrations Across India: Maha Shivaratri is celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion across India. Major Shiva temples, such as Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi, Somnath in Gujarat, and Pashupatinath in Nepal, witness large crowds of devotees.

The festival holds cultural and spiritual significance, emphasizing self-discipline, self-control, and the pursuit of spiritual awakening. It is an occasion for devotees to express their reverence for Lord Shiva and seek his blessings for peace, prosperity, and well-being.

Manish Pushkar Jha
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