(Last Updated on : 26/08/2017)
Mahashivratri or Shiva's great night falls on the fourteenth night of the New Moon, during the dark half of the month of Phalguna
(February - March). It is said that, on the night of Shivratri, Lord Shiva
manifested himself for the first time in the form of a lingam
. It is done by memorizing Lord Shiva and reciting prayers, fasting
, doing Yoga
. Others visit one of the Shiva temples
or go on pilgrimage
to Jyotirlingams. In Kashmir
, the festival
is called Har-ratri by the devotees of Shiva of the Kashmir region.
Myths of Mahashivratri
There are various interesting myths
related to the festival of Maha Shivaratri. According to one of the most popular myths, Shivratri marks the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati
. People believe that it was on the fortunate night of Shivratri that Lord Shiva performed the Tandava
Another popular Shivrtri myth stated in Linga Purana
declares that it was on Shivratri that Lord Shiva visible himself in the form of a Linga. Hence the day is considered to be really auspicious by Shiva devotees and they celebrate it as Mahashivratri - the grand night of Shiva.
Rituals of Mahashivratri
are related to Shivratri Festival. Devotees observe exacting fast in honour of Lord Shiva. Devotees believe that honest worship of Lord Shiva on the propitious day of Shivratri, releases a person of sins and liberates him from the cycle of birth and death
. Shivratri is considered particularly fortunate for women
. While married women pray for the well being of their husband and unmarried women pray for a husband like Lord Shiva, who is regarded as the ideal husband.
Two kalashas each are placed on the eastern and western sides; three each on the northern and southern sides. These are filled with water and perfumed with sandalwood and rosewater. On the highest level of the platform the largest kalash is placed, which represents the essence of Surya
as well as the ethereal regions. The major portion of the offerings and oblations go to this level, as Shiva in a way, is also Surya. Each kalash is wrapped in string netting and decorated with the bilva and mango leaves. A coconut is put on the mouth of the kalash that is draped with a single strip of cloth. The coconut
represents the head of Shiva, the outer fibrous covering the matted hair of Shiva the ascetic, and the three black spots on it, his three eyes.
On Shivratri, devotion of Lord Shiva continues all throughout the day and night. Every three hours priests present ritual pooja
of Shivalingam by bathing it with milk
, yoghurt, honey, ghee
, sugar and water amidst the chanting of Om Namah Shivaya. Nightlong vigil or jaagran is also observed in Shiva temples where large numbers of devotees spend the night singing hymns and devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva. On the following morning that devotee break their fast by partaking prasad offered to the deity.