Maha Shivratri is one of the most important festivals of India, for the Hindus, and is celebrated with fervour. The literal meaning of Maha Shivratri is “the great night of Lord Shiva”. Unlike other festivals which are celebrated during the daytime, this festival is celebrated at night. It is a night of honouring Lord Shiva, of celebrating the Divine Lord and immersing in His immensely powerful energies. It is a night to awaken oneself, and travel from darkness to The Light.
Lord Shiva is the supreme power who has no form, He is infinite, He is the creator and the destroyer, he is the Adi Yogi.
As per the Hindu calendar, the 14th day of every lunar month or rather the day before the new moon is considered as Shivratri but the Shivratri which falls in the month of Phalgun (February-March) is called the Maha Shivratri, which is also commonly called Shivratri. A day when all devotees of Lord Shiva, fast throughout the day, meditate, chant “Om NamahShivaya” and other Shiva mantras, stay awake through the night singing praises of Lord Shiva, worship the Lord by performing “Abhishekham” of the Shivling and celebrate the transcendental energies of the Lord. It is indeed an occasion to wish Happy Shivratri to each other.
There are different versions to the story of Maha Shivratri. The most popular amongst these is that Lord Shiva and Maa Parvati (Shakti) got married on this great night. The second version says that Lord Shiva saved the earth and all creation on this night by consuming the poison (Haalaa-hala) that was one of the bi-products of the “SamudraMathan” (churning of the cosmic ocean). The Divine world of Gods knew that the poison was so potent that it would wipe out all creation but when they could not understand how to dispense it, they approached Lord Shiva. It was Lord Shiva who volunteered to take charge and consumed the deadly poison and held it in His throat by His Yogic powers and saved the whole of creation. His throat turned Blue with the effect of the poison, giving Him the name, Neelkantha (the Blue throated one).
The other legend of Maha Shivratri is that Lord Shiva had performed the Tandava Nritya, the cosmic dance, on this night.
Another version of the Maha Shivaratri story is from the Shiva Purana, which is about the two Mighty Gods of the Divine Trinity, Lord Vishnu (the preserver) and Lord Brahma (the creator), who got into a fight and battle trying to prove Their supremacy of power over each other. When things were getting out of hand in this conflict, the rest of the Divine world approached Lord Shiva to establish peace between the two divine powers. Lord Shiva appeared in between Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma as a flaming Linga. Both Lord Brahma and Vishnu were awestruck with this appearance of pillar of light. They both set out to find the beginning and end of this Linga and failed to do so. Lord Shiva then emerged from this infinite flame Linga and explained to Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu that both of them were born out of Him and were separated to three different aspects of divinity and that both of them were equally powerful. This appearance of Lord Shiva, for the first time, in the form of the divine Linga happened on the 14th day of the month of Phalgun which is celebrated as the auspicious day of Maha Shivratri.
The Significance of Mahashivratri – From time immemorial Maha Shivratri has been celebrated on the 14th day of the month of Phalgun and is considered a powerful day and night. It is dedicated to worship Lord Shiva. As per the sacred Hindu scriptures, worshipping Lord Shiva on this night pleases Him the most. Legend has it that Lord Shiva Himself had revealed to His consort, Goddess Parvati, that the rituals performed by His devotees on the Maha Shivratri night pleases Him the most.
The devotees of Lord Shiva worship the Lord with complete faith, devotion and care on the Maha Shivratri, by keeping a fast throughout the day and worshipping the Lord in His abstract form of Shivalingam or Shivling, by performing Abhishekham (sacred bathing) with milk, water, honey and other liquids and praying the whole night by chanting His name and mantras, meditating etc. Worshipping Lord Shiva has the power to absolve all sins of a devotee, and helps to attain Moksha (release from the cycle of birth and death). Lord Shiva is extremely benevolent, it is said that the Lord grants the wishes of His devotees for which they pray for this night. Devotees from all sects, casts, strata of society pray to Him for peace, calm, unity, good health, prosperity, wealth and spiritual growth.
On Maha Shivratri there is an upsurge in energy vibrations due to the position of the Northern hemisphere of our planet and coupled with the divine energies of Lord Shiva, the energies become more enhanced. Spiritual seekers, devotees and Sadhaks meditate, chant mantras of the Lord to be blessed with spiritual progress. Sadhaks stay awake all night, sit with their spine erect and meditate throughout the night to attain spiritual ascension.
For all married women devotees of Lord Shiva, the Maha Shivratri holds special significance as they perform all the rituals, including fasting and pray for the long life of their husbands. The unmarried women pray for a husband who would be just like Lord Shiva.
The rituals of Maha Shivratri puja starts with the devotees keeping a day long fast. Fasting means abstaining from eating, which signifies control over self and senses. They break their fast the next day between sunrise and before the end of Chaturdashitithi. The day is spent chanting “Om NamahShivaya”, the Mahamritunjayajaap and other Shiva mantras. The main pooja ritual is in the evening after sun set. Some devotees take a dip in the holy Ganga river, others take a bath before proceeding to the temple to perform Abhishekham (sacred bathing) of the Shivling. The Abhishekham is done with 6 different ‘dravyas’ (things/items) which includes milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water. Each of these have their own significance of blessings. The Shiv Purana states that while performing Abhishekham the chanting of Sri Rudram, Chamakam and DasaShanthi pleases Lord Shiva. Vermilion paste is applied on the Lingam after the Abhishekham followed by offering the Bilwa leaves (Wood Apple tree leaves), which must have one stalk with three leaves, by placing it on top of the Lingam. The Betel leaf is also offered to the Lord by many. Offering flowers, garlands, fruit like the Ber (Jujube), Bel (Wood Apple fruit) and other fruit and sweets to the Lord on the Lingam is a part of the ritual. Some devotees smear the Shivling with sandalwood paste, the Bhasm(ash) during the ritual. Lighting a ghee Diya and burning of incense sticks usher the energies of prosperity and wisdom. The chanting of mantras of Lord Shiva is to be done continuously through the pooja ritual. The fast is broken by first eating the Prasad which had been offered to the Lordof utmost importance is the pure intention and devotion, joy with which the Maha Shivratri puja is performed, for that is what the Divine Lord Shiva sees.
The Mahashivratri mantras which are advised to be chanted is the Shiv Mantra – Om NamahShivaya, for good health, prosperity and for removal of fear. The Mahamritunjaya mantra for long and healthy life, the Sri Rudram which is a Vedic mantra to be chanted in homage of Lord Shiva. It has got two parts, the Shiva Namakam and Chamakam and can be chanted during Maha Shivratri.
The Maha Shivratri fast is considered of prime importance and it is believed that the devotees who keep fast during this day and night, are blessed with granting of their wishes. Some devotees observe full fasting, which means, abstaining from drinking water or other liquids and food of any kind. The other option, due to practicality of life, is to have a fruit, milk and water diet through the day but complete abstinence from food after Sunset till the next morning.
On this auspicious day, Maha Shivratri special bhajans dedicated to Lord Shiva are sung, special greetings are exchanged between devotees. Maha Shivratri special dance performances and musical programmes are organized in reverence to Lord Shiva, as Shiva is fond of dancing and music.
Maha Shivratri kabkihai?
Mahashivratri 2020 is on 21st. February (Friday). Fasting starts from the morning of 21st February and breaking the fast is on 22nd February morning, once the tithi ends.
ChaturdashiTithi Begins: 04:34 PM on 21st February, 2020
ChaturdashiTithi Ends: 07:07 PM on 22th February, 2020
NishitaKaal Puja Time = 12:25 AM to 01:14 AM (22nd February 2020)
First Prahar Puja Time (Night): 06:41 PM to 09:45 PM (on 21st February)
Second Prahar Puja Time (Night): 09:45 PM to 12:49 AM
Third Prahar Puja Time (Night): 12:49 AM to 03:54 AM
Ratri Fourth Prahar Puja Time: 03:54 AM to 06:58 AM
Time to Break Your Fast: 06:58 AM to 3:45 PM (on 22nd February)