Mahashivaratri - The festival dedicated to Lord Shiva


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By Dr. Eugene D’Souza, Moodubelle

12 February 2010: This year the festival of Mahashivaratri is observed on 12th February, 2010 throughout India in honour of Lord Shiva one of the Hindu Gods forming the trinity, Brahma and Vishnu being the other two. Mahashivaratri literally means ‘the grand night dedicated to the worship of Shiva.’  According to the Hindu calendar, Mahashivaratri is celebrated  every year on the 13th or the 14th night of the new moon during the dark fortnight  or waning moon (Krishna Paksha) in the month of Phalgun. The festival is observed for one day and one night.

There are a number of legends associated with the Mahashivaratri festival. According to one of the most popular legends, Mahashivaratri is the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. However, many devotees believe that Mahashivaratri is the night when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Dance - the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. According to another popular legend, described in Linga Purana, it was on Mahashivaratri that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga for the first time. Since then, the day is considered to be extremely auspicious by the devotees of Lord Shiva and they celebrate it as Mahashivaratri - the grand night of Shiva.

Another popular legend associated with Mahashivaratri is related to  the great mythical churning of the ocean called Samudra Manthan. According to the Puranas, during the churning of the ocean, there emerged  a pot of poison. The gods and the demons were terrified as it could destroy the entire world. When they approached   Lord Shiva for help, he, in order to protect the world, drank the deadly poison. However, he held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This turned his throat blue. Since then he came to be known as ’Nilkantha’, the blue-throated one. Mahashivaratri celebrates this event by which Lord Shiva saved the world.

Whatever the legends are, Mahashivaratri has been celebrated with great religious fervour by the devotees of Lord Shiva throughout India. All temples dedicated to Lord Shiva are decorated. On Mahashivaratri, devotees wake up early in the morning and take bath and observe strict fast. Many people have only fruits and milk, while some do not consume even a drop of water. Worshippers scrupulously  follow all the traditions and customs related to Mahashivaratri festival, as they strongly believe that sincere worship of Lord Shiva, on the auspicious day releases a person of his sins and also liberates him from the cycle of birth and death.

The worship of Lord Shiva continues the whole day and whole night. Many devotees observe night long  vigil (Jaagran) in temples, where they sing hymns and devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva. The Shiva Linga is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra "Om Namah Shivaya" continues. Offerings of Bael leaves are made to the Linga as Bael leaves are considered very sacred and it is said that Goddess Lakshmi resides in them. In the morning devotees break their fast by taking the prasad offered to Lord Shiva.

Mahashivaratri has a special significance to women. The married women  consider the Mahashivaratri festival as auspicious and pray for the well being of their husbands and sons. On the other hand, unmarried women pray for an ideal husband like Lord Shiva, who is the spouse of Kali, Parvati and Durga. But generally it is believed that anyone who utters the name of Lord Shiva during Mahashivaratri with pure devotion is freed from all sins. He or she reaches the abode of Shiva and is liberated from the cycle of birth and death.

 

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Comments on this Article
prasad, kakinada Fri, February-12-2010, 8:07
Very Gud Article On Shiva Rathri it s Significance
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