Maha Shivratri- the festival celebrated each year in the reverence of Lord Shiva. The literal meaning of Maha Shivratri is ‘the great night of Lord Shiva’. Shivratri (or the night of Lord Shiva) occurs on every 14th night of the new moon. However, it is celebrated only once in a year-during Maha Shivratri which falls in February or March according to the traditional calendar.
Considered as the lord of the lords, Lord Shiva is one of the three principal deities of the Hindu religion- Bramha, Vishnu, and Mahesh (Shiva).
Lord Shiva is both, the creator and the destroyer. He is omnipotent and omnipresent. The Maha Shivratri is one of the rare festivals where there is not much importance given to the origin of Lord Shiva. The main importance is on the rituals practiced during the celebration.
Maha Shivratri is celebrated by people as per their perception of the festival. While some celebrate it as the day Lord Shiva and Parvati were married, Maha Shivratri is also celebrated by some as the day Lord Shiva destroyed some evil. There are a few who celebrate it as to celebrate the stillness.
Experts have stated that on the night of Maha Shivratri, the planets are placed such that they charge the energy stored in the chakra at the base of the spine which will rise and meet with the chakra at the top of the head. The Shivratri falls on the night of the Krishna Paksha (which is the waning moon). From the next night onwards till full moon, the cycle of creation starts again. However, on the 14th night, the destructive part of the cycle of creation and destruction (symbolized by the waxing and waning moon), comes to a still.
As per the Shiva Purana, the devotees who fast on the Shivratri and only consume fruits are the ones who benefit from the worship.
Reading the Shiv Purana
Shiv Purana, the text centering around Lord Shiva is read on this day. It has numerous stories about Lord Shiva.
Donations of any kinds (food, clothes, money) to the needy whether human or animal is the best way to become eligible to receive Shiva’s grace.
Chanting the twin “Om Namah Shivaya” or Mahamrityunjaya mantra can also bring great spiritual elevation to the seeker if done with a pure heart with all dedication.
Worshipping of the Shiva Linga
Shiva Purana also states that worshiping Shiva Linga is essential on Maha Shivratri. One must make sure that one worships a Shiv Linga on which pranapratishtha (consecration) has been done. Worship can be done with just water or milk or at least five things such as honey, rose water, sesame oil, sandalwood paste, ghee, etc.
The idea behind the above rituals is to keep the seeker engaged in some spiritual activity the whole evening and night so that one’s spine is erect and one remains in Lord Shiva’s consciousness.
Shiva temples across the globe- Om Namah Shivay
Thousands of devotees visit the Pashupatinath temple and the Nepalese army parade across the capital city of Kathmandu to pay tribute to Lord Shiva. In Indonesia, there are celebrations held at the Prambanan Temple in Java. The name ‘Prambanan’ comes from the word ‘Para Brahman’ which in Javanese stands for the ‘supreme brahmin’. The 9th-century temple was built by Rakai Pikatan of Mataram Kingdom. The Katasraj Temple in Chakwal, Pakistan is said to date back to the Mahabharat period. The Munneswaram Temple in Munneswaram, Sri Lanka, dates back to the Ramayana period. According to a story, it was here that Lord Ram prayed to Lord Shiva here after he won against Ravana. Having been destroyed twice in the past by the Portuguese, the temple was rebuilt by the Jesuits. Shivratri and Navratri are celebrated here with a lot of grandeur.