Lord Shiva is one of the most worshipped deities as he is a integral part of the Hindu Trinity, the day celebrated in his honour is known as Mahadhivaratri or ‘The Night of Shiva’. According to Hindu calendar Shivaratri falls on the moonless 14th night of the new moon in the month of Phalgun which we refer to as month of February – March, as we are more familiar with the English calendar. On this day to show their devotion to Lord Shiva devotees perform ritual worship of Shiva Lingam and observe day and night fast.
Legends of Maha Shivratri:
This festival is associated with many legends and stories. One of the most popular legend states that Shivratri is the day of Lord Shiva and Devi Parvati’s wedding. While some say that on this divine night of Shivaratri , the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction ‘The Tandava’ was performed by Lord Shiva. In another legend, derived from the Linga purana says that this night Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga. Therefore making this day immensely auspicious for devotees of Lord Shiva and this night is celebrated as Maha shivaratri – the grand night of Shiva.
Traditions and Customs of Shivaratri:
Devotees of Lord Shiva have various customs and rituals related to the festival of Shivaratri to show their devotion. Various types of fast are religiously followed, some fast with a diet of milk and fruits while others observe ‘Nirjala upsavas’ or ‘water less fast’ where water is also not consumed. On the divine day of Shivaratri worshippers strongly believe that if Lord Shiva is worshipped sincerely he will discharge us from our sins and release us from this cycle of birth and death. Women consider Shivaratri a pious occasion when unmarried women pray for a model husband like Lord Shiva and married women pray for the welfare of their husbands.
On this auspicious festival devotee’s wake up early, take a bath, don on new clothes and visit a Shiv temple to perform an ‘abhisheka or ‘ritual bath’ of Shiva Lingum with milk, honey, water etc. Lord Shiva is worshipped day and night on Shivaratri. Shiva Lingum is bathed with milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water every three hours amongst the chanting of ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ and ringing of temple bells. In Shiva temple large numbers of devotees gather to perform all night ‘jaagran’ or ‘vigil’ while singing hymns and devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva. And the devotees break their fast the next day morning by consuming the Prasad.