Maha Shivratri is one of the auspicious Hindu festivals celebrated around the world. The day is observed by chanting prayers, meditating, fasting, staying vigil and offering fruits, milk, sweets, and bael leaves to Lord Shiva. There is also a tradition of visiting Shiva temples and jyotirlingas. ‘Maha Shivratri’ literally means ‘Great night of Shiva’ and it is celebrated every year in the Hindu month of Phalguna, which falls in February or March according to Gregorian calendar. In 2018, the festival falls on February 13.
After taking bath in the morning devotees take sankalp (pledge) stating that the day will be spent in chanting Shiva names, fasting and meditating. The puja vidhi begins with Abhishek of Shiva Linga with Gangajal followed by ‘panchamrit’ – a mixture of milk, ghee, honey, yogurt, and sugar. Unlike, other festivals Maha Shivratri is celebrated at night. Devotees are advised to take bath in the evening before performing Shiva puja or visiting a temple. Devotees observe fast throughout the day and break it the next day between sunrise and before the end of Chaturdashi tithi. It is also believed that breaking the fast after Chaturdashi tithi gets over brings maximum benefit. A day before Shivratri, devotees have only a single meal.
To please Lord Shiva devotees observe the Maha Shivratri vrat throughout the day without a single drop of water (nirahar vrat). While some observe fast by consuming fruits, milk, tea, coffee and foods that are allowed to eat on fasts. Instead of table salt, devotees are advised to consume rock salt. It is believed that observing fast helps devotees to control two forces – ‘rajas guna’ (quality of passionate activity) and ‘tamas guna’ (quality of ignorance). It is also believed Lord Shiva blesses devotees with prosperity and helps to get rid of sins.
Foods that are allowed to eat of Maha Shivratri:
- Devotees should abstain from eating grains, pulses, and vegetables.
- Devotees can have potatoes or recipes made of potatoes without adding onion, garlic, and spices.
- Devotees can consume thandai, lauki ka halwa, milk, tea and coffee.
- For snacks, try sabudana khichdi, kuttu singhari puri, aloo pakoda, aloo tikki, singhada flour pakoda and sweet potato chaat.