The annual festival of Maha Shivratri is celebrated in honour of Lord Shiva. Maha Shivratri means ‘the great night of Shiva’ is the festival of convergence of Shiva and Shakti. Shivratri is celebrated in every luni-solar month of the Hindu calendar, but the one that falls in the Hindu month of Phalguna (February or March in Gregorian calendar) marks Maha Shivaratri. The festival marks the remembrance of overcoming darkness and ignorance. It 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. Unlike, other festivals Maha Shivratri is celebrated at night.
There are various legends associated with Maha Shivaratri. One of which is Maha Shivratri is the night when Lord Shiva performed ‘tandav’. According to another legend, on Maha Shivratri Lord Shiva drank the poisonous negativity to protect the world. It is also believed that this is the night when Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati got married.
- A day before Shivratri, devotees have only a single meal. After taking bath in the morning devotees take sankalp (pledge) stating that the day will be spent in chanting Shiva names, fasting and meditating.
- Since Shivratri puja is done during the night, devotees are advised to take bath in the evening before performing Shiva puja or visiting the 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.
- The puja vidhi begins with the Abhishek which means giving bath to Shiva Linga with Gangajal. Abhishek is also performed with ‘panchamrit’ – a mixture of milk, ghee, honey, yogurt, and Sugar. Followed by Abhishek with water. Jalabhishek is also performed by offering water on the Shivling drop by drop.
- Decorate Shivling with flowers and offer bael leaves, vibhuti (holy ash), gandha (sandal paste), akshada (rice) and gandha (sandal paste). Offer bhog and fruits to the lord. Light incense sticks and diya and perform Shiv aarti.
- Chant ‘Om Namashivaya’ or Mrutunjaya mantra at night.
Chaturthi tithi begins: March 4 at 4:28 pm
Chaturthi tithi ends: March 5 at 7:07 pm
Mahashivratri parana time: March 5 at 6:46 am to 3:26 pm
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