Maha Shivaratri is one of the most important Hindu festivals dedicated to lord Shiva. This is celebrated on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna.
Maha Shivaratri Legends
Many legends and beliefs are associated with this day. It is believed that Lord Shiva performed the Tandav Nritya on this night. Some also believe that lord Shiva married Parvathi on this day. Goddess Parvathi is believed to have performed prayers on the moonless night of Shivaratri for wellbeing of her husband. It is also believed that it was on this auspicious night that lord Shiva first manifested himself in the form of linga to portray to lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma that there is no beginning or end to his being.
Another popular legend associated with this day is that of the samudra manthan or churning of the ocean. When the devtas (gods) and asuras (demons) joined hands for the mythical samundra manthan a pot of poison came out from the ocean. This was a powerful poison and fearing that this could destroy the universe they ran to lord Shiva for help. Lord Shiva drank the poison and held it in his throat. But this poison was so potent that this turned the colour of his neck to blue hence he is called neelakantha. Thus Shivartari is also celebrated as the day when lord Shiva saved the universe.
How is Shivaratri Celebrated?
This day is very auspicious one for the Hindus. On this day people take bath early in the morning and visit the Shiva temples. Married women pray for the longevity and wellbeing of their husbands and sons while unmarried women pray for ideal husband like Shiva on this day. Traditional Shivalinga puja is offered by the devotees on this day. Shivalinga is given bath every three hours. Devotees circumambulate the linga and Abhisheks or the traditional bath are done using milk, yogurt, honey, ghee, sandalwood paste and rose water. Following the bath, vermilion paste is applied on the linga and to mark the culmination the Shiva Linga is adorned with a stalk of three Bilwa leaves. Fruits like Jujube and flowers are offered to the deity. Each item offered has its own significance.
People stay awake the entire night and chant ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ and listen to kirtans and bhajans organised in the temples and practice a night long vigil. People observe fast and break it only on the next day morning.It is believed that worshipping lord Shiva with devotion on this night will absolve people from all their sins and they will be freed from the cycle of birth abd death.