Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Maha Sivaratri / Maha Shivaratri a.k.a Great night of Lord Siva

Maha Sivaratri or Maha Sivaratri (Great night of Lord Siva) is a Hindu festival celebrated every year on the the night before and day of the new moon of the month of Maagha or Phalguna in the Hindu Calendar. Shivaratri 2009 is on February 23, Monday. There are many legends surrounding the origin of Sivaratri. According to Hindu mythology, Shivaratri symbolizes the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati.

For some believers, Shivaratri is the night when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava dance. During the churning of the ocean of milk, a terrible poison called Haalaa-hala arose. It was so poisonous that it could destroy all the worlds. The gods approached Mahadev and prayed to him to protect the entire life forms. Lord Siva drank the poison to save the worlds and held it in his throat by binding it with his snake. Because of the effect of the poison, his neck turned blue and since then Mahadeva is worshipped by the name Neelakantha (blue neck).

According to another version, Lord told his consort Parvathi that the 13th night of the new moon, during the month of Maagha, is his most favourite day. Goddess Parvathi in turn spread this word all over the world.

According to Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata epic and Garuda Purana, refers to the observance of Maha Shivaratri by King Chitrabhanu. In his previous birth he was a hunter called Suswara and lived in Varanasi. He was hunting and saw a deer. But he could not kill the deer as he was filled with sadness when he saw the family of deer on its impending death. It was soon night and he had to climb up a tree to seek shelter from wild animals. It was infact a Bilva tree. His water bottle was leaking and he ran out of water. He was hungry, thirsty and could not sleep. He engaged himself in plucking the Bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground the whole night. The next day he returned home and bought with him some food for himself and his family. But before he could start eating, a person came to his door begging for some food and he shared his food with the guest. At the time of his death, messengers of Lord Siva appeared in front of him and informed him that his soul is bound to the sacred abode of Lord Siva. He was puzzled as what meritorious deed made him eligible for that. The messengers informed him that there was a Siva Linga under the Bilva tree and the leaking water bottle washed it as in an abhishekam (a sacred ritual). Also he was plucking the Bilva leaves and the leaves fell on top of the Linga which constituted archana (another sacred ritual). He was hungry and observed a fast. Thus the hunter was observing the rituals of a Mahasivaratri without knowing that he was actually doing it.

On Shivaratri, only cold water and Bilwa leaves are offered to the Lingam. It is accompanied by all day fasting and an all night long prayers on Lord Siva. It is not sufficient to just avoid sleeping whole night and spend the time in enjoyments like watching late night movies or playing cards.

Society for the Confluence of Festivals in India (SCFI) is maintaining a website dedicated for Mahasivaratri with links to prayers, greeting cards and other useful resources concerning the Mahasivaratri.
Link:  http://www.mahashivratri.org/

2 comments:

  1. Mahashivaratri celebrated throughout the country and it is one of the most popular in Uttar Pradesh.

    ReplyDelete
  2. When spending the night without sleeping, eyes get shut automatically for a minute, some sort involuntary action....will that be a problem??

    ReplyDelete