FESTIVALS : Maha Shivratri - The Grand Night Festival of Lord Shiva

The festival of Maha Shivratri is devoted to this Supreme Being, whose name means “that which is not”. So the dark moonless night of Phalgun when one would cringe out of fear turns into something to celebrate.

Shiva – in the Trimurti, he is the one known as the destroyer. But he is also the most compassionate one; he is Bhole Shankar. He is both the Supreme ascetic and the most ardent lover. The festival of Maha Shivratri is devoted to this Supreme Being, whose name means “that which is not”. So the dark moonless night of Phalgun when one would cringe out of fear turns into something to celebrate.


 Most people celebrate Maha Shivratri as the day Shiva was wedded to Parvati, and the balance of the world was restored. Another theory is that it was on this dark night that Shiva did the cosmic Taandav of creation, preservation and destruction. Another legend is that this is the day Shiva took the form of a giant flaming linga to resolve the question of supremacy between Brahma and Vishnu. Needless to say, Shiva emerged as the Supreme Being. The offering of water, milk, flowers; belpatra to the Shivalinga probably symbolizes the same.


Yet another story says that when Shiva consumed the poison or ‘halahal’ from the churning of the ocean, his neck turned blue, and he was asked to sit in an upright position and stay awake all night. This is why many people stay awake on the holy night of Maha Shivratri, singing and dancing as the gods are rumored to have done on that night.


Maha Shivratri begins by a ritual bath, preferably in the Ganges. Devotees fast all day, with many preferring to go without water, too. People visit Shiva temples to offer milk, Gangajal, honey, fruits, flowers and bel leaves. Vermillion is applied to the Shivalinga and people burn incense and light lamps. The worship continues all night long and people break their fast only the next morning, by consuming the ‘prasad’ offered to the Lord.


Another significant thing about the night of Maha Shivratri is that on this particular night the alignment of the planets sees an upsurge in energy in human beings. Staying awake all night with your spine in a vertical position is the ideal way to channel this energy. Yogis of yore probably found linking a festival to this night to ensure that people stayed awake all night.


Married women pray for the long lives of their husbands on Maha Shivratri. Unmarried girls pray to get an ideal husband like Shiva for them selves. Men worship the Lord to get Nirvana from the cycle of life and death, and absolve themselves of all sins.

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