|Significance||Auspicious day to worship the Lord Shiva , beyond birth and death.|
|Observances||Fasting, worship of Lingam|
|2015 date||17 February|
|2016 date||7 March|
|2017 date||24 February|
|Related to||Nepalese culture and Indian culture|
While most Hindu festivals are celebrated during the day, Shivaratri is celebrated during the night by keeping a "jaagaran" - a night-long vigil with worship. It is believed that Lord Shiva saved the universe from darkness and ignorance. This is the day when jyotiswaroop (luminous) shivalinga emerged between bramha and vishnu to pacify them. This day is also believed to be the day that Shiva was married to the Goddess Parvati. The Maha Shivaratri festival, also popularly known as 'Shivaratri' (spelt as Sivaratri, Shivaratri, Sivarathri, and Shivarathri) or 'Great Night of Shiva', marks the convergence of Shiva and Shakti. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated on the Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi of Bikram Sambat Calendar on the month of Falgun as per Amavasya-ant month calculation. As per Poornima-ant month calculation, the day is Krishna Paksha Trayodashi or Chaturdashi of Bikram Sambat calendar month Falgun which falls in February or March as per the English Gregorian calendar. Of the twelve Shivaratris in the year, the Maha Shivarathri is the most holy.
The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael (Vilvam) leaves to Shiva, all-day fasting and an all-night-vigil (jagaran)with vedic, tantrik ritualistic worship of Shiva. All through the day, devotees chant "Om Namah Shivaya", the sacred mantra of Shiva. Penances are performed in order to gain boons in the practice of Yoga and meditation, in order to reach life's highest good steadily and swiftly. On this day, the planetary positions in the Northern hemisphere act as potent catalysts to help a person raise his or her spiritual energy more easily. The benefits of powerful ancient Sanskrit mantras such as Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra increase greatly on this night.
In Nepal, Shivaratri is a national holiday. Millions of Hindus from around the world and Nepal itself attend Shivaratri together at the famous Pashupatinath Temple which is the holy Head of Lord Shiva. Thousands of devotees also attend Mahasivaratri at the famous Shiva Shakti Peetham of Nepal. Nepal Army takes a parade around the city to pay tribute to Lord Shiva and the holy rituals are performed all over the nations.
In Indo-Caribbean communities throughout the West Indies, thousands of Hindus spend the auspicious night in over four hundred temples across the country, offering special jhalls to Lord Shiva. In Mauritius, Hindus go on pilgrimage to Ganga Talao, a crater-lake, turned into the main Hindu prayer site of this sole Hindu majority African country. Maha Shivaratri is the main Hindu festival among Hindu diasporas from Nepal , Southern Indian States "Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana" and Northern Indian State of Bihar.
On Maha Shivaratri, Nishita Kala is the ideal time to observe Shiva Pooja. Nishita Kala celebrates when Lord Shiva appeared on the Earth in the form of Linga. On this day, in all Shiva temples, the most auspicious Lingodbhava Puja is performed.
The primary reason and story is that once at Singularity when cosmos did not exist, Bramha came out from navel of Vishnu who sitting on lotus flower. He than asked Vishnu who He was. Afterwards, they both started fighting over either's superiority. Suddenly, they saw a huge luminous pillar of incredible energy and light. When they saw it, they decided that the one who would reach its beginning or end will be superior. Bramha took form of a Swan and traveled upwards while lord Vishnu took form of a boar and went downwards. After millions of centuries, they could not reach its origin or end. At this time, Bramha saw a flower falling and asked it when it was falling and from where it fell. It said, "I don't know since when I'm falling this luminous pillar is infinite". Lord Bramha convinced that flower "Ketaki" to lie for him. He said to Lord Vishnu, "I found its upper end and brought this flower form there." Ketaki the flower nodded in agreement. Therefore, Vishnu humbly praised and bowed to Bramha. Than with a thundering sound and with immense heave, shiva emerged from inside luminous Shiva Linga and cursed Bramha for his lie, said that he will not be worshiped, and blessed Vishnu. Shiva told them that dear devas is my fragments, Bramha came from my right hand, and Vishnu is born out if my left hand. He said, "I am alpha and omega and father and final god of all that exists." Hence, Vishnu started worshiping Shiva Linga,and Bramha followed the suit. Shiva was the first god ever worshiped by his idol or sign shivalinga which denotes energy of existence and his map of the universe is the most ancient idol ever worshiped by humans. Since than, shivalinga is worshiped by whole cosmos, all avtars of vishn, and all gods and goddesses worship Shiva. He is the owner of all gods.The story is found in many purans including shiva puran, linga puran, koorma puran, varah puran, and several others.
It is also associated with the marriage of Shiva and Shakti, and the night he performed the Taandava, the cosmic dance.
"Maha Shivaratri" is also associated with Shiva saving the Universe by drinking poison (visham) that came out of the samudra manthan.
The legends signify that this day is the favorite of Lord Shiva and also throws light on his greatness and the supremacy of Lord Shiva over all other Hindu Gods and Goddesses.
Maha Shivaratri also celebrates the night when Lord Shiva performed the "Tandava", the cosmic dance.
According to another legend of Samudra manthan, Shiva saved the world from the disastrous effects of a poison that emerged as a by product of the churning of the sea (Samudra manthan),and nove gods were willing to take it because of fear, but shiva saved them by consuming the whole of the poison. Seeing the goddess parvati, choked his throat so it could not reach his belly; because, whole universe was inside his stomach and if it reached there, whole cosmos would be destroyed. Therefore, Shiv arrested the poison in his throat by his divine godly powers, and it did not go down his throat. His neck turned blue due to the effect of the poison on his throat and; henceforth, he is also known as Neela Kantha, The Blue Throated, or the garala kantha.
Anot/the destruction of world is called pralaya as the deluge/Pralaya.
After earth's creation was complete, Parvati asked Lord Shiva which devotees and rituals pleased him the most. The Lord replied that the 14th night of the new moon, in the dark fortnight during the month of Phalgun, is his favorite day. Parvati repeated these words to her friends, from whom the word spread to all creation.
Once upon a time, King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty, who ruled over the whole of Jambudvipa (India), was observing a fast with his wife, it being the day of Maha Shivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of the king.
The sage asked the king the purpose of his observing the fast. King Chitrabhanu explained that he had a gift of remembering the incidents of his past birth, and in his previous life, he had been a hunter on Varanasi and his name was Suswara. His only livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. The day before the new moon, while roaming through forests in search of animals, he saw a deer, but before his arrow flew, he noticed the deer's family and their sadness at its impending death. Therefore out of the kindness of his heart, he let it live. He had still not caught anything when night fell, so he climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a Bael tree. His canteen leaked water, so he was both hungry and thirsty. These two torments kept him awake throughout the night, thinking of his poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously awaiting his return. To pass the time, he engaged himself in plucking the Bael leaves and dropping them down onto the ground.
The next day, he returned home and bought some food for himself and his family. The moment he was about to break his fast a stranger came to him, begging for food. He served the food first to stranger and only ate afterward.
At the time of his death, he saw two messengers of Lord Shiva, sent to conduct his soul to the abode of Shiva. He learnt then for the first time of the great merit, he had earned by unconscious worship of Shiva during the night of Maha Shivaratri. The messengers told him that there had been a Lingam (a symbol for the worship of Shiva) at the bottom of the tree. The leaves he dropped from the Bael tree had fallen into the shape of a Lingam, in imitation of Shiva's ritual worship. The water from his leaky canteen had washed the Lingam (also a ritual action), and he had fasted all day and all night. Thus, he unconsciously had worshiped Lord Shiva. At the conclusion of the tale, the King said that he had lived in the abode of the Shiva and enjoyed divine bliss for a long time before being reborn as Chitrabhanu. This story is narrated in the Garuda Purana.
'Shivaratri' means 'night of Shiva'. The important components of this religious festival are rigid fasting for twenty four hours and sleepless vigil during the night. Every true devotee of Lord Shiva spends the night of Shivaratri in deep meditation,worshipping shiva as per vedic tantric methods specially rudrabhishek and observing the fast.
The worship of Lord Shiva consists in offering flowers, Bilva leaves and other gifts on the Lingam, which is a symbol of Lord Shiva, and bathing it with milk, curd, ghee, honey, sugar, butter, and rose-water. Remember that coconut water is never offered to the shiva lingam.
When creation had been completed, Shiva and Parvati had been living on the top of Kailas. Parvati asked: "O venerable God, which of the many rituals observed in They honour doth please Thee most?" Lord Shiva replied: "The fourteenth night of the new moon, Krishna Paksha, in the month of Magha(February–March) is known as Maha Shivaratri, My most favourable Tithi. My devotees give Me greater happiness by mere fasting than by ceremonial baths, and offerings of flowers, sweets, and incense.
"Just hear, My Beloved, of an episode which will give you an idea of the glory and power of this ritual," said Lord Shiva to Parvati.
"Once upon a time, there lived in the town of Varanasi a hunter. He was returning from the forest one evening with the game birds he had killed. He felt tired and sat at the foot of a tree to take some rest. He was soon overpowered by sleep. When he awoke, it was the thick darkness of night. It was the night of Maha Shivaratri but he didn't know it. He climbed up the tree, tied his bundle of dead birds to a branch and sat up waiting for the dawn. The tree happened to be My favorite, the Bilva tree.
"There was a Lingam under that tree. He had plucked a few leaves and then dropped them down, accidentally forming the shape of a Lingam. The night-dew trickled down from his body. I was highly pleased with involuntary little gifts of the hunter. The day dawned and the hunter returned home.
"In time, the hunter fell ill and gave up his last breath. The messengers of Yama(Lord of Death) arrived at his bedside to carry his soul to Yamlok(abode of Yama). My messengers also went to the spot to take him to My abode. There was a vicious fight between Yama’s messengers and My messengers. The former were easily defeated. They reported the matter to Yama, Lord of Death. He arrived in person at the portals of My abode. Nandi gave him an idea of the sanctity of Maha Shivaratri and the love which I had for that hunter. Yama surrendered the hunter to Me and returned to his abode. Thereafter, Yama has pledged not to touch my devotees without my consent.
"The hunter was able to enter My abode and ward off death by simple fasting and the offering of a few Bilva leaves, even accidentally, because it was the night of Maha Shivaratri. Such is the solemnity and sacredness associated with that night."
Parvati was deeply impressed by the speech of Lord Shiva on the sanctity and glory of Maha Shivaratri.The conversation became scripture and by her grace mankind come to know about it.Thus, the sanctity of Maha Shivaratri spread all over the world.
Very early morning, Shiva temples are flocked by devotees, young and old, who come to perform the traditional Shivalinga worship (puja) and hence hope for favours from the God. Devotees bathe at sunrise, preferably in the Ganga, or any other holy water source (like the Shiv Sagartank at Khajurao). This is a rite of purification, which is an important part of all Hindu festivals. Wearing clean clothing after the holy bath, worshippers carry pots of water to the temple to bathe the Shivalinga. Women and men both offer prayers to the Sun, Vishnu and Shiva. The temple reverberates with the sound of bells and shouts of "Shankerji ki Jai" meaning 'Hail Shiva'. Devotees circulate the lingam three or seven times, and then pour water over it. Some also pour milk over it, but circumambulation of shiva is special it is never done 360* the arghya (part of shiva linga which is linear and water exits form that part) is never crossed it is done in U shape not 0 like other gods.
According to the Shiva Purana, the Mahashivaratri worship must incorporate six items:which is also called panchopchar worship (worshipping with five devices which denote five elements Earth ,Water,Fire,Air and Ether) or greater Shodashopachar (worship with 16 devices).FIVE DEVICES ARE
Bhasma (sacred ash),Rudraksh (Holy Beads) and panchakshar vidya Shivas (five syllabeled mantra). These are called TRIVENI of shiva ,without them shiva is not worshipped ,shivas devotee must apply tripunda of bhasma on 32 or 16 or 5 parts of body ,wear rosary or beads of rudraksha (powerful sacred beads) and chant his mantra which all devotees know.
Tripunda refers to the three horizontal stripes of holy ash applied to the forehead by worshipers of Lord Shiva. These stripes symbolise spiritual knowledge, purity and penance (spiritual practice of Yoga). They also represent the three eyes of Lord Shiva.The tripunda of bhasma and chandan is a vedic (shraut principle) ritual must be done before any worship , it is praised highly in various purans and vedic upanishads. It has many meaning and great significance. Than rudraksha is said to be tear of Shiva which fell after his stern samadhi of aeons.it is also vedic ritual. The bead is naturally made for making rosary and wearing it has natural holes to make rosray out of it vedic Akshamala upanishad details about making it and its mantra and science. And Shivas mantra most popular one which is also vedic shall be chanted and meditated upon ,by yourself or after taking proper deeksha from a guru. THIS COMPLETES PRIMARY REQUISITE OF SHIVAS WORSHIP KNOWN AS SHIVA TRIVENI.
Wearing a mala (rosary) made from the rudraksha seeds of the rudraksha tree (said to have sprung from the tears of Lord Shiva) when worshiping Lord Shiva is ideal. A rudraksha seed is mahogany-like color, or could sometimes be black. They might also have traces of sacred sandalwood powder, turmeric, kumkum, or holy ash if the rosary is used in worship ceremonies or annointations.
The twelve Jyotirlingas (lingams of light) are sacred shrines to Lord Shiva, and centres for his worship. They are known as Swayambhus, meaning the lingams sprung up by themselves at these locations, and temples were built there afterwards. Temples are listed in the Nepal tourist guides. Maha Shivarathri is celebrated on the Krishna Paksha chaturdashi of Hindu calendar month Maghaas per Amavasya-ant month calculations.
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated widely in the temples all over Nepal especially in pasupati Nath. Shiva is considered the Adi (first) Guru from whom the yogic tradition originates. According to tradition, the planetary positions on this night are such that there is a powerful natural upsurge of energy in the human system. It is said to be beneficial for one's physical and spiritual well-being to stay awake and aware throughout the night. On this day, artists from various fields such as classical music and dance perform the whole night. Shivaratri is considered especially auspicious for women. While married women pray for the well being of their husbands, unmarried women pray for a husband like Lord Shiva who will love them for lifetime, who is regarded as the ideal husband.
Temples are listed in the India tourist guides.
The Mandi festival or fair is particularly famous as this special fair transforms the town of Mandi into a venue of grand celebration, where all Gods and Goddesses of the Mandi district, said to number more than 200, assemble, starting on the day of Shivaratri. The town of Mandi, located on the banks of the Beas River, is popularly known as the "Cathedral of Temples" and is one of the oldest towns of Himachal Pradesh, with about 81 temples of different Gods and Goddesses in its periphery. There are several legends linked to the celebration of Shivaratri. The festival is centered around the protector deity of Mandi "Mado Rai" (Lord Vishnu) and Lord Shiva of the Bhootnath temple in Mandi. This festival is celebrated with great fervor in Mandi and it is common to see many foreign tourists throng to this region, especially to partake in the Maha Shivaratri celebrations in Mandi, Himachal Pradesh.
Hindus in Bangladesh also celebrate Maha Shivaratri. They fast in hopes of getting the divine blessing of Lord Shiva. Many Bangladeshi Hindus go to Chandranath Dham (Chittangong) to observe this special day. It is said by Bangladeshi Hindus that those who fast and perform the Puja will receive a good Husband/Wife, making Maha Shivaratri extremely popular with Hindus all over Bangladesh.
Central India has a large number of Shiva followers. The Mahakaleshwar Temple, Ujjain is one of the most venerated shrines consecrated to Lord Shiva where a large congregation of Shiva devotees turns up every year to offer prayers on the day of Maha Shivaratri. Tilwara Ghat in the city of Jabalpur and the Math Temple in the village of Jeonara, Seoni are two other places where the festival is celebrated with much religious fervor.
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated widely in the temples all over Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
This is a very special and rare puja conducted during the 10 days of the Maha Sivarathri festival. It is well known that Lord Siva is abhishekapriya (lover of ablutions). Lord Parasurama and Kroshta Muni, during their worship of the Lord here, are believed to have bathed the deity with Sahasrakalasam or a thousand pots of holy water, according to Vedic rites. Now during Maha Shivarathri festival, the Head Priest (Thanthri) and his team perform this puja. It is a ten-day function, each day an offering of 101 Kalasam or pots of holy water (100 being made of silver, while one is made of gold), charged with mantras recited by learned Brahmins seated on the Mukhamantapam. The pots are emptied onto Lord Shiva's statue, the golden pot Brahmakalasam being the last one. A magnificent light is the indication or identity of Lord Shiva and the Shiva Lingam is considered to be the symbol of it. Hence, the formal worship on Maha Shivaratri consists of bathing the Shiva Lingam. Lord Shiva is said to be burning with the fire of austerity and so only those items are offered to Him that have a cooling effect. A cool water bath is believed propitious and to satisfy Shiva best. There is a belief among devotees that participation in Sahasrakalasam and offering holy worship will lead to blessings from Lord Shiva for prosperity and a peaceful life. Hundreds of devotees throng the shrine, chanting "Namah Shivaya", "Hara hara Mahadeva", and "Sambho Mahadeva"...
Sivarathri Nrutham at Thrikkuratti temple, according to religious scholars, resembles the cosmic dance of Shiva, called 'Anandatandava,' meaning, 'the Dance of Bliss' symbolising the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction, as well as the daily rhythm of birth and death. The dance is a pictorial allegory of the five principle manifestations of eternal energy – creation, destruction, preservation, salvation, and illusion.
The Priest keeps sheeveli vigraha (idol) fixed on decorated frame on his head. He makes seven rounds on Pradakshina Vazhi (holy walkway made of granite around Sanctum Santorum). When the fifth round is reached at the west nada (Parvathi nada), the door opens for just 10 minutes. This is an annual ceremony. Thousands of Pilgrims rush to have a glance of this auspicious moment. At this time all the pradakshina vazhi will be lit with camphor and brass temple lamps by thousands of devotes who stay awake through the night while chanting "Nama Sivaya", "Hara Hara Mahadeva" and "Sambho Mahadeva". Older devotees sing "Hara sankara siva sankara duritham kala sivane". In this enlightened serene mood, the Priest performs Nrutham and runs the pradakshina vazhi towards the east nada. During the next two rounds he accepts "Valiya kanikka". The Sivarathri Nrutham is followed by the well known magnificent display of fireworks.
On the evening of the Maha Shivarathri festival, a grand procession starts from Kadapra Kainikkara Temple. It includes: several decorated floats, Kaavadi Aaatam, Mayilattom, Amman Kudom, Thaiyyam, Vela Kali, Kuthiyotta Chuvadu, richly caparisoned elephants and folk art forms. This procession attracts thousands of devotees and tourists. When the main procession reaches Market Junction, other mini processions from Kurattikkadu Mutharamman Temple, Kurattissery Kannamkavil Mutharamman Temple, Thrippavoor Mahavishnu Temple, Vishavarsherikkara Subrahmanya Swami Temple, Sreekaryam Maliekal Rajan Temple, and Alumoodu Sivaparvathy Temple join and make the procession even more magnificent. The marvellous as well as magical effect of the Sinakari Melam and Panchavadyam, a combination of five percussion and wind instruments, is heard and enjoyed. Among the varieties of festivals celebrated in Kerala, the Thrikkuratti Sivarathri procession is one of the most thunderous, spectacular and dazzling. It is an expression of popular fascination for sound and colour, and because of the pageantry, it appeals to all people, including foreigners. Once the procession reaches the temple, Deeparadhana is followed by a colourful display of fireworks.
Shiva, as the God of destroying evil, is the third among the divine trinity of Hindu mythology. Shiva's holy mantra, consisting of the five-syllables: "Na" "Ma" "Shi" "Vaa" "Ya" (Om NamaH Shivaaya) which praise Lord Shiva, is chanted incessantly on special occasions like Maha Shivaratri. Shiva's thousands of names, each describing His greatness, may also be chanted. Shiva means "auspicious". As Shankara, He is the giver of happiness to all. Nataraja (the king of dancers) is a favourite form of Lord Shiva's, revered especially by dancers and musicians.
Offering water to shiva along with Vedic and tantric mantras is known as Rudrabhishek (ablution to rudra). There are eight chapters of Yajurveda which are chanted by learned bramhins in particular tone and meter. These verses or mantras are known as (RUDRADHYAYA OR RUDRASHTDHYAYI). This is the longest eulogy for any single god in all four vedas,and has great significance and importance. THE mantras are very powerful and hypnotic when you just listen to it one receives tremendous positive energies no wonder millions of foreigners also throng shiva temples for witnessing Shivas worship. Ujjains BHASMA ABHISHEK is very famous and mystically powerful and blissful which is done chanting Rudrashtadhyai. Doing rudrabhsihek anyways is most powerful worship and remedy for all problems and to get immense joy of worship. Astrologers also advise Rudrabhishek and Maha Mrityunjay jaap as lender of last resort most potent to destroy sins and any problems and bringer of tremendous spiritual and mundane benefits.
There are many types of Rudra Abhishek like laghu rudra ,Maharudra ,Atirudra etc,where these chapters are chanted many times. Among these mantras NAMAKAM AND CHAMAKAM. (5th and 8th Adhyaya (Chapters)) are most important and chanted several times like 11, 101 or 10001 or even laks. These mantras are very powerful and can do miracles gives all wealth health and spiritual powers. These special set of mantras in the Vedas, are also known as Rudra Sukta, Neela Sookta, Shat Rudri or Rudri among others, which is recited by Bramhan/pundits (priests) while they offer a holy bath to the Shiva-lingam, with the waters of sacred rivers like the Ganges, as well as cow milk, curd (yogurt), butter,ghee, honey, sugarcane juice or mango juice, sacred ashes (as in ujjain) and sugar powder among other permitted things as per vedas. This ritual, known as "Rudrabhisheka", is most important part of Shiva-puja.
According to the Puranas, shivas abode known as Mahakailasa is highest among other heavens of all other gods. The Kailasa peak of the Himalayas represents abode of Shiva and He bears the Ganges on His head. As the Lord of all living beings creatures, He is metaphorically called the Pashupathi (with Nandi, the bull, His favourite animal) and His fearless nature is captured by the title of Sarpabhushana. Shiva's posture in the meditation is ascribed to Him as the head of Yogis (Yogiraja), who practice various spiritual feats to attain salvation. Lord Shiva's divine consort, Goddess Parvati (who is also the daughter of Himalaya), is the deity of all energy of whole cosmos THE SHAKTI (ENERGY).
Shivas is god and father of all beings including gods. and all these creatures or living beings are bounded by five ropes known as pancha pasha, which compels beings to be under maya and circle of creation and destruction. So all beings are pashus (animals bound by five impurities), and being there god shiva is pashupati. Those who are his devotees Shiva unbinds them from these five clutches and makes them god as they are shivas fragments originally but obscured by five impurities. Krishna, Vishnu many other gods kings and sages have took PASHUPAT VRATA, (Vow of Shivas way) and performed Shiva poojan and got many boons and blessings. Mohenderjodaros artifacts have few metal coins where shiva as pashupati is shown worshipped, proves that his worship is most ancient, and pashupati form of shiva is very much revered. Shivas realm there are many paths which start from taking deeksha or vow like ,Viraja deeksha (Lord rama took it form agastya), pashupat vrata (lord krishna took this vow and did penances for log time). Kapalik vrata (originated from lord Bhairava), Aghor vrata (Tantrik vow), samayachar vrata. Kaul deeksha, Dakshinamoorti deeksha etc among many others.
It is the most important festival for Kashmiri Brahmins. It is celebrated in every household as the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. The festivities start 3–4 days before Maha Shivaratri and continue for two days after it.
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