Festival Of Mahashivratri
Mahashivratri is one of the most significant sacred festivals of India and is celebrated on the new moon day in the month of Magha according to the Hindu calendar. This year Mahashivaratri will be celebrated on the 13th of February 2018.
This festival is celebrated each year in honour of Lord Shiva, who is considered the first Guru from whom the yogic tradition originated. According to the Hindu calendar, there is a Shivaratri in every luni-solar month, which is on the 13th night/ 14th day. But once every year, in late winter [February/ March] and before summer, there comes the darkest night of the year called Mahashivaratri which means ‘The Great Night of Shiva’. Unlike other Hindu festivals which are celebrated during the day, this one is celebrated at night.
A major day for Hindus, this festival is observed with great solemnity and reverence. The sacred chant of ‘Om Namah Shivay’ is recited through the day in all the Shiv temples. The celebration involves maintaining a ‘jaagran’ which is an all-night vigil with prayers. Offerings of milk, sweets, leaves and fruits are made to Lord Shiva. Devotees chant prayers, observe an all-day fast and some do meditative yoga in memory of Shiva. They also meditate and introspect on morals and values of honesty, forgiveness, self-restraint and the discovery of Shiva. The ardent devotees stay awake all night, while the others either visit one of the Shiv temples or go for a pilgrimage to the Jyotirlingams. It is believed that those who fast on this night and offer prayers to Lord Shiva, bring good luck into their lives.
This festival is celebrated in a big way in Ujjain, as it is believed to be place of residence of Lord Shiva. The faithful believe that sincere worship of Lord Shiva will help them be pardoned for all their sins and free them from the cycle of birth and death. It is also especially auspicious for women, where married women pray for the well-being of their husbands and single women pray for husbands like Shiva, who was considered the ideal husband.
It is believed that the alignment of the planets on this night are such that there is a powerful natural improvement of energy in the human body. Hence it is extremely beneficial for one’s physical and spiritual well-being, to stay awake in an upright position the whole night. Thus, plenty of devotees participate in all-night prayer sessions or festivities in the famous Jyotirlinga Shiva temples at Varanasi and Somnatha. The Isha Yoga Centre at Coimbatore also conducts all-night sessions by Sadhguru which is patronised by lakhs of devotees who also visit the 112 foot Adiyogi Shiva Statue.
Mahashivratri is also widely celebrated in places like Mandi in Himachal Pradesh, in Kashmir, Tilwara Ghat in Jabalpur, Math temple in the village of Jeonara, Seoni and Junagadh in Gujarat, besides several temples in Mahrashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. Several legends are attributed to the origin of this festival. Some believe that on this day, Shiv married Parvati, while others believe that on this day Shiv performed the ‘tandava’, the dance of primal creation and yet another legend states that on this day, Shiva manifested himself in the form of a ‘Linga’ which is considered very auspicious. On Shivratri, priests perform a ritual pooja of the Shivalingam every three hours by bathing it with milk, yoghurt, honey, sugar, ghee and water, while chanting ‘Om Namah Shivay’ and ringing the temple bells.
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