Har Har Mahadev
Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated in the honour of the God Shiva. It is solemn and marks a remembrance of overcoming darkness and ignorance in life and the world. There is a Shivaratri in every lunar-solar month of the Hindu calendar on the month’s 13thnight/14th day, but once a year in the late winter(February/March) and before the arrival of spring, marks Maha Shivaratri which means the “Great night of Shiva”. It is observed by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting, doing Yoga, and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty, noninjury to others, forgiveness, and the discovery of Shiva. The ardent devotees keep awake all night, others visit one of the Shiva temples or go on to pilgrimage to jyotirlingams. This is an ancient Hindu festival whose origin date is unknown. In Kashmir Shaivism, this festival is called Har-ratri or phonetically simpler Haerth or Herath by Shiva faithful’s of the Kashmir region.
Maha Shivaratri is Mentioned in Several Puranas, Particularly the Skanda Purana, Linga Purana, and Padma Purana. These Medieval era Shaiva texts present mythologies associated with this celebration, but all mention fasting and reverence for Shiva such as the Lingam.
Now let’s how it is celebrated in India—The major Jyotirlinga Shiva temples of India, such as Varanasi and Somnatha, are frequently visited on Maha Shivaratri. They also serve as sites for Fairs and special events. The Mandi fair is particularly famous as a venue for Maha Shivaratri celebrations: it transforms the town of Mandi as devotees pour in. It is believed that Gods & Goddess of this particular area, said to number more than 200, assemble here on the day of MahaShivaratri. Mandi, located on the Beas, is popularly known as the “Cathedral of Temples” and one of the oldest towns of Himachal Pradesh, with about 81 temples of different Gods & Goddess on its periphery.
Maha Shivaratri is the most Important festival which is celebrated in various parts of India in different beliefs—In Kashmir Shaivism, found in North Himalayan Region of the Indian Subcontinent. It is celebrated as Marriage of Shiva and Parvati. Central Part of India—The Mahakaleshwar Temple, Ujjain is one of the most important shrines, Tilwara Ghat in Jabalpur are two places celebrated with great Fervour. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in South India & western Parts too- All over Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana
Now as I pen down my thoughts on Maha Shivaratri Celebrations, I feel I have transcended to self- Realisation & Self-Contemplation of Shiva. Maha shivaratri is celebrated as a Hindu festival largely in India & Nepal. The festivals celebrated on the new moon day in the month of Maagha according to the Hindu calendar. Now most Importantly Why Hindus Celebrate Maha Shivaratri Festival?
As we all know the absolute formless Shiva, Sadashiv appeared in the form of “Lingodbhava Moorthi”, exactly at midnight on Maha shivaratri. That’s why all Shiva devotees keep vigil during the night of Shivaratri, and do “Shivalingam Abhishekam”, (Coronation of Phallic idol) at midnight. Let me also throw light on some of the important facts: God in his manifestation as Vishnu made his appearance as Krishna at Gokul at Midnight,180 days after Shivaratri, commonly known as Janmashtami. Thus, the circle of one year is divided into two by these two auspicious days of the Hindu Calendar.
Lord Shiva was married to Devi Parvati on Shivaratri. Remember Shiva minus Parvati is pure ‘Nirgun Brahmin’. With his illusive (Maya Parvati) he becomes the “Sagun Brahman”, for the purpose of the pious devotion of his devotees. It is also believed that on Shivaratri, Lord Shiva became “Neelkantha”, or the blue-throated by swallowing the deadly poison that came up during the churning of ‘Kshir Sagar’ or the milky ocean. The poison was so deadly that even a drop in his stomach, which represents the universe, would have annihilated the entire world. Hence, he held the poison in his neck, which turned to be blue due to the effect of poison. Thus, Shivaratri also a day for thanksgiving to the lord for protecting us from annihilation.
The 14th sloka of Shivamahima stotra says “O three-eyed Lord, when the poison came up through the churning of the ocean by the gods and demons, they were all aghast with fear as if the untimely end of all creation was imminent. In your kindness, you drank all the poison that still makes your throat blue in colour. O Lord, even this blue mark does but increase your glory. What is apparently a blemish, becomes an ornament in one intent on ridding the world from fear processes.
Shiva Rituals—On the day of Shivaratri, a three-tiered platform is built around a fire. The topmost plank represents ‘Swargaloka’(Heaven), the middle one ‘antarikshloka’(Space), and the bottom one ‘Bhuloka’(Earth). Eleven “Kalash”, or urns, are kept on the swargaloka plank, symbolizing 11 manifestations of the “Rudra”, or destructive Shiva. These are decorated with “Bilva leaves”, or Bael (Aegle marmelos), and mango atop a coconut representing the head of Shiva. The uncut shank of the coconut symbolizes his tangled hair and the three spots on the fruit Shiva’s three eyes.
Bathing the Phallus—The Phallus symbol representing Shiva is called the Lingam. It’s usually made of Granite, soapstone, quartz, marble, metal and has a ‘yoni’, or Vagina as its base, representing the union of organs. Devotees circle the Lingam and worship throughout the night. It is bathed every three hours, with the five sacred offerings of cow called the “Panchagavya”, milk, sour milk, urine, butter, and Dung. Then the five foods of immortality—milk, clarified butter, curd, honey, and sugar are placed before the Lingam. Datura fruit and flowers, though poisonous, are to be believed to be sacred to Shiva and are thus offered to him.
“OM Namah Shivaya”!
Throughout the day, the devotees keep severe fast chant the sacred Shiva Panchakshara Mantra “Om Namah Shivaaya”, and make lot of offerings of flowers and incense to the Lord amidst ringing of bells. They maintain long vigils during the night, keeping awake to listen to stories, hymns, and songs. The fast is broken next day morning only, after the nightlong worship. In Kashmir, its celebrated for 15days. The 13th day is observed as a day of fast followed by a family feast.
The Powerful God—
Lord Shiva is known by many names—Mahadev, Mahayogi, Pashupatinath, Nataraja, Bhairava, Viswanath, Bhava, Bholenath, –Lord Shiva is perhaps the most complex of Hindu deities, and of the most powerful Lord on this Universe. Shiva is “Shakti”, or power, Shiva is the destroyer—the most powerful god of the Hindu Pantheon and one of the godheads in the Hindu Trinity, along with Brahma and Vishnu. As recognition, Hindus separate his shrine from those of other deities in temple.
On this Auspicious occasion of Maha shivaratri people who are going through this Article will definitely have a blissful experience. He is one of three Hindu gods who are responsible for the creation, upkeep, and destruction of the Universe, making him an extremely significant and important god in Hinduism. Lord Shiva’s role was a destroyer to recreate it, with the destruction being viewed by Hindus as a positive and constructive thing that paves the way for ridding the world of imperfections. Lord Shiva is also believed to believed to be the God of Yoga and is often portrayed in a yoga position. Hindus believe that Shiv Linga represents the seed of the Universe and on Maha shivaratri the Shiv Linga is bathed in milk, water, and honey as it is worshipped. Beautiful flowers are placed around the statue. I hope Lord Shiva on the Occasion of Maha shivaratri bless everyone on this Planet Earth with lot of Peace and Tranquillity.
Dr. Sukanya Iyer