Maha Shivratri

by Pandit Pankaj Guruji

Maha Shivratri

Maha Shivratri

Maha Shivratri

The most sacred festival that is celebrated across India by Hindus is Maha Shivratri. It is to honour Lord Shiva, who is the God of destruction, every year. This festival falls in February or March. It is celebrated based on the lunisolar calendar which usually falls in late winter.

Maha Shivratri is an excellent night for Shiva. People keep fast from morning to evening and break the fast by worshipping the powerful God or performing the Maha Shivratri Puja. They only consume fruits during the day and stay awake the whole night, chanting the Shiva mantra and singing songs.

The festival resembles you to overcome darkness, and Lord Shiva performs the cosmic dance on this auspicious occasion. Some legends say this is the time to let go of all sins.

History and Significance

Different legends describe the significance of Maha Shivratri. According to one legend in the Shaivism tradition, this is the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation, and destruction. The chanting of hymns, the reading of Shiva’s scriptures, and the chorus of devotees join this cosmic dance and remember Shiva’s presence everywhere. According to another legend, this is the night when Shiva and Parvati got married.

Yet another legend states that the offering to Shiva icons such as the linga is an annual occasion to get over past sins if any, to restart on a virtuous path and thereby reach Mount Kailasha and liberation.

A legend explains the all-night worship of Shiva on Shivratri. There was once a poor tribal man who was a great devotee of Shiva. One day he went deep into the forest to collect firewood. However, he lost his way and could not return home before nightfall.

As darkness fell, he heard the growls of wild animals. Terrified, he climbed onto the nearest tree for shelter till daybreak. Perched amongst the branches, he was afraid he would doze and fall off the tree. To stay awake, he decided to pluck a leaf at a time from the tree and drop it, while chanting the name of Shiva. At dawn, he realized that he had dropped a thousand leaves onto a Linga to keep himself awake. The tree happened to be a wood apple or bel tree. This unwitting all-night worship pleased Shiva, by whose grace the tribal was rewarded with divine bliss. This story is also recited on Maha Shivaratri by devotees on fast. After observing the all-night fast, devotees eat the Prasad offered to Shiva.

Immediately after Maha Shivaratri, almost like a miracle, the trees are full of flowers as if to announce that after winter, the fertility of the earth has been rejuvenated. And this perhaps is the reason why the Linga is worshiped throughout India as a symbol of fertility.

Maha Shivaratri is thus not only a ritual but also a cosmic definition of the Hindu universe. It dispels ignorance, emanates the light of knowledge, makes one aware of the universe, ushers in the spring after the cold and dry winter, and invokes the supreme power to take cognizance of the beings that were created by him.

Maha Shivratri Puja Time and Date in 2024

Maha shivratri Puja time or Shivaratri Jagran date in 2024 is falling on Saturday, 8 March 2024

Why Do We Celebrate Maha Shivaratri?

Mahashivaratri will signify the togetherness of Lord Shiva and Shakthi. They are the two forms of energy and have come together to become powerful. Marriage is all about being together and emerging as a strong force in every step of life. If one commits a wrong, the other should correct them.

When it comes to the history of this auspicious occasion, Lord Shiva married Shakthi for the second time, his divine companion. They got married and consummated the marriage on this day.

It is also a day where the male and female energies are converged to keep the world balanced. The couple is a symbol of love, oneness, and power. Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi have tied the knot on this day. Purusha is an embodiment of Lord Shiva, and Goddess Parvathi embodies Prakriti. The union of both powers will facilitate creation.

Another story emerged during the Samudra Manthan. A pot occurred with valuable possession and poison. All demons and gods were horrified and worried that this poison would destroy the world. However, Lord Shiva went to help by consuming this poison and locked this in their throat instead of swallowing it. Because of this, the throat of Lord Shiva would be blue, and since then, he has been called Neelakantha.

The Legend of Maha Shivratri

Story of Lord Shiva And Parvati

Most of us are familiar with the Lord Shiva love story. Even after Sati’s death, his devotion to the goddess Sati was so intense and sincere that it prevented him from falling in love with any other woman. Goddess Parvati, a stunning young woman who had never been married and had a great love and devotion for the Lord, waited for Shiva to embrace her love. Goddess Parvati ultimately won the Lord’s heart after enduring severe penance and intense meditation. On this day, Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva got hitched and became one. Therefore, unmarried women pray on this day for a spouse like Shiva, who is regarded as the perfect husband.

The Significance of The Festival In Hindu Mythology

Families celebrate Mahashivratri as the anniversary of Shiva and Parvati’s nuptials. Those with worldly aspirations consider that day to be when Shiva defeats all of his foes. For ascetics, though, it is remembered as the day he melded with Mount Kailash. He became utterly still, like a mountain. He spent countless ages in meditation until becoming ultimately still one day. It is Mahashivratri on that day. Ascetics refers to Mahashivratri as the “night of stillness” because all motion in him ceased, and he became utterly motionless.

How Is The Festival Associated With The Victory Of Good Over Evil?

Shiva saved the world on the festival of Shivratri, according to legend. One myth states that a pot of poison emerged from the sea. To prevent the poison’s evil effects from spreading throughout the planet, Shiva drank the entire dose and kept it in his throat instead of swallowing it. His throat turns blue as a result, giving him the title Neelakantha.

What To Do On Maha Shivaratri?

Observe fasting

Many people across India and other Hindus in different countries will observe fast on this auspicious day. Keeping fast will also help the body to detoxify the toxic chemicals and bring calmness to mind. The mind that is not in resting mode would easily slip into meditation. Fasting will detoxify the body and helps in meditation. On this day, consume easily digestible food such as fruits and light foods.

Perform Meditation & Chanting

The meditation performed on the night of Maha Shivaratri is considered highly auspicious. People should stay awake on this day and meditate by chanting the Mantra of Shiva. If you cannot meditate every day, it is good to meditate on this special day to get closer to God.

Worship Shiv Linga

Shivalinga is worshipped on this day, representing Lord Shiva’s form. You can use the bel tree leaves to worship Lord Shiva to please him. Bel Patra represents three aspects: Rajas, Tamas, and Sattva. These all bring positivity, peace, and creativity. These will have a significant impact on the mind and actions you perform. When you surrender all three of them to God, it gives you the freedom and peace you want in life. Devotees also perform Rudrabhishek Puja on Maha Shivratri to attain their desires by pleasing and worshipping Lord Shiva.

Perform Maha Shivratri puja 

Maha Shivratri Puja is a religious act to honor Shiva, the Destroyer. There are special Vedic mantras that are chanted while performing the rituals. Performing this Puja brings in a lot of positivity and peace, and it will help you to vent out the negative emotions that have engulfed you. When you participate in the Puja and chant the Mantra, you can easily slip into meditation. Maha Mritunjaya Havan is also performed on this auspicious day to eliminate all adverse events and energies.

Things You Should Avoid During Maha Shivratri Puja

  • Do not sleep during Puja and evening time
  • Do not consume non-veg food.
  • Restrain yourself from any quarrels
  • Do not waste time in movies and completely engage yourself in the world of Lord Shiva by doing meditation or chanting the Mantra.
  • Avoid tamsik bhojna.

How To Prepare Samagri For Maha Shivratri Puja?

There is a list of items you would need to carry when you want to perform Maha Shivratri Puja on the Mahashivratri Muhurat. A few include fruits, juice datura, yogurt, honey, Deepak flowers, bel Patra, and Aak.

There are some more items that you would need to perform the Puja, which include:

Wooden ChowkiDifferent types of flowers such as Datura flowers, roses, Rajnigandha, and other flowersGangajal
Oil lampIncense sticksDry fruits
Sesame oilFood without using garlic and onionBetel nut leaves
MatchboxSandalwood pasteFresh pieces of cloth
Cotton wicksRice with turmericPerfume
Camphor for performing aartiGulal 

SmartPuja experts pandits will help you with the entire checklist of pujan samagri required to make the process easier. Moreover, the pandit-jee assigned to you will also carry some essential items for puja preparations, offering cost and time-saving benefits to devotees.

What Are The Mahashivratri Puja Vidhi?

The following is the Maha Shivratri Puja Vidhi that people follow to perform Maha Shivratri Puja:

  • Maha Shivratri is celebrated in different ways across different states in India. They perform various rituals. The essential Puja is to visit Lord Shiva’s temple in the morning to take his blessings. People also ensure to complete the Puja before the afternoon and visit the Temple for Darshana. When performing the Puja, people will offer water, milk, and other items like fruits, Bilva leaves, and Dhatura to Shiva. The Lord loves these.
  • People often believe that they have to wake up early in the morning on this auspicious day and add sesame seeds to the bathing water to take a bath with this to purify the soul and body. People can take a holy dip in the Ganga River. if possible
  • When taking a bath, people take an oath to keep the fast until evening and consume only fruits. They break the fast the next day to seek the blessings of the Lord and have a good life.
  • Fast is tough for devotees to observe. They can only have fruits and milk during the day. People do not even consume water until evening.
  • In the evening, they take a bath and go to the temple close to their home. Few will perform Puja at home by making the Shiva Linga with mud and applying ghee to the deity.
  • Various materials used to perform this pooja are milk, yogurt, ghee, sugar, sandalwood, and water. Mahashivratiri pooja time will be in the morning, done once or a couple of times in a day.
  • People who want to perform Prahar Puja will carry out Abhishek on the first Prahar and the second Prahar; they carry out the Abhishek with curd, in the third Prahar, with ghee, and on the fourth Prahar, with honey.
  • After performing these rituals, Lord Shiva is adorned with Bilva leaves. These are considered to be the placate of Lord Shiva.
  • After adorning Shiva with Bilva, the Chandan and Kumkum, along with Dhup, are used. Bhasm and Vibhuti are also amongst the items offered to the mighty God.
  • While performing this pooja, chant the Om Namah Shivaya” Mantra. Break your fast after taking a bath and before Chaturdashi Tithi.
  • Consume only one meal a day before this auspicious day so that the undigested food is not inside the body when you are on a fast.

How Is Maha Shivratri Puja Performed In North India?

In North India in Jammu & Kashmir, the pooja is performed in a unique way where they take two pots, each depicting Lord Shiva and Maa Shakthi. These pots are filled with walnuts and water and are kept undisturbed for around three days. On the no-moon day, the soaked walnuts are taken out of the pot and distributed to the family members.

How is Maha Shivratri Puja Performed In South India?

In South India, the Puja is performed by fasting, followed by Jaagarana, where devotees are awake the whole night. They recite the mantras and perform Abhishek of Shiva Linga with milk and Bael leaves. Other poojas are also conducted throughout the day and will continue until the next day.

  • Mahashivratri 4 Pahar Puja

It is done once or four times on the night of this auspicious day in different ways. The night is divided into four Pahars to worship God in four different ways. Each Pahar will use a different way to worship. Rudrabhishek has a lot of importance on this day.

  • Maha Shivaratri Pooja at Home

Performing this pooja at home would need water and milk in one vessel. You would need various worship items, such as jaggery, Indian sweets, red power, rice, colorful thread, coins, lamp, clove, supari, cardamom, fruits and flowers, Bilwa leaves, and doob, Chandan, and Datura. The five stones would be set to worship, such as Lord Ganesha, Shiva, Maa Parvathi, Lord Brahma, and cow. The ritual is performed by listening to the story.

FAQ Related to Maha Shivratri Festival

1. What is the importance of fasting during Maha Shivratri?

The purpose of the Mahashivratri fast is to strengthen prayers and atone for sins.

2. What are the traditional foods consumed during the festival?

During the Maha Shivratri fast, buckwheat, sabudana, or ragi foods that are not cereal-based are allowed.

3. What are the different customs and traditions followed in different regions of India during Maha Shivratri?

Every region has its way of celebrating Maha Shivratri. In some areas, processions are carried out, melas are hosted, and every region has different rituals.

4. What is the significance of offering Bael leaves to Lord Shiva during the festival?

The Bel tree is regarded as the best tree to venerate Lord Shiva because it is stated that every component of the tree contains the goddess Parvati. It is stated that by just placing bel leaves on a Shivling, devotees might receive special blessings from Shiva.

5. How does the celebration of Maha Shivratri differ in northern and southern India?

In some parts of south India, Lord Shiva is worshipped after being carried to the river in a chariot with drummers. In north India, people go to temples to worship Shivling.

6. What is the significance of the night-long vigil during Maha Shivratri?

In essence, remaining awake at night is a symbol of awareness; this nightly custom is meant to ensure that we can stay alert and allow the natural rush of energy to move higher.

7. What are the popular destinations in India for celebrating Maha Shivratri?

Haridwar, Rishikesh, Mandi, Srikalahasti, Srisailam, Guwahati, Sivasagar, and Khajuraho are popular destinations in India for celebrating Maha Shivratri.

8. How has the celebration of Maha Shivratri evolved?

People used to celebrate Maha Shivratri at night and end it by morning, but nowadays, many people have started celebrating it in the morning.

9. What is the significance of Lord Shiva’s marriage to Parvati during the festival?

Shiva and Shakti are two manifestations of the same force, and they are only complete or potent combined.

10. What is the connection between Maha Shivratri and the victory of good over evil?

It is believed that Lord Shiva drank the poison to save the world on this day, and another legend says Lord Shiva did Tandav to save the world from destruction.

11. What is the role of music and dance during the celebration of Maha Shivratri?

Shiva dances the divine dance of preservation, creation, and destruction on this particular night.

12. What is the significance of the Shiva Linga during the festival?

Since ancient times, worshippers have worshipped the Shiva Linga as a representation of energy, creation, and enlightenment. The Puranas and Tantras hold that the linga arises from the yoni, which denotes the beginning of the entire cosmos.

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