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Mahashivratri - Shiva Birthday

BY Mr Shiv Sagar June 11,2020
Mahashivratri - Shiva Birthday

Mahashivratri - Shiva Birthday 

Shivratri, Maha Shivratri 

This is a festival to honour Lord Shiva, which is celebrated in the Hindu month of Phalgun( corresponding month being February- march in the Gregorian calendar) annually. Maha Shivaratri (Shiva Birthday) means ‘the great night of Shiva’. Lord Shiva is one of the three pillars of the holy trinity in Hinduism.

The festival is celebrated on the 13th day /14th night of the new moon,  with great devotion and religious pomp. The celebration of this festival entails, that the devotees fast through the day and night and perform the ritual of offering milk to the Shivalingam to please Lord Shiva.

This year 2019 it is falls on the 4th of March. On this day temples will be lit up and adorned with flowers. A steady flow of devotees who offer milk to Lord Shiva, pour milk over the shivaling.Devotees offer Bilva leaves at the temple, the tree itself is said to be created by Brahma and the leaf is said to have originated in the hands of Lakshmi after a long penance. It is believed that prayers offered to Shiva without these leaves are fruitless.

The flower offered to Shiva is the Datura, it is commonly known as a poisonous flower. One may wonder why a poisonous flower for the great Lord Shiva? Well, Shiva is known to be NeelKanth ( the one with the blue throat) , legend says he drank the water from the sea as the water was poisoned and saved the world. In the same way, he will take away all poison, envy, jealousy and negativity from his devotees and protecting them at all times.

Legends of the celebration :

There are many legends surrounding this festival. All of which are deemed to be true by devotees. But then such an ancient god and so much time in between, distortions of a story is plausable.

1. Maha Shivaratri (Shiva Birthday) is also associated with the wedding of Lord Shiva to Goddess Parvati.

2. Alternately there is a belief that Lord Shiva performed the Tandava on this day. Tandava is the dance of creation preservation and destruction. This form of Shiva is known as the ‘Nataraja’ the lord of the dance. Classical forms of dance worship this form of Lord Shiva.

3. Another legend from the Linga Purana states that it is on this day that Lord Shiva manifested in the form of a Linga or Lingam. So it Is considered to be extremely auspicious by Shiva devotees and they celebrate it as Maha Shivaratri – the grand night of Shiva.

4. Yet another belief is that Lord Shiva had consumed negativity to protect the world.

In Hinduism, it is considered a major Hindu festival and signifies, the triumph of light over dark and ignorance. It is observed by chanting prayers and fasting and meditating. The virtues of Shiva such as honesty, self-restraint, forgiveness and love are the key qualities that are strived for by observing this fast.The devotees observe a fast in the Honour of Lord Shiva, some observe a diet of only fruits and milk while some do not even consume a sip of water.

It is strongly believed, that by following this fast it absolves all sins and gives him or her mukti ( the release from the cycle of birth and death). Mostly women observe this fast to be blessed with a partner of similar virtues. As Lord Shiva is known to be a loving husband and a god of virtue.

Devotees, wake up early and bathe, if possible then in the holy river Ganga. They visit the temple and bathe the Shiva lingam with milk and water and flowers. The Lingam Is bathed with milk yoghurt honey ghee sugar and water accompanied by the chanting of ’Om Namah Shivaya’. The prayers are offered through the night, this is called ‘jaagran’. Most Shiva temples are filled with devotees singing hymns; they only break their fast at dawn with the prasad.

Linga or Lingam :

It is a well known fact that Hindu’s  worship the linga. But only a few know what the linga is symbolic of; It is the phallus and the yoni together. The phallus symbolising Lord Shiva and the Yoni symbolising Shakti, emphasising that the male and the female coexist and nothing can exist without each other.

This also depicts Shiva as timeless , formless and spaceless( parashiva- the phallus) and the parashakti – the yoni which all-pervasive, pure consciousness, power and primal substance of all that exists and it has form.Symbolising opposites in nature. In simple words, formlessness and form exist simultaneously.

How to observe the SHIVA Fast :

If you are keeping a fast on Mahashivratri (Shiva BirthDay) , be prepared as this is one of the toughest fasts of all. Simply because it is one of the longest fasts. All other fasts generally end at dusk, with the consumption of Prasad, but this continues through the night till morning.Some people observe the fast with the consumption of fruits and milk.
Many also do the ‘Nirjala Upaas’, in which the devotee will not even sip water till the prayers are offered. Which is, considered to be the most sacred of all.

Many devotees, even do ‘padh yatras’ or walks to auspicious, Shiva Temples that may be more than 100 kilometres away. Chanting the name of Shiva all the way, while many devotees visit the Jyotirlingas on this auspicious day.
Maha Shivaratri is mentioned in several ancient texts or Puranas, like the Skanda Purana, Linga Purana and Padma Purana.

These medieval era Shaiva texts present different mythologies associated with this festival, but all mention fasting and reverence of Shiva such as the Lingam. It is believed that this fast if observed correctly, brings abundance and prosperity into the devotee’s life and rids him of all his negativity.


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