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Maha Shivaratri: The All India Hindu Festival
Maha Shivaratri is a festival being celebrated across India. The word 'Maha' means great and Siva is a most revered God in Hindu Philosophy and 'Ratri' means Night. So 'Maha Shivaratri' means The Great Night of Lord Siva or Siva's night. The intensity of its observance is same everywhere in India. In the North, South, West & East people celebrate Shivaratri with equal enthusiasm and devotion. It is a Hindu festival and has a strong base of spirituality.
Maha Shivaratri is joyously celebrated on the night of the 14th day of Krishna Paksha of Falgun as per the Hindu calendar. It normally comes during February or March. Next time it happens on 13th of February, 2018.
Faithful take one meal on a preceding day and keep fast for the whole day on the Shivaratri. Women follow this custom very seriously. On the festival day, the night is dedicated to Lord Shiva to his worship. The practice of various austerities and meditation are strictly observed by devotees. A large queue of devotees can be seen at all Shiva temples. The temples are well decorated and illuminated. Grand poojas are offered to please and get the blessing of Lord Shiva. Some grand entertainment programs are also the usual scene at certain Siva temples.
On that night, the devotees do not sleep. they gather in temples. Chanting Slokas, Manthras and singing Bhajans, they spend time. To keep them awake the whole night (as it is custom to remain sleepless), cultural programs are being performed. These entertainment programs usually start by midnight and run up to the early morning next day. It is the night for Siva actually. It is believed that he takes a good sleep on this night while his devotees avoid their sleep.
Shivaratri celebration in Mauritius (A Video)
How to observe Shivaratri
There are certain guidelines for devotees to observe this festival, which I narrate below;
- Observe fast on this day. Avoid usual take of foods. Have only fruits and milk
- Perform Pooja ( a kind of Hindu worship) to please Lord Shiva.
- Chant various hymns and devotional songs of Lord Shiva
- If possible, perform Rudrabhisheka
- Chant the mantra "Om Namah Shivaya" as much as you can.
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Rather than festivity, what makes Shivaratri a different experience is the observance of austerity and devotional activities. Also, Pandits and Purohits (Poojaris or Priests) assemble at Shiva temples and participate in mega-rituals like 'Abhishek' 'Rudra Mahayagna' and various rounds of 'Archanas' (Poojas) with flowers. They chant Siva's one thousand holy names. This ritual is called "Laksharchana" or "Koti Archana" depending upon the number of rounds by which the Archanas are completed.
Sivaratri is a great experience. If you visit the Northern part of India during the season you could witness this grand festival of Hindus in its full vibration. If you are in the Southern part of India, it would be fine you reach the banks of Aluva River. Aluva is a town in Ernakulam district in Kerala. Please do come and be part of the grand celebration with joy and devotion.
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Shiva is the God of Gods. He is the Lord of the Universe. Hindus worship him with utmost devotion. He is one of the most powerful gods. Siva is also known by many names like Neelakanta, Adi, etc. Read more about Shiva by clicking the above title.
© 2013 Sunil Kumar Kunnoth