Maha Shivarathri Festival 2015
Significance of Maha Shivaratri - The Great Night of Lord Shiva
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated throughout India by those belonging to Hindu Religion. This festival is particularly popular in Uttar Pradesh. Maha Shivaratri means "The Big Night of Shiva" or "Auspicious darkness". It is a night of awakening. This festival is celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva. The Maha Shivratri day falls every year on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha (when the moon is waning and the sun is in the sign of Aquarius) of the month of Maagha or Phalguna in the Hindu calendar which falls on the night before the day of the new moon. This year the date of Shivratri falls on February 17, 2015.
Most of the ceremony takes place during the night. On this day, fasting and night vigil (jaagaran) is observed. Spiritual sadhanas, prayers and meditations performed on this night is said to yield better results than any other day. Shivratri fast is considered very auspicious and the benefits derived from it is said to be more than that one gets from performing an Ashwamedha Yagna. The fasting begins on the morning of Shivratri and ends the next day morning. Some Hindus observe a strict fast on the day by even avoiding water (nirjala vrat). Since it is a long fast many people consume a special meal consisting of fruits. Some others who observe fast on this day may consume non-cereal lighter meals made without onion, garlic or turmeric. However, no meal is eaten after sunset. Shivratri fast holds special significance for Hindu women. While a married woman prays and keeps fast for the happiness and health of her husband, an unmarried female observes fast for acquiring an ideal husband. Most devotees take bath with the water that is boiled with black sesame seeds before the sunrise itself. After that they wear clean clothes and visit the nearby temple for performing the traditional Shivalinga Pooja rituals like bathing the Shiv lingua with milk, offering garland and bel leaves etc. The devotee breaks the fast by consuming the prasad offered to Lord Shiva.
The Shiva Lingam is worshiped throughout the night at the temples. Mantras and Hymns to please Lord Shiva are chanted by devotees on Maha Shivratri with great devotion. Some of them are
- Shiva Panchakshara Mantra (Om Nama Shivaya Mantra)
- Shiva Shakti Panchakshari Mantra(Om Hrim Namah Shivaya)
- Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra
- Shiva Thandava Stotra by Ravana
- Shiva Mahimna Stotra of Pushpadanta
- Shiva Lingashtakam
- Shiva Ashtottara Shatanamavali (The 108 names of Lord Shiva)
- Dwadasa Jyotirlinga Stotram
In Kashmir, this festival is held for 15 days. In North India and Nepal people consume Bhang on this day. Most of the Shiva Temples, especially the 12 Jyotirlinga Temples of Bhagwan Shankar are crowded with devotees on this day.
Mahashivratri Rituals and Legend
It is believed that who utters the names of Shiva during Shivratri with utmost devotion is freed from all sins and liberated from the wheel of births and deaths. The Symbol of Lord Shiva, is the Shiva Lingam, is a form to represent the formless and it is worshiped with great splendor during Maha Shivaratri. On this day three horizontal stripes of holy ash applied to the forehead by worshipers of Lord Shiva representing the three eyes of Shiva symbolizing spiritual knowledge, purity and penance. This day is also considered an auspicious day for wearing Rudraksha Beads, Lord Shiva's holy bead and gift to the mankind.
There is a legend associated with the Maha Shivarathri. Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma once argued over who was the strongest and supreme of all. Lord Shiva challenged both of them and appeared as a flaming Linga and challenged them to measure the gigantic Linga. Neither Lord Vishnu nor Brahma could measure the Shivalinga. Then Lord Shiva came out of the Linga and declared himself the most powerful. It is also believed that it is on the day of Maha Shivrathri that the Shiva-Parvati marriage took place and when Lord Shiva danced the 'Tandav', the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction.
Mahashivratri Date for 2013, 2014 and 2015