Why Do We Celebrate Shivratri? History, Significance & Celebration | Kidadl


Why Do We Celebrate Shivratri? History, Significance & Celebration

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There are over 365 festivals celebrated in India.

A total of 12 Shivratris are observed each year. Out of all these festivals, Maha Shivratri observed on the new moon day in the month of Maagha (February or March) according to the Hindu calendar, is the most significant Shivratri.

Maha Shivaratri is also the most auspicious Shivratri. Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival. This festival is celebrated for 3 or 10 days. The duration of the celebration of Maha Shivaratri depends on the Hindu calendar (lunisolar). Maha Shivratri translates to the great night of Shiva in Sanskrit. The devotees of Shiva in Kashmir call this festival Har-Ratri, Haerath, or Herath. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated between February and March.

Over 90% of the Hindu festivals are celebrated during the daytime. Maha Shivratri festival is one of the few festivals that is celebrated at night. Lord Shiva performs the heavenly dance or the cosmic dance. This Hindu festival is celebrated to honor Lord Shiva. Devotees celebrate this festival by fasting and chanting mantras to attain moksha (salvation). This also brings good luck to their life. Continue reading to know more about the significance and purpose of Shivratri and why we celebrate Maha Shivratri?

History Of Maha Shivratri

The history of Maha Shivratri, the festival that is celebrated annually to honor Lord Shiva, is quite perplexing as there are several stories tied to the origin of this festival. Kanda Purana, Linga Purana, and Padma Purana are some of the Puranas that talk about the history of Maha Shivratri.

According to one story, during the Samudra Manthan (milking of the ocean), a pot of poison came when amrita (the elixir of life) was taken from the sea. Both gods and devils were scared of the possibility of this poison wiping out the entire universe. They sought the assistance of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva, in an attempt to save the planet from deadly repercussions, drank the pot of poison. Alarmed by his actions, his wife goddess Parvati grabbed his neck, stopping the poison from spreading further. Hence the throat of Lord Shiva is blue as a sign of this poison. Shiva saved the world, and Maha Shivratri is a festival celebrated annually to commemorate the sacrifice of Lord Shiva.

According to another legend, during Maha Shivratri, Lord Shiva performs the dance of creation, preservation, and destruction. It is also known as the cosmic dance. Reading the literature of Lord Shiva and reciting mantras contribute to Shiva's dance of creation, preservation, and destruction of the cosmic dance.

Another legend says that Maha Shivratri is a festival that marks the convergence between Shiva and Shakti. Lord Shiva's first wife, Sati, died to uphold the honor of her husband. She was reborn as Shakti, a devotee. Shiva and Shakti are the two major forces in the universe. This night marks the reunion of Shiva and Shakti. The male energy and female energy of both of them come together and balance the world.

According to one story, the Hindu gods, Lord Brahma and Vishnu had a battle to prove their superiority against each other. All other gods came together and asked Lord Shiva to intervene and stop the fight to prevent fatal accidents. To show Lord Brahma and Vishnu how foolish their fight was, Lord Shiva appeared in the form of a gigantic fire spreading through the whole cosmos. Both gods decided to establish dominance by finding the ends of the fire due to its magnitude. To win the battle, Brahma took the swan form and Vishnu took the Varaha (boar) form.

The fire had no end or starting point. Both the gods traveled several miles but in vain. Brahma found the Ketaki flower, which had been laid at the top of the fire as a sacrifice. Lord Brahma, without reaching the end of the fire, took this flower as a witness. Lord Shiva was angered by the lie and took his true form. Since Shiva took his original form as a linga on the 14th day of the month of Phalguna, according to the Hindu Calendar, this day is celebrated annually as Maha Shivratri or the great night of Lord Shiva.

Another interesting legend talks about a hunter called Lubdhaka. On Chaturdashi (14th day) of the Krishna Paksha of Phalgun month, this hunter was roaming the banks of the Kolidum River. He was frightened by the growl of a tiger. He immediately ran as fast as he could and sat on top of a bilva or bael tree. The tiger waited for the hunter under the tree. The hunter stayed awake all night to keep himself from falling off this tree. To stay awake, he plucked the leaves of the tree and dropped them on the ground.

He kept on praying to Lord Shiva all through the night by chanting the 'Om Namah Shivaya' mantra. There was a shivling buried under the tree. Without realizing it, the hunter was dropping Lord Shiva's favorite leaves on the shivling. This led to the worship of shivling. The following day at dawn, the tiger had left. Instead, Lord Shiva appeared in front of the hunter and blessed him. He was liberated from the cycle of death and rebirth and attained moksha.

According to another legend, we celebrate Maha Shivratri to honor the savior of the world. When goddess Ganga came from heaven (in river form) and was about to reach the Earth in full force, Lord Shiva caught her in his matted rocks. He then placed her on the Earth as several streams preventing the destruction of the Earth.

Significance Of Maha Shivratri

Maha Shivratri, or the great night of Shiva, is an important Hindu festival for several people from all over the world. In Hindu mythology, it is believed that devotees who sincerely worship Lord Shiva during this festival attain moksha and that all their sins are forgiven.

Instead of going to Lord Yama's abode, Naraka (hell), devotees go to Lord Shankar's abode, Mount Kailash. The word Shiva is split into three words, which tell us the essence of the festival. 'Sha-ee-va', 'sha' means shareeram or body, 'ee' means eshwari or life-giving energy, and 'va' means vayu or motion. Science has given us enough reasons to believe that everything comes from nothing and goes back to nothing. Shiva is said to be the god of this vast emptiness, which is present anywhere and everywhere. This festival acknowledges and appreciates the fact that all creations begin at this unbounded emptiness, Shiva.

Married couples view Maha Shivaratri as the day when Shiva and Shakti consummated. Both married and unmarried women fast on this day. This is done to make Goddess Shakti, who is also known as Gaura, the goddess who grants a joyful and long-lasting marriage life to all her devotees. Lord Shiva is regarded as the ideal husband. Unmarried women fast and chant mantras in the hope that they will also have a husband like Lord Shiva.

The foundation of all realms lies in the third eye of Lord Shiva, which is beyond tangible. It also offers a multidimensional experience. The festival of Maha Shivratri helps in expanding the third eye of humans and helps in multidimensional understanding, understanding the environment and oneself. There is a natural increase in forces within the human body during Maha Shivratri. Praying to Lord Shiva on Maha Shivaratri by sitting in a position that keeps the spine erect offers several advantages.

When the great night of Shiva, also known as Maha Shivratri, is celebrated, devotees stay awake all night and meditate. They do this to celebrate shiva tattva. Devotees of Lord Shiva and spiritual searchers benefit from Shiva's energies. Shiva symbolizes our soul, and shiva tattva is a notion of truth. It is believed that by meditating, we gain a better understanding of our souls and learn the truth about them. Sadhana or meditation helps relax the body and mind. During this profound relaxation, devotees completely comprehend the significance of shiva tattva. Sadhana also allows devotees to expand their mental and intellectual horizons.

Maha Shivratri literally translates to the great night of Shiva.

When is Maha Shivratri celebrated?

Maha Shivaratri is celebrated on the 14th day of every lunar month, or the day before the new moon. This Hindu festival, Maha Shivaratri, is commemorated during the month of Phalguna as per the North Indian calendar. However, according to the South Indian calendar, this festival is observed during Krishna Paksha in the month of Magha on Chaturdashi. Maha Shivratri falls in February or March of the English calendar.

Depending on the planetary position, Maha Shivratri is celebrated in February or March. How does Maha Shivratri differ from the 12 other Shivratris in a year? The word Maha Shivratri is formed by two words. 'Shiv' means Lord shiva and 'ratri' means night. Maha Shivratri is celebrated once a year. All other Shivratris are celebrated each month.

How to do Maha Shivratri puja (veneration)?

It is believed that the puja must be carried out only during the Shubh Muhurat or Nishita Kaal puja time (auspicious timing). Nishita Kaal is the time when Shiva appeared as shivling on Earth. Devotees celebrate Maha Shivratri by fasting. They also visit Shiva temples and complete the puja. The rituals, traditions, and puja differ depending on the region.

According to texts from various religious Hindu books, it is said that devotees must start the puja by waking up early in the morning. Sesame seed must be added to the bathwater to purify the body and soul. It is best to take a bath in the Ganges river in North India. An oath to fast for the whole day must be taken while bathing. The fast must only be broken on the subsequent day of Maha Shivratri. Pious devotees do not consume food of any form. However, other people who fast consume milk and fruits.

Shivling puja is done in the evening. Shivling puja is done to please Lord Shiva by offering all his favorite items, like curd, milk, honey, tender coconut, and bananas. Other items used are ghee, turmeric, sandalwood paste, fragrant oils, and flowers. Bathing the shivling in all these substances has a specific significance. All these items are offered to Lord Shiva while chanting the 'Om Namah Shivaya' mantra 51-108 times. The puja can be carried out one to four times. Generally, it is carried out by dividing the night into four prahars (an ancient unit of time) to carry out the puja four times. Maha Shivratri puja is also called Rudra puja. The puja involves singing various Vedic mantras, followed by particular rituals.

The linga is the original form of Shiva. Using the leaves of the bael tree in puja implies that you are offering three components of your being. Namely, the part of you that is accountable for action called rajas, the part of you that is accountable for lethargy called tamas, and the part of you that is responsible for tranquility called sattva. These three factors have an impact on your behavior and thoughts. It is said that by surrendering these three aspects, you get peace and liberation. Performing the linga puja helps remove all the negative energies. It gives optimism and purifies the environment.

Did You Know...

In the yogic tradition, Lord Shiva is not worshipped as a god. He is the Adi Guru. Adi Guru is the first guru (teacher) from whom yogic traditions and science originated.

In Tamilnadu, there is a particular devotional procedure called the Girivalam or Giri Pradakshina performed during Maha Shivaratri. It is an 8.6 mi (14 km) barefoot walk around one of Lord Shiva's temples, the Annamalaiyar temple in Thiruvannamalai district. People also visit Lord Shiva's other temples like the ones in Varanasi and Somanath. There are over 10,000 Shiva temples in India. Kedarnath Temple (Uttarakhand), Somnath Temple (Gujarat), Mallikarjuna Swamy Temple (Andhra Pradesh), and Mandi (Madhya Pradesh) are some of the famous Shiva temples in India.

Goddess Shakti is known by several other names, including Parvati, Durham, and Kali. The Hindu goddess Shakti or Parvati is responsible for the creation and all dynamic forces in the universe. Shakti is also called the Great Divine Mother or Universal Mother.

Shiva performs two different types of cosmic dances, namely the Rudra tandava and lasya. Shiva performs Rudra tandava as a sign of the dance of destruction. Lasya, known as ananda tandavam is a gentler form of dance associated with creation.

The mantra 'Om Namah Shivaya' literally means adoration to Lord Shiva. 'Om' in the mantras is a devotional syllable and refers to the sound of the universe. The five characters 'Na', 'Mah', 'Shi', 'Va', and 'Ya' in the mantra stand for the earth, water, fire, air, and ether, respectively.

Chaturdashi is a word derived from Sanskrit. Chaturdashi is the 14th day of the waxing phase of the moon. Chaturdashi has a specific significance for Bengalis.

Written By
Joan Agie

<p>With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.</p>

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