As per the Hindi mythology, Lord Shiva is considered as the Supreme Being the one with the immense power that exists through the universe. Lord Shiva, seen as the source of both good and evil, is the third God in the Hindu triumvirate.
On the 14th day of every lunar month, the auspicious festival of Shivaratri is celebrated. There are 12 Shivaratris in a year and one Maha Shivaratri. And, this year Maha Shivratri is being celebrated on Tuesday i.e. 13th February 2018 and will continue till 14th February 2018.
Significance of Maha Shivaratri
There are several legends around Maha Shivratri. According to a legend, Maha Shivaratri was the day when Shiva drank poisonous negativity to protect the world. Another legend says that it is the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation and destruction, while some believe that this is the night when Shiva and Parvati got married.
In Indian yogic tradition and some tradition of Tantra, Shiva is not treated like other gods. Known as Shambhu, Shankar, Mahesha or Mahadev, he is rather known as the teacher of all the teachers; as the first guru, the one from whom all the knowledge has descended onto the humanity. It is said that the yogic tradition – not only the one with asanas, but also the path of the self-realisation – began from him. Thus, Maha Shivratri is celebrated in various forms depending on the perspective. The worldly person celebrates Maha Shivratri as the anniversary of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, while the spiritual person looks at this day as one when Shiva attained victory over all of his enemies.
History of Maha Shivaratri
Several versions of stories are given, describing the origin of this festival.
According to one, when the earth was facing a major destruction, goddess Parvati pleaded him to save the world, listening to her prayers he agreed to save the people from the deluge. Since then the night was celebrated as Mahashivratri.
Another legend in shivapurana tells the story of Shiva. Once the two gods Vishnu and Brahma were fighting over the supremacy, who holds the superior position. Lord Shiva had to intervene to make them realize the futility of their fight. Angry with both of them he took the form of fire column between both of them. There was no result of this unnecessary fight and he revealed his true self. Since it was the 14th day of the month of Phalguna that Shiva took the form of a linga, the day was considered auspicious and was considered as a day to celebrate Shivratri.
One of the reasons for its celebration is also the marriage of Lord Shiva and goddess Parvati. It is believed that ardent devotees who worship him on this day are bestowed with prosperity, happiness and luck.
Maha Shivratri means the 'great night of god Shiva' and is celebrated in his reverence throughout India.
As per the Hindu calendar, every year the festival is celebrated on the new moon day in the month of Phalguna, before the arrival of spring. Devotees start praying from the midnight which continues till the next day. This year the festival will be celebrated on both 13th and 14th February.
There are certain perceptions about the festival. While some head to Shiva temples or go on pilgrimage to Jyotirlingams, some celebrate it as the day to observe stillness by chanting of Shiva mantra "Om Namah Shivaya", praying to Lord Shiva, keeping fast, practising yoga, meditation and self-restraint.
It is said to be a favourable period for women seeking marital bliss and a good husband, to worship goddess Gauri along with Lord Shiva.
While some people avoid all food and drink for the entire festival, others take part in a different form of fasting by following a restricted diet called phalar. It is traditional to fast during Maha Shivaratri, and many eat simple foods that are easily digested, such as milk, yoghurt, fruit, almonds, peanuts, cashews and honey. Those completing the fast and night vigil are thought to be blessed with happiness and prosperity.