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MahaShivaratri Puja (Shiv-Chaturdashi) & Significance of Maha Shivaratri Festival

MahaShivaratri Puja (Shiv-Chaturdashi) & Significance of Maha Shivaratri Festival

ॐ नमः शिवाय

maha-shivratri_1361341578Shivaratri Pooja has been given tremendous significance in Hindu mythology. Maha Shivaratri is a ceremonious occasion celebrated with religious fervor by Hindus all over India.  It is said that ritual worship of Lord Shiva on a Shivaratri day pleases Lord Shiva the most. Maha Shivaratri Festival is celebrated on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha of the month of Maagha (as per Shalivahana) or Phalguna (as per Vikrama) in the Hindu Calender every year. Maha Sivaratri Festival is dedicated to Lord Shiva, the Destroyer. Shivaratri means the Great Night of Shiva.

According to Hindu religious scripture, this day is considered as Lord Shiva’s Favorite Day and hence this festival is celebrated with a great religious fervor and devotion. Devotees further believe that by pleasing Lord Shankara on the auspicious Shivaratri day, a person is absolved of past sins and is blessed with Moksha or salvation. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the festival involves fasting and rigorous vigil in the night. Devotees of the deity get up early in the morning, take a holy bath and then indulge themselves in the merrymaking, which is all about worshipping Lord Shiva with immense devotion. People enjoy singing bhajans and songs all through the night, when they are awake to commemorate the festival. Special puja is conducted in Lord Shiva temples, as a part of the traditions. Besides, worship of Lord Shiva on Shivaratri is also considered to be extremely beneficial for women. While, married women pray to Shiva for the wellbeing of their husbands and sons, unmarried women pray for a husband like Shiva, who is considered to be the ideal husband.

Maha Shivaratri or Maha Shivaratri (Night of Shiva) is a Hindu festival, celebrated all over the country with great enthusiasm. Maha shivaratri in 2013 will be observed on Sunday, March 10, 2013

Ratri First Prahar Puja Time = 6:30pm to 09:30pm
Ratri Second Prahar Puja Time = 09:30pm to 12:35pm at night
Ratri Third Prahar Puja Time = 12:35pm to 03:40am
Ratri Fourth Prahar Puja Time = 03:40am to 06:40am

Significance of Maha Shivaratri
The legend of marriage of Shiva and Shakti is one the most important legends related to the festival of Maha Shivaratri. According to legend of Shiva and Shakti, the day Lord Shiva got married to Parvati is celebrated as Shivaratri – the Night of Lord Shiva. It is said that on this night Parvati prayed fervently for the wellbeing of Lord Shiva.

Shivaratri Legend says that on the auspicious night of Maha Shivaratri, Lord Shiva performed the “Tandava”, the dance of the primal Creation, Preservation and Destruction.

Another Shivaratri Legend stated in Linga Puranam mentioned that, on this Maha Shivaratri day, Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of Linga. When Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had a dispute over the beginning and the end of Lord Shiva, he manifested himself in the form of a ‘Lingum’ to portray that there is no beginning or end to his being. Hence this festival is celebrated with a great religious fervor by the Hindus in India.

Rituals of Maha Shivaratri
The devotees take an early morning bath and swarm the nearby Shiva temple in order to seek blessings from Lord Shiva and make offerings to the deity. The traditional Shiva-Linga puja is performed where the Shiva Linga is given a solemn bath with milk, rose water, curd, ghee, honey and sandalwood paste. The puja is carried out once in every three hours! People also make offerings of milk, Ganga jal (holy water), incense sticks, bel leaves, fruits and flowers. The devotees strictly perform all the rituals of Maha Shivratri as it is considered to be an auspicious day to worship Lord Shiva, and it is believed that they will be cleared of their past sins.

This ritual worship of Lord Shiva continues through the day and night of Shivaratri. Devotees stay awake and spent the night in Shiva temples by chanting ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ and singing hymns and verses in praise of Lord Shambhu (Shiva). Keertans and diagrams (nightlong vigil) are a major highlight which feature chanting, reading of the verses, and singing the praises of Lord Shiva. Devotees observing vrat on Shivaratri break it only the next morning by partaking Prasad offered to Lord Shiva.

On the day of the festival at 4.00 am, the prayer starts with ‘Shiv Abhishek’ and the whole day the place is thronged by large number of devotees who come to offer the holy water from Ganga River and fruits to Lord Shiva in the temples.

Afternoon session leads to ‘Char Pahar ki Pooja’. The pooja ceremony starts at 6.00 pm with the first Pahar. The acharya performs Maha Abhishek. Then it follows with the second pahar at 9.00 pm, the third pahar at 12.00 pm and the fourth pahar at 3.00 am. The holy pooja ends with a ‘Maha Yagya’ around 6:00 am next day.

Devotees chant Maha mantra “Om Namah Shivaye” 108, 216,and 324 times on each of the pahar respectively. Whole night, the ‘Shiva lay’ is animated with bhajans and religious hymns. Some artists and localities perform the ‘Tandava’ and dramas on Lord Shiva.

Shiva Purana further says that performing abhishek of Shiva Linga with six different dravyas including milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water while chanting Sri Rudram, Chamakam and Dasa Shanthi pleases Lord Shiva the most. According to the mythology, each of these dravya used in the Abhisheka blesses a unique quality. Each item is poured over the Shiva Linga, to symbolize different meanings.

  • Milk is for the blessing of purity and piousness.
  • Yogurt is for prosperity and progeny.
  • Honey is for sweet speech.
  • Ghee is for victory.
  • Sugar is for happiness.
  • Water is for purity.
  • After the Abhisheks are performed, some devotees also offer the Bilwa leaves, which have to be a stalk with three leaves, is kept on top of the Shivalinga to cool the hot-tempered deity. Thereafter, kumkum (vermilion) is applied.
  • Devotees also burn incense sticks as is said to yield wealth.
  • Many also light lamps to symbolize attainment of knowledge.
  • Ber or jujube fruit is also offered to Lord Shiva, as it is symbolic of longevity and gratification of desires.

Some devotees also offer the auspicious betel leaves to Lord Shiva marking satisfaction with worldly pleasures. It is said that by offering water, hugging the Linga, lighting the diya and incense and ringing the temple bells, devotees call into focus all their senses, making them acutely aware of themselves and the universe to which they belong. . In the meantime, the devotees indulge in immense chanting of ‘Om Namah Shivaya’. Sounds of bells add to the festive mood in the temples. The air is filled with the aroma of incense sticks and dhoop.

According to Shiva Purana, sincere worship of Lord Shiva yields merits including spiritual growth for the devotees. It also provides extensive details on the right way to perform Shivratri Puja. Ratri is Dark which is Ignorance. Ignorance begets Fear. Knowledge begets Confidence. There are two forces acting on us and they are Positive Force and Negative Force. Faith is the positive force enriching Human Lives. Doubt is the negative force robbing of Glow and Meaning. Siva means Movement/Action. Soul is eternal and it is a continuous process of identifying itself to The Supreme. Jyothir Ling in Kedarnath indicates the Gunas within us i.e. Tamas, Rajas and Satwic. If they are balanced, life is blissful.