Why Do We Celebrate Maha Shivaratri
A Day When Lord Shiva Saved The World
Maha Shivratri is one of the biggest festivals of Hindus which falls on February 13, 2018 this year. According to ancient scripts, there are several stories behind celebrating Maha Shivratri.
During the churning of the mighty ocean for nectar of immortality (amrit), the sea spilled out dreadful poison that could destroy the universe. The gods and demons asked Lord Shiva to help. To protect the world, the lord drank the deadly venom. Goddess Shakthi stopped it from reaching his stomach and it stuck in His throat. He got the name Neelakantha or the blue throated one. This day when Lord Shiva saved the world from danger is celebrated as Maha Shivaratri.
Why Lord Brahma & Ketaki Flower Were Cursed
According to Shiva Purana, once Brahma and Vishnu were fighting to establish who the superior of the two is. To stop this fight, other gods requested Lord Shiva to solve their issue. To prove his point, Lord Shiva took form of a huge column of fire and asked the arguing gods to find the end of the column. Brahma assumed the form of a swan and went upwards while Vishnu took the form of Varaha and went inside the earth. As light has no limits, neither Brahma nor Vishnu could find the end. During his journey, Brahma met the Ketaki flower drifting slowly. When he asked where she had some from, the flower said that it she had been placed on the column of fire as an offering. Lord Brahma did not want to continue his search and took the flower as a witness. When they confronted Lord Shiva he was angry and punished Brahma that no one will ever worship him. Ketaki too was banned from being used as an offering for any worship. It was on the 14th day in the dark half of this month that Lord Shiva showed himself as a column of fire or otherwise called Agni Linga. This day is celebrated as Maha Shivaratri. Worshipping the lord on this day bestows one with happiness and prosperity.
Story Of The Hunter
Here’s another story behind Maha Shivaratri. Once a tribal, a great devotee of Lord Shiva went deep into the forest to collect wood for fire. There, he lost his way and could not find his way back when night fell. It was dark and he was terrified that wild animals would attack him, so he took shelter on a tree. To stay awake, as he feared he would fall off, he plucked leaves from the tree and dropped them below almost thousand of them while he chanted the name of the lord. But what he did not know was that the leaves were from the Bel tree and they fell on a Shiva Linga below. Pleased by his devotion all night, Lord Shiva blessed him with divine bliss.
According to a popular legend, a hunter could not find anything to kill for his food in a forest, he decided to spend the night on the branch of a bel tree. The hunter unaware of Shiva lingam in ground plugged the leaves of tree and started throwing in ground. Pleased with the patience of the hunter, Lord Shiva appeared in front of the hunter and blessed him with wisdom. It was the night of Maha Shivratri.
In parts of the north, the festival is also celebrated to mark the wedding anniversary of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvathi.
Cosmic Dance Of Lord Shiva
According to other legends, it is the night when Shiva performs his cosmic dance of creation, preservation and destruction.
Immediately after the sacred night, the tree and plants are in full bloom like magic. It’s fertility everywhere as though the earth is rejoicing in the new-found glory. It seems to have found a new life, entering into a process of useful production.
The Kashi Vishwanatha Temple in Varanasi celebrates the linga and manifestation of Shiva as a light of supreme wisdom on the day of Maha Shivaratri.
Therefore, this great observance is just not a mere one, it holds a special cosmic implication in the hearts of the people. It’s a day to dispel ignorance, spread the light of knowledge and make people aware of the universe. It ushers in spring after the cold and dry winter, and pleads with the almighty to spare a thought for the people whom he created.
So, on such a special day, people often fast on the night of Shivaratri and sing hymns and praises in the name of Lord Shiva. People also offer bilva leaves, cold water and milk to Shiva lingam. Fasting and prayers on this day brings good luck and fulfills all desires.
How To Perform Puja On Maha Shivaratri
Religious texts have suggested methods to observe puja on Maha Shivaratri. Devotees rise early, take a bath, begin their fast and perform puja in the house. Some visit temples and offer prayers. The most important ritual on the day is abhishekam with milk and water. Offering of bilva leaves, bilva fruit, datura, cold milk, and bhang (a special drink made of cannabis).
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Fasting – A Great Way To Please Lord Shiva
For ardent followers, Shiva Ratri does not pass off without fasting. It is considered very important and bestows the divine grace of the lord. People observe the day with pure devotion, sincerity and intense adoration for the lord. They do not intake even a drop of water the whole day and night of Shivaratri. The fast helps control the two natural qualities that afflict man the rajas and tamas guna. On the day, his sincere worship relieves him of evil like lust, greed and anger. It is considered greater than performing the Ashwamedha yagya. The day absolves one of sins and liberates from the cycle of birth and death.
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