Maha Shivratri (the ‘Great Night of Shiva’) is a Hindu festival celebrated every year in reverence of Lord Shiva. Alternate common spellings include Sivaratri, Shivaratri, Sivarathri, and Shivarathri. It marks the convergence of Shiva and Shakti. Maha Shivratri is celebrated on the Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi of Hindu calendar month Maagha which falls in February or March as per the Gregorian calendar.
The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael or golden apple or Bilva/Vilvam leaves to Lord Shiva, all-day fasting and an all-night-long vigil (jagarana). All through the day, devotees chant “Om Namah Shivaya”, a sacred Panchakshara mantra dedicated to Lord Shiva. In accordance with scriptural and discipleship traditions, penances are performed in order to gain boons in the practice of Yoga and meditation, in order to reach life’s highest good steadily and swiftly.
On Mahashivratri, Nishita Kala is the ideal time to observe Shiva Pooja. Nishita Kala is the time when Lord Shiva appeared on the Earth in the form of Linga. On this day, in all Shiva temples, the most auspicious Lingodbhava puja is performed.
Maha Shivratri, the night of the worship of Lord Shiva, occurs on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna. It falls on a moonless February night, when Hindus offer special prayer to the lord of destruction. Shivratri (Sanskrit ‘ratri’ = night) is the night when he is said to have performed the Tandava Nritya or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. The festival is observed for one day and one night only.
Shivratri is considered especially auspicious for women. Married women pray for the well being of their husbands and sons, while unmarried women pray for an ideal husband like Shiva, who is the spouse of Kali, Parvati and Durga. But generally it is believed that anyone who utters the name of Shiva during Shivratri with pure devotion is freed from all sins. He or she reaches the abode of Shiva and is liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
Maha Shivratri, the grand night of Shiva this year will fall on 27th of February 2014.
*Bathing of the Shiva Lingam with water, milk, honey and bel patra – this symbolizes purification of soul.
*Vermilion paste is applied on the Lingam – this symbolizes virtue.
*Fruits are offered, which is helpful in longevity and gratification of desires.
*Incense are lighted, which symbolizes yielding of wealth.
*Oil lamps are lit, which symbolizes knowledge.
*Betel leaves are offered which represents satisfaction with worldly pleasures.
On Maha Shivaratri Lord Shiva is worshipped either one time or four times during the night. The whole night duration is divided into four segments (Prahars) and Maha Shivaratri Puja of Lord Shiva is performed during each of the four Prahars. Lord Shiva is Supreme, He is Mahayogi, He is Chandrashekhar, He is originator of the Ganga, He is the one and only Aghora who understands the Tantra of this cosmos, He is Mahadeva, He is Bholenath, He is Rudra. Devotees worship Lord Shiva with dedication and devotion on the day of Maha Shivaratri to seek His blessings, so that they can live a fulfilling life and ultimately attain Moksha.
II Om Namah Shivay II