INDIA. Delhi: Lord Shiva, the god of enlightenment, also known as Mahadeva, Pashupati, Vishwanath, Nataraja, Bhava, and Bhole Nath, is recognised as the destroyer and the creator of the universe. Shiva can be split into Sha + ee + Va, where Sha stands for shareeram or body, ee stands for eeshwari or life giving energy, and Va stands for vayu or motion. On Maha Shivaratri, the world celebrates Shiva by trying to understand him and his lila (games).
Maha Shivaratri is a combination of three words – Maha+Shiva+Ratri, referring to Lord Shiva and a Maha (grand) Ratri (night). Celebrated during dark fortnight or Krishna Paksha on the new moon day in the month of Maagha (end of February or beginning of March), it is in fact a grand night of wakefulness and awakening. This year it is scheduled to be celebrated on 11 March.
Maha Shivaratri is a New Year for spiritual seekers. This is the day when nature itself pushes everyone towards a spiritual path and is considered auspicious for the following reasons:
- Liberation from the past sins or bad karmas, and
- Attainment of moksha-liberation from the cycle of birth and death
Significance for Women
Maha Shivaratri is considered an extremely auspicious festival for women. Married women pray to attain marital bliss and unmarried women pray to get married to a husband like Lord Shiva.
Maha Shivaratri is the night when Shiva performs the dance of creation, preservation, and destruction. There are a lot of interesting legends associated with the history of Maha Shivaratri, some of them include:
- Reunion/remarriage of Shiva and Shakti known as ShivaShakti as Ardhnareshwar is celebrated as Maha Shivaratri.
- Samudra Manthan – During the churning of the ocean (Samudra Manthan), a pot of poison emerged out of it. To save the world, Lord Shiva drank the poison that turned his throat blue, and to thank him, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated as a day of gratitude.
- According to mythology, on this auspicious night, Lord Shiva has performed the ‘Tandava’, the dance of the primal creation, preservation, and destruction.
- Another popular Maha Shivaratri legend stated in Linga Purana states that it was on Maha Shivaratri that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga.
- Yet another legend goes on to say that Maha Shivaratri is celebrated as the day when he resolved a major tiff between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu about their supremacy over each other. In Southern Karnataka children recreate a mythological scene by indulging in mischief and then ask for punishment (symbolic of Shiva punishing Brahma for lying).
- Goddess Parvati once pleaded with Lord Shiva to save the earth from destruction and Lord Shiva agreed to save the world on the condition that its inhabitants worship him with dedication and passion.
Celebrated all over the world
Maha Shivaratri is a mix of various interesting traditions and customs, celebrated across India, Nepal, and other countries, and holds different meanings and significance for different communities. In Kashmir, Kashmiri Brahmins celebrate the festival as Har-Ratri, or Haerath or Herath. Shiva is also the supreme god of dances, Nataraja, and hence Maha Shivaratri is also marked by annual dance festivals at major Hindu temples Konark, Khajuraho, Pattadakal, Modhera, and Chidambaram.
it is a National Holiday in Nepal and celebrated in the Pashupatinath temple. Maha Shivaratri also is celebrated as Nepali Army Day. In Pakistan too, Umarkot Shiv Mandir in Umarkot is famous for the three-day Maha Shivaratri celebration, which is attended by around 250,000 people.
Maha Shivaratri is the main Hindu festival among the Hindu Diaspora in West Indies in over four hundred temples across the country, and in Mauritius, Hindus go on pilgrimage to Ganga Talao, a crater-lake.