Hindu Festivals · Hindu Gods · Religion

Maha Shivaratri – The festival celebrates the Grace of Shiva

Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honour of the god Shiva. The name also refers to the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance. There is a Shivaratri in every luni-solar month of the Hindu calendar, on the month’s 13th night/14th day, but once a year in late winter (February/March, or Phalguna) and before the arrival of Summer, marks Maha Shivaratri which means “the Great Night of Shiva”.

Maha Shivratri will be celebrated on Thursday, March 11, this year. Shivaratri is one of the most significant Hindu festivals that celebrate the convergence of Lord Shiva and Goddess Shakti.

Mahashivratri is one of the largest and most significant among the sacred festivals of India. The festival celebrates the Grace of Shiva, who is considered the Adi Guru or the First Guru from whom the Yogic tradition originates. The planetary positions on this night, which is also the darkest night of the year, are such that there is a powerful natural upsurge of energy in the human system. It is enormously beneficial for one’s physical and spiritual wellbeing to stay awake and aware in a vertical posture throughout the night.

It is a major festival in Hinduism, and this festival is solemn and marks a remembrance of “overcoming darkness and ignorance” in life and the world. It is observed by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting, and meditating on ethics and virtues such as honesty, non-injury to others, charity, forgiveness, and the discovery of Shiva. The ardent devotees keep awake all night. Others visit one of the Shiva temples or go on pilgrimage to Jyotirlingams. This is an ancient Hindu festival whose origin date is unknown. According to the South Indian calendar, Maha Shivaratri is observed on Chaturdashi Tithi during Krishna Paksha in the month of Magha, and in other parts of India, on 13/14 night of Krishna Paksha in Phalguna of Hindu calendar, the Gregorian date however remaining the same.

In Kashmir Shaivism, the festival is called Har-ratri or phonetically simpler Haerath  or Herath  by Shiva devotees of the Kashmir region. According to the legend associated with the origin of the worship, the linga appeared at pradoshakala or the dusk of early night as a blazing column of fire and dazzled Vatuka Bhairava and Rama (or Ramana) Bhairava, Mahadevi’s mind-born sons, who approached it to discover its beginning or end but miserably failed. Exasperated and terrified they began to sing its praises and went to Mahadevi, who herself merged with the awe-inspiring jwala-linga. The Goddess blessed both Vatuka and Ramana that they would be worshipped by human beings and would receive their share of sacrificial offerings on that day and those who would worship them would have all their wishes fulfilled. As Vatuka Bhairava emerged from a pitcher full of water after Mahadevi cast a glance into it, fully armed with all his weapons (and so did Rama), he is represented by a pitcher full of water in which walnuts are kept for soaking and worshipped along with Shiva, Parvati, Kumara, Ganesha, their ganas or attendant deities, yoginis and kshetrapalas (guardians of the quarters) – all represented by clay images. The soaked walnuts are later distributed as naivedya. The ceremony is called ‘vatuk barun’ in Kashmiri, which means filling the pitcher of water representing the Vatuka Bhairava with walnuts and worshipping it.

Central India has a large number of Shaiva followers. The Mahakaleshwar Temple, Ujjain is one of the most venerated shrines consecrated to Shiva, where a large congregation of devotees gathers to offer prayers on the day of Maha Shivaratri. Tilwara Ghat in the city of Jabalpur and the Math Temple in the village of Jeonara, Seoni are two other places where the festival is celebrated with much religious fervour.

In Punjab, Shobha Yatras would be organised by various Hindu organisations in different cities. It is a grand festival for Punjabi Hindus. In Gujarat, Maha Shivaratri mela is held at Bhavnath near Junagadh where bathing in the Mrugi (Mrigi) kund is considered holy. According to myth, Lord Shiva himself comes to bath in the Mrugi kund. In West Bengal, Maha Shivaratri is observed devoutly by unmarried girls seeking a suitable husband, often visiting Tarakeswar.

Maha Shivaratri is observed by remembering Lord Shiva and chanting mantras, prayers, and fasting. Devotees of Lord Shiva keep awake all night chanting mantras and prayers.

Maha Shivaratri 2021 date and time

  • Maha Shivaratri Date: Thursday, March 11, 2021
  • Chaturdashi Tithi Begins: 02:39 PM on March 11, 2021
  • Chaturdashi Tithi Ends – 03:02 PM on Mar 12, 2021
  • Ratri First Prahar Puja Time: 06:27 PM to 09:29 PM
  • Ratri Second Prahar Puja Time: 09:29 PM to 12:31 AM, March 12
  • Ratri Third Prahar Puja Time: 12:31 AM to 03:32 AM, March 12
  • Ratri Fourth Prahar Puja Time: 03:32 AM to 06:34 AM, March 12
  • Shivaratri Parana Time: 06:34 AM to 03:02 PM

There is a Shivaratri in every luni-solar month of the Hindu calendar known as Masik Shivaratri. However, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated only once a year in late winter (February/March) before the arrival of Summer. Maha Shivaratri literally means “the Great Night of Shiva”. It’s said that Maha Shivaratri is the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation and destruction.

Maha Shivaratri celebrations include – jaagaran all-night vigil and prayers; Offerings fruits, leaves, sweets and milk to Lord Shiva; fasting with Vedic worship of Lord Shiva etc. Devotees recite “Om Namah Shivaya” mantra to praise Lord Shiva.

Benefits of Mahashivratri

Biologists have pointed out that one of the biggest steps in the evolutionary process of an animal was the movement from a horizontal to a vertical spine. It was only after this step that the flowering of the intelligence has happened. So, by making use of this natural upsurge of energies on the nightlong festival of Mahashivratri, with the right kind of mantras and meditations, we can move one step closer to the Divine.

The raising of energies takes place even if there is no sadhana in a person’s life. But especially for those people who are into some kind of yogic sadhana, keeping the body in a vertical position- or in other words, not sleeping on this night- is very important.

Mahashivratri is very significant for people who are on the spiritual path, and also for people with careers and in family situations. For people living in family situations, Mahashivratri is worshipped as Shiva’s wedding anniversary. The ambitious see it as the day Shiva conquered all his enemies. But in the yogic tradition, we do not consider Shiva as a god, but as the first guru or Adi Guru – the one who originated the science of Yoga. The word “Shiva” means “that which is not.” If you can keep yourself in such a state that you are not yourself, and allow Shiva to be, then the possibility of opening up a new vision into life and looking at life with total clarity is possible.

Mahashivratri Puja
 On the day of Maha Shivaratri, wake up early in the morning and take a bath and wear clean clothes and take a resolution of fast.
 After this, go to the Shiva temple or offer water to the Shivling in the home temple itself.
 To add water, first take Ganga water in a copper lotus. If there is not much Ganga water, then add few drops of Ganga water in plain water.
 Now add rice and white sandalwood to the lotus and offer water on the Shivling while saying “Oom Nam: Shivaya”.
 After offering water, rice, bell peppers, fragrant flowers, dhatura, hemp, plum, amar manjari, barley ears, tulsi dal, raw milk of cow, sugarcane juice, curd, pure desi ghee, honey, punch fruits, punch nuts, Offer Panch Ras, Perfume, Mauli, Janeu and Panch Mishthan one by one.
 Now offering the Shami leaves, say these mantras:

अमंगलाननं शमिनी शमिनी दशकृतास्य च।
दु: ख: स्वप्रनाशिनी धनयन, प्रमुख, शमी शुभम।

 After offering Shami leaves, show incense and lamps to Shiva.
 After this, read Shiva Chalisa.
 Finally, perform the aarti of Lord Shiva with a lamp containing camphor or cow ghee.
 Fast on the day of Mahashivaratri and have fruit.
 Recite the praise of Shiva in the evening or at night.
 Awakening the night on Shivaratri is considered fruitful.
 It is best to worship Shivaratri in ‘Nishith Kaal’. The eighth Muhurta of the night is called Nishith Kaal. However, devotees can worship Shiva with true reverence in any one of the four poles of the night.

Shiva praise mantra
ओम नम: शिवाय शिवाय नम:

ओम नम: शम्भेवच मयोनभिवच नम: शंकराईच नम: शिवायैच शिवतरायच।

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