The Hindu trinity includes Brahma- the creator, Vishnu- the preserver and Mahesh- the destroyer of the world. Mahesh (Shiva) the third god in the Hindu triumvirate is not only the god of the yogis and common man but he is also famous as a lover of his spouse Parvati.
According to Puranas, at the time of Samudra Manthan, gods and demons went to Lord Shiva with a pot of poison that emerged from the ocean. Shiva drank the deadly poison to save the world from its ill-effects. Instead of swallowing it, Shiva held it in his throat that made his throat turn blue. Since then he was called Neelkantha, the blue-throated god. Mahashivaratri is the celebration of this sacrifice made by Lord Shiva to protect the world. Worshipping Shiva on this day is believed to bestow one with happiness and prosperity. According to some other popular legends, Shivaratri marks the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Maa Parvati. Some believe that Shiva performed ‘Tandava Nritya’ on an auspicious night.
Auspicious festival of Mahashivratri falls on the 13th or 14th night of the new moon during Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Phalgun. Beliefs are many and festivities differ in various parts of the country. People celebrate ‘Linga’ and the manifestation of Shiva as the light of supreme wisdom. Rituals begin with the break of the dawn and continue all through the night. Devotees observe fast and spend the day in devotion and worshipping the deity. Night vigils are organised in various Shiva temples across the country.
We all may be aware of certain rituals that have to be performed when visiting Shivalaya on Mahashivaratri. These rituals are based on the knowledge provided by the rich Shastras in the Hindu Dharma. For example, removing one’s footwear, doing pranam at the main door before entering Shivalaya. Being believed to be a hot-tempered god, Shiva is offered the things which have a cooling effect like milk, honey, and water. Performing Rudrabhishek with six dravyas has also been given tremendous significance in Hindu mythology. Each of these dravyas is used to fulfill a different desire.
Milk – For purity and piousness
Water – For purity
Honey – For cordial relationships
Ghee – For victory
Sugarcane juice – For happiness
Yogurt – For prosperity
The festival holds special significance for the people who love to clean Shivalayas, especially on this day. Devotees strongly believe that this act on the auspicious day of Shivaratri absolve them of past sins and they are blessed with all health, happiness, and moksha in the end. They wake up early in the morning and take a ritual sunrise bath. After wearing fresh clothes they visit the nearest temple to give a customary bath to the Shivalingam. They pour milk and water over it. Some pour yogurt, honey, and rose water. Then they apply sandalwood paste on it. Thereafter Bilwa leaves (a stalk with three leaves), jujube fruit, flowers, and fruits are kept on the top of Shivalainga. Incense sticks and diyas are also offered to the lord. All the offerings mark attainment of wealth, knowledge and satisfaction with worldly pleasures. Spending the day cleaning the Shivalaya is a great service in the feet of Mahadev. Devotees keep removing the things offered on Shivalinga by people so that other devotees also get space to place their offerings. Few wipe and mop the floor. Many observe fast that is broken on the next morning by consuming prasad. On this blessed festival, thandai made of milk, almonds, and bhang is also offered to Lord Shiva and then it is distributed among the devotees as Prasad. This drink is said to have been very dear to Shiva.
Shivaratri celebrations are marked with devotion and religious fervour. Visit any Shiva temple this Mahashivaratri with a clean body, mind, and soul. Contribute to cleaning shivalaya reciting ‘Om Namah Shivay’. Reciting ‘Mahamrutyunjay Mantra’ can overcome fatal diseases and ultimately death.
“Om Tryambakam yajamahe Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam
Urvarukamiva Bandhanam Mrtyor Mukshiya Maamritath”
May Lord Shiva absolve sins of their devotees and liberate them from the cycle of birth and death. Happy Mahashivaratri to all.