New Delhi: The Hindu festival of Maha Shivratri is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. According to the Hindu calendar, Maha Shivratri is celebrated on the new moon day in the month of Maagha – the festival will be observed on the evening of February 24 this year.
According to popular belief, worshiping Lord Shiva on this day helps one get rid of all the sins. It is also believed that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati got married on this day.
On this day devotees observe fast and worship Lord Shiva by chanting ‘Om Namah Shiva’. Shiv Lingam is bathed with milk, water and honey. Some devotees also offer fruits, flowers and bel (wood apple) leaves. Hindu temples across the country are decorated with lights and devotees can be seen chanting ‘Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra’ at the temples to seek blessings of the lord.
Maha Shivratri is celebrated across India and in neighbouring Nepal. The most popular celebrations are seen in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, where Lord Shiva is believed to have stayed. Here, devotees carry out large processions with idol of Lord Shiva.
There are various mythological legends associated with Maha Shivratri. According to legend, a hunter had been waiting on the branch of a Woodapple tree to catch a deer for his food. In order to attract the animal, he started throwing woodapple leaves on the ground, unaware that there was a Shiva Lingam beneath the tree. Pleased with the patience of the hunter, Lord Shiva appeared in front of the hunter and blessed him with wisdom. The hunter stopped eating meat afterwards, it is said.
According to the Shiva Purana, the Mahashivaratri puja involves six steps which are:
Taking bath in the Ganges for purification of soul, mind and body.
Bathing of the Shiv Linga with the holy water of Gange, then bathing with milk and honey. God Shiva loves bel patra (three leaves stalked in one) so every rituals added it to the puja.
After bathing of the Shiv Linga, vermilion paste applied on it which represents the virtue.
Offer fruits, flowers which are given to get long life and satisfaction of desires.
Burning enrage yields wealth.
The lighting with diya represents achieving more knowledge.
Offering betel leaves provide satisfaction full of great pleasures.
Worshipers also apply three horizontal lines of holy ash on their forehead just like the Lord Shiva which represents spiritual knowledge, cleanliness and penance. They wear garland made up of the Rudraksha (seed of Rudraksha tree) while worshiping the Lord Shiva. It is believed that Rudraksha tree was originated from the tears of Lord Shiva. Shivaratri is also considered as the wedding day of the Lord Shiva and Mata Parvati.
Many people observe a fast on this day. They eat fruits, Kheer of Sabudana, Even Ramdana and Halwa of Kattu is also consumed.