Celebrate Shivratri 2017 on 24th February, Friday
Mahashivaratri Festival is celebrated with devotion and religious fervor on the moonless 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun. Devotees observe fast all through the day and night of Shivaratri in honor of Lord Shiva and pay a visit to Shiva temples. Ritual bath of Shiva Lingam with milk, water, honey etc is also performed by the devotees as a part of the tradition. Many believe that Shivaratri Festival marks the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. However, according to some legends, it was on the auspicious night of Shivaratri that Lord Shiva performed the ‘Tandava’, the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction.
When is Maha Shivarati?
Maha Shivaratri is a famous Hindu festival celebrated each year in reverence of Lord Shiva.
Shivaratri is celebrated on 13th day of Falgun month – the last month of Hindu calendar.
It is celebrated across India and is a holiday in the following states in 2017: Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand Uttar Pradesh.
The History of Shivratri
Puranas contain many stories and legends describing the origin of this festival.
According to one, during the samudra manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. This terrified the Gods and demons as the poison was capable of destroying the entire world, and they ran to Shiva for help. To protect the world from its evil effects, Shiva drank the deathly poison but held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This made his throat turn blue, and he was given the name Neelakantha, the blue-throated one. Shivaratri is the celebration of this event by which Shiva saved the world.
Shivaratri Celebrations by Women
Shivratri Festival is particularly awaited by Hindu women. On Shivaratri, married and unmarried women perform puja with great faith, as Goddess Parvati who is also called ′Gaura′, is regarded as the giver of ′suhag′ – good husbands, marital bliss and a long and prosperous married life. One can therefore see find women enthusiastically observing the fast and performing the rituals Shiva Pujas on the day.
Shivratri Celebrations in Temples
After the ritual bath, preferably in the sacred waters of river Ganga, devotees pay a visit to the nearest Lord Shiva temple carrying the traditional puja items like milk, water, bel leaves, fruits, incense stick, oil lamp etc. Due to massive popularity of the festival several stalls selling puja items come up outside the temple and do a thriving business.
In the bigger and more popular Shiva temples there is massive rush of devotees. Long queues can be noticed as devotees, mostly women, wait for their turn to perform puja. Since, bathing of Shiva Linga with milk is part of the Shivaratri Puja tradition; little rivers are formed due to the excessively overflowing milk and fruit in the Shiva temples on this day.
Ritual worship of Shiva Linga is done by temple priests every three hours all through the day and night of Shivaratri Festival. Shouts of ‘Shivaji ki Jai’, chanting of the mantra, ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ and ringing of temple bells make the atmosphere religious and devotional.
Nightlong vigil on Shivratri or the Jaagran is celebrated by singing of devotional hymns and songs in worship of Lord Shiva. And, it is only in the following morning that the devotees break their fast by consuming prasad offered to the Lord.
Tradition of Drinking Thandai
Since Lord Shiva is regarded as an ascetic god, Maha Shivratri is very popular with ascetics. Thandai, a drink made with bhang (cannabis), almonds, and milk, is essentially drunk by the devout on the day as cannabis is said to have been very dear to Shiva.