Maha Shivratri : The Festival of Lord Shiva is on 7th March 2016

Mahashivaratri festival falls on the 7th March (Monday) in 2016. Maha Shivratri (known as "The Night of Shiva") is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in reverence of Lord Shiva. On this auspicious day devotees glorify, honor and worship Lord Shiva with sanctifying rituals throughout the night. For devotees of Shiva, this day is the most propitious day of the year as it is believed that whoever worships Him with true devotion is freed of all sins and is blessed with Nirvana or Moksha (liberation from the eternal cycle of life and death). As per the Vedas, the Universal Spiritual energy generated by favorable planetary positions is at its peak during Maha Shivratri and the prayers offered to the Supreme Lord on this night of Mahashivaratri has a profound impact on His devotees.

Maha Shivratri occurs on the 14th night of the new moon, in the dark fortnight during the month of Phalgun. It falls on a moonless night of February or March and is celebrated with much fervor and enthusiasm to honor Lord Shiva. Shivratri (in Sanskrit 'ratri' means night) is the night when he is believed to have performed the Tandava Nritya, the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. This festival is commemorated for one day and one night only. Maha Shivratri is also known as Shivaratri (and written as Sivaratri, Shivaratri, Sivarathri or Shivarathri)

Maha Shivaratri Muhurta

Nishita Kaal Puja Time = 00:24 to 01:13 (on 8th March)
Duration = 0 Hours 48 Minutes
On 8th, Maha Shivaratri Parana Time = 06:55 to 10:34
Ratri First Prahar Puja Time = 18:42 to 21:45
Ratri Second Prahar Puja Time = 21:45 to 00:49 (on 8th March)
Ratri Third Prahar Puja Time = 00:49 to 03:52 (on 8th March)
Ratri Fourth Prahar Puja Time = 03:52 to 06:55 (on 8th March)
Chaturdashi Tithi Begins = 13:20 (on 8th March)
Chaturdashi Tithi Ends = 10:34 (on 8th March)

The Importance of Lord Shiva in Mahashivratri

Lord Shiva is the most revered Hindu God and one of the three main deities of Hinduism. He is the fountainhead of perfection, yoga, meditation, bliss and spirituality. During the ancient Vedic times, renowned saints (Brahmins) sought the blessings of Lord Shiva for moksha, fabled warriors (Kshatriyas) prayed to Him for honor, strength and bravery, merchants and traders (Vaishyas) worshipped him for wealth and profits, and the servant class (Shudras) worshipped Him for daily bread and butter.

According to Srimad Bhagvatam (4.6.34), Lord Shiva is flanked by Lord Kubera, the god of wealth and the four Kumaras, who are celibate and liberated souls. It connotes that Lord Shiva is the sanctuary for both, the ones who seek wealth and worldly pleasures and the ones who seek liberation from various miseries of the world.

Why is Maha Shivratri Celebrated?

It is believed after the Earth’s creation was complete Maa Parvati asked Lord Shiva about the kind of rituals or worship that pleased Him the most. Lord Shiva replied that worshiping Him with Bel patra on the 14th day of the waning moon in the month of Phalgun by His devotees pleases Him the most. Goddess Parvati reiterated this to Her friends and from them the word spread to all creation. From then onwards this day is celebrated as Mahashivratri

Maha Shivaratri is considered a propitious and mesmerizing night when all the followers of Shiva take refuge in Him to rid themselves of all miseries and sufferings. Devotees all over the world wait for this night to seek the blessings from the Lord.

1. Maha Shivaratri Significance

  • As per Vedic scriptures it is on the day of Maha Shivratri that Lord Shiva revealed His Lingam form. Hence devotees perform the Rudra Abhishekham at midnight of Mahashivaratri to worship the formless Sadashiv and pay their tribute.
  • Shiva and Parvati got married on the day of Mahashivratri. And due to the Maya power of Parvati Shvie was transformed from a "Nirgun Brahman" to a "Sagun Brahman".
  • It is believed that Maa Parvati followed strict penance for Lord Shiva.
  • According to the legend of "Samundra Manthan" Shiva saved the whole world and humanity by consuming the poison Halahal, which emerged as a byproduct from the churning of Kshir Sagar or the milky ocean. With His immense Yogic powers He was able to stop the poison in His throat. The effect of the poison was such that it turned His throat blue and He became known as Neelkantha, the Blue Throated.
  • It is on this night that Shiva performed the Tandava, the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction.

2. Significance of Maha Shivratri for Women

  • Maha Shivratri is deemed to be auspicious for women. On this night married women pray for the well-being of their husbands and sons.
  • Unmarried women pray for an ideal husband, just like Shiva, the husband of Kali, Parvati and Durga. However anyone who sincerely utters the name of Shiva or does His mantra japa during Shivratri is granted Moksha.

3. Rituals on Maha Shivratri

  • The rituals constitutes of the traditional Shivalinga worship (puja).
  • As per tradition, devotees wake up early in the morning and take a ritualistic bath (bathing in holy rivers like Ganga is considered highly auspicious on this day).
  • They then offer prayers to Lord Surya, Lord Vishnu and Shiva as a part of a purification rite observed on all-important Hindu festivals.
  • After wearing clean or new clothes the followers visit their nearest Shiva Temple to give the Shivalinga or Lingam its customary bath.
  • Circumambulation around Shiva linga for three or seven times and pouring water or milk over linga is done.

How to Perform Shivling Abhishek on Mahashivratri

As per Shiv Purana, the Shivalingam is given a special bath in every three hours. It is usually bathed with the 5 sacred offerings of a cow, the 'panchagavya' comprising of milk, sour milk, urine, butter and dung. Honey, sandalwood paste and rosewater are also used. The chanting of "OM NAMAH SHIVAYA" is accompanied during this ceremony. After this milk, clarified butter, curd, honey and sugar (the 5 foods of immortality) are placed before the Shivling. Vermilion paste is applied on it. The leaves of Bilwa, Maredu and Wood apple are used for Shiv puja. Bilwa leaves (some believe that Goddess Lakshmi reside in them) is kept on top of the Shivaling. Ber or jujube fruit and beetle leaves are a special offering on this day. The fruit and flower of Datura, though poisonous, is sacred to Shiva and thus used as an offering. The Shivling is decorated with flowers and garlands and offered incense sticks and fruits.

Ardent devotees of Shiva always wear a Rudraksha Mala or rosary while performing these rituals.

How to Perform Shivling Abhishek on Mahashivratri

Ritual of Worshipping Shivling Spiritual Connotation
Bathing the Shiva Linga with water, milk and honey and offering Woodapple or bel leaves Represents purification of the soul
Applying Vermilion paste on Shiva Linga after bathing it Represents Virtue
Offering of fruits Represents longevity and gratification of desires
Burning incense Yielding wealth
Lighting of the lamp Attainment of knowledge
Offering betel leaves Represents satisfaction with worldly pleasures
Applying Tripundra on forehead and Shivling (three horizontal stripes of holy ash) Represents spiritual knowledge, purity and penance. (It also symbolizes the three eyes of Lord Shiva)

1. How to Worship Lord Shiva on Mahashivaratri

Devotees stay awake and continue to pray all through the night of Maha Shivaratri. They spend the night in Shiva temples or wherever they are offering Puja. During the ritual worship, Shiva is offered special food made from the fruits of the season, root vegetables and coconuts. Those who observe Shivaratri Fast break their fast the next morning by consuming the Prasad offered to Shiva

2. Hymns and Mantras that Please Lord Shiva

The Maha Mrityunjay Mantra from the Sukla Yajurveda Samhita III. 60
|| Om Trayambakam Yajaamahe Suganghim Pushtivardhanam Urvaarukmiva BandhanaanMrityor Mokshiya Mamritaat ||

The meaning of the Mantra is as follows:
"I worship thee, O sweet Lord of transcendental vision (the three -eyed one or Lord Siva). O giver of health and prosperity to all, may I be free from the bonds of death, just as a melon (or cucumber) is severed effortlessly from its bondage or attachment to the creeper".

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