History of Maha Shivaratri | Significance of Maha Shivaratri Festival

History of Maha Shivaratri

This festival is celebrated to respect Lord Shiva by offering leaves of Bael or Bilva/Vilvam, Bhang, Dhatura, flowers, coconut, fruits, water, cow milk and other things. Devotees keep fast of full-day and full-night and pray to Lord Shiva for their beautiful life partner with healthy and prosperous life. According to the ritual belief and traditions, penances are performed to get benefited in the practice of Yoga and meditation. Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi is one of the most important places for tourist attractions in the UP state where a big fair is held on at Maha Shivratri in front of the Virla temple and Vishwanath Gali of the old Vishwanath temple.

Another myth of celebrating Maha Shivaratri in Hinduism is that, whole world was facing destruction and more near to the pralaya, and then the Goddess Parvati had worshiped her husband the Lord Shiva to save the world. Finally her prayer was approved by the Lord Shiva and then Goddess Parvati named that night, the Maha-Shivaratri, or the great night of Shiva.

Significance of Maha Shivaratri Festival

Mahashivaratri Festival is of great and tremendous significance for the millions of Hindu devotee’s all over India as well as abroad. It falls every year on fourteenth day of the Phalgun month in the dark fortnight at the end of winter season. This festival is the big festival during which devotees can please the Lord Shiva in order to fulfill their desires. It has another great significance for the Women. Both married and unmarried women keep strict fast for whole day and do Shiva Linga Puja with very honesty to please the Goddess Parvati or Gaura Mata in order to get the marital bliss as well as long, wealthy and prosperous married life. At Mahashivaratri, the marriage of Lord Shiva with Mata Parvati took place in the ancient time, so the Hindu people celebrate this festival by performing the same ceremony every year. People in Varanasi start this ceremony from Mahamrityunjaya temple of Daranagar to the Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi.

Lots of other ritual activities also are performed by the worshipers of Lord Shiva all across the India. It is considered that devotees who observe strict fast for whole from early morning to next morning in the honor of the God Shiva, they become blessed with their all wishes. Devotees may eat some fruits, milk or juice and water. However, some devotees keep Nirajal fast without eating and drinking anything according to their strong believe and trust to the God. It is also considered that at this auspicious day of Mahashivaratri, true devotees are forgiven by the God for their all sins and gets released with the cycle of birth and death and finally blessed with Moksha.

This festival is especially auspicious for the women. At this day, married women pray to God for the wellness and well being of their Suhaag however; unmarried women pray to God to get good husband in future just like the Lord Shiva means an ideal husband. Devotees of the Lord Shiva wake up in the early morning and take a ritual bath especially in the holy water of river Ganga. They wear fresh or new clothes and go to nearest Shiva temple to offer the Milk Abhishek to the Shiva Lingum and then with honey and water. They also offer some fruits, peach, dhatura, bael patra, bhang leaves, sweets, Ganga jal, etc. They pray to the God to fulfill their long list of wishes. People also sing ritual songs, do arti, drink bhang and dance at music.

The process of worshiping, offering and praying continues whole day long from early morning till night. First of all in the early morning a ritual puja of the Shiva Lingam is performed by the temple’s priests. First they give bath to the Shiva Lingam with milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar (also called panchagavya) and then with water by chanting the mantra of “Om Namah Shivaya”. Somewhere people give bath to the Shiva Linga with milk, yoghurt, honey, sandalwood paste and rose water. They apply vermilion paste on the Shiva Linga and keep Bilwa leaves (especially three joined leaves in one stalk) on the top in the believe that Goddess Lakshmi resides in Bilwa leaves and it has cooling effects to the hot-tempered deity so it would help devotees in pleasing the Lord Shiva.

Devotees ring temple bells in full sound. Then they allow devotees to come inside the temple and do their ritual. In some cities, a nightlong jaagran is organized at Shiva temples where a big crowd of large number of devotees stay whole night to sing holy hymns and devotional songs praising Lord Shiva and Mata Parwati. And in the early morning, devotees again perform all the ritual like bathing, offering Jal to Shiva Linga, etc and break their fast by taking Prasad offered by priests of the temple.

Significance of Offerings to the Shiva Linga

It is believed that bathing Shiva Linga with panchagavya or milk, honey, water, and bael leaves indicates purification of the mind, body and soul.
Offering Gang Jal represents attaining the enlightenment.
Applying vermilion paste to the top of Shiva Linga after ritual bath represents virtue.
Offering fruits to the Shiva Linga indicates the longevity and fulfillment of the desires.
Offering dhoop batti or incense sticks represents wealth.
Offering ghee diya represents the attainment of knowledge.
Offering betel leaves provides happiness, prosperity and satisfaction.
Offering bhang (which has cooling effect) represents pleasing the Lord Shiva.
Chanting mantras like “Om Namah Shivaya”, “Karpur Gauram Karunavataram, Sansara Saram Bhujagendra Haram, Sada Vasantam Hridayaravinde, Bhavam Bhavani Sahitam Namami”, etc during the worship represents the mind concentration and peacefulness.
Keeping fast at Mahashivaratri represents control over great natural forces, control over desire, anger and jealousy and power to conquer the evil power.
Taking bath in the Holy Gange water represents purification of body, mind and soul.

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