Maha Shivaratri or the ‘Great night of Shiva’ is celebrated to mark the convergence of Shiva and Parvati. In a year, there are 12 Shivaratri’s
occurring out of which Maha Shivarathri is the holiest. Maha Shivaratri
falls on the 14th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Phalgun.
The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of Bael leaves to
Shiva. The devotees offer a bath to Shiva Linga with honey, milk, water,
etc. It is believed that The Lingam is born at midnight, and the devotees
who have fasted all day are supposed to keep awake at night, by engaging
themselves in different activities like singing bhajans, chanting the
sacred mantra “Om Namah Shivaya“. It is believed that the planetary
positions position in the universe evokes the spiritual energies very
easily. Religious penances are carried out to gain boons through the
practice of meditation or yoga.
According to Shiva Purana is the worship of six different components:
- Bathing the Shiva Linga in water, honey, milk which is the representation of bathing of the soul.
- Applying Vermilion paste in Shiva Linga which is considered to be the virtue.
- Offering fruits as a sign of gratitude.
- Buring incense, yielding wealth.
- Lighting the lamp which refers to the attainment of knowledge.
- And the betel leaves marking satisfaction of worldly pleasures.
Maha Shivaratri is extremely significant festival among women. Both
married and unmarried women observe fast and perform Shiva Puja to appease Goddess Parvati who is regarded as ‘Gaura‘ – one who bestows marital bliss and long and prosperous married life. Unmarried women pray for a husband
like Shiva who is considered to be the ideal husband.
Story of King Chitrabhanu
King Chitrabhanu of Ikshvaku dynasty, observes fast along with his wife on all Maha Shivaratri’s. One day the sage, Ashtavakra came to visit the king.He saw the king fasting and asked why he was fasting.
King Chitrabhanu explained that he had a boon of remembering all the past
incidents in his life. In his past life, he was a hunter in Varanasi and his name was Suswara. His only livelihood was to sell the birds and animal he kills. On the day of the new moon as he was roaming around to find some animals in the forest, he spotted a deer, but before his arrow flew he saw the deer’s family and the sadness of its impending death. He couldn’t find any animal that night, he climbed on a tree for shelter. It happened to be a Bael tree. His canteen leaked water, his hunger and thirst kept him awake all night. To pass the time he engaged in plucking tree Bael leaves and dropping them on the ground.
Next day on his way home with food for his family, a stranger approached
him for food and he gave the food to the stranger.
At the time of death, he saw two messengers of Lord Shiva, send to conduct his soul to an abode of Shiva. He says that he had lived in the abode of Shiva and have enjoyed the divine bliss for a long time before he was born as Chitrabhanu, because of his unconscious worship of Lord Shiva on the night of Maha Shivaratri. The messengers told him that there was a Lingam at the bottom of the bael tree which was washed with water which leaked
from his canteen and the bael leaves that he plucked from the bael tree had fallen into the shape of Lingam, in imitation of Shiva’s ritual worship.
Maha Shivaratri also celebrates the day when Lord Shiva does his cosmic
According to some, it is the day when Lord Shiva saved the world from the disastrous effect of poison that emerged as a result of churning of the ocean. Shiva could arrest his poison in his throat due to his yogic powers.His neck turned blue after that and he is named as Neela Kantha or The Buethroated.