Legends of Mahashivraatri
There are various interesting legends related to the festival of Maha Shivaraatri.
- According to one of the most popular legends, Shivaraatri marks the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati.
- Some believe that it was on the auspicious night of Shivaraatri that Lord Shiva performed the ‘Taandava’, the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction.
- Another popular Shivaraatri legend stated in Linga Puraana states that it was on Shivaraatri that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga. Hence the day is considered to be extremely auspicious by Shiva devotees and they celebrate it as Maha Shivaraatri - the grand night of Shiva.
When is Shivaraatri, 2010?
Chandramaana Shivaraatri - is on February 12, Friday (most of India will celebrate Shivaraatri on this day)
Sauramaana Shivaraatri ��" is on the March 13, Saturday ( in Tamil Nadu the Shivaraatri as per the Chidambaram Temple and Kanchi Mutt is on this day)
Auspicious festival of MahaShivaraatri falls on the 13th or the 14th night of the new moon during Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Phalgun. The Sanskrit term, Krishna Paksha means the period of waning moon or the dark fortnight and Phalguna (as called Maagha as per some traditions) corresponds to the month of February - March in English Calendar. Shivaraatri Festival is celebrated on a moonless night.
Skandha Puraanam describes four types of Shivaraatris
- The first one is nitya Shivaraatri (daily Shivaraatri - every night).
- The second one is the mAsa Shivaraatri which is observed on the Krishna Paksha Chaturdasi (fourteenth moon day on the moons diminishing phase).
- The third one is the mAga prathamAdi Shivaraatri which is observed for the thirteen days starting from prathama thithi in the month mAga (mAsi) and on the chaturdasi night the Lord is worshiped throughout the night.
- The fourth one is observed on the mAsi (mAga) month Krishna paksha chaturdasi. This is the one observed in a widespread manner. It is also called mahA Shivaraatri.
The Dates :
The following dates are given as per Indian Standard Time(IST). If you are living in India (or the same time zone) the date given in the left of this table is applicable. If you are living in any other time zone you might have to calculate for which date the above mentioned two conditions satisfy (chaturdashi & night) for your local time to observe this vratam. For this convenience the time for which the chaturdashi titi is present is given by the side (in IST).
12 Feb 2010 (sAndhiramAna Maha Shivaraatri) chaturdashi starts from Fri 12 Feb 05.41 am till 13 Feb 12.00 am
13 Mar 2010 (souramAna Maha Shivaraatri) chaturdashi starts fromSat 13 Mar 10.13 pm till14 Mar 12.33 pm
* All times are in IST
Due to variation in the calculation of panchangas there may be slight differences. Please check with the local temple about the exact dates.
Meditate during Shivaraatri
The worship of Lord Shiva in the form of Shiva lingam is done in the four Jaamas of the night (four equal time intervals of the night).Bathing and staying clean one meditates on the Infinitely Auspicious, decorated with thousands of splendid garlands, Who is in the form of the holy symbol of shiva(mahA lingam) during.
(Note that the linga worship is explicitly mentioned for this vratam as this is the time the God for the benefit of pashus appeared in a formless-form that is a symbol (lingam) from Its true nature of formlessness.)
Popular Beliefs and Customs of Shivaraatri
Beliefs : Various traditions and customs related to Shivaraatri Festival are dutifully followed by the worshippers of Lord Shiva. Devotees observe strict fast in honour of Shiva, though many go on a diet of fruits and milk some do not consume even a drop of water. Devotees strongly believe that sincere worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of Shivaraatri, absolves a person of sins and liberates him from the cycle of birth and death. Shivaraatri is considered especially auspicious for women. While married women pray for the well being of their husbands unmarried women pray for a husband like Lord Shiva, who is regarded as the ideal husband.
Devotees strongly believe that ritual worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of Shivaraatri absolves them of past sins and they are blessed with Moksha.
Customs : To mark the Shivaraatri festival, devotees wake up early and take a ritual bath, preferably in river Ganga. They also offer prayers to the Sun God, Vishnu and Shiva as a part of a purification rite observed on all-important Hindu festivals. After wearing fresh new clothes devotees visit the nearest Shiva temple to give ritual bath to the Shiva Lingum with milk, honey, water etc. Some offer panchagavya - milk, sour milk, cow’s urine, butter and cow dung.
Following the rituals prescribed in the Shiva Puraana, every three hours, Shivalingam is given a special bath with milk, yoghurt, honey, sandalwood paste and rose water. Puja, meditation and chanting of ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ accompany the ritual bath. Following the bath, vermilion paste is applied on the linga. Traditionally, leaves of a forest tree Aegle marmelos (bilwa, maredu, wood apple) are used for Shiva puja. Thereafter, Bilwa leaves, which have to be a stalk with three leaves, is kept on top of the Shivalinga. Ber or jujube fruit is a special offering to the god on this day. Beetle leaves are also offered by some. Some also offer bilwa leaves in the belief that the Goddess Lakshmi resides in them. Others believe it is offered for its cooling effects on the hot-tempered deity. Many devotees also decorate the linga with flowers and garlands and offer incense sticks and fruit.
Night long vigil or jaagran is also observed in Shiva temples where large number of devotees spend the night singing hymns and devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva. It is only on the following morning that devotee break their fast by partaking prasad offered to the deity.
Significance of the items of offerings during puja
According to the Shiva Puraana, there is a special significance of the six essential puja items used in the Shiva worship.
- Bathing of Shivalinga with water, milk and honey and wood apple or bel leaves added to it, represents purification of the soul.
- The vermilion paste applied on the linga after the ritual bath represents virtue.
- Offering of fruits symbolizes longevity and gratification of desires.
- Burning of incense sticks yields wealth.
- The lighting of the lamp symbolizes attainment of knowledge.
- Offering of betel leaves marks satisfaction with worldly pleasures.
Important Places of worship during Shivaraatri
Andhra Pradesh - Sri Kalahasteshwara Temple at Kalahasti , Bharamarambha Malikarjunaswamy Temple at Srisailam.
Assam - Umananda Temple, situated on the Peacock Island in the middle of Brahamaputra river in Guwahati, the capital of Assam
Himachal Pradesh - The Temple of Bhutnath at Mandi in Himachal Pradesh
Karnataka - Sri Shiddhalingappa's fair, Dharmasthala, Gokarna, Sringeri
Madhya Pradesh - Matangeshwar Temple, in the Bundelkhand Region, Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain
Gujarat - Bhavnath Fair in Junagadh
Orissa - Lokanath Temple, Puri
Uttar Pradesh - Varanasi
Kerala - Thrissur, Vaikom, Ethumanur, Aluva, Kadunthuruthi, Thiruvanchikkulam
Tamil Nadu -Chidambaram, Rameshwaram, Madurai, Thiruvanaika, Thiruvannamalai, Tanjavur, Thirunelveli
West Bengal - Tarakeshwar, 57 km from Kolkata
Mauritius - Holy volcanic lake, Grand Bassin
Nepal - Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu