Maha Shivaratri is one of the bigger Hindu festivals of India. Depending on the lunar calendar, it is may fall on one of days in the months of February or March. Devotees usually fast all day and night and offer Bael leaves (Bilva patra) to Shivlinga. It is considered the biggest festival for Kashmiri Brahmins who follow Shaivism and celebrations continue for three days.
Shivaratri significance, legends
Shivaratri meaning Shiva’s night – the night when the formless God appeared in the form of ‘Lingodbhav Moorti’. This is said to be the reason why devotees stay awake all night to offer prayers to Lord Shiva.
There are many legends associated with the festival. As per other stories, Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati this day, which marks the union of Shiva and Shakti who are the greatest power of the universe.
Another story says, that during the mythical churning of the ocean called Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. The Gods and demons were terrified as it could have destroyed the world. In order to save the world, they ran to Shiva for help. He drank the deadly poison but didn’t swallow it in fact held it in his throat instead. This turned his throat blue, and because of this, he is also known as ‘Nilkantha’ (the blue-throated one).
Significance for unmarried women
Unmarried women fast and pray on this day to get a husband like Lord Shiva and others worship him for a happy and peaceful life.
Maha Shivaratri rituals
Devotees can take bath early morning before visiting the Shiva temple and performing the puja. The second bath must be taken in the evening before the Shiva Puja. Devotees can break the fast on next day after taking bath (breaking of the fast should be done within Chaturdashi tithi )
Jyotirlingas and Lord Shiva temples in India
There are 12 Jyotirlingas in India such as Somnath in Gujarat, Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Bhimashankar at Pune in Maharashtra, Mallikarjuna at Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh, Vaijyanath Temple in Deoghar district of Jharkhand, Mahakaleswar at Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh, Kedarnath in Uttrakhand, Viswanath at Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, Tryambakeshwar at Nashik in Maharashtra, Aundha Nagnath at Aundha in Hingoli District in Maharashtra, Rameshwar at Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu and Grushneshwar at Ellora near Aurangabad, in Maharashtra.
People usually fast during Maha Shivaratri and consume ‘Phalahaar (eating only fruits)’. But there are some delicacies that can be enjoyed on this divine day. Drinking and distributing Thandai (drink made with cannabis, almonds, and milk) on Shivaratri is kind of ritual.
Apart from Thandai, one can relish on ‘Lauki ka halwa’, ‘SagoSaboodana Khichdi’, ‘Potato Pumpkin Pancakes’, ‘Aloo Tikki’, ‘Aloo Khichdi’, ‘potato curry’, ‘sweet potato chaat’, ‘paneer and aloo chaat’.