Shivaratri Celebrations

Shivaratri Celebrations


                                                

Maha Shivaratri is celebrated with great devotion and religious fervor by Hindus, in honor of Lord Shiva, one of the Hindu Gods forming the Trinity.  The festival falls on the moonless, 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun (in the month of February -  March, according to English Calendar).   On the festival of Maha Shivaratri,  devotees observe day and night fast and worship Shiva Lingam, to appease Lord Shiva. Many interesting legends have been related to the festival of Maha Shivaratri, explaining the reason behind its celebrations as well as its significance. According to one of the most popular legends, Shivaratri is the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. It is also believed that Lord Shiva performed ‘Tandava', the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction on this auspicious night of Shivaratri. According to another popular legend, described in Linga Purana, it was on Shivaratri that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga for the first time. Since then, the day is considered to be extremely auspicious by the devotees of Shiva and they celebrate it as Maha Shivaratri -the grand night  of 
Shiva.
Shivaratri Celebrations in Temples
After the ritual bath, preferably in the sacred waters of river Ganga, devotees pay a visit to the nearest Lord Shiva temple carrying the traditional puja items like milk, water, bel leaves, fruits, incense stick, oil lamp etc. Due to massive popularity of the festival several stalls selling puja items come up outside the temple and do a thriving business. 
In the bigger and more popular Shiva temples there is massive rush of devotees. Long queues can be noticed as devotees, mostly women, wait for their turn to perform puja. Since, bathing of Shiva Linga with milk is part of the Shivaratri Puja tradition; little rivers are formed due to the excessively overflowing milk and fruit in the Shiva temples on this day.

Ritual worship of Shiva Linga is done by temple priests every three hours all through the day and night of Shivaratri Festival. Shouts of ‘Shivaji ki Jai’, chanting of the mantra, ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ and ringing of temple bells make the atmosphere religious and devotional.

Nightlong vigil on Shivratri or the Jaagran is celebrated by singing of devotional hymns and songs in worship of Lord Shiva. And, it is only in the following morning that the devotees break their fast by consuming prasad offered to the Lord.

Shivaratri Celebrations by Women
Shivratri Festival is particularly awaited by Hindu women. On Shivaratri, married and unmarried women perform puja with great faith, as Goddess Parvati who is also called 'Gaura', is regarded as the giver of 'suhag' - good husbands, marital bliss and a long and prosperous married life. One can therefore see find women enthusiastically observing the fast and performing the rituals Shiva Pujas on the day.

Drinking Thandai
Since Lord Shiva is regarded as an ascetic god, Maha Shivratri is very popular with ascetics. Thandai, a drink made with bhang (cannabis), almonds, and milk, is essentially drunk by the devout on the day as cannabis is said to have been very dear to Shiva.  


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