Mahashivratri or Shivratri is a popular Hindu festival celebrated with devotion and enthusiasm every year in the month of February or March. Shivratri is dedicated to Hindu God of destruction, Lord Shiva.

Shivratri is celebrated on the sixth night of the dark fortnight in the month of phalgun, when planetary positions are said to be favourable for evoking spiritual energies.

Mahashivratri means ‘The grand night of Shiva!’ which is celebrated with lot of zeal by the devotees of Lord Shiva who observe a day and a night long fast, take a ritualistic bath and dedicate the night to Lord Shiva singing hymns in his praise.

Lord Shiva is one of the three most important Gods in Hindu mythology forming Trinity, the other two being Lord Brahma, The Creator, and Lord Vishnu, The Preserver. Lord Shiva, himself being The Destroyer.

Lord Shiva is known by various names, few of the most popular being, Bhole Nath, Damroo Wale, Mahadeva, Natraja, Shankar, Jatashankar, Neelkantha.


Lord Shiva is indeed one of the most fascinating Hindu deities who is depicted as a tall and stout god sitting in a meditative posture on tiger skin with a serpent around his rudraksha borne neck and a trident wound with a damroo in a hand.

He is often seen with ashes smeared on his body, a crescent moon on his hair, a blue throat and a third eye on his forehead. Shiva’s ride is a bull called Nandi.

Shiva is commonly worshipped in the form of ‘shivling’ symbolising the beginning-less and endless cosmic pillar of fire representing the infinite nature of Lord Shiva.

Lord Shiva is said to be the strongest of the gods and is said to bless his ardent devotees with both the materialistic and spiritual gains.

While many of Shiva’s devotees worship him on Shivratri seeking wealth, many others pray for ‘moksha’ that is liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Also, married women fast and pray on Shivratri for happy marital life while unmarried girls do so when seeking good husbands as Lord Shiva is known as an ideal husband.

The festival of Shivratri in 2017 is on 25th February.


Shivratri Legend

Various legends or mythological stories are associated with the festival of Shivratri.

While few believe it to be the night when Lord Shiva was married to Sati incarnate Himalaya putri, Parvati, the others believe Shivratri to be the night when Lord Shiva performed the divine dance ‘Rudra Tandava’ after his wife Sati immolated herself.

The story of Samudra Manthan is also associated with Shivratri and its believed that it was on the night of Shivratri that Lord Shiva drank the deadly poison ‘halahal’ which was churned out of the sea during ‘samudra manthan’.


Story of Marriage of Shiva and Parvati

Parvati, daughter of Himalaya, was Shiva’s wife Sati’s incarnate and was very much in love with Shiva who was always engrossed in his meditation. Parvati did lot of penance to please Shiva who was not to be budged. Seeing her persistent but vain efforts Lord Kama suggested Parvati to dance around Shiva.

Parvati was determined to win Shiva anyways, so she did as suggested. When Parvati was dancing in front of Lord Shiva, Lord Kama shot an arrow of passion which infuriated Shiva who burnt Kama to ashes then and there. However, later, on Kama’s wife Rati’s plea Shiva restored Kama back.

Parvati was not to be deterred! He did severe penance in the Himalayas till Shiva finally gave in to her perseverance and love.

It is believed that the day they married was the one of Shivratri and hence Shivratri is believed to be the night of convergence of divine powers.


Story of Samudra Manthan

As the legend goes, once Durvasa Rishi got offended by Lord Indra when the latter did not pay due respect to a kind gesture made by the sage. The irated sage cursed the gods that they would lose their powers and the wealth they were proud of.

And in no time to come gods lost most of their powers and started losing out to asuras in the battles. The perturbed and angry gods assembled in Lord Brahma’s court who suggested them to handle the asuras tactfully.

He told the gods that only elixir could restore their powers but for that the sea needed to be churned. Now that was a tremendous task for the weakening gods. So he asked the gods to take asuras’ help for the same.

However the gods were worried that the asuras would definitely want their share and would win the gods for good if they could lay their hands on even a few drops of the drink of immortality.

Lord Brahma convinced them assuring the gods that he would ensure that only the gods received the elixir.

Long debates were carried out between the demons and the gods over the division of the treasures from the sea. However, the pot of elixir remained a point of conflict.

Finally, the gods and the demons started churning the ocean together. Mount Mandara was chosen as the churning rod while Vasuki, the king of the serpents volunteered to serve as the churning rope.

Of the various treasures which came out of the sea were various nymphs or apsaras, Kaustubha, said to be rarest of the diamonds, uchhaihshravas, the divine white horse, mount of Lord Indra, kalpavriksha, the wish granting tree, airavata, the white elephant, also mount of Lord Indra, Kamadhenu, a wish-fulfilling cow also known as Surbhi.

However, besides the treasures, what came out of the ocean was a pot of deadliest of the poisons, halahal, which had the potential to put an end to the entire mankind. Lord Shiva being the strongest of the gods was asked to put an end to the misery of the gods by drinking it.

Lord Shiva drank the entire pot of halahal and by his divine and yogic powers contained the poison to his throat and could prevent it from reaching his stomach. The poison he drank was so deadly that his neck became all blue by its impact. Thence, Lord Shiva, came to be known as ‘Neelkanth’, that is, the one with blue neck.

To keep him from falling asleep, which would have let poison take over him, all the gods performed all night and kept hi awake.

It is believed that Lord Shiva drank poison on the day of Shivratri and this explains the ritual of staying awake the whole night performing rituals.

The gods and the demons continued churning the ocean for good long 1000 years. Pleased with their persistent hard work Lord Dhanwantri, the divine healer of the Gods, came out with the pitcher of elixir.

Then the battle ensued between the gods and the demons for the elixir for 12 days and 12 nights equivalent to 12 human years.

While the battle was on, the pitcher of elixir was kept down on earth a few times and its drops fell at four places which are today the cities of Haridwar, Ujjain, Nasik and Allahabad, where Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years in rotation.


Story of Shiva’s Rudra Tandava

As the legend goes, Lord Shiva’s wife Sati’s father, King Daksha had once performed a huge yagna where he invited all Gods except Lord Shiva to insult him as he had had an argument with the latter in Lord Brahma’s court.

This offended and infuriated Sati so much so that she immolated herself in the yagna kund’s fire. Lord Shiva was enraged with fury about the incident and in ire he performed Rudra Tandava carrying Sati’s body.

This worried the gods as Shiva’s Rudra Tandava could have destroyed whole of creation and mankind. To interrupt it Lord Vishnu chopped Sati’s body into pieces which fell on earth. And wherever a piece fell, a Shaktipeetha emerged.

Many associate Shiva’s Tandava to Shivratri.



Shivratri Rituals

On Shivratri, devotees of Lord Shiva observe fast, and perform rituals ceremoniously to please Lord Shiva. In the morning they bathe in holy water of Ganges and fast whole day and at night they throng the temples to sing the Lord’s praise and be a part of the ceremonious puja offered to the Lord Shiva’s shivling.

On the night of Shivratri, the shivling is bathed every 3 hours with ‘panchgavya’, that is the five pure offerings from cow, (considered to be a holy animal in Hinduism), milk, sour milk, butter, cow urine and dung, while chanting ‘Om Namah Shivay’.

Whole night of Shivratri is spent singing hymns in Lord Shiva’s praise and the shivlinga is offered the five foods of immortality – milk, clarified butter or ghee, honey, curd and sugar, along with fresh fruits, root vegetables and coconut. Those who fast on Shivratri open their fast the next morning by consuming the ‘prashad’.

The devotees circumambulate around Shivlinga three or seven times pouring milk or water over it.



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