#MAHASHIVRATRI – LORD SHIVA’S FAVOURITE DAY
Even the gods had their favourite days! Mahashivaratri is one of the best examples to prove it. According to a legend, Lord Shiva once confided to his consort, devi Parvati, that the 14th day of the dark fortnight (Krishna Paksha) in phalgun month is one of his choicest days. From then onwards, it was considered that if a devotee offers prayers to Bhagwan Shankar on this day, he is sure to be blessed by the lord.
MAHASHIVRATRI – THE BIGGEST FESTIVAL FOR SHIVA DEVOTEES
Undoubtedly, the holy occasion of Maha Shivratri remains one of the most significant festivals for all the devotees of Lord Shiva. It is believed that whoever worships Lord #Shiva on this holy day with complete austerity and devotion is relieved of all sins and attains liberation or moksha. In Hindu mythology, Kaal ratri, Mohratri and Shivaratri are considered the three most propitious days for worship. As Lord Shiva is associated with the welfare of the creation, performing the rituals of Maha Shivaratri redeems one from the vices of lust, greed, anger and leads him to a life of happiness, peace and prosperity.
SHIVA – THE ULTIMATE HUSBAND
Lord Shiva who is known by the name of Bholenath and is the supreme embodiment of perfect spirituality fulfills all the desires of a person who prays to Him sincerely. Unmarried girls offer their prayers to Lord Shiva to be blessed with an ideal spouse like Him while married women pray to Lord Shiva for the well-being and long life of their husbands and children.
WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT #MAHASHIVRATRI NIGHT?
A monthly Shivratri or maasik Shivratri is observed on the Chaturdashi tithi of every month. On the Chaturdashi night of Phalgun month, the tamoguna or negative energies are at their peak. Hence, Maha Shivratri is observed and Lord Shiva is revered to destroy the adverse effects of tamas (negative forces) all around and establish a serene and healthy atmosphere for all of us.
SIX SIGNIFICANT OFFERINGS
As per Shiva purana, six items are extremely essential to be incorporated in the worship of Maha Shivratri. This tradition has been followed till today and no worship of Lord shiva is considered complete without the offering of the six items- bael leaves, vermilion, unbroken rice and fruits, incense, diya and betel leaves.
BAEL, SINDOOR, BROKEN RICE AND FRUITS
Bael leaves symbolize purification of the soul. Application of vermilion paste on the linga after bathing symbolizes virtue. Offering unbroken rice and fruits to Lord Shiva ensures wish fulfillment and a long life. Lighting incense sticks ensure financial gain while kindling a lamp is associated with attainment of knowledge. Betel leaves represent contentment with material pleasures.
RITUALS FOR THE DAY
The three most significant rituals to be followed in this festival are: fasting throughout the lunar day, keeping a night vigil and performing the Rudraabhisheka. In temples, the observance of Maha Shivaratri rituals begin from the night of ‘Chaturdashi’ (the 14th day of waxing moon) and continues till the Amavas (dark night) morning. On the day of Maha Shivaratri, a devotee wakes up early and bathes in any sacred river as a part of self-purification. While doing so, he offers prayers to the Sun god, Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva. Then he wears clean new clothes and makes a mark of three stripes on his forehead with an application of the sacred ash (vibhuti). These three stripes represent purity, spiritual knowledge and penance.
SIGNIFICANCE OF THREE LINES OF SHIVA’S FOREHEAD
They are also known to symbolize the three eyes of Lord Shiva. There are many who wear a Rudraksha mala also (rosary created with the seeds of Rudraksha tree) on this day. Thereafter, the devotee visits a nearby Shiva temple carrying a pot of water or milk to give the customary holy bath to the Shiva linga. He half circumambulates the Shiva linga and pours water or milk over the Shiva linga. In case, he is unable to visit the temple, he can install a Shiva linga at home and bathe it.
FASTING ON MAHASHIVRATRI
On this holy day, a religious devotee abstains from eating or drinking for the whole day and night. During the night devotees worship Lord Shiva by dropping bael leaves on the linga. Devotees listen to the story of the hunter Suswara as it is believed to provide virtue to the listeners. The night of Mahashivratri is divided into four quarters or ‘praharas’, each of a period of three hours. A devotee chants specific prayers meant for each of the three praharas.
Pooja is done four times during the whole night and an offering consisting of seasonal fruits, flowers, sandal paste, Bilwa leaves, dhatura, incense, diya and naividya is made to the god. After the pooja is done, the Shiva linga is bathed with milk, curd, ghee, honey and indigenous sugar separately or in a combined panchamrit form. The bathing ritual in the four praharas should be done by following the panchopachar or shodshopachar puja rituals and while doing so the Shivapanchakshar mantra, ‘Namah Shivay’ or Shadakshari mantra ‘Om Namah shivay’ should be chanted.
Pushpanjali should be offered while chanting the eight names of Lord Shiva (astha murti)- Bhav, Sharva, Rudra, Pashupati, Ugra, Mahaan, Bhima and Ishan. For wish fulfillment 108 or 1008 Shiva names should be chanted. This should be followed by aarti and half circumambulation or ardha-parikrama around the linga. Recitation of verses, singing and dancing to the glory and praise of Lord Shiva continues throughout the night. Devotees maintain a night-long vigil (jaagran) and participate in recitation of mantras to please the lord.
The next day, the worshipper first gives alms to Brahmins or priests and feeds them. He then makes a prayer to Lord Shiva to attain wisdom and to be blessed with salvation. Thereafter, the devotee breaks his fast by consuming the lord’s Prasad. Observing all these rituals is said to provide a person with bliss not only in this world but in the next one too. Shiva Ratri is a wonderful occasion for an ardent worshipper to pay homage and express his love and devotion towards Lord Shiva. This year the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivratri falls on 7th march, Monday. The four praharas of pooja commences from the dusk (pradosh kaal) of 7th Mrach to dawn of 8th March.
KNOW THE SPECIFIC DWADASH JYOTIRLINGA TO BE WORSHIPPED
The 12 moonsigns have specific connections with 12 jyotirlingas. Native of moon sign should worship the jyotirlinga prescribed for him/her in order to gain maximum spiritual benefits. While offering prayers, one can imagine the specific jyotirlinga in mind & worship Shiva. The moon signs & jyotirlinga suggested for each moon sign –
Mesh (Aries)- Somnath
Vrisha (Taurus)- Mallikarjuna
Mithun (Gemini)- Mahakalaswar
Kark (Cancer)- Omkareshwar
Simha (Leo)- Vaidyanath
Kanya (Virgo)- Bheema Shankar
Tula (Libra)- Rameshwaram
Vrischik (Scorpio)- Nageshwar
Dhanu (Sagittarius)- Kashi Vishwanath
Makar (Capricorn)- Trayambkeshwar, Kumbha (Aquarius)- Kedarnath
Meen (Pisces)- Ghurisneshwar