Mahashivratri is the celebration of the reappearance of Lord Shiva, one of the three deities of the Hindu Great Trinity. It is a major Hindu festival and also holds the greatest significance in Shaivism.
As per Hindu tradition, Mahashivrati is observed each year on the new moon day in the month of Maagha. This day is celebrated to venerate and worship the Adishakti, Lord Shiva. This day is celebrated with great fervour in India and among the Hindu community in Nepal, Mauritius and Bangladesh.
LEGEND BEHIND MAHASHIVRATRI
There are many stories that revolve around the origin of this day. The prominent one is the union of Lord Shiva and Maa Parvati- according to Hindu mythology, it was this day that they got married.
Another popular story goes that it was on this day that the colossal churning of the ocean, also known as Sagar Manthan happened today. Lord Shiva drank down the whole pot of poison which the Daitya (demons) through deceit wanted the heavenly gods, Dev to drink thereby emerging as the superior power. Lord Shiva instead drank it down and saved the poison in his throat. As an effect of the poison, his throat turned blue and he went on to be known as Neelkanth.
Another story goes that it was this day Lord Shiva mentioned when Parvati asked Shiva what his favourite day was.
Many believe that when earth was faced with a foreseeable destruction, Parvati insisted on Shiva saving it from the wrath and the night came to be known as Mahashivratri.
Another famous legend goes that once a hunter was going about his task in a jungle and he climbed a Woodapple (bili) tree while aiming at a deer. In order to attract the deer, he started plucking leaves from the tree and unknowingly threw them on the Shivlingam beneath it. The deer fell in the trap but begged that the hunter let him go to see his family and promised to return. The hunter agreed and kept awake the whole night waiting for the deer, throwing more leaves on the Shivlingam below. At the break of the dawn the deer returned but by then the hunter could no longer gather himself to kill a life- he’d unknowingly performed Shiv puja and now by the blessings of Lord Shiva his soul was purified. That day onwards, Hindus are believed to have celebrated Mahashivratri by staying up all night fasting and performing puja.
India has 12 listed Jyotirlingas which are considered most auspicious Shiva shrines and are believed to be the best places to offer prayers.. While some celebrate this festival during day, majority of people celebrate it in the night by organising jaagrans replete with bhakti song (hymns) and ceremonies.
Across southern India, kids celebrate this day by knowingly indulging in light mischief and drawing punishment. Many Hindus begin the celebrations 2-3 days ahead of the main day, celebrating the marriage of Lord Shiva to Parvati. People observe fast on the night. It is believed that observing fast and performing puja on this day bring you your soulmate. Worshippers get up early and at sunrise take bath and perform Surya puja- worshipping the sun God by offering him water- this is a purification ritual. They then proceed to Shiva temples and worship the Lingam by chanting Om Namah Shivay and bathing it with water, milk and honey and then decorate it with garlands.
Hindu temples across India are beautifully decorated and are lit with diays and lights. Worshippers offer woodapple leaves, flowers and milk to the Shivlingam. Ujaain which is believed to be the residence of the deity has processions run through the length of the city with people thronging to get a glimpse of the Lord.
With the second largest Hindu population, Nepal, which also has the very famous Pashupatinath Temple, celebrates this festival in full merrymaking through songs and dances. People, especially married women pray for a blissful marital life.
The Mahashivratri Puja must include these items- offering fruits which means you have your desires in control and pray for a long, healthy life. Applying the vermillion paste on the lingam would bless you with virtues. Burning agarbatti or the holy incense stick is a yielder of wealth and fortune. Lighting diya and performing arti brings you enlightenment. And offering beetel leaves is brings you contentment.
Whether you are performing puja at home or in the temple, these itemds are an indispensable part of the Shivratri puja.
Thandai is synonymous with Mahashivratri. Devotees gulp down this sweetened milk with almonds and kesar added to it. Traditional thandai is made with bhaang which according to mythology was Shiva’s favourite.
Peachmode wishes all its customers a very joyous and blessed Mahshivratri. May we all be blessed with prosperity and the beneficence of the mighty God!
Here are some saree suggestions for you that would be resonate perfectly with the fervour of this festival: