You are on page 1of 12

Maha Shivratri (the 'Great Night of Shiva') is a Hindu festival celebrated every

year in reverence of Lord Shiva. It is the day Shiva was arried to !arvati.
"he Maha Shivratri festival# also $o$ularly %nown as 'Shivratri' or 'Great Night
of Lord Shiva'# is observed on the &'th night(&)th day in the *rishna !a%sha
every year on the onth of +algun according to the Hindu calendar. ,lternate
coon s$ellings include Sivaratri# Shivaratri# Sivarathri# and Shivarathri. It
ar%s the convergence of Shiva and Sha%ti. Maha Shivratri is celebrated on
the *rishna !a%sha -haturdashi of Hindu calendar onth Maagha as $er
,avasya.ant onth calculation /,s $er !oornia.ant onth calculation# the
day is *rishna !a%sha -haturdashi of Hindu calendar onth !halguna0 which
falls in +ebruary or March as $er the Gregorian calendar. 1f the twelve
Shivaratris in the year# the Maha Shivarathri is the ost holy./20
"he festival is $rinci$ally celebrated by o3erings of 4ael or golden a$$le or
4ilva(5ilva leaves to Lord Shiva# fasting and an all.night.(6agarana).
,ll through the day# devotees chant 71 Naah Shivaya7# a sacred
!ancha%shara antra dedicated to Lord Shiva. In accordance with scri$tural
and disci$leshi$ traditions# $enances are $erfored in order to gain boons in
the $ractice of 8oga and editation# in order to reach life's highest good
steadily and swiftly. 1n this day# the $lanetary $ositions in the Northern
heis$here act as $otent catalysts to hel$ a $erson raise his or her s$iritual
energy ore easily. "he bene9ts of $owerful ancient Sans%rit Mantras such as
Maha Mrityun6aya Mantra increase greatly on this night./'0
In Ne$al# illions of Hindus attend Shivaratri together fro di3erent $art of
the world at the faous !ashu$atinath "e$le. "housands of devotees also
attend Mahasivaratri at the faous Shiva Sha%ti !eetha of Ne$al.
In "rinidad and "obago# thousands of Hindus s$end the aus$icious night in
over ):: te$les across the country# o3ering s$ecial 6halls to Lord Shiva./)0
1n Maha Shivratri# Nishita *ala is the ideal tie to observe Shiva !oo6a.
Nishita *ala celebrates when Lord Shiva a$$eared on the ;arth in the for of
Linga. 1n this day# in all Shiva te$les# the ost aus$icious Lingodbhava
!u6a is $erfored.
& Legends
2 !ralaya (the <eluge)
' Lord Shiva's favourite day
) "he Story of *ing -hitrabhanu
= >ituals of Maha Shivratri
=.& 1ther traditional worshi$ of Lord Shiva
? Shivaratri in India
?.& International MahaShivratri +air
?.2 Maha Shivaratri in 5ai@Aavis
?.' Maha Shivaratri celebration in 4angladesh
?.) Mahashivaratri in -entral India
?.= Mahashivaratri in Southern India
?.? Sahasra%alasabishe%a
?.B Sivarathri Nrutha
?.C Mahasivarathri !rocession
?.D !anchaa%shari
?.&: >udrabhishe%a
?.&& Mysticis
B See also
C >eferences
D ;Eternal lin%s
Maha Shivratri is associated with the arriage of Shiva and Sha%ti.
"he legends signify that this day is the favorite of Lord Shiva and also throws
light on his greatness and the su$reacy of Lord Shiva over all other Hindu
Gods and Goddesses.
Maha Shivaratri also celebrates the night when Lord Shiva $erfored the
'"andava'# the cosic dance.
,ccording to another legend of Saudra anthan# Shiva saved the world
fro the disastrous e3ects of a $oison that eerged as a by $roduct of the
churning of the sea (Saudra anthan)# by consuing the whole of the
$oison. Shiva could arrest the $oison in his throat by his 8ogic $owers and it
didn't go down his throat. His nec% turned blue due to the e3ect of the $oison
on his throat and henceforth he is also %nown as Neela *antha or "he 4lue
!ralaya (the <eluge)
,nother version of the tale relates that the world was facing destruction and
Goddess !arvati $rayed to her husband Shiva to rescue it. She $rayed for the
Fivas (living souls) that reained in $articles of gold dust in lu$s of
waE# since !ralaya is brought about by Lord Shiva. Shivratri is also when
Goddess !arvati and Lord Shiva arried.
Lord Shiva's favourite day
,fter earth's creation was co$lete# !arvati as%ed Lord Shiva which devotees
and rituals $leased hi the ost. "he Lord re$lied that the &)th night of the
new oon# in the dar% fortnight during the onth of !hagun# is his favorite
day. !arvati re$eated these words to Her friends# fro who the word s$read
to all creation.
"he Story of *ing -hitrabhanu
1nce u$on a tie *ing -hitrabhanu of the I%shva%u dynasty# who ruled over
the whole of Fabudvi$a (India)# was observing a fast with his wife# it being
the day of Maha Shivaratri. "he sage ,shtava%ra cae on a visit to the court
of the %ing.
"he sage as%ed the %ing the $ur$ose of his observing the fast. *ing
-hitrabhanu eE$lained that he had a gift of reebering the incidents of his
$ast birth# and in his $revious life he had been a hunter in 5aranasi and his
nae was Suswara. His only livelihood was to %ill and sell birds and anials.
"he day before the new oon# while roaing through forests in search of
anials# he saw a deer# but before his arrow Gew he noticed the deer's faily
and their sadness at its i$ending death. So he let it live. He had still not
caught anything when night fell# so he clibed a tree for shelter. It ha$$ened
to be a 4ael tree. His canteen lea%ed water# so he was both hungry and
thirsty. "hese two torents %e$t hi awa%e throughout the night# thin%ing of
his $oor wife and children who were starving and anEiously awaiting his
return. "o $ass the tie# he engaged hiself in $luc%ing the 4ael leaves and
dro$$ing the down onto the ground.
"he neEt day he returned hoe and bought soe food for hiself and his
faily. "he oent he was about to brea% his fast a stranger cae to hi#
begging for food. He served the food 9rst to stranger and only ate afterward.
,t the tie of his death# he saw two essengers of Lord Shiva# sent to
conduct his soul to the abode of Shiva. He learnt then for the 9rst tie of the
great erit he had earned by unconscious worshi$ of Shiva during the night
of Maha Shivaratri. "he essengers told hi that there had been a Linga (a
sybol for the worshi$ of Shiva) at the botto of the tree. "he leaves he
dro$$ed fro the 4ael tree had fallen into the sha$e of a Linga# in iitation
of Shiva's ritual worshi$. "he water fro his lea%y canteen had washed the
Linga (also a ritual action)# and he had fasted all day and all night. "hus# he
unconsciously had worshi$ed Lord Shiva. ,t the conclusion of the tale the
*ing said that he had lived in the abode of the Shiva and en6oyed divine bliss
for a long tie before being reborn as -hitrabhanu. "his story is narrated in
the Garuda !urana./=0
'Shivaratri' eans 'night of Shiva'. "he i$ortant co$onents of this religious
festival are rigid fasting for twenty four hours and slee$less vigil during the
night. ;very true devotee of Lord Shiva s$ends the night of Shivaratri in dee$
editation# %ee$ing vigil and observing the fast.
"he worshi$ of Lord Shiva consists in o3ering Gowers# 4ilva leaves and other
gifts on the Linga# which is a sybol of Lord Shiva# and bathing it with il%#
curd# ghee# honey# sugar# coconut water# butter# and rose.water.
Hhen creation had been co$leted# Shiva and !arvati had been living on the
to$ of *ailas. !arvati as%edI J1 venerable God# which of the any rituals
observed in "hy honour doth $lease "hee ostKL Lord Shiva re$liedI J"he
thirteenth night of the new oon# *rishna !a%sha# in the onth of
Magha(+ebruaryMMarch) is %nown as Maha Shivaratri# My ost favourable
"ithi. My devotees give Me greater ha$$iness by ere fasting than by
cereonial baths# and o3erings of Gowers# sweets# and incense.
7Fust hear# My 4eloved# of an e$isode which will give you an idea of the glory
and $ower of this ritual#7 said Lord Shiva to !arvati.
J1nce u$on a tie# there lived in the town of 5aranasi a hunter. He was
returning fro the forest one evening with the gae birds he had %illed. He
felt tired and sat at the foot of a tree to ta%e soe rest. He was soon
over$owered by slee$. Hhen he awo%e# it was the thic% dar%ness of night. It
was the night of Maha Shivaratri but he didn't %now it. He clibed u$ the
tree# tied his bundle of dead birds to a branch and sat u$ waiting for the
dawn. "he tree ha$$ened to be My favorite# the 4ilva tree.
J"here was a Linga under that tree. He had $luc%ed a few leaves and then
dro$$ed the down# accidentally foring the sha$e of a Linga. "he night.
dew tric%led down fro his body. I was highly $leased with involuntary little
gifts of the hunter. "he day dawned and the hunter returned hoe.
JIn tie# the hunter fell ill and gave u$ his last breath. "he essengers of
8aa(Lord of <eath) arrived at his bedside to carry his soul to 8alo%(abode
of 8aa). My essengers also went to the s$ot to ta%e hi to My abode.
"here was a vicious 9ght between 8aaNs essengers and My essengers.
"he forer were easily defeated. "hey re$orted the atter to 8aa# Lord of
<eath. He arrived in $erson at the $ortals of My abode. Nandi gave hi an
idea of the sanctity of Maha Shivaratri and the love which I had for that
hunter. 8aa surrendered the hunter to Me and returned to his abode.
"hereafter# 8aa has $ledged not to touch y devotees without y consent.
J"he hunter was able to enter My abode and ward o3 death by si$le fasting
and the o3ering of a few 4ilva leaves# even accidentally# because it was the
night of Maha Shivaratri. Such is the solenity and sacredness associated
with that night.L
!arvati was dee$ly i$ressed by the s$eech of Lord Shiva on the sanctity and
glory of Maha Shivaratri. She re$eated it to Her friends# who in their turn
$assed it on to the ruling $rinces on earth. "hus# the sanctity of Maha
Shivaratri was broadcast all over the world.
>ituals of Maha Shivratri
5ery early orning# Shiva te$les are Goc%ed by devotees# young and old#
who coe to $erfor the traditional Shivalinga worshi$ ($u6a) and hence
ho$e for favours fro the God. <evotees bathe at sunrise# $referably in the
Ganga# or any other holy water source (li%e the Shiv Sagartan% at *ha6urao).
"his is a rite of $uri9cation# which is an i$ortant $art of all Hindu festivals.
Hearing clean clothing after the holy bath# worshi$$ers carry $ots of water to
the te$le to bathe the Shivalinga. Hoen and en both o3er $rayers to the
sun# 5ishnu and Shiva. "he te$le reverberates with the sound of bells and
shouts of JShan%er6i %i FaiL eaning 'Hail Shiva'. <evotees circulate the
linga three or seven ties# and then $our water over it. Soe also $our
il% over it.
,ccording to the Shiva !urana# the Mahashivaratri worshi$ ust incor$orate
siE itesI
4athing the Shiva Linga with water# il% and honey. Hood# a$$le or bel
leaves are added to# which re$resents $uri9cation of the soulO
5erilion $aste is a$$lied to the Shiva Linga after bathing it. "his
re$resents virtueO
13ering of fruits# which is conducive to longevity and grati9cation of
4urning incense# yielding wealthO
"he lighting of the la$ which is conducive to the attainent of
,nd betel leaves ar%ing satisfaction with worldly $leasures.
"ri$undra refers to the three horiPontal stri$es of holy ash a$$lied to the
forehead by worshi$ers of Lord Shiva. "hese stri$es sybolise s$iritual
%nowledge# $urity and $enance (s$iritual $ractice of 8oga). "hey also
re$resent the three eyes of Lord Shiva./?0
Hearing a ala (rosary) ade fro the rudra%sha seeds of the rudra%sha
tree (said to have s$rung fro the tears of Lord Shiva) when worshi$ing Lord
Shiva is ideal. , rudra%sha seed is color# or could soeties
be blac%. "hey ight also have traces of sacred sandalwood $owder#
tureric# %u%u# or holy ash if the rosary is used in worshi$ cereonies or
1ther traditional worshi$ of Lord Shiva
Main articleI Fyotirlinga
"he twelve Fyotirlingas (lingas of light) are sacred shrines to Lord Shiva# and
centres for his worshi$. "hey are %nown as Swayabhus# eaning the
lingas s$rung u$ by theselves at these locations# and te$les were built
there afterwards.
"e$les are listed in the India tourist guides.
Shivaratri in India
International MahaShivratri +air
Main articleI Mandi Shivaratri +air
"he Mandi festival or fair is $articularly faous as this s$ecial fair transfors
the town of Mandi into a venue of grand celebration# where all Gods and
Goddesses of the Mandi district# said to nuber ore than 2::# asseble#
starting on the day of Shivaratri. "he town of Mandi# located on the ban%s of
the 4eas >iver# is $o$ularly %nown as the 7-athedral of "e$les7 and is one
of the oldest towns of Hiachal !radesh# with about C& te$les of di3erent
Gods and Goddesses in its $eri$hery. "here are several legends lin%ed to the
celebration of Shivaratri. "he festival is centered around the $rotector deity of
Mandi 7Mado >ai7 (Lord 5ishnu) and Lord Shiva of the 4hootnath te$le in
Mandi./B0/C0/D0 "his festival is celebrated with great fervor in Mandi and it is
coon to see any foreign tourists throng to this region# es$ecially to
$arta%e in the Maha Shivaratri celebrations in Mandi# Hiachal !radesh.
Maha Shivaratri in 5ai@Aavis
Great 5ai@Aava QcQryas recoend the observance of Riva.ratri. "he
following is an eEcer$t fro Riva.tattva $ublished by Gaudiya 5edanta
He honor Lord Riva as a great 5ai@Aava and as guru. He do not worshi$
hi se$arately. He observe Riva.ratri# Lord RivaNs a$$earance day# and we
glorify hi in connection to his relationshi$ with RrS *T@Aa. RrSla SanQtana
GosvQS has written in his Hari.bha%ti.vilQsa that all 5ai@Aavas should
observe Riva.caturdaUS (Riva.ratri). Lord Riva# in who all good Vualities
reside# should certainly be honored by the observance of this day.
He o3er obeisance to Lord Riva with $rayers li%e thisI
vTndQvanQvani.$ateW 6aya soa soa.aule
go$SUvaraW vra6a.vilQsi.yugQYghri.$ade
$rea $rayaccha niru$Qdhi nao naas te
SaY%al$a.%al$adrua# &:'
J1 Gate%ee$er of 5TndQvanaW 1 Soa# all glories to youW 1 you whose
forehead is decorated with the oon# and who is worshi$able by the sages
headed by Sana%a# Sanandana# SanQtana and NQradaW 1 Go$SUvaraW <esiring
that you bestow u$on e $rea for the lotus feet of RrS RrS >QdhQ.MQdhava#
who $erfor 6oyous $asties in 5ra6a.dhQa# I o3er obeisances unto you
tie and again.L/&:0
Maha Shivaratri celebration in 4angladesh
Hindus in 4angladesh also celebrate Maha Shivaratri. "hey fast in ho$es of
getting the divine blessing of Lord Shiva. Many 4angladeshi Hindus go to
-handranath <ha (-hittangong) to observe this s$ecial day. It is said by
4angladeshi Hindus that those who fast and $erfor the !u6a will receive a
good Husband(Hife# a%ing Maha Shivaratri eEtreely $o$ular with Hindus
all over 4angladesh.
Mahashivaratri in -entral India
-entral India has a large nuber of Shiva followers. "he Maha%aleshwar
"e$le# Z66ain is one of the ost venerated shrines consecrated to Lord Shiva
where a large congregation of Shiva devotees turns u$ every year to o3er
$rayers on the day of Maha Shivratri. "ilwara Ghat in the city of Fabal$ur and
the Math "e$le in the village of Feonara# Seoni are two other $laces where
the festival is celebrated with uch religious fervour.
Mahashivaratri in Southern India
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated widely in the te$les all over ,ndhra !radesh#
*arnata%a# *erala and "ail Nadu. Shiva is considered the ,di (9rst) Guru
fro who the yogic tradition originates. ,ccording to tradition# the
$lanetary $ositions on this night are such that there is a $owerful natural
u$surge of energy in the huan syste. It is said to be bene9cial for one's
$hysical and s$iritual well.being to stay awa%e and aware throughout the
night. 1n this day# artists fro various 9elds such as classical usic and
dance $erfor the whole night.
"his is a very s$ecial and rare $u6a conducted during the &: days of the Maha
Sivarathri festival. It is well %nown that Lord Siva is abhishe%a$riya (lover of
ablutions). Lord !arasuraa and *roshta Muni# during their worshi$ of the
Lord here# are believed to have bathed the deity with Sahasra%alasa or a
thousand $ots of holy water# according to 5edic rites. Now during Maha
Shivarathri festival# the Head !riest ("hanthri) and his tea $erfor this $u6a.
It is a function# each day an o3ering of &:& *alasa or $ots of holy
water (&:: being ade of silver# while one is ade of gold)# charged with
antras recited by learned 4rahins seated on the Mu%haanta$a. "he
$ots are e$tied onto Lord Shiva's statue# the golden $ot 4raha%alasa
being the last one. , agni9cent light is the indication or identity of Lord
Shiva and the Shiva Linga is considered to be the sybol of it. Hence# the
foral worshi$ on Maha Shivaratri consists of bathing the Shiva Linga. Lord
Shiva is said to be burning with the 9re of austerity and so only those ites
are o3ered to Hi that have a cooling e3ect. , cool water bath is believed
$ro$itious and to satisfy Shiva best. "here is a belief aong devotees that
$artici$ation in Sahasra%alasa and o3ering holy worshi$ will lead to
blessings fro Lord Shiva for $ros$erity and a $eaceful life. Hundreds of
devotees throng the shrine# chanting 7Naah Shivaya7# 7Hara hara
Mahadeva7# and 7Sabho Mahadeva7...
Sivarathri Nrutha
Sivarathri Nrutha at "hri%%uratti te$le# according to religious scholars#
resebles the cosic dance of Shiva# called [,nandatandava#' eaning# 'the
<ance of 4liss' sybolising the cosic cycles of creation and destruction# as
well as the daily rhyth of birth and death. "he dance is a $ictorial allegory
of the 9ve $rinci$le anifestations of eternal energy M creation# destruction#
$reservation# salvation# and illusion.
"he !riest %ee$s sheeveli vigraha (idol) 9Eed on decorated frae on his head.
He a%es seven rounds on !rada%shina 5aPhi (holy wal%way ade of granite
around Sanctu Santoru). Hhen the 9fth round is reached at the west nada
(!arvathi nada)# the door o$ens for 6ust &: inutes. "his is an annual
cereony. "housands of !ilgris rush to have a glance of this aus$icious
oent. ,t this tie all the $rada%shina vaPhi will be lit with ca$hor and
brass te$le la$s by thousands of devotes who stay awa%e through the
night while chanting 7Naa Sivaya7# 7Hara Hara Mahadeva7 and 7Sabho
Mahadeva7. 1lder devotees sing 7Hara san%ara siva san%ara duritha %ala
sivane7. In this enlightened serene ood# the !riest $erfors Nrutha and
runs the $rada%shina vaPhi towards the east nada. <uring the neEt two
rounds he acce$ts 75aliya %ani%%a7. "he Sivarathri Nrutha is followed by the
well %nown agni9cent dis$lay of 9rewor%s.
Mahasivarathri !rocession
1n the evening of the Maha Shivarathri festival# a grand $rocession starts
fro *ada$ra *aini%%ara "e$le. It includesI several decorated Goats#
*aavadi ,aata# Mayilatto# ,an *udo# "haiyya# 5ela *ali# *uthiyotta
-huvadu# richly ca$arisoned ele$hants and fol% art fors. "his $rocession
attracts thousands of devotees and tourists. Hhen the ain $rocession
reaches Mar%et Function# other ini $rocessions fro *uratti%%adu
Mutharaan "e$le# *urattissery *anna%avil Mutharaan "e$le#
"hri$$avoor Mahavishnu "e$le# 5ishavarsheri%%ara Subrahanya Swai
"e$le# Sree%arya Malie%al >a6an "e$le# and ,luoodu Siva$arvathy
"e$le 6oin and a%e the $rocession even ore agni9cent. "he arvelous
as well as agical e3ect of the Sina%ari Mela and !anchavadya# a
cobination of 9ve $ercussion and wind instruents# is heard and en6oyed.
,ong the varieties of festivals celebrated in *erala# the "hri%%uratti
Sivarathri $rocession is one of the ost thunderous# s$ectacular and
daPPling. It is an eE$ression of $o$ular fascination for sound and colour# and
because of the $ageantry# it a$$eals to all $eo$le# including foreigners. 1nce
the $rocession reaches the te$le# <ee$aradhana is followed by a colourful
dis$lay of 9rewor%s.
Shiva# as the God of destroying evil# is the third aong the divine trinity of
Hindu ythology. Shiva's holy antra# consisting of the 9ve.syllablesI 7Na7
7Ma7 7Shi7 75aa7 78a7 (1 NaaH Shivaaya) which $raise Lord Shiva# is
chanted incessantly on s$ecial occasions li%e Maha Shivaratri. Shiva's
thousands of naes# each describing His greatness# ay also be chanted.
Shiva eans 7aus$icious7. ,s Shan%ara# He is the giver of ha$$iness to all.
Natara6a (the %ing of dancers) is a favourite for of Lord Shiva's# revered
es$ecially by dancers and usicians.
"here is a s$ecial set of antras in the 5edas# 7>udra Su%ta (>udri)7# which is
recited by 4rahan($undits ($riests) while they o3er a holy bath to the Shiva.
linga# with the waters of sacred rivers li%e the Ganges# as well as cow il%#
curd (yogurt)# ghee# honey and sugar $owder. "his ritual# %nown as
7>udrabhishe%a7# is an i$ortant $art of Shiva.$u6a.
,ccording to the ystic ythology of the !uraanaas# the *ailasa $ea% of the
Hialayas is the abode of Shiva and He bears the Ganges on His head. ,s the
Lord of creatures# He is eta$horically called the !ashu$athi (with Nandi# the
bull# His favourite anial) and His fearless nature is ca$tured by the title of
Sar$abhushana. Shiva's $osture in the editation is ascribed to Hi as the
head of 8ogis (8ogira6a)# who $ractice various s$iritual feats to attain
salvation. Lord Shiva's divine consort# Goddess !arvati (who is also the
daughter of Hialaya)# is the deity of strength. Shivratri in *ashir(herath) It
is the ost i$ortant festival for *ashiri 4rahins . It's is celebrated in
every household as the arriage of Shiva and !arvati. "he festivities start 'M
) days before Maha Shivratri and continue for two days after it (Sala)