Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival celebrated annually dedicated to worship Shiva. Krishna paksha chaturdasi in every month is called as Masa Shivaratri or Masik Shivaratri. Chaturdasi Tithi during Krishna Paksha in the month of Magha/Phalguna is known as Maha Shivaratri. This is considered as the most important vrata by the devotees.
It is believed that worshiping Lord Shiva on this day helps one get rid of all the sins. Also, it popularly believed that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati got married on this day. Unlike most Hindu festivals which are celebrated during the day, the Maha Shivaratri is celebrated at night. Devotees of Lord Shiva stay awake all night on this auspicious night of Shivratri. They perform poojas, meditate and chant Vedic mantras. On the Shivratri day, Lord Shiva is worshipped in a special form of Linga called ‘Lingodbhavamurti.’ It is a lingam in the form of fire which has neither a beginning nor an end.
Skanda puranam describes about four shivaratris.
- Nitya Shivaratri
- Masa Shivaratri (Krishna Paksha Chaturdasi
- Magha prathamadi Shivaratri which is observed for the 13 days starting from prathama tithi in the month magha and on the Chaturdasi night the Maha Shiva is worshiped throughout the night.
- Magha Krishna Paksha Chaturdasi – Maha Shivaratri
Origin and Significance of Maha Shivaratri
The Maha Shivaratri is mentioned in several Puranas, particularly the Skanda Purana, Linga Purana and Padma Purana. According to few references in the Shaivism tradition, this is the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation and destruction. According to other references, this is the night when Shiva and Parvati got married.
And yet another origin of celebrating Maha Shivaratri is, when Brahma and Vishnu fought between themselves as “who is the greatest”, Maha Shiva appeared before them as a pillar of fire. They were not able to find the starting and end of that pillar. This day is Thirukkaarthikai. Then Brahma and Maha Vvishnu repented for their mistake and prayed to Maha Shiva for forgiving their sin worshiping the shiva lingam which is the form of the flame. In the night of Shivaratri Maha Shiva appeared before them and blessed them.
According to Srimad Bhagavatam, Maha Shiva is flanked by Kubera – The God of Wealth and the four Kumaras who are celibate and liberated souls.
Maha Shivaratri is also held as the night when Bhagawan Shiva is believed to have performed the Tandava Nritya, the dance of Primordial Creation, Preservation and Destruction.
Based on few references from various puranas, on this Maha Shivaratri, Maha Shiva drank the Halahala that fell in the nectar during the event of Samudra Manthan to save the universe.
The greatest significance of Maha Shivaratri lies in the belief that this occasion has the efficacy of wiping out all the accumulated sins of an individual.