Maha Shivratri 2021: Maha Shivratri is one of the most important festivals of Hindus that marks the convergence of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. According to the Hindu calendar, Maha Shivratri is celebrated on the 14th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Phalguna. This year, it will be celebrated on 11th March 2021. On this auspicious day, the devotees of Lord Shiva stay awake all night chanting mantras, observe a strict fast and perform various religious activities to please Lord Shiva. It is believed that the people who please Lord Shiva on the day of Maha Shivratri are freed from their past sins and are blessed with salvation or Moksha.
History and Significance of Maha Shivratri
There are several legends associated with Maha Shivratri. One of the stories states that on this night, Lord Shiva drank the poison that emerged from the ocean during Samudra Manthan. The poison got stored in his throat making the throat blue that is why Lord Shiva is also known as Neelkanth.
Another story states that Lord Shiva performed the cosmic dance or Tandava on this night which caused total destruction and creation. One more legend is that Lord Shiva got married to Goddess Parvati on this night. So, it is the celebration of their union.
Maha Shivratri Celebration Across India
Maha Shivratri is celebrated solemnly in most parts of India. On the day of Maha Shivratri, the devotees worship Shivalinga, observe fast during the day and perform other religious activities.
The festival begins with the devotees waking up early in the morning and taking a bath in the holy rivers like Ganga. If not possible, one can also take bath in the water mixed with sesame seeds. According to the ancient scriptures, taking bath with sesame seeds water purifies the body and the soul. After taking a bath, devotees visit the Shiva temple for Shivalinga Abhishek (giving a customary bath to the Shivalinga). The Abhishek is performed using various materials like water, yoghurt, rose water, honey, milk and others.
Maha Shivratri is celebrated differently in different states of India. Here are a few interesting traditions of Shivratri followed by devotees in various states.
In Uttarakhand, devotees observe a daylong fast to mark the celebration of the festival. The people even visit Haridwar to take a holy dip in the river Ganga at Har Ki Pauri.
In Uttar Pradesh, a large number of people visit the Vishwanath temple in Varanasi to offer their prayers to Lord Shiva and take a holy dip in the river Ganga.
The festival of Maha Shivratri is celebrated with great enthusiasm in Andhra Pradesh. On this day devotees visit various Shiva temple in the state most importantly Sri Kalahasteshwara Temple at Kalahasti and the Bharamarambha Malikarjunaswamy Temple at Srisailam. The devotees observe fast during the day and chant mantras all night to mark the auspicious festival.
In Madhya Pradesh, there is an old tradition of taking bath in the Shiv Sagar Tank in Khajuraho. Also, there is a beautiful Shiva temple near the tank where the devotees offer their prayers to Lord Shiva.
JAMMU & KASHMIR
In Jammu & Kashmir, the festival of Maha Shivratri is celebrated for 21 days, starting from the day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna and end on the 8th day of the bright half of Phalguna. On this day the Kashmiri Brahmins perform Shivratri puja and even offer non-vegetarian food in puja to the Bhairavas who are considered to be a major part of Shiva’s baarat.
The festival of Maha Shivratri is celebrated with pomp and enthusiasm in the state of Orissa. The Shivratri celebration at Lokanath Temple, Puri is quite famous in the state. As per the old legend, a long time ago, Puri was a centre for worshipping Lord Shiva. The story says that Lord Ramachandra had kept the Lingam in the Lokanath Temple. The lingam is kept immersed in a vessel filled with water and the devotees can only see the lingam on Pankodhar Ekadasi, before Shivratri. Therefore, thousands of devotees visit the temple on that day for the darshan of Lingam.