Maha Shivaratri, which literally translates to “great night of Shiva” is an Indian festival and is celebrated on the new moon day. The day is celebrated to venerate Lord Shiva, an important deity in Hindu culture. In the yogic culture, Shiva is not known only as a god, but as the Adiyogi or the first yogi – the originator of yoga. He was the one who first put this seed into the human mind.
Legends of Maha Shivratri
There are many mythological legends associated with this day. According to a popular legend, when a hunter could not find anything to kill for his food in a forest, he waited on the branch of a Bael (wood apple) tree. In order to attract deer, he started throwing the leaves of the tree on the ground, unaware that there was a Shiva Lingam beneath the tree. Pleased with the leaves and the patience of the hunter, it is believed that Lord Shiva appeared in front of the hunter and blessed him with wisdom. From that day onwards, the hunter stopped eating meat.
Another legend has it that after the Earth was faced with an imminent destruction, Goddess Parvati pleaded with Lord Shiva to save the world. Pleased with her prayers, Lord Shiva agreed to save the world on the pretext that the people of the Earth would have to worship him with dedication and passion. From that day onwards, the night came to be known as Maha Shivratri and people began worshipping Shiva with a great enthusiasm.
Traditional Rituals of MahaShivratri
Rituals: People often fast on the night of Shivratri and sing hymns and praises in the name of Lord Shiva. Hindu temples across the country are decorated with lights and colorful decorations and people can be seen offering nightlong prayers to Shiva Lingam. Bael leaves and cold water are offered to the Shiva Lingam on this day, as they are believed to be Lord Shiva’s favorite.
It is believed that the people who fast on this night and offer prayers to Lord Shiva bring good luck into their life. Shivratri is considered especially auspicious for women. Married women pray for the well being of their husbands and sons, while unmarried women pray for an ideal husband like Shiva. But generally it is believed that anyone who utters the name of Shiva during Shivratri with pure devotion is freed from all sins. He or she reaches the abode of Shiva and is liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
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