Every deity in the Hindu pantheon has a particular day dedicated to Him and that day is considered most sacred and auspicious to worship and propitiate. Jagara or Shivaratri or the night of Shiva is a festival held in honour of the Lord Shiva. In Shiva Purana, Shiva says to Her consort Parvati that no festival other than Shiva Ratri observed by his devotees gives Him so much pleasure and satisfaction. This festival is, therefore, observed withgreat sanctity by the people on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna (February-March). On the eve of Maha Shivratri, the devotees observe fast and perform puja throught out the night.
Lord Shiva and his wife Sati were in Kailash abode, and Daksh, father of Sati, was doing a big yagya (fire ceremony). Sati went to the yagya without an invitation from her father. Daksh was very proud, and out of his great pride, he was disrespecting God Shiva. Sati could not tolerate it. So she jumped in the fire of yagya and finished Herself.
When Lord Shiva heard about this incident, out of fury, he was on the threshold to destroy the universe. It was only when other gods interfered and calmed down his anger that it was saved. God Shiva was now alone and went into deep meditation. Then Sati again took birth as Parvati in the family of god Himalaya. So, from very childhood She was desiring to meet God Shiva. In order to break the meditation of Lord Shiva, She undertook grave austerity in the jungle- all absorbed in love of God Shiva. So the day was fixed for their marriage, and on this particular day, Hindu celebrates the union of God Shiva and Parvati.
According to another legend in the Shiva Purana, once Brahma and Vishnu were fighting over who was the superior of the two. Horrified at the intensity of the battle, the other gods asked Shiva to intervene. To make them realize the futility of their fight, Shiva assumed the form of a huge column of fire in between Brahma and Vishnu. Awestruck by its magnitude, they decided to find one end each to establish supremacy over the other. Brahma assumed the form of a swan and went upwards and Vishnu as Varaha went into the earth. Nevertheless, light has no limit and though they searched for thousands of miles, neither could find the end. On his journey upwards, Brahma came across a ketaki flower wafting down slowly. When asked where she had come from, the ketaki replied that she had been placed at the top of the fiery column as an offering. Unable to find the uppermost limit, Brahma decided to end his search and take the flower as a witness. At this, the angry Shiva revealed his true form. He punished Brahma for telling a lie and cursed him that no one would ever pray to him. The ketaki flower too was banned from being used as an offering for any worship, as she had testified falsely. Since it was on the 14th day in the dark half of the month of Phalguna that Shiva first manifested himself in the form of a linga, the day is especially auspicious and is celebrated as Maha Shivratri. Worshipping Shiva on this day is believed to bestow one with happiness and prosperity.
There is another possible reason for the origin of the all-night worship. Maha Shivratri being a moonless night, people worship the god who wears the crescent moon as an adornment in his hair, Shiva. This was probably to ensure that the moon rose the next night.
According to one myth, Parvati performed tapas, prayed, and meditated on this day to ward off any evil that may befall her husband on the moonless night.
Devotees bathe at sunrise, preferably in the Ganga or any other holy water source (like the Shiva Sagar tank at Khajuraho). They offer prayers to the sun, Vishnu and Shiva. This is a purificatory rite, an important part of all Hindu festivals. Wearing a clean piece of clothing after the holy bath, worshippers carry pots of water to the temple to bathe the Shivalinga. The temple reverberates with the sound of bells and shouts of ‘Shankarji ki Jai’ or (Hail Shiva). Devotees circumambulate the linga, three or seven times and then pour water over it. Some also pour milk.
The linga is bathed with milk, water and honey. It is then anointed with sandalwood paste. People offer wood apple or bael leaves and fruit, milk, sandalwood and jujube fruit (bé²¦amp;copy; to the linga. Shiva is believed to be very hot tempered and hence things that have a cooling effect are offered to him. People decorate the linga with flowers and garlands and offer incense sticks and fruit. In bigger temples, there is almost a stampede as devotees seek favors from their beloved god. Many also employ the services of a priest to perform special prayers. Shiva being an ascetic god, Maha Shivratri is very popular with ascetics. Thandai, a drink made with cannabis, almonds, and milk, is essentially drunk by the devotees. This is so because cannabis is said to have been very dear to Shiva.
Lord Shiva Loves Belpatra and its must to offer it to him.Lord Shiva is also offered special food, made from fruits of the season, root vegetables and coconuts, during ritual worship. The Shivling (phallic symbol of the Lord) is bathed with the panchagavya (five sacred offerings of a cow including milk, sour milk, urine, butter and dung). Thereafter, milk, butter, curd, sugar and honey, (believed to be the foods granting immortality), are offered. Dhatura and jati, though poisonous fruits, are sacred to Shiva and therefore placed in front of him.
Unmarried girls are supposed to perform the Maha Shivratri pooja with great faith. They pray to the lord for eligible husbands. Moreover, married women pray to Lord Shiva for for marital bliss and a long prosperous married life
Why is the Belpatra so important to Shiva?
Legend has it that one night Lord Shiva’s devotee, a hunter, lost his way in the forest. As he was wandering in the night, he heard a tiger growl. The frightened man scurried up the nearest tree that was a Bel tree. He spent the night up there, out of the reach of tigers. To keep himself awake, he kept plucking and dropping Bel leaves while chanting the name of Lord Shiva. The next morning, when the devotee climbed down, he had unknowingly dropped thousands of leaves on a Shiva linga. The night-long worship pleased Lord Shiva who saved the hunter from the clutches of a tiger. This legend is recited on every Maha Shivratri.
Maha Shivratri Fast
One of the most auspicious Vrita. It is considered to be equal or more then performing an Ashwamedha Yagna. Taking bath in the water mixed with Black til and observing fast, worshipping Lord Shiva with the Bail Patras, kanera flowers, dhatura and Milk, Listening Shiva’s Katha and reciting Shiva Strotram, all these things are considered to be very very auspicious today.People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a drop of water and they keep vigil all night. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” continues. Offerings of Bael leaves are made to the Lingam as Bael leaves are considered very sacred and it is said that Goddess Lakshmi resides in them.
Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, such as the “Shiva Mahimna Stotra” of Pushpadanta or Ravana’s “Shiva Tandava Stotra” are sung with great fervour and devotion. People repeat the ‘Panchakshara’ Mantra, “Om Namah Shivaya”. He, who utters the names of Shiva during Shivratri, with perfect devotion and concentration, is freed from all sins. He reaches the abode of Shiva and lives there happily. He is liberated from the wheel of births and deaths. Many pilgrims dock to the places where there are Shiva temples.
Places to visit
Every devout Hindu celebrates Shivratri throughout India. However, there are a few renowned Shiva temples that are worth visiting on this day. They are Omkareshwar in Madhya Pradesh, Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, Bhimashankar in Daminyal (near Pune) in Maharashtra, Mahakaleshwar (Ujjain) in Madhya Pradesh, Somnath in Saurashtra, Naageshwar in Dwarka, Mallika in Uttar Pradesh, Kedarnath in the Himalayas, Dhushmeshwar in Ellora near Aurangabad, Trimbakeshwar near Nasik, Vishwanath in Benaras, Vaidyanatha in Marathwada and Umananda in Assam.
Jai Shiv onkara, Prabhu jai Shiv onkara
Brahma Vishnu Sadashiv ardhangi dhara, Om
Har Har Mahadev….
Ekanan, chaturanan, panchanan raje,
Hansasan GarudaSan Vrishvahan saje, Om Har
Do bhuj, charu chaturbhui dashmukh ati sohe
Tinon rup nirakhte tribhuvan janmohe, Om Har
Akshyamala banamala mundmal dhari
Chandan mrigmad sohai, bhale shubhkari, Om
Har Har Mahadev….
Shvetambar Pitambar Bagambar ange,
Brahmadik Sankadik Pretadik sange, Om Har
Kar madhye kamandalu au trishul bhari,
Sukhkari dukhahari jagpalankari, Om Har Har
Brahma Vishnu Sadashiv janat aviveka,
Pranavakshar men shobhit ye tinon eka, Om
Har Har Mahadev….
Trigun svami ki arti jo koi nar gave
Kahat Shivanand svami man vanchhit phal pave,