Shivratri or Maha Shivratri is the most auspicious day dedicated to Lord Shiva and is popularly known as the night of Shiva and celebrate Mahashivratri in India. In 2016, the date of Shivratri is March 7.
On an auspicious day, devotees observe fast and keep vigil all night. Mahashivaratri marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the ′Tandava′. It is also believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Parvati Ma. On this day Shiva devotees observe fast and offer fruits, flowers and bel leaves on Shiva Linga.
It is believed that on this day the planetary position in universe evokes the spiritual energies very easily. Religious beliefs are carried out to gain boons through the practice of meditation and yoga. People worships lord Shiva whole day and chants “Om Namah Shivay”. Some devotees also perform Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra to seek divine blessings of Lord Shiva.
Shivaratri Celebrations in Temples
After the ritual bath, preferably in the sacred waters of river Ganga, devotees pay a visit to the nearest Lord Shiva temple carrying the traditional puja items like milk, water, bel leaves, fruits, incense stick, oil lamp etc. Due to the massive popularity of the festival, several stalls selling puja items come up outside the temple and do a thriving business.
Shivaratri Celebrations by Women
Shivratri Festival is particularly awaited by Hindu women is celebrate Mahashivratri India. On Shivaratri, married and unmarried women perform puja with great faith, as Goddess Parvati who is also called ′Gaura′, is regarded as the giver of ′suhag′ – good husbands, marital bliss and a long and prosperous married life. One can therefore, see find women enthusiastically observing the fast and performing the rituals Shiva Pujas on the day.
Tradition of Drinking Thandai (Bhang)
Since Lord Shiva is regarded as an ascetic god, Maha Shivratri is very popular with ascetics and celebrate Mahashivratri in India. Thandai, a drink made with bhang (cannabis), almonds, and milk, is essentially drunk by the devotees on the day as cannabis is said to have been very dear to Shiva.
Let’s have some ideas about places to celebrate Mahashivratri in India.
1. Neelkanth Mahadev Temple in Rishikesh, Uttarakhand
As the name suggests, the Neelkanth Mahadev temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is situated at the height of 1330 meters in Rishikesh. It is believed that Lord Shiva consumed all the venom from the ocean at this place only and hence it got its name. The temple organises two fairs annually, first on the occasion of Mahashivratri from Feb to March and the other one on Shivratri of Shraavana month of Hindu calendar from July to Aug.
2. Tilbhandeshwar Temple, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
Varanasi is considered the city of Lord Shiva. Tilbhandeshwar temple is one of its oldest temples which is an epitome of Banarsi and Malayali culture. The temple organises the 5-hour long wedding procession of Shiva and Parvati in a grand manner on the occasion of Maha Shivratri. The procession starts from this temple and after going around the city, it finally ends here. After the procession, devotees offer prayers and perform rituals.
3. Sri Kalahasti Temple in Andhra Pradesh
Famous for its Vayu linga, one of the Pancha Bhoota Sthalams, the temple represents wind/air as its primary element. The temple has a lamp inside the sanctum that constantly flickers despite the lack of air movement. The temple hosts the festivities of Shivaratri in a grand manner and devotees from all across India visit the shrine with extreme devotion and fervour in order to get ‘mukti’. Devotees also observe fast and chant mantras to please Lord Shiva on this auspicious day.
4. Shree Lokanath Temple, Puri, Orissa
As one of the most important Shiva shrines of Orissa, the main deity of this temple is Shiva linga. The Shiva linga is situated in the inner chamber of the temple which is visible to devotees only once in a year. The sanctum that preserves the linga is immersed in the natural fountain of water throughout the year. It is only on the occasion of Mahashivratri that all the water is drained out and the linga becomes visible. Devotees in great numbers gather on this day to see the magnificence of this phenomenon and offer prayers and offerings.
5. Bhootnath Temple in Himachal Pradesh
Also known as Bhiuli temple, the Temple of Bhootnath is situated at Mandi and is said to organize the biggest Maha Shivaratri mela in the country. The temple host a week-long International Mandi Shivratri Fair every year around this festival that attracts many tourists from India and even abroad. A ‘Shobha Yatra’ takes place every year on Shivratri which is lead by the Governor of the State and the Chief Minister inaugurates the function to mark the festivities of this great day.
6. Umananda Temple, Assam
Located in the middle of River Brahmaputra and is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. It attracts massive crowds during the festival of Shivratri, every year and celebrate Mahashivratri in India.
7. Khajuraho Temple, Madhya Pradesh
As a tradition, people in Madhya Pradesh take a holy dip in Sagar tank on the occasion of Mahashivaratri in Khajuraho. A large number of Lord Shiva devotees flock the Matangeshwar Temple and worship throughout the night and celebrate Mahashivratri in India. The highpoint of the Shivaratri celebrations at the Matangeshwar Temple is the 10-day-long fair that witness the participation of traders, peddlers, and gipsies from other parts of the state. Display of traditional fare and a variety of handicrafts besides the rural circus show, magic shows, folk theatre, and merry-go-rounds add to the excitement.
Happy Maha Shivratri
Images: Google Images