The night of Lord Shiva – Mahashivratri – is a night-long festival that is held annually in honour of the supreme yogi and the destroyer of illusions. Celebrated on the 14th day of Phalgun month. There are two beliefs around this festival:
- The first is that this is the night Lord Shiva performed Tandava – the dance of destruction. The symbolism of this dance is that it creates vibrations that have the power to shatter the ego’s illusions of self. The destruction that is left in its wake, gives rise to the awakening of consciousness within.
- The second is that it is the night of Lord Shiva’s marriage to Goddess Parvati. Here the symbolism is the merging of Shiva and Shakti, where Shiva represents the supreme consciousness and Parvati represents love, beauty, and fertility.
The coming together of these two beliefs are a beautiful union of consciousness and awakening to the higher self. On this auspicious day, spend time in quiet contemplation, lay focus on your heart chakra, and meditate on the dissolving of the ego.
Rituals and Pooja
In order to observe the festival, it is considered good to wake up early in the morning, even before moving out of bed, sit in silence and focus on the breath. Start the day with a bath at sunrise and offer prayers to Lord Shiva. Visit a Shiva temple if you are inclined to.
Ritual fasting is a prerogative to this festival where some observe a complete fast until next daybreak and some keep a vegan fast, abstaining from dairy and cooked food, consuming only fruit. A nightlong worship and sometimes dance ceremonies are also performed. Worship involves ritual bathing of the Shivling with milk, honey, yogurt, and waters from River Ganga, followed by decorating it with Belpatr (leaves of Bel tree). This worship is believed to absolve a person of past sins and being blessed with moksha (freedom from the cycle of life and birth).
Observing the Mahashivratri Vrat (fast) with utmost discipline helps a person in conquering the rajas guna (the quality of passionate activity) and the tamas guna (the quality of inertia). Fasting with sincerity, a person can control emotions like lust, anger, and jealousy which are born of rajas guna and the nightlong vigil helps to subdue the tamas guna.
Celebrations at major temples of Lord Shiva
The Mahashivratri festival is celebrated at all jyotirlingas and key places of worship across India.
- Somnath in Gir Somnath, Gujarat
- Mallikarjuna in Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh
- Mahakaleswar in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
- Omkareshwar in Khandwa, Madhya Pradesh
- Kedarnath in Rudraprayag, Uttarakhand
- Bhimashankar in Pune, Maharashtra
- Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
- Trimbakeshwar in Nashik, Maharashtra
- Baidyanath in Deoghar, Jharkhand
- Nageshvara Jyotirlinga in Dwarka, Gujarat
- Ramanathaswamy in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu
- Grishneshwar in Aurangabad, Maharashtra
Other key temples:
- Sri Kalahasteshwara Temple at Kalahasti, Andhra Pradesh
- Bharamarambha Malikarjunaswamy Temple at Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh
- Umananda Temple at Guwahati, Assam
- Bhutnath at Mandi, Himachal Pradesh
- Matangeshwar Temple at Bundelkhand, Madhya Pradesh
- Lokanath Temple at Puri, Odisa
- Tarakeshwar at Kolkata, West Bengal
- Dharmasthala Manjunatha in Dharmasthala, Karnataka
- Kotilingeshwara in Kammasandra, Karnataka
Needless to say, there are numerous bhajans dedicated to Lord Shiva and I am listing below some of my favourites that I love to listen to everyday
Wishing everyone a blessed Mahashivratri.