Maha Shivarathri - The Night Dedicated To The Worship Of Lord Shiva

by VioletteRose

Maha Shivarathri is observed every year by Hindus across the world. The festival falls on either late February or early March, based on the Hindu calendar calculations.

Maha Shivarathri is actually one of the most important Hindu festivals, especially for the devotees of Lord Shiva. My childhood memories are very deeply associated with the Shiva temple that is located in our place, and also the much awaited Shivarathri celebrations every year. Even though I now live far away from my birth place, I still fondly remember the festival days and try to be there whenever possible, at least in my thoughts.

Image of God Shiva from Pixabay

In our place, the celebrations are held for seven days that include the reciting of sacred chants, songs and also story telling. Sacred books like Ramayana, Bhagavatam, Bhagavad gita etc. are read. Cultural programs like folk dances and fancy dress for children are usually organized.

Plays and cinemas will also be displayed as part of the programs.

In the Shiva temples everywhere, the festival celebrations are held for many days, concluding everything on the Shivarathri night.

The word 'Maha Shivarathri' can be translated as the 'Great Night Of Shiva'. The day and night on Maha Shivathri are dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva, even though the prime importance is for the night. The temples will always be busy and crowded with special poojas and rituals.

The sacred panchakshari mantra "Om Namah Shivaya" is always recited, along with other mantras.

Those who observe Shivarathri do not sleep on that day. They will be awake for the entire day and night. The observance of Shivarathri is mostly focused on avoiding sleep. You can fast the whole day or limit food if you wish, but that is not very necessary as the focus is to avoid sleeping at night. What I have seen mostly is that those who plan to stay awake at night usually eat rice only for lunch and then use fruits and sometimes wheat based food for dinner. Some people prefer to just have the food offerings from the temple.

Lunch is freely offered from most of the Shiva temples on Shivarathri day, known as Annadanam. So even if you decide to fast by limiting food, you can have the food offered from the temples.

If you decide to avoid sleep and be awake on Shivarathri, you should not sleep on the day and night. You can sleep once you see the star on the sky, the next day evening. In brief, you will not be sleeping for two days and the Shivarathri night.

It is not a must to either fast or be awake on Shivarathri. You can do that only if you are in good health. Those who want to observe Shivarathri, but do not have the health to do so, can choose their meals carefully by avoiding all non vegetarian food and then be awake at least till midnight, if possible. Anything that you do in devotion to the God is always appreciated.

From what I have seen, most people who are awake at night spend their time at temples. Almost all the Shiva temples will be open all day and night on Shivarathri.

Doing pradakshina or walking around the temple reciting mantras is common in temples. On Shivarathri, it is really good to do the pradakshinas as much as you can. Some people even do it more than a hundred times on Shivarathri night.

Koovalam is a herbal tree very dear to Lord Shiva. So devotees perform pooja and offerings to the God with garlands made of Koovala leaves. The Koovala leaves are very bitter in taste, but have very important medicinal value, particularly known for its powers to treat diabetes, skin disorders and also the ability to fight against many bacterial infections.

Koovalam known as Bael or Aegle marmelos
Koovalam known as Bael or Aegle marmelos
Wikimedia Commons Image

There are many legends associated with Shivarathri festival. What I have heard mostly is this. It was on Shivarathri night that God Shiva had swallowed the poison emerged from the ocean, in order to save the world, and this turned his body to blue in colour. There are also tales which says that it is the night on which Shiva and Parvathi got married.

Murudeshwar Shiva Temple
Murudeshwar Shiva Temple

It is believed that those who observe Shivarathri, will be forgiven for all their sins, provided they honestly repent for their sins and concentrate on the worship of God.

In 2015, Shivarathri is falling on February 17th Tuesday.

Updated: 02/09/2015, VioletteRose
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VioletteRose on 05/16/2015

Hi Mira, thanks for reading! Pooja means worship.

Mira on 05/16/2015

Interesting. I loved the story about how his body turned blue. What does pooja mean?

VioletteRose on 03/03/2015

Thanks so much for reading Frank and WriterArtist!

WriterArtist on 02/09/2015

Shiva is an important deity in Hindu religion. I loved to hear the myths, anecdotes connected to Lord Shiva. My father used to tell me many stories about Parvathi and Ganesha. Reading your article reminded me of my childhood and the enthusiasm of celebrating all these festivals. Enjoyed reading this article.

frankbeswick on 02/09/2015

Thanks for this. I had not heard of this festival before. Keep up the good work.

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