Maha Shivaratri:The Night of Shiva

Maha Shivaratri:The Night of Shiva:

Maha Shivratri, the night of the worship of Shiva, occurs on the new moon night 14 during the dark half of the month of Phalguna. It falls on a moonless night in February, when Hindus offer special prayer to the lord of destruction. Shivratri (night 'ratri' = Sanskrit) is the night when he is said to have performed the Tandava Nritya or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. The festival is observed for one day and one night only.

Origin of Shivratri:

According to the Puranas, during the great churning of the ocean called mythical Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison emerged from the ocean. The gods and the demons were terrified as it could destroy the world. When they ran to Shiva for help, there to protect the world, drank the deadly poison but held to his throat instead of swallowing it. It turned blue throat, and since then it has come to be known as "Nilkantha" the blue-throated. Shivratri celebrates this event by which Shiva saved the world.

An important festival for women:

Shivratri is considered especially promising for women. Married women pray for the well-being of their husbands and son, while unmarried women pray for an ideal husband like Shiva, who is the spouse of Kali, Parvati and Durga. But in general, 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.

Shiva rituals:

The day of Shivratri, a platform is built on three levels around a fire. The board represents the highest "swargaloka" (heaven), the middle "antarikshaloka '(space) and the lower" Bhuloka "(earth). 'Kalash' eleven or urns are kept on board the "swargaloka" symbolizing the 11 manifestations of "Rudra" Shiva or destructive. These are decorated with leaves of 'bilva' or 'bael' (Aegle marmelos) and mango atop a coconut representing the head of Shiva. Tail uncut coconut symbolizes his tangled hair and three dots on the fruit Shiva three eyes.

Bathe the Phallus:

The phallus symbol representing Shiva is called the lingam. It is usually made of granite, soapstone, quartz, marble or metal, and has a "yoni" or vagina as a base representing the union of the organs. Devotees circumambulate the lingam and worship during the night. It is bathed every three hours with five sacred offerings of a cow, called "panchagavya '- milk, curd, urine, butter and dung. Then the five foods of immortality - milk, clarified butter, curd, honey and sugar are placed before the lingam. Datura fruit and flowers, but toxic, are believed to be sacred to Shiva and thus offered to him.
"Om Namah Shivaya":

Throughout the day, devotees keep severe fast, chant the sacred mantra Panchakshara "Om Namah Shivaya", make offerings of flowers and incense to the Lord in the midst of the temple bells. They keep long vigils during the night to stay awake to listen to stories, hymns and canticles. Fasting is broken only the next morning, after nightlong worship. Kashmiri, the festival is held for 15 days. 13th day is observed as a day of fasting followed by a family celebration.

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