MAHASHIVRATRI-The Festival of Spiritual Enlightenment

Mahashivratri is an auspicious day in the Hindu calendar. The devotees offer sincere prayers to Lord Shiva, on this day. Mahashivratri (meaning Night of Lord Shiva) falls on the 20th of February this year. The significance of Mahashivratri is that worshipping Lord Shiva on 13th night/14th day of the Phalgun month pleases him immensely. This festival is held in reverence of Lord Shiva who is amongst the most worshipped Hindu God’s. Lord Shiva symbolizes power, the power that comes from within oneself. Lord Shiva is the essence of life and is said to be dissolver of sins. Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of “Linga”, an abstract depiction, throughout India.


On this day devotees observe fast and stay awake for the whole night chanting prayers and singing Bhajans (devotional songs) of Lord Shiva. Devotees rise early on this day and take a dip, preferably, in the holy waters of Ganga. As a part of the ritual, the Shiv Linga is bathed with honey, milk and fruits. The Linga is then adorned with “Bael” (Aegle marmelos /Bilva/Wood Apple) leaves and flowers. Lamps and incense sticks are lit to create a divine ambiance. According to Mythologies it is believed that Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati on the auspicious day of Mahashivratri. When one prays with extreme devotion, Lord Shiva confers eternal bliss and is said to pave way the for salvation.

Episodes from the Hindu Mythology reveal the origin of this festival. It is believed that Goddess Parvati performed intense penance on this day to keep Lord Shiva safe from the evils of the moonless night. Thus Mahashivratri is of utmost significance to married women who pray for the prosperity of their married life. Unmarried women observe ardent fast and pray to get married to an ideal life partner. According to another legend, once the world was on the verge of destruction. Goddess Parvati asked all living beings to worship Lord Shiva to save them. Lord Shiva answered their prayers and ceased the destruction. This day is thus said to be observed as Mahashivratri. Lord Shiva is believed to have performed the “Tandava Nritya” or “Anandatandava” (a dance symbolizing the creation destruction cycle) on this day.

Mahashivratri is celebrated with spiritual fervor all over India. On this day thousands of devotees patiently wait to seek blessings of Lord Shiva whose idol is taken out in procession all over the town. This tradition is being followed even today in Tamil Nadu. Lord Shiva is said to bestow peace upon his devotees for whom Mahashivratri is a day of spiritual importance. Mahashivratri is a widely celebrated in Nepal as well. Devotees consume “Bhang”, a drink made from cannabis, almonds and milk which is said to be liked by Lord Shiva.

The customs and rituals performed on Mahashivratri have been carried on for generations together. The incessant devotion towards God is seen through each and every ritual performed on Mahashivratri. Lord Shiva is said to be easily pleased if worshipped with pure devotion. The purpose of Human life being spiritual salvation, one must unite with God to attain Moksha (highest form of liberation). Complete surrender to God is the only way to attain enlightenment, which is reflected through the spirit of Mahashivratri.

 

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