Mahashivaratri Festival or the ‘The Night of Shiva’ is celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva, one of the deities of Hindu Trinity. Shivaratri falls on the moonless 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun, which corresponds to the month of February – March in English Calendar. Celebrating the festival of Shivaratri involves a day and night fast and performing ritual worship of Shiva Lingam to appease Lord Shiva.
Traditions and Customs of Shivaratri
Various traditions and customs related to Shivaratri Festival are followed by the worshippers of Lord Shiva. Fasting in honor of Shiva is very important. Many devotees go on a diet of fruits and milk, while others do not consume even a drop of water.
Devotees strongly believe that sincere worship of Lord Shiva on the day of Shivaratri, frees a person of sins and liberates him from the cycle of birth and death. Shivaratri is considered especially auspicious for women. While married women pray for the well being of their husbands, unmarried women pray for a husband like Lord Shiva, who is regarded as the ideal husband.
To mark the Shivratri festival, devotees wake up early and take a ritual bath, preferably in river Ganga. After wearing fresh new clothes devotees visit the nearest Shiva temple to give ritual bath to the Shiva Lingum with milk, honey, water etc. On Shivaratri, worship of Lord Shiva continues all through the day and night.
According to the Shiva Purana, the Mahashivaratri worship must incorporate:
- Bathing the Shiva Linga with water, milk and honey. Woodapple or bel leaves are added to, which represents purification of the soul;
- Vermilion paste is applied to the Shiva Linga after bathing it. This represents virtue;
- Offering of fruits, which is conducive to longevity and gratification of desires;
- Burning incense, yielding wealth;
- The lighting of the lamp which is conducive to the attainment of knowledge;
- And betel leaves marking satisfaction with worldly pleasures.