The Festival Mahashivaratri (Maha-great, Shiva-a Hindu god, Ratri-night) means The Night of Shiva, is celebrated with devotion and religious fervor in honor of Lord Shiva. 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.
Story behind Mahashivratri : There are various interesting mythology related to the festival of Maha Shivaratri. The most popular legends, Shivaratri marks the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Some believe that it was on the auspicious night of Shivaratri that Lord Shiva performed the Tandava, the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction. According to Linga Purana in that night Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga.
Mahashivratri 2017 in India : Traditionally, Mahashivratri is a Hindu festival and declared as a Central Government Holiday or Gazetted Holiday in India. On 2017, this festival will be celebrated on 24th February (Saturday). This festival less or more celebrates in all the states and Union Territories of India. Celebration Day: Friday, 24/02/2017. Last time it was celebrated on 7th March, 2016 (Monday) and on 2018, it will be celebrated on 13th February (Monday).
All through the day, devotees abstain from eating food and break their fast only the next morning, after the nightlong worship. Ritual baths of Shivalinga in the numerous Shiva temples by Shiva worshipper, mainly women, is another significant feature of Shivratri customs and traditions.
As a tradition, devotees wake up early in the morning of the Mahashivratri day and take a ritual sunrise bath. Then they put on fresh new clothes and visit the nearest Shiva Temple to give the customary bath to the Shivalinga.
On a Shivratri day, Shiva temples are thronged by devotees, mainly women, who come to perform the traditional Shivalinga Pooja and seek blessings from the god. Devotees circumambulate the Shivalinga, three or seven times, and then pour water over it. Some also pour milk.
According to Shiva Purana, sincere worship of Lord Shiva yields merits including spiritual growth for the devotees. It also provides extensive details on the right way to perform Shivratri Puja.
Shiva Purana further says that performing Abhisheka of Shiva Linga with six different dravyas including milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water while chanting Sri Rudram, Chamakam and Dasa Shanthi pleases Lord Shiva the most. According to the mythology, each of these Dravya used in the Abhisheka blesses a unique quality:
- Milk is for the blessing of purity.
- Yogurt is for prosperity & progeny.
- Ghee is for victory.
- Sugar is for happiness.
- Water is for purity.
- Honey is for sweet speech.
Besides, worship of Lord Shiva on Shivratri is also considered to be extremely beneficial for women. While, married women pray to Shiva for the well being of their husbands and sons, unmarried women pray for a husband like Shiva, who is considered to be the ideal husband.
All-Night Shiva Worship :
Worship of Lord Shiva continues all through the night on Shivaratri Festival. Devotees stay awake all night and spend the night in Shiva temples in worship of Lord Shiva. Singing of hymns and verses in praise and devotion of Lord Shiva besides the intense chanting of Om Namah Shivay, the mantra that is said free people from all their sins, continue through the night on Shivaratri.
Celebrations of Shivaratri began with the break of the dawn on the Shivratri day and continue all though the night. Devotees observe fast and spend the day in devotion and worship of Lord Shiva. Many worshippers also participate in the Jaagran or the night vigil organized in various Shiva temples across the country. There are a number of big or small Shiva temples across all over India. On this special day devotees celebrate Shiva ratri on their nearest temple.
Shivaratri festival of Women :
Shivratri Festival is particularly awaited by Hindu women. On Shivaratri, married and unmarried women perform Puja with great faith, as Goddess Parvati who is also called 'Gaura', is regarded as the giver of 'Suhag' - good husbands, marital bliss and a long and prosperous married life. One can therefore see find women enthusiastically observing the fast and performing the rituals Shiva Pujas on the day.