By- Gauri Kumari
Mahashivratri, this year is on 7th march 2016. It is after 12 years that this festival is falling on Monday (Somvar) which is believed to be the most auspicious day for worshipping lord Shiva by his devotees.
Mahashivratri is of great significance to Hindus. Mahashivratri –The Great Night of Lord Shiva marks the divine convergence of Shiva and Shakti. It is also believed that on this day lord Shiva was married to goddess Parvati. Some, however, believe that on this day lord Shiva performed the sacred dance form Tandav.
Going by the South Indian calendar Chaturdashi Tithi during Krishna Paksha in the month of Magha is known as Mahashivratri. However according to the North Indian calendar, Masik Shivratri in the month of Phalguna is known as Mahashivratri. But in both calendars, it is the naming convention of the lunar month that differs and both north and south Indians celebrate Mahashivratri on the same day.
On this day, devotees of lord Shiva do fasting (vrat) and perform puja. All the devotees chant ‘om namah shivay’ while performing various rituals during puja.
Chanting the ‘Mahamritunjaya’ mantra is of great significance on this day. The festival is principally celebrated by offerings of bhel (bael) leaves to Shiva. As stated in shiv Purana Mahashivratri rituals must comprise of six things each having its own significance.
First is bathing the shiva linga with water, milk and honey with bhel leaves added to it which represents purification of the soul. Next vermillion paste is applied to shiva linga signifying virtue. After that devotees offer fruits which is conducive to longevity and gratification of desires.
Thereafter burning incense sticks yields wealth. Lastly betel leaves are offered to mark satisfaction of worldly desires. Devotees believe that sincere observance of Shivratri puja and all night worship of lord Shiva will absolve them of all their sins and liberate them from the cycles of birth and death.
Hindu women wait for this festival. It is believed that women, married or unmarried who perform puja with great devotion and faith get good husbands, marital bliss and a long and prosperous married life since goddess Parvati is also known as ‘gurua’ the giver of suhag. Hence, one can see women enthusiastically observing the fast and dedicatedly performing the rituals.
Mahashivratri is very popular with ascetics since lord Shiva is also regarded as an ascetic god. A drink made with bhang(cannabis), milk and almonds – known as ‘thandai’- is essentially drunk by some devotees on this day because cannabis is considered to be very dear to lord Shiva. There are multiple reasons ascribed to it. One view says that Lord Shiva took it as a matter of bliss during deep meditations, while others say that Shiva drank cannabis as a symbol of taking in negativity of the world so that the world could live with positivity.
Written by Gauri Kumari, student of university of Hyderabad, India.