Lord Shiva is a
highly revered Hindu deity, who is the part of the great holy Trinity
(Brahma, Vishnu, Mahesh/Shiva - the Creator, the Preserver and the
Destroyer). 'Shiv' means welfare.
Shiva is not only a Lord but is also considered as the prime God in
the Panchdev Pujan. In the Shiv Mahimna strot, Pushpadant has
described him in a wonderful manner by mentioning him as unborn, the
reason for the everyone's existence, creator, nurturer and destroyer.
hermetic God, with his abode in Mount Kailash in the Himalayas, is
believed to be formless, shapeless and timeless. The
'Linga' is the symbol of Lord Shiva's formless nature. The
Shiva Lingam is a mystic symbol of Lord Shiva. People pray both to
his idol and to the Lingam that represents him. Lord Shiva, the
Destroyer, is worshipped widely by devotees with great respect and
devotion. Shiva is considered the easiest of the Gods to please and
his blessings are said to possess immense power. One
is believed to achieve salvation by worshipping Lord Shiva. From the
root of Lord Shiva originated 'Om'. Hence when one chants 'Om', one
indirectly worships Lord Shiva.
of the most revered Indian festivals, is celebrated with great
devotion and religious fervour by Hindus in the honour of Lord Shiva.
Literally meaning, the
Night of Shiva, the
celebrated to mark the day on which Lord Shiva married Goddess
Parvati. It falls on the 13th night of the dark half of the Hindu
month of Phalgun (it comes in the month of February or March
according to the English calendar). On the occasion of
Mahashivaratri, devotees observe a day long fast and worship Lord
Shiva with great ardour at temples and their homes. It is also
believed that whoever worships Lord Shiva on this day attains
salvation, and that by fasting on this one day, one can reap the
benefits of a whole year's rigorous prayer.
Here, Ganesha, Lord
Shiva's son, expounds on his father's mahima (greatness)
and the significance of worshipping him on Mahashivaratri.
legends have been recorded in the ancient Hindu texts or scriptures
about the festival of Mahashivaratri, explaining the reason behind
its celebrations as well as its significance.
According to the
Puranas, during the great mythical churning of the ocean -
Samudra Manthan (conducted by
the devas, the
deities/minor gods, and the daityas, the demons for obtaining nectar to make them immortal), first a
pot of poison emerged from the ocean. The devas and the demons
were terrified, as it possessed the potency to destroy the entire
world. Nobody was ready to touch it, it was so vicious, and they had
no clue as to what to do with it. Someone suggested that the only one
who could get them out of the predicament was Lord Shiva. So they all
ran to him for help, who promptly agreed to consume the poison.
However, the poison was so deadly that even if a drop entered Lord
Shiva's stomach (his stomach represents the universe), it would have
annihilated the entire world. Legend has it that Lord Shiva took it
on himself, and carefully held the poison in his throat that in turn
became blue due to the effect of the poison. That is why Lord Shiva
is also called Neelkanth. Mahashivaratri is also celebrated as
a day of gratitude to Lord Shiva for protecting the world from this
According to another
story, Brahma and Vishnu were arguing about which one of them was
supreme and more powerful, and just then emerged in front of them a
gigantic Lingam engulfed in flames which left both the Gods amazed
and overwhelmed. They looked up to ascertain its height, but could
not even see its end, as it seemed to be stretched into infinity. And
then, Lord Shiva emerged out of it, and declared that he was the most
supreme of the three, and that he be worshipped in this Lingam form.
is said that If one observes fast on Shivaratri unknowingly, then
also he gets various benefits. There's yet another legend that
substantiates this belief. The story recounts how an ordinary hunter,
who fasted unknowingly on Mahashivaratri, attained salvation. The
hunter once went to a forest in search of prey. He sat on a tree of
belva-patra, the leaf of which is very dear to Lord Shiva, waiting
for some prey. He did not know that there was a Shiva lingam under
the tree, nor that it was Mahashivaratri. While waiting for the prey,
the hunter kept plucking the leaves from the tree and went on
dropping them on the lingam. During the first quarter of the day, a
deer came there to drink water. When the hunter tried to kill it, the
deer pleaded for mercy, as its children were waiting for it. The
hunter let it go. In the second quarter, the deer's children came
there, and out of compassion the hunter did not kill them either.
Thus all the four quarters passed with the hunter only dropping the
belva-patra on the lingam with his stomach empty. It was then that
Lord Shiva himself appeared before the hunter, and that is how the
hunter attained salvation.
Shiva once said, as recorded in the scriptures, that whoever worships
his and Ma Parvati's statue on Mahashivaratri and fasts will be
dearer to him than his own son Kartik. The benefits that one gets
from a mere glimpse of Lord Shiva are unmatchable.
Lord Shiva's devotees observe a
strict fast on Mahashivaratri, with many people not even consuming a
drop of water. Worshippers dutifully follow all the traditions and
customs for the fast as they strongly believe that sincere worship of
Lord Shiva on this auspicious day releases a person from all his sins
and liberates him from the cycle of birth and death. As Shiva is
regarded as the ideal husband, unmarried women pray for a husband
like him, while married women pray for the well being of their
wake up early in the morning on Mahashivaratri, and after taking a
bath and wearing fresh clothes, they visit the nearest Shiva temple,
to give a ritual bath to the Shiva Lingam (with milk, honey, water,
etc.). The worship continues the whole day and night. The next
morning, devotees break their fast by partaking the prasad
offered to Lord Shiva.
Chanting of "Om Namah Shivaya" continues throughout
the day and night. Belva leaves are continuously offered to the
Lingam. Hymns of Lord Shiva are sung with great devotion.
are the methods prescribed for observing a fast and worshipping Lord
Shiva on Mahashivaratri: Benefits of
worshipping Lord Shiva
First Quarter Til (Sesame Seeds),
Second Quarter Fruit of Vijora, Lemon,
Third Quarter Til, Wheat, Malpua,
Fourth Quarter Udadh, Jav, Moong,
Shankhipushp, Belva-patra and
Pakodas of udadh should
be offered at the end.
Ablution of Lord
Shiva is said to purify one's soul.
By making offerings
(Naivaidya) one is said to attain a long and satisfactory life.
By lighting a lamp,
one becomes knowledgeable.
Lord Shiva, one can get favourable results.
One begets children
by sprinkling/ pouring milk on the Shiva lingam.
After bathing Lord
Shiva with curd, one can buy vehicles.
By offering Lord
Shiva darbha (a kind of grass) mixed in water, one can get rid of
If honey, ghee and
sugarcane are offered to Lord Shiva, one can attain wealth.
By bathing Lord
Shiva with the holy water of the river Ganges, one can attain
Mantras for the
worship of Lord Shiva:
It is said that if
these mantras are chanted in Lord Shiva's temple or in the presence
of his idol, one attains liberation from the world, by the way of
Moksha or Salvation.
Keeping the above
mentioned significance of Mahashivaratri in mind, if one observes a
fast on this day with complete devotion, and in the prescribed
manner, he shall certainly reap the innumerable benefits. May Lord
Shiva bless us all!
With Best Regards,
The GaneshaSpeaks Team
18 February 2012 12:48:18 GMT