Maha Shivaratri - A Hindu Festival Dedicated To Lord Shiva
Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu festival in which Hindu people joyfully worship Lord Shiva at Pashupatinath Temple.
Shivaratri occurs once a month in the twelve months of a Hindu calendar. But in the month of Falgun, it is specifically celebrated as Maha Shivaratri. It usually falls in late February or early March according to the Gregorian Calendar. This month also signifies the beginning of the summer season in Nepal.
Maha Shivaratri is the major festival for the devotees of Lord Shiva and followers of Hinduism. It is also a national festival of Nepal. This day is declared as a public holiday in the country.
How People Celebrate Maha Shivaratri?
Maha Shivaratri is celebrated as a huge event in Pashupatinath Temple. Different devotees, holy sages from Nepal as well as India visit the temple a day before. They organize a whole night prayer (‘jaagaran’) in the temple. They do not read chants and remain quiet. That is how they pray.
In the morning, Lord Shiva devotees take fast and visit a Shiva Temple. They worship Lord Shiva’s shrine and give offerings of fruits, sweets, Bel leaf, and milk. After the worship, the devotees take the prasad. They enjoy the whole day singing and dancing together at the temple.
On the evening of the Maha Shivaratri, many people gather together and enjoy burnfire. Likewise the celebration continues till the end of the festival.
Myths about Maha Shivaratri
There are three of the most popular myths on why people celebrate Maha Shivaratri.
Shiva and Shakti were united
Shiva represents masculine energy and Shakti represents feminine energy. Maha Shivaratri is the day when Shiva and Shakti were united. It means that masculine and feminine energy unite at a point to create balance in this world. To celebrate this balance, Maha Shivaratri carries a spiritual belief.
Lord Shiva drank poison to save the universe
A pot of poison emerged from the ocean named ‘Samundra Manthan’. It could potentially destroy the universe. So, Lord Shiva drank that poison to save the universe. He had to stay awake for the night to not let the poison kill him. All of the Gods helped him stay awake by taking turns to dance and sing. To celebrate Lord Shiva saving the world, people celebrate Maha Shivaratri.
Lubdhaka’s unintentional devotion
A devotee of Lord Shiva and a tribal man, Lubdhaka lost his way in a deep forest. He spent the night on top of a Bilva tree so wild animals wouldn’t attack him. He plucked Bilva leaves and dropped them on the ground, chanting Lord Shiva’s name so he doesn’t fall asleep. In the morning, he notices that he dropped thousands of leaves on a Shiva Linga near the tree.
Lord Shiva gave Lubdhaka blessings because he was happy with this devotion. This myth is also considered while explaining the offering of Bilva leaves to Lord Shiva.