ॐ’Happy Shivratri’ is a sacred greeting said on the occasion of Shivratri or Maha Shivratri. It is very popular among the devotees of Hindu Shaivite or Shaiva sect. What is this Shivratri or Maha Shivratri? Why is it so important? What stories or legends are associated with this festival? What rituals are performed on the occasion of Shivratri? Let’s know all about these.
ॐShivratri or Maha Shivratri is one of the important Hindu festivals. It falls on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the Bengali month of Phalguna. Actually, the Chaturdashi Tithi (fourteenth) of Phalguna (as per the Purnimant calendar) or Magha (as per the Amavasyant calendar) Krishna Paksha (the dark fortnight) is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This day is popularly celebrated as Shivratri or Maha Shivratri. Sanatan Hindu texts contain many stories and legends describing the origin of this occasion.
ॐAccording to Puranas during the churning of the cosmic ocean called Samudra Manthan, a pot of poison along with many other things emerged from the ocean. When poison emerged, neither the deities nor the demons made any claim for it. It was so venomous that the whole world started getting inflamed by it. To save the world Shiva then drank it but held it in throat instead of assuming it. This made His throat blue and since then He is called Neelkantha (the blue throated one). Many think that Shivratri is the celebration of this Puranic event.
ॐAccording to another legend of the Shiva Purana, two of the triads Brahma and Vishnu were having a dispute. Both of them were fighting for supremacy. Witnessing the fight, other gods requested Shiva to intervene. Shiva then assumed the form of a flaming Ling and challenged the quarreling two Gods to find the beginning and the end of it. The magnitude of the Ling scared two Lords. However, they decided to find an end of it each. Lord Brahma took the form of a swan and went upwards and Lord Vishnu as Varah and went into the earth. But the Ling had no limit. On His way upwards Brahma came across a Ketaki flower. Asked where she (Ketaki) had come from, the flower replied that she had been placed at the top of the flaming Ling. Unable to reach the upper end, Brahma decided to stop His search and take the flower as a witness of His success. Enraged by Brahma’s false claim Shiva cursed Him that no one would ever pray to Him. He also punished Ketaki by declaring it to be unfit as an offering for worship. As it was on the 14th day in the dark fortnight of the month of Phalguna that Shiva manifested Himself in the form of Ling, the day is extremely auspicious to His devotees and is celebrated as Shivratri – a very auspicious night of the worship of Shiva.
ॐA question arises always – why do the devotees keep night-long vigil on the Shivratri? It is explained through a popular and well-known story. Once there was a poor hunter named Suswara in Varanasi. Oneday he could not return home from forest before nightfall. The forest was infested with many ferocious animals. Unable to find his way back, he climbed a tree to save himself from the wild animals but he was afraid he would doze and fall from the tree. So, to stay awake he decided to pluck a leaf from the tree and drop it chanting the name of Shiva.
At dawn he realized that he dropped leaves on to Shivling and the tree he plucked leaves from was a vilva (wood apple) tree. That night happened to be Shivratri. So, by the grace of God, Suswara, a true devotee, unknowingly kept a night-long vigil and worshipped Shiva.
ॐGenerally Shivratri is considered auspicious for women. Common people think that married women pray to Shiva for the wellbeing of their family while unmarried women pray for an ideal husband. But I think this festival is auspicious for everyone. I also think everyone who prays to Him can be freed for all earthly sins.
ॐShiva is the supreme Consciousness that illuminates all types of darkness in us. Keeping awake or vigil on the grand night of Shivratri is symbolic to a devotee of Shiva. It is one kind of spiritual awareness that is needed for a devotee to reach the spiritual goal.
ॐDevotees of Lord Shiva observe a day-long fast, remain awake all night and perform puja during the night. It is believed that on Shivratri, Lord Shiva is pleased when one worships with vilvapatra according to proper rules. As per the rules, Shivratri Puja can be performed one time or four times during the night of Shiv Chaturdashi. The whole night duration can be divided into four to get four prahar to perform Shiva Puja four times and some rituals should be followed to complete the puja.
ॐFirst, reconcile your mind with the Lord through Dhyan (meditation). An idol of the Lord or a Shivling should be placed on an altar covered with white cloth. Sprinkle some water on the Lord’s feet and offer water to the Lord. Then pour some water on your right palm with an udrani and consume it. It is called Achaman. After this, the idol of the Lord or Shivling should be bathed four times in four prahars and a specific mantra should be chanted sincerely every prahar while bathing and worshipping.
ॐIn the first prahar, bathe the idol of the Lord or Shivling with milk and chant-
Idang snaniyadugdhang aum haun ishanay namah
aum shivaratribratang dev pujajaparayanah
karomi vidhibadattang grihanarghyang maheshwara
ॐIn the second prahar, bathe the idol of the Lord or Shivling with curd and chant-
Idang snaniyong dadhi aum haun aghoray namah
aum namah shivaya shantaya sarvapapaharaya cha
shivaratrau dadamarghyang prasid umaya saha
ॐIn the third prahar, bathe the idol of the Lord or Shivling with ghee and chant-
idang snaniyong ghritang aum haun vamdevay namah
aum dukhdaridra-shokena dldagdhohahang parvatishvara
shivaratrau dadamarghyang, umakanta grihan me
ॐIn the fourth prahar, bathe the idol of the Lord or Shivling with honey and chant-
idang snaniyong madhu aum haun sadyojatay namah
aum maya kritanyanekani papani har shankar
shivaratrau dadamarghyamumakanta grhan me
ॐAt the end chant the following mantra-
aum abighnen bratang dev tvatprasadat samarpitam
ksamsva jagatang nath trailokyadhipate har
janmayadya kritang punyang tadrudasya niveditam
tat prasadanmaya deva bratmadya samapitam
prasanna bhabo me sriman madbhuti pratipadyatam
tvadalokan-matren pabitrohasmi na sanshayo
ॐBesides, you should offer some other sacred things to the deity. These are vastra (a piece of cloth), yajnapaveeth, chandan (sandal paste), patra-pushpa (Datura flower, vilva leaves etc.), dhoop (incense sticks), deep (oil lamp), naivedya (fruits, paan, supari or any sattvic recipe) etc. Pradakshina or Parikrama (circumambulation) and aarti also should be done. Conclude the puja by offering flowers and doing pranam. After finishing puja, listen to Shivratri Vrat Katha and perform parana according to parana vidhi (rules).
ॐChant ‘Om Namah Shivay‘ and be happy.