Maha Shivaratri: Origin, Significance & Celebration 2023

 Maha Shivaratri: Origin, Significance & Celebration 2023

The most important of the 12 monthly festivals held throughout the year, Maha Shivratri is a time of fasting, prayer and offerings. Unlike most Hindu festivals, this unique event is celebrated at night – as Diwali celebrates light and colour, its ego pays homage to darkness, and the void before creation – a time when anything is possible.

If you are planning to travel to India to celebrate Maha Shivratri, remember to book your flights and hotels on…

What is Maha Shivratri?
Maha Shivratri is an annual Hindu festival associated with fertility and family harmony. Derived from two words Shiva and Ratri – it literally translates as “Night of Lord Shiva” and is dedicated to the great Hindu god who creates, protects and transforms the universe.

When is Maha Shivratri?
In India, the 14th day of every lunar month – the eve of the new moon and the darkest night of the month – is known as Shivaratri. Of the 12 Shivratri held every year, Maha Shivratri (which occurs around February-March) is the one with the most powerful spiritual significance.

Timed to coincide with the arrival of spring, Maha Shivarati begins on the 13th night and 14th day of the last month of the Hindu calendar (usually around February or March according to the Western calendar) and lasts for about 12 days.

This year the festivities begin on March 1, 2022. In 2023, Maha Shivarati will be on February 18, then in 2024 it will be on March 8, then in 2025 on February 26 and in 2026 on February 15.

Where does Mahashivratri usually take place?
This is one of the most spiritually significant nights in the Hindu calendar, so it is marked across India, and is also a national holiday in some other countries. On the subcontinent, huge gatherings are held in temples across the country, but the largest gatherings are usually found in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh, where Lord Shiva once stayed. Devotees flock to Shiva temples all over India, especially in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

Who celebrates Maha Shivratri?

This festival is a great unification of Hindu society. All castes, genders, ages and social groups join in their collective worship. Along with fertility and family harmony, this event is especially relevant for Hindu women.

What is the origin of Maha Shivratri?
The origin of the festival and its modern significance are rooted in ancient Indian mythology. According to legend, Maha Shivratri marks the occasion when Shiva first performed the Tandava dance – also known as the dance of primordial creation, protection and destruction. It is through this dance of devotion that Lord Shiva saved the world from destruction.

Maha Shivratri also marks the occasion of Shiva’s marriage to Goddess Parvati, and on that day they united with Mount Kailash. In the Yogic tradition Shiva is not worshiped as God, but as the Adi Guru – the very first Guru from whom the science of Yoga arose. Maha Shivarati is a night of peace and tranquility, inspired and dedicated to the wonderful grace and discipline of Lord Shiva.

Devotees perform ‘Pooja’
Figure 2 Devotees perform ‘pooja’ (a series of sacred offerings and offerings) during a night ceremony on the banks of the Ganges River in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

What rituals are associated with Maha Shivratri?
This festival combines all-day fasting and all-night vigil. During daylight hours, devotees wake up early and take ritual bath. After this bath, they will go to a nearby temple dedicated to Shiva to offer prasad of milk, curd, honey, ghee, sugar and water.

In homes and temples throughout India, the sacred mantra of Shiva is chanted: “Om Namah Shivaay.” Special pujas are performed, during which incense is burned, lamps are lit, and the flow of pilgrims continues throughout the day and into the night. Through all this, the devotees observe a holy fast till the next morning.

What is the meaning/understanding behind Maha Shivratri?
Maha Shivaratri is closely associated with fertility and creation. During the festival, unmarried women observe this fast in the hope that they will find a partner, while married women fast to maintain a balance of harmony in their married life and to give thanks.

Hindu holy men
Figure 3 Hindu holy men known as sadhus travel to places of worship during the 12 days of Maha Shivratri.

What is the significance of lingam and bel tree?
Lord Shiva is usually worshiped in the form of a symbol that represents creation – a linga. Another common image or symbolism associated with Shivaratri is the bell tree (or its tree, native to India), as this was apparently one of Shiva’s favourites. Today, its leaves and fruit play a central role in festivals.

What are some common activities associated with Maha Shivratri in India and around the world?
Beyond India’s borders, Maha Shivaratri is also a major event in Indo-Caribbean communities, where more than 400 temples proudly observe the night of devotion and offer a special cocktail known as Jal (milk and curd, flowers, sugarcane and sweets). Is performed. Above Lord Shiva. In Mauritius, Hindu pilgrims go to the island’s sacred crater-lake, called the Ganges Talo; In Nepal, where the festival is a national holiday, holy places such as the Shiva Shakti Pitham and the Pashupatinath Temple are thronged with devotees.

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