No ardent devotee of Lord Shiva can forget the day called Maha Shivaratri which speaks volumes of the glory and grace of the Lord who is always known for His unlimited compassion for His devotees.
Maha Shivaratri 2018 falls on February 13, Tuesday.
Maha Shivaratri is the Shivaratri that occurs annually on the Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi in the month of Masi (February-March). Those who are the ardent devotees of Lord Shiva deem this day as the most religious and sacred in their life, since it is the day very much liked by Lord himself as understood in His conversation with Goddess Parvathy.
Devotees of Lord Shiva observe fast on this day and keep vigil overnight in prayer of Lord Shiva. The next day morning, they break their fast after getting the prasadam of Lord Shiva. Some of them take a tour to Jyothirlingams and pay their visits to temples in veneration of the Lord.
Maha Shivaratri has various mythological stories related to its celebrations. The primary story is about a woodcutter who spent the whole night on a bel tree on Shivaratri. Other stories are related to different Gods. Let us have a peep into all these stories.
The primary legend behind observing Maha Shivaratri is the story of a woodcutter Lubdhaka who kept vigil over the night of Maha Shivaratri without his knowing it. When he went deep into the forest to collect wood, he lost his way in the dark and was sitting at the top of a bel tree.
Being afraid that animals might kill him, he wanted to keep awake that night. In order to avoid sleep, he was throwing bel leaves one by one down the tree. In the morning when he came down, he was able to see that he had worshipped Shiva Linga by throwing bel leaves on the Linga.
The night as worshipped by him has been celebrated as Maha Shivaratri.It is also to be mentioned that praying to Shiva with bel leaves is considered very auspicious by us.
This day happens to be the day of marriage between Shiva and Parvathy, (the daughter of Himavan). Sati after the insult of Daksha in the yagna was separated from Lord Shiva as she became the object of his anger.
In order to get united with Shiva, she took birth as the daughter of Himavan and had a long penance and in the end got united with Shiva.
This union is reflective of the joint power of Shiva and Sakthi without which the world will not function effectively. To venerate this power, we celebrate Maha Shivaratri.
Maha Shivaratri is also the day when Lord Shiva appeared as a huge flame of fire, the top and bottom of whom could not be traced by Lords Vishnu and Brahma.
Brahma took the form of a swan and Vishnu took the form of a boar and went in search of the top and bottom of Lord Shiva. Brahma went to find out the top and Vishnu searched for the bottom of the Linga swaroopi Shiva. Both could not accomplish their tasks. On seeing a Thazhampoo in the upper part of the sky,
Brahma lied that he had seen the top of Shiva. For his lie, he was punished by God without having a separate temple for him on earth. This day, Shiva took the form of Linga which is worshipped on Maha Shivaratri with special abhishekams and poojas.
It is also the day when Lord Shiva gulped the halahala poison emanating while Devas and Asuras were churning the ocean of milk to get amrutham. when Devas and Asuras were churning the ocean of milk to get amrutham, halahala poison came out and started permeating the Universe.
Since it would destroy the whole Universe with its poisonous nature, Lord Shiva gulped it and retained it in his throat which became blue in turn due to the poison held there. He got the name Neelakandar because of this. In order to thank the Lord for His benevolence, we celebrate Maha Shivaratri on this day.
Thus, the puranic stories and the story of the woodcutter show how magnificent and divine Lord Shiva is. Those who pray to Him on Maha Shivaratri will get their sins absolved and gain liberation for sure.
In India and Nepal, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in the most religious and sacred manner. Pashpathinath temple in Nepal, Kasi Viswanath and Jyothirlingams are the famous temples where this festival is celebrated in a grand manner.
Maha Shivaratri is the day one can be absolved of his sins through ardent prayers to Lord Shiva.
It also relieves him of the cycle of birth and death.
Maha Shivaratri dispels darkness and ignorance from the hearts of people.
It is praying by day and night and thus keeping a control over our rajas and tamas natures. Rajas nature represents our evil aspects like jealousy, anger etc. and tamas represents our inertia. By praying in the daytime, we are able to control our mind and its ill aspects.
By praying at night, we keep awake and are able to stay away from inertia. Thus, Maha Shivaratri is the day for dispelling our ignorance and having the fire of spiritual knowledge (as symbolised by Shiva in the form of the huge flame of fire).
Praying to Lord Shiva on Maha Shivaratri will bring tons of benefits to the devotees and taking part in the abhishekam in temples or doing pooja to Linga at home on Maha Shivaratri is the way one can attain a place under the feet of Lord Shiva in Kailash.