Maha Shivratri is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honour of Lord Shiva, one of the main deities in Hinduism. It is observed on the 13th or 14th night of the Hindu month of Phalguna, which falls in February or March. The word “Mahashivratri” literally translates to “the Great Night of Shiva.”
On this night, devotees stay awake all night, offer prayers, perform rituals and meditate in the name of Lord Shiva. The festival is a celebration of Lord Shiva’s victory over darkness and ignorance which makes it one of the most important festivals in the Hindu calendar.
Unlike most Hindu festivals, which take place during the day, Maha Shivaratri takes place at night. These sacred practices instil in us a sense of peace and oneness with the world.
The festival serves as a wake-up call to move away from conflict and towards truth, beauty, peace, and benevolence – Shiva’s ethereal qualities.
Maha Shivratri 2023: The Legends Behind The Festival
Marriage of Shiva & Parvati
One of the most popular legends behind the celebration of Mahashivratri is the story of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva, a recluse, refrained from indulging in the materialistic expectations of the world and chose to live as a brahmachari.
However, Goddess Parvati was determined to win his heart and with her devotion and penance, she finally succeeded in pleasing Lord Shiva and they got married on the day that is now known as Mahashivratri.
Contest Between Brahma & Vishnu
Another popular legend associated with the festival is the story of the defeat of Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma by Lord Shiva.
Once Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma got into an argument over who was the superior of the two, and to settle the dispute, they decided to find the end of Lord Shiva’s linga (a symbol of Lord Shiva).
Lord Vishnu went downwards to find the end, while Lord Brahma went upwards. However, both of them failed to find the end, and Lord Shiva appeared in front of them, declaring himself as the supreme god.
All of the Puranas mention this legend when talking about the sacred festival.
Many believe that on this day, Lord Shiva, in order to give access to the nectar within, gulped the poison churned from the ocean in a process known as Samudra Manthan.
As soon as the poison settled in his throat, it turned the skin blue. Because of this incident, he was bestowed with the name of ‘Neel Kanth’, meaning Blue Throat.
On this night, according to some legends, Lord Shiva performed Rudra Tandav, the dance of destruction, to stay awake all night. To date, many believe that staying awake all night on this festival brings you good health!
Victory Over Demon Kings Chanda & Munda
Another popular legend related to the festival is the story of King Chanda and King Munda.
King Chanda and King Munda were two fierce demon brothers who terrorized the earth and caused widespread destruction.
The gods, unable to stop the demons, approached Lord Shiva for help. Lord Shiva fought against the demons and finally slayed them on the day of Mahashivratri.
People celebrate this day as a victory of good over evil and see it as a symbol of hope and renewal.
Significance of Mahashivratri In Our Lives
In addition to its mythological significance, Mahashivratri is also significant for its spiritual significance.
Many believe that Lord Shiva is the ultimate source of spiritual power and knowledge and that performing devotion to him on this night can help individuals achieve liberation and attain enlightenment.
Mahashivratri is also significant from an astrological point of view.
On this night, the alignment of the moon, sun, and earth is particularly auspicious, making it an ideal time for meditation, fasting, and other spiritual practices.
Finally, Mahashivratri is a time for coming together with family and friends to celebrate and seek blessings from Lord Shiva.
The festival is marked by all-night vigils, puja ceremonies, and the distribution of prasadam (offerings) among the devotees.
Maha Shivratri 2023: Where To Celebrate It In All Its Glory?
Some of the most famous Shiva temples in India host a grand festival to celebrate this sacred festival.
Some of those temples include the
Kedarnath Temple in Uttarakhand,
The Somnath Temple in Gujarat,
The Sri Kapaleeswarar Temple in Chennai.
One of the important traditions associated with Mahashivratri is the “Bhole Ka Bhang” or the consumption of bhang, a drink made from cannabis leaves.
Although illegal in many parts of India, the use of bhang during Mahashivratri is considered a sacred ritual and is widely consumed in states such as Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Rajasthan.
The Story Behind The 51 Shakti Peeths
According to Hindu mythology, there are several stories behind the celebration of Mahashivratri. Here is one of the lesser-known stories:
Once upon a time, there was a king named Daksha who organized a grand yagna (sacrifice) and invited all the gods and goddesses, except Lord Shiva.
Sati, feeling insulted, went to attend the yagna anyway, where Daksha publicly insulted Lord Shiva. Unable to bear the insult, Sati immolated herself in the fire of the yagna. When Lord Shiva heard the news, he was filled with rage and grief. He picked up the body of Sati and started dancing the Tandava Nritya, the dance of destruction. The world was filled with terror, as Lord Shiva’s anger threatened to destroy everything.
The other gods and goddesses approached Lord Vishnu for help. Lord Vishnu used his Sudarshan Chakra to cut the body of Sati into 51 pieces, which then fell to the earth. Wherever a piece of Sati’s body fell, a temple was built in her honour.
These 51 places are now known as Shakti Peeths and are considered sacred by devotees of the Hindu religion.
Lord Shiva continued his dance of destruction until he was exhausted. He then opened his third eye, which symbolized the end of ignorance and evil.
Finally, Lord Shiva was calm and his anger subsided.
How To Dress For Maha Shivratri 2023?
The traditional attire, along with prayers and offerings, is a way for devotees to honour Lord Shiva and seek blessings. Some of the sarees that we can wear on Mahashivratri 2023 are given below:
White symbolizes peace and purity and is considered the most auspicious colour to wear on Mahashivratri. It represents the serenity and divinity of Lord Shiva and is a symbol of devotion and reverence.
Blue is the colour of Lord Shiva’s throat and represents the power of speech and the ability to communicate. On Mahashivratri, wearing a blue saree is a symbol of devotion and respect for Lord Shiva.
Green is the colour of life and represents growth, renewal, and prosperity. On Mahashivratri, wearing a green saree is a symbol of hope, joy, and abundance.
Yellow is the colour of knowledge and represents enlightenment, wisdom, and spiritual growth. Wearing a yellow saree on Mahashivratri is a symbol of seeking knowledge and enlightenment through devotion to Lord Shiva.
ed is the colour of passion, love, and strength. On Mahashivratri, wearing a red saree is a symbol of the eternal love and devotion between Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
Mahashivratri is a day of devotion, and wearing the right colour saree can add to the spiritual significance of the occasion. Whether you choose to wear white, blue, green, yellow, or red, make sure to wear it with a heart full of devotion to Lord Shiva.
Suggested Read: 2022 Recap: Top 12 Julahaa Sarees Catalogues
How To Style Your Saree For The Festival:
Here are some tips on how to style a saree for the Maha Shivratri 2023
Opt for traditional fabrics:
Sarees made from traditional fabrics such as silk, cotton, and chiffon are suitable for the occasion.
You can add a touch of personal style by choosing a saree with traditional embellishments such as zari, embroidery, or prints.
The traditional Nivi draping style is a popular choice for festivals. However, you can also experiment with other draping styles such as Gujarati, Bengali, or Marathi.
To complete the look, you can accessorize with traditional jewellery such as bangles, necklaces, earrings, and a bindi.
Remember, the most important aspect of dressing for the festival is to be comfortable and respectful, so choose a saree that allows you to fully participate in the celebrations.
Mahashivratri is a festival that has deep roots in Hindu mythology and people celebrate it with great devotion and reverence across the world.
The legendary tales associated with the festival serve as a reminder of the power and grace of Lord Shiva and are a testament to the enduring appeal of Hindu mythology.
Whether it is the story of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, the defeat of Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma, or the victory over King Chanda and King Munda, the legends of Mahashivratri are a source of inspiration and a symbol of hope for millions of Hindus.
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