Maha Shivaratri 2017
Maha Shivaratri is one of the most important Hindu festivals in India. It is a festival of worship of Hindu god Shiva, along with his wife Parvati, the “mother goddess”.
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This holiday is celebrated throughout India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and other parts of the world with a significant Hindu population.
The festival is held in February or March on the Gregorian calendar. On the Hindu calendar, it comes on 13th night and 14th day of the month Phalguna, which is the day that Shiva is said to have called his “favourite day of the year.” Of the twelve Shivaratri festivals held during the Hindu year, Maha Shivaratri is consider to be the holiest by Hindus.
“Shivaratri” means “the great night of Shiva,” which name refers to the all-night worship vigil kept up by Shiva devotees on the 13th of Phalguna. This differs from most Hindu festivals, which are observed in the daytime. Prayers and worship of Shiva through the night are supposed to commemorate the time Shiva “saved the world from ignorance,” which is symbolized by darkness.
On the 14th of Phalguna, Hindus fast all day long. They also offer flowers, betel tree leaves, and fruits to Shiva. They also offer incense, light ceremonial lamps, take holy-water baths in the Ganges or elsewhere, engage in Yoga meditation, and chant the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” all day long. At temples throughout India, devotees shout out “Hail Shiva!” amid ringing temple bells and, after circling Shiva’s statue, pour water or milk on top of it. Finally, they also receive three lines of “holy ash” on their foreheads to symbolize purity, knowledge, and penance.
Locals and tourists in India during Maha Shivaratri may wish to engage in any of the following activities:
- Go to festivals and fairs near Hindu temples throughout India where the holiday is celebrated. Temples will be covered with lights, flowers, and other decorations, and many tourists attend. In northern India, the festival in the town of Mandi, which has 81 temples in it, is probably the biggest event. In central India, the Mahakaleshwar Temple is one of the most famous Shiva shrines with a Maha Shivratri festival. In southern India, events near the Vishvanatha Temple in Karnataka rank among the most significant.
- If you wish, learn some of many legends associated with Maha Shivratri. For example, there is one about an evil pot of poison suddenly coming out of the sea, which Shiva drinks but does not swallow in order to save the world. His throat, however, turns blue as a result. Another legend tells of a man who got stuck in the forest one night while gathering firewood. He climbed up a tree for safety, and to stay awake (and not fall out of the tree), he picked the leaves off the tree one at a time all night while chanting Shiva’s name. Miraculously, a Shiva statue was at the base of the tree, and since Shiva liked the experience, that is why all-night chants and offerings of betel tree leaves are done today.
- Maha Shivaratri is associated with the coming of spring in India and particularly with the blooming of flowers. Thus, one might wish to visit the Lalbagh Botanical Gardens in Bangalore and its famed flowering plants and “house of glass.” There is also a lake and tropical bird life. Another option is the Valley of Flowers National Park in West Himalaya state. It is full of mountain meadows with a plethora of alpine flowers.
While Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu religious festival centred at Hindu temples, it also involves colourful and interesting cultural events that the tourist may wish to behold.