Hindu festival Maha Shivratri is celebrated every year in reverence of Lord Shiva. It is celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day of the Maagha or Phalguna month of the Hindu calendar. This year Maha Shivratri falls on 21st February. Lord Shiva’s devotees line up at Shiv Temples to offer their prayers on this day. They perform maha abhishekam where they bathe the Shiva Linga with milk.
History of Maha Shivratri
Maha Shivratri roughly translates to ‘TheGreat Night of Shiva’. While there are many stories of this festival but according to common belief, on this day Lord Shiva drank the poison that came out from the ocean during the Samudra Manthan between gods and demons. Lord Shiva held the poison in his throat instead of swallowing it which made his throat blue. Shivji’s name ‘Neelkantha’ is derived from this incident.
Shivratri is considered especially auspicious for women. Married women pray for the well being of their husbands and sons, while unmarried women pray for an ideal husband like Shiva, who is the spouse of Sati and Parvati. Generally, it is believed that anyone who utters the name of Shiva during Shivratri with pure devotion is freed from all sins. He or she reaches the abode of Shiva and is liberated from the cycle of birth and death.
On the day of Shivaratri, devotees wake up early, take a bath, wear new clothes and visit the temples with common offerings like milk, fruits and bael leaves. Lord Shiva, according to scriptures, is very fond of bilwa leaves. Some devotees also offer honey, curd, ghee and sweets alongside milk and light incense sticks next to the Shiva Linga.
Meditating the whole night, chanting ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ is believed to elevate one to higher levels of spiritual dimensions.
Mahashivratri fasting rules and foods one can have
The Shivaratri fast is a significant Hindu fast. Many devotees observe a nirjala vrat, where they do not consume even a drop of water or a morsel of food until they break their fast. But nirjala vrat is not suited for everybody, if you are sick, old or pregnant – you should refrain from fasting. Majority of devotees opt for a ‘Phal ahaar’ fasting, where they consume fruits and milk. Some people also prefer to have light sattvik meal.