Maha Shivratri or “the Great Night of Shiva” occurs in the month of Phalguna according to North Indian calendar. But, according to the South Indian Calendar, it occurs on the Chaturdashi Tithi during Krishna Paksha in the month of Magha. As per the Gregorian Calendar, Maha Shivratri will be observed on 4th March. The festival of Shivratri is significant as it marks a remembrance to “overcoming darkness and ignorance”.
This festival is dedicated to Lord Shiva who was the first Adi guru, the discoverer of truth and bliss. He is the one from whom knowledge originated. According to some legends, Lord Shiva is considered as the creator as well as the destroyer of the Universe.
How to keep Fast on the Day of Shivratri?
Mahashivratri Vrat or the Shivratri Vratam is kept by the devotees in order to impress Lord Shiva. They do not eat during the whole day. At night, they offer prayers to the Lord and then consume food. Hindu fasts are kept with extreme devotion and self-determination for seeking the blessings of the Lord. Offerings of Bel Patra (Woodapple leaves), Dhatura, Pan, and Supari etc. is given to the Lord as these things are considered to be his favourite. Cold Water and Milk is offered to the Shiv Linga.
One can offer prayers to the Lord in all 4 prahars of the day but usually, the main prayers of Shivratri are done during the night as Shiv Ratri is celebrated at the night time. It is believed that on this night the northern hemispheres of the planet is positioned in such a way that there is a natural magnification of energy inside a human being. To allow the natural upsurge of energy enter your body one should sit with a straight back and be awake.
You can keep fasts all day long and eat after sunset or you can consume fruits and milk as per your choice.
The story behind the celebration of Maha Shivratri
There are many legends associated with the festival of Maha Shivratri. The most prominent one in North-India is of the marriage of Shiva and Parvati. It is believed that Shiva and Parvati got married on this day and to celebrate this occasion, the night of their marriage is considered as Maha Shivratri. Temples are beautifully decorated and various kinds of sweets and food items are offered to the deity. Unmarried girls keep fasts and pray to Lord Shiva for blessing them with a husband like him.
Another popular belief associated with Maha Shivratri is the legend of “Neelkantha”. According to this story, once there was a war between the Gods and Demons. They both wanted to drink nectar but it could not be obtained until someone drank the poison. There was chaos everywhere due to the War between Gods and demons. So, in order to save the Universe from the destruction, Lord Shiva drank the poison. To save Lord Shiva, Parvati along with other Lords stood awake all night and tried to keep Lord Shiva also awake to protect him from the harmful effects of the poison. Nobody ate or drank anything the whole night. Lord Shiva was saved but his throat turned blue. Since then, he is recognized as “Neelkantha” and the night is celebrated as the night of Maha Shivratri. People keep fasts for the whole day to show their love and devotion towards the sacrifice of Lord Shiva and celebrate the occasion at night by offering delicious food.
According to legends, Lord Shiva is the Supreme power. Truth, Tranquility, Innocence and Beauty all reside in Lord Shiva.
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