Is Maha Shivaratri A Public Holiday?
Maha Shivaratri is an optional public holiday in India. This means that major states and regions in India celebrate this day as a holiday. Hence, government offices, public dealing offices, universities, colleges and schools remain closed on this occasion.
However, there are chances of offices, post offices and banks altering or changing working hours in some states. Internationally, this day isn’t regarded as a holiday in several countries such as the UK, Canada, Australia, or USA. Although, Mahashivratri celebrations are carried out in equal fervour, and Indian natives residing there observe Maha Shivratri rituals and traditions.
History and Significance of Maha Shivratri
Mahashivratri History is widely acknowledged in several Hindu scriptures and holds high significance. The festival of Maha Shivratri is significantly mentioned in various Puranas, such as Linga Purana, Padma Purana and Skanda Purana. Various versions of this festival, its observances and fast rituals are present in these texts.
The night of Shivaratri is believed to be the night of the divine dance of Shiva, which is why this tradition has been carried on for a long time. Since ancient times, this day has served as a conflux for dance festivals at various Hindu temples such as Khajuraho, Modhera, Konark etc. On this day, people venerate Lord Shiva through their dance and depict the dance mudras as mentioned in the Natya Shastra.
Maha Shivaratri Celebrations
Mahashivratri is one of the prominent Hindu festivals observed throughout the nation and celebrated throughout the night and day. Mahashivratri celebrations include prayers, Rudra Abhishek, music and dance rituals, worshipping at temples and fasting. Mahashivratri Vrat is commonly observed, where people refrain from consuming any kind of food item and after worshipping the lord and opening the fast, consume Sattvic foods only.
Hymns and verses are recited to praise the divinity of Lord Shiva, and Rudra Abhishek of Shiva Linga is performed. As per this ritual, the devotees bathe the Shivling with water, honey, yogurt, sandalwood, and ghee, circumambulate around it and then offer Bel Leaves and fruits.
Married women fast on this auspicious day for longevity and good health of their children and spouses. On the other hand, girls who are unmarried and wish to marry someone like Lord Shiva too fast on this occasion.
Mahashivratri celebrations also include all-night vigils or jagrans, where songs are sung and dances are performed to venerate Lord Shiva. Fruits and milk are offered to the Lord, and a special drink made from cannabis, milk, honey and almonds called Thandai or Bhang is popularly consumed. People famously chant the sacred mantra “ॐ नमः शिवाय / Om Namaḥ Śivāya” on this day while performing the ritual.
Maha Shivaratri Celebrations
There are multiple stories and legends associated with this day. Below we have provided a quick narrative of some famous legends:
Marriage of Shiva & Shakti
It is believed that when Sati died by immolating her body with fire, Lord Shiva performed the Tandava or Dance of Destruction and took her lifeless body all over the world. After this when he calmed down, he began pursuing rigorous meditation.
Years later when Goddess Parvati, another embodiment of Sati, was born and entered the stage of adulthood, she desired Lord Shiva as her better half, for which she performed severe penance for years. Her devotion and utter persuasion lead to Lord Shiva stepping down from asceticism and agreeing with the proposal of marriage. Since this marriage took place during the Hindu month Phalgun and one day before Amavasya, this day of union began to be regarded as Maha Shivratri.
In another version, it is believed that Goddess Parvati performed the Tapasya and prayed for the longevity of her husband, Shiva, and to ward off any evil on the night of Shivratri. Since that day, married women fast on this auspicious occasion for their husbands, whereas unmarried girls fast to get an ideal husband like Shiva.
The Legend Of Lubdhaka
According to one of the mythological legends, there was a poor man named Lubdhaka, who was an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva. When he went to the forest and got lost, he climbed up on a Bel tree for protection from wild animals. Since the scary sounds of animals kept him up, he decided to pluck one leaf while remembering Lord Shiva and chanting his name throughout the night.
When the Sun came up the next morning, he realized that just to keep his fear away, he had plucked a thousand leaves from the Bel tree while remembering the Shiva, which fell on Shiva Lingam. Seeing this appeased Lord Shiva, who rewarded him with safe passage and blessings.
Samudra Manthan or The Churning Of The Ocean
As per the mythological legends, it was Lord Shiva who gulped the poison called Halahala that emerged from the churning of the ocean or Samudra Manthan on the day of Mahashivratri. When the Devtas and Asuras were churning the ocean in order to gain the Nectar of Immortality or Amrit, several things emerged from the ocean, and one of them was poison.
Since the Halahala was said to be so powerful that it could destroy the whole world, Lord Shiva drank it and beheld it in his neck, thereby turning it blue. This is why he is widely known as Neelkanth.
Lord Shiva is widely venerated on the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivratri and considered as the divine symbol of this festival. Another item that symbolises the significance of this festival is Shiva Lingam, the phallic representation of the union of Shiva and Shakti.
Bel leaves are commonly used on this day to venerate Lord Shiva and perform the Rudra Abhishek, and is known to be one of the Shivratri symbols.
Mahashivratri Puja Rituals
Before beginning Maha Shivratri puja, you need to collect the below items since they hold high importance when it comes to venerating Lord Shiva:
- Bel leaves
- Sindoor or Vermillion
- Rice and Fruits
- Incense Sticks
- Betel leaves
- Wake up early, take a bath by adding white sesame seeds in the water and wear white clothes.
- Install a Shivling at the altar on a cloth, and perform the Rudra Abhishek by bathing it with milk, curd, honey, rose water, ghee and much more.
- After that, offer a garland made of Bel or Bilva leaves and apply a paste of Chandan and Ashwagandha on it. Light an incense stick after that.
- Chant the mantra “ॐ नमः शिवाय / Om Namaḥ Śivāya” throughout the process.
- You can also recite the Mahamrityunjay Mantra to appease the Superior One: ॐ त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम्।
- Now offer Him rice and fruits, apply sindoor on the Shivling and conclude the puja.
उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान् मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मामृतात्॥
Om tryambakam yajāmahe sugandhiṃ puṣṭi-vardhanam।
Urvārukam Iva bandhanān mṛtyormukṣīya māmṛtāt।।
Maha Shivaratri/Shivaratri Observances
1. Where is Mahashivratri celebrated in India?
The spiritual capital of India, Varanasi, has one of the most important Shiva temples in the world, and therefore it is very common that Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in Varanasi in a great way.
2. Which colour should be worn on Shivratri?
On this day, devotees take early baths, wear auspicious green colored clothing, and visit the nearest Shiv temple to give prayers to Shiva Linga. If you can’t wear green, you can also wear red, white, purple, orange on this day.
3. Which flower does Lord Shiva like?
Lord Shiva likes Dhatura flower. During Shiv Puja, Dhatura is offered to Lord Shiva to get rid of the poison of greed, competition, jealousy, and hate.
4. What is the favorite food of Lord Shiva?
Bhang is one of the favourite things offered to Lord Shiva.
We hope you have found this article on Maha Shivaratri 2021 interesting and attained all the useful information. We wish you a Happy Mahashivratri! May you attain the blessings of Lord Shiva!