Mahashivratri signifies the great night of Shiva, one of the Gods in the Hindu Trinity. It s celebrated every year on the thirteenth or the fourteenth day of the Hindu calendar month of Magha/Phalguna. This year, it falls on the 7th of March 2016. Lord Shiva is symbolic of destroying what is old and impure and giving way to new creations which are pure and divine. He annihilates our ego and even our ignorance.
Origin of Shivaratri
The origin of Shivaratri dates back to the time of the mythical churning of the ocean called Samudra Manthan in which a pot if poison emerged from the ocean. This scared all the Gods and demons who ran to Lord Shiva for protection. Lord Shiva, in ore rot save the world from destruction, drank the poison but held it in his throat instead of gulping it down. This converted his throat into a blue color and since then Lord Shiva is also known as ‘Nilkantha’- the blue throated one. Shivaratri marks the celebration of this event in which Lord Shiva saved the world.
Why do women pray on Shivaratri
Shivaratri is considered highly auspicious for the women folk. Married women pray on this day to Lord Shiva for the well being of their husband and children while unmarried seek for an ideal husband like Shiva himself. However, on a general note, it is even believed that whosoever utters the name of Shiva with complete devotion on this auspicious day gets rid of the constraints of birth and death and attains complete salvation. All his sins get washed off.
Preparations on Shivaratri
A three-tiered platform is built around a fire on Shivaratri, the topmost representing heaven (swargalok), the middle one representing space (antarikshalok) and the bottom one symbolic of earth (bhuloka). On the heaven plank, eleven kalask or urns are kept which represent the eleven manifestations of Shiva. These are decorated with ‘bel’ leaves and mango leaves along with a coconut on top. This symbolizes Shiva’s head and the uncut shank of the coconut represents Shiva’s tangled hair.
Three reasons why Shivaratri should be celebrated
On this day, Shiva appeared as ‘Lingodbhanmoorti’ exactly at midnight. Since then, all Shiva devotees perform ‘Rudrabhishek’ at midnight.
On this day, Lord Shiva married Devi Parvati which makes him ‘Sagun Brahman’ from this day for the purpose of the pious devotion of his devotees.
This day is also regarded as a Thanksgiving day to Lord Shiva for holding the deadly poison in his throat which appeared during the churning of the ‘Kshirsagar’ or the milky ocean.
Items which should be incorporated for Shivaratri puja:
Water, milk and honey which should be used to bathe the Shiva lingam, adding wood apple and bel leaves for purification of the soul.
The Shiva lingam should be smeared with vermilion paste which is a representation of virtue.
Fruits should then be offered, signifying longevity and gratification of desires.
Incense should be burnt to signify the yield of wealth
Then a lamp is lit which is symbolic of attaining knowledge
Offering Betel leaves which mark the satisfaction with worldly pleasures
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