Maha Siva Raatri
Maha Siva Raatri means the great night of Lord
Shiva and it is observed on the fourteenth lunar
night(chaturdasi)of the dark forthnight(Krishna Paksh)in the
Hindu month of Phalgun.This corresponds to late February and
early March in the English calendar.
Maha Siva Raatri's time duration is such that
the lunar day or thithi(chaturdasi in this case)must pass through
midnight.A great deal of preparation is involved in order to
celebrate this religious event since it requires the performance
Lord Siva is the Devta or diety worshipped here.His
worship is done in the form of a Lingam Pooja.
The Lingam is a stone with an oval shape and it
represents the abstract form of God.
Siva - the word meaning auspicious - is one of the Hindu
Trinity, comprising of Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the Preserver
and Shiv or Mahesh, the Destroyer and Re-Producer of life. Time
is invisible and formless. Therefore Mahakal Shiv, as per the
Vedas, manifested himself as "LINGUM" to make mankind
aware of the presence of Eternal Time. That day when Shiv
manifested himself in the form of "Lingum" was the
fourth day of the dark night in the month of Magh i.e.
February-March. This is confirmed by Rishi Markendeya in the
"That night, when the many-splendoured Shiv-Lingum
dazzled the world with its appearance, was the night of the
Mahashivratri- the night of the great Siva". This
Mahashivratri festival continues to be celebrated for ever and
ever. Maharishi Narada advised mankind to fast on this day and
pray to the All Powerful Siva so that in all His kindness He
pardons all the sins that are committed in the past three
Lord Siva is portrayed as an ascetic, sitting on a tiger skin, a
bunch of poisonous snakes coiled round his blue neck, his hair
and his body. He received the waters of the sacred river Ganga
that rushed down from heaven with an unimaginable force and
ferocity in the coil of his hair on his head to save the world
from total annihilation and released the water slowly on the
plains to flow.
Lord Siva has a third eye in the centre of his forehead along
with a crescent moon. His most powerful weapon is the Trishul,
the trident. His favourite mount is the sacred bull, Nandi who is
also worshipped. His abode is on the high majestic Kailash
mountain where he resides with his celestial consort goddess
Lord Siva is worshipped in the form of `Siva Lingum' which
symbolises the power behind the creation. As Nataraj, the master
of the art of dancing, he is depicted in sculptures in bronze and
images in metal. In fact, the entire world of art revolves round
Lord Shiv and goddess Parvati.
In our country there are twelve "JYOTIRLINGAS" of Lord
Shiv at twelve places that are sacred to the Hindus. It is
believed that all these twelve Jyotilingas are
"Swayambhus" meaning that they sprung up by themselves
at these places and afterwards only temples were built. Every
Hindu believes that at least once in his life-time he must visit
these twelve Jyotirlingas and then he will be absolved of all the
sinful acts he may have done.
These twelve Jyotirlingas are:-
Somnath in Kathiawar.
Shri-Shailya-Mallikarjun in the South.
Mahakaleshwar in Ujjain.
Omkarnath on the bank of river Jamuna.
Parali-Vaijanath in Marathwada.
Bhimashanker on the bank of Bhima river.
Rameshwar in South.
Naganath in Marathwada.
Ghrusneshwar at Daulatabad.
Kashi-Vishveshwar in Benares.
Kedarnath in Uttar Pradesh.
Trimbakeshwar in Nasik.
Lord Siva is known by many names like Shankar, Mahesh,
Bholenath, Neelakanth, Shambhu Kailasheshwar, Umanath, Nataraj
and others. He is the most sought-after deity amongst the Hindus
and pray to him as the god of immense large-heartedness who they
believe grant all their wishes.
Thus this Mahashivratri festival is in honour of Lord Siva.
Devotees observe fast the whole day and keep vigil throughout the
night. After fasting the whole day devotees bathe with the water
that is boiled with black sesame seeds to wash away bodily
impurities. Then putting on new clothes they wash the Lingum with
milk and perform religious rites, put haldi-kumkum on the lingum
and a garland of white and pink lotus flowers. Bel leaves are
placed in front of the Lingum and "aarthi" and
"bhajans" are sung to invoke his blessings.
The aroma of the lighted agarbattis seem to float in the air
and from temples are heard the chinning of the bells and the
sound of melodious devotional songs. All this surely must reach
Mount Kailash and wake Him up from his deep meditation to bless
mankind. Our ancient religious scriptures specially `Linga
Puran', abound with stories of Lord Siva's kindness and
large-heartedness in giving boons to His devotees.
Young unmarried girls observe day-long fast, keep awake the
whole night, sing devotional songs and pray to Lord Shanker to
give them good and virtuous husbands.
During Maha Siva Raatri,Hindus observe fasting.
They abstain from eating and drinking forbidden foods and they
will make all the necessary preparations for the Pooja which
begins at sunset.
Actually,the complete Maha Siva Raatri Pooja
consists of four individual poojas. The first Pooja starts at
sunset and with two hour intervals,the remaining three is
done.The last one must finish at midnight.A vigil is maintained
all night until before sunrise of the next morning. Bhajans and
kirtan(hymns and praises)are encouraged in order to maintain this
vigil and also discourses relevant to the occasion are read.
The first Pooja culminates with the offering of
milk; at the end of the second Dahee or curds are offered ; at
the end of the third Ghee (cow's butter) is offered and at
the end of the last Pooja, honey is offered on the Lingam.
From midnight until before sunrise next morning,
Jal or water is offered on the Lingam .However,the most important
article of worship in this Pooja is Bail leaves (the leaves of
the wood apple tree). These leaves are exceedingly loved by Lord
Shiva and the offering of same brings some form of spiritual
elevation to the person who has made such an offering. In order
to achieve the maximum benefits,the services of a qualified
Pandit (Hindu priest) is very important in performing this
Important Notes On Maha Siva Raatri.....
Lord Siva grants His blessings to His devotees who
worships Him on the night of Maha Shiva Raatri.Worshiping Him on
this night promotes spiritual growth.
Maha Shiva Raatri does not in any way relate to the
birthday or the wedding of Lord Shiva.Any such discourses read on
this night is purely coincidental and does not indicate that
these incidents took place on the night of Maha Shiva
Care should be taken in the selection of a Lingam.
A Lingam with an image of Lord Shiva and /or His consort Parvati
or a snake as is commonly seen,is NOT considered as a Lingam but
as a Murti. Therefore,it is not appropriate to use such,as a
Lingam for this purpose. The Lingam is a representation of the
infinite form of God,without beginning and without end and this
cannot be effectively represented by a Lingam with a human
The offering of Jal (water)on the Lingam should NOT
extend on to daytime of the following day. The word Raatri means
night and any worship that extends into daytime violates the
concept of night and day and constitutes sin.
Siva Raatri occurs once a month on the night of the
fourteenth lunar day of Krishna Paksh or the dark
forthnight.There are eleven Shiva Raatris in a year but in
Malmaas,there is one more and in Kshai Maas there is another.
Lord Shiva is worshipped at this time with all the grandeur of
Maha Shiva Raatri.The worship of the Murti can also be done at
The importance of time.....
Since Maha Siva Raatri must go past midnight of the
night in question,the chances are that the thithi or lunar day
(chaturdashi in this case)might not last until the next
morning.For example, it might finish at two o'clock in the
morning;how does this affect the proceedings?
The celebrations can continue as normal and
conclude at two o'clock in the morning or it can continue and
conclude before the sun rises.This would be a matter of personal
choice.In any event,both ways are in accordance with the Shastric
(recommended) principles and are acceptable.
This festival of Maha Sivratri is held in great esteem in most
of the regions in India but especially in Ujjain in Madhya
Pradesh. In Ujjain in the famous temple of Mahakaleshwar Siva
Lingum is worshipped with the performance of all the religious
rites and rituals. The story goes that a powerful demon who lived
on Ratnamal mountain attacked Avanti - the name of the
present-day Ujjain in those days - and killed a Brahmin sage by
putting him in fire. The angry Lord Siva opened his third eye and
burnt the demon to ashes. On that very spot of land where Lord
Shiv opened his third eye and killed the demon appeared the
Siva-Lingum. A majestic temple was built on that ground. The
mention of this temple is found in `Adi-Brahma Puran' and its
detailed description in the `Gyan-Samhita'.
The illustrious king Vikramaditya during the time he was the
ruler of Ujjaini, visited the MahaKaleshwar temple every morning,
after his bath. He bowed before the Siva-Lingum in all humility
and prayed to Lord Siva to mercifully grant prosperity and
happiness to his subjects and peace to the land over which he
ruled. He placed one hundred and eleven Bel leaves one by one on
the Shiv lingum and while placing each leaf he praised Lord
Shanker by reciting shlok.
In Kashmir, since the majority of Kashmiri Pandits are
followers of Siva, this Maha Sivratri festival is observed for
fifteen continuous days. The thirteenth day of this festival in
Kashmir is known by the name of HERATH which is celebrated with
indescribable zest and joy. The Kashmiris belive that the
marriage of Siva and Parvati was celebrated on the day of