For this important Hindu festival, devotees of Lord Shiva come to India from all over the world to take part in prayers, fasting, chants and other rituals. The celebrations take place in February, or the month of Phalguna in the Hindu calendar.
Beliefs behind Maha Shivratri Celebrations
According to the Hindu religion, praying to Lord Shiva during this festival will grant devotees blessings and forgiveness for their sins. It’s also said that those observe the day with the utmost devotion are freed from the cycles of birth and death that make up reincarnation. Ladies who pray with devotion and honesty to the goddess Parvati are said to attain marital bliss and wonderful husbands.
Many of the rituals and beliefs surrounding this festival come from the Holy Puraanas, one of the Hindu scriptures. During a night vigil, priests and religious leaders will read the tales of Shiv and Shikti’s marriage, and the famous Samudra Manthan, which are related to the Maha Shivratri celebrations.
Celebration of Maha Shivratri
Overall, the day is observed with immense devotion. Celebrations begin at dawn, where people cleanse themselves with a bath, preferably in the Ganges River, which Hindus regard as holy. Then, they bathe the Shiv Lingam with milk and holy waters. Priests lead chants of various hymns, with “Om Namah Shiaya” being the main one.
People will also visit temples and offer prayers with incense sticks, special flowers, milk, bel leaves, water and fruit. Traditional recipes include Lauki ka Halwa, Thandai and others. Famous temples, like the Kedarnath, Lingaraj Temple, Somnath, Kailash Mansarovar, Rameswaram, and Kashi are flooded with devotees all hoping to catch a glimpse of the Lord Shiva or Shiv Linga idols. The night vigils feature chantings, readings, and singing to praise Lord Shiva.