Maha Shivaratri Festival.

Shivaratri is celebrated on the night of Falgun Krishna Chaturdasi on the Hindu Lunar Calendar. This year Shivaratri falls on  4th March 2019.

The Lingodbhava Murti of Lord Shiva was self-emerged precisely at midnight of Maha Shivaratri. Hence, the celebration of this night as the birth of Shiva. Lord Shiva is also known as called Bholenath.

There are several myths behind the celebration of Shivaratri. 

During Samundra Manthan, the poison Halahala came out of the ocean when Deities and demons churned it. The lethal fumes caused the deities and demons to go unconscious due to asphyxiation. Lord Shiva consumed the poison to protect the universe from utter devastation. He managed to keep it on his throat which made it turn blue. He is since also known as Nilkantha. Nil Kantha means blue throat in Sanskrit.

The people started celebrating this day as Maha Shivaratri as gratitude for saving the world from this potent poison.

Another form of the mythology is that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were married on this day. Shivaratri is also observed as the wedding anniversary of Shiva and Parvati.

Who is Shiva

Shiva means the auspicious one. He is one of the Trimurti (Trinity) Gods: Brahma, Bishnu, and Maheswor. Shiva is Maheshwar. Lord Shiva is highly respected as the destroyer of evil. One of his abodes is Mount Kailash which lies north of the Himalayan chain in Tibet. Mount Kailash stands on its own and is also called the Swastika mountain; it is also believed to be the Mythical Mount Sumeru - the center of the Universe. Lord Shiva lived like an ascetic with a Cobra around his neck, wore deerskin and sat on a tiger's pelt. Damaru or Damru is a small two-headed drum was the instrument of Lord Shiva, and Trishul (Trident) as his weapon.

Shiva wears a Rudraksha necklace on his neck, and his hair is considered the source of the Holy Ganga river. Nandi the bull is his vehicle. He is regarded as the most powerful of all Hindu Gods. He is considered to be a great mediator and is aware of everything that goes on the world. He is very kind and generous to his devotees. His devotees believe that all sufferings are relieved just by chanting " Om Namah Shivaya."

Shiva's first wife was Sati Devi, and he married Parvati (incarnation of Sati Devi) was his second wife. Parvati and Shiva had two sons namely Ganesh and Kumar.

Three things happened the same day, on Falgun Sukla Chaturdashi.

  • The Lingodbhava Murti self-emerged at the midnight of this day.
  • Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati got married.
  • Lord Shiva took the Poison Halahala and became Nilkantha saving the world from destruction.

The Celebration of Maha Shivaratri

According to the Shiva Purana, six items are regarded as valuable to worship and offer to Lord Shiva during Maha Shivaratri. 

Those six Items are Beal fruit, Vermilion Paste, Food offerings (Prasad), Incense, Oil lamp (Diyo), Betel Leaves. 

  • Bael Leaf (Marmelos leaf) - an offering of Bael Leaf represents the purification of the soul. 
  • Vermilion paste  – Applying Chandan on Shiva Linga after washing the Linga represents the excellent feature. Chandan is an integral part of Worshipping Lord Shiva.
  • Food offerings - Food such as rice and fruits are offered to the Lord to ensure longevity and fulfillment of wishes. 
  • Incense (Dhoop) - Incense sticks are lit to honor Lord Shiva to be blessed with an abundance of wealth.
  • Lamp (Diyo) - The lighting of Cotton made wick batti (light), lamp or diyo is believed to be helpful in increasing knowledge.
  • Betel leaves (Paan ko patt) – Beetel leaves or Pan ko pat represents the achievement of maturity. 

Shiva Purana states the beat of Damaru (two-faced drum) revealed the first seven notes of music. Those notes are a source of musical language. Shiva is the inventor of notes of music (solfege) Sa, Re, Ga, Ma Pa, Dha, Ni. He is worshiped as the inventor of the musical language on his birthday as well.

The Shiva linga is washed with Panchagavya (a mixture of five products from the cow) and Panchamatrit (a combination of five things that are sweet). Panchagavya includes cow dung, cow urine, milk, yogurt, and Ghee. Cow's milk, Yogurt, Honey, Sugar, and Ghee make up Panchamrit.

In front of the Shiva Linga, a Kalash (Medium size utensil with a small neck) is filled with mixed water and milk. A white and red piece of cloth is tied on the neck of the Kalash. Flowers, pipal leaves, beal leaves, and mango leaves,  are kept inside the Kalash. Mantras are chanted to worship Lord Shiva.

Shiva devotees observe fasting for the whole day and night. Puja of the Shiva Linga is done in the night by chanting mantras, offering Beal leaf and pouring water on the linga. A fireplace is set in alleyways and in temples at night to keep Shiva warm.  Children go in search of wood singing “Shivaji lai jado bhayo aago deu.” (Shivaji is feeling cold, give him warmth from a fire).  In villages, towns, and cities huge logs are burnt in places, and while singing devotional songs of Shiva throughout the night. 

Pashupatinath

Pashupatinath is the most significant temple of Lord Shiva In Nepal and throughout the Hindu world. On Shivaratri, Pashupatinath temple gets a vast procession. Hindu devotees from all over Nepal, India and the world visit Pashupatinath.  A large number of Shadus (hermits or ascetics) visit Pashupatinath. Different types of hermits/recluses can be seen around Pashupati and its vicinity.  

The shadus are covered with vhibhuti (sandalwood ash). The Sadhus are believed to have mastered the heat, cold and sufferings while devoting their lives to Lord Shiva. Some of them stand naked blessing the devotees. They smoke marijuana as a divine gift of Lord Shiva. Lord Shiva is believed to enjoy taking bikh (Poison), bhang, Datura.  

There is always a big fair and stalls are set around the Pashupati temple area during Maha Shivaratri. A massive number of people are seen visiting the temple. People are also busy buying things. Announcements, music, dances, sadhus, stalls, and a large number of tourist make Shivaratri more interesting. Women and kids are seen putting henna on their hands by local artists who have set up shops on the pavement. Snake charmers, acrobatic shows, and other activities can be seen in the vicinity of the Pashupati Temple. 

Devotees and visitors stand in line from very early in the morning to get darshan (sight) of Shiva Linga at Pashupatinath. The queue can be several kilometers long, and devotees stand there for hours without food or water to perform puja of Shiva.

The meaning of Om Namaha Shivaya

Lord Shiva is worshipped with the maha-mantra “Om Namah Shivaya.”  The Maha-mantra   “Om Namaha Shivaya” is also known as Shadakshari mantra. Each alphabet in this mantra has spiritual meaning. This is the reason it is called maha-mantra. 

Om  

“Om” alone is believed to be the sound of life. It is the constant vibrational energy that flows through the universe and providing life in every living being. Chanting “Om” revitalizes the mind, body and calms the mind. Om is the beginning and the end. 

In Sanskrit, the meaning of Om is Avati or Rakuati. Rakuati means one who sustains or protects. Om is the most powerful mantra in Hinduism.

(Om is made up of three parts.  They are “a,” “o,” and “m’.  The sound starts with “a,” when we speak to go to “O” and end with M, so Om is completeness. It is a mantra which provides total rest to our body and energizes our mind. )

Meaning of each letter of the mantra  

n: Main god of all the realms (loks)

m: One who provides supreme and spiritual knowledge (Dhyan) and crushes the greatest of sins

Shi: Generous, serene and responsible for the beginning by Lord Shiva

va: Symbol of the vehicle (Nandi the bull), the Vasuki and Vamangi Energies (Shakti)

y: Absolute residence of the highest heaven and Lord Shiva.
 

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