The festival is celebrated with a lot of fervour among Shiva’s ardent devotees, who start flocking temples in the wee hours of the morning to seek Shiva’s blessings. This year Maha Shivaratri falls on the 27th February.
The popular custom of bathing the Shiv Linga on Shivaratri is on the legend of Ganga. Shiva held out his thick hair to help Ganga as she descended from heaven. Winding through Shiva’s locks softened Ganga’s journey to the earth, thereby making Ganga an essential part of Shiva.
Brahma and Vishnu searched hard to find the beginning and end of Lord Shiva. To help Brahma and Vishnu in their quest, Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga on the 14th day in the dark fortnight of the month of Phalguna. Since then, the day is considered to be extremely auspicious.
The legend of ‘Samudra Manthan’ refers to the battle between the devas and the asuras, when a pot of poison emerged out of the ocean. On the request of the gods, Shiva drank the poison and it changed the colour of his neck to blue. Shivaratri is the celebration of that day.
Another version of the legend says that Parvati performed prayers on the auspicious moonless night of Shivaratri to ward off any evil that may befall her husband. Since then, women began the custom of praying for the well being of their husbands and sons on Shivaratri. (Pic: Pashupatinath Temple)
After Shiva’s wife Sati immolated herself, she was reborn as Parvati. Parvati tried hard to break Shiva’s meditation and win his attention.Parvati undertook severe penance to win over Shiva and was finally able to lure him into marriage through her devotion on the day of Maha Shivaratri.
Maha Shivaratri – commonly referred to as Shivaratri, Sivarathri, and Shivaratri – literally means the night of Shiva, and is celebrated on the 13th night/14th day of the Maagha or Phalguna month of the Hindu calendar every year.