Thursday, February 11, 2010



The auspicious festival of Maha Sivaratri falls on the 13th or the 14th night of the new moon during the Krishna Paksha in the month of Phalgun. In the year 2010, it is on 12th February.
Every month there is a Sivaratri, i.e. every month the 13th night in the Krishna Paksha is a Sivaratri but Maha Sivaratri comes in the Phalgun Month.
According to Hindu Vedic System, Sivaratri or 'Siva ji's Great Night' symbolizes the wedding day of Lord Siva and Parvati. Many however, believe, Sivaratri is the night when Lord Siva performed the Tandava Nritya - the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction.

Celebration of Maha Sivaratri
Celebrating the festival in a customary manner, devotees give a ritual bath to the Lingam with the panchagavya - milk, sour milk, cow urine, butter and cow dung. Celebrations of Sivaratri Festival mainly take place at night. Devotees of Lord Siva throng Siva temples across the country and spend ‘the Night of Lord Siva’ by chanting verses and hymns in praise of the Lord. The festival holds special meaning for the ladies. They pray to Goddess Parvati also called 'Gauri', the giver of 'suhag' for good husbands, marital bliss and a long and prosperous married life. The day of Maha Siva Ratri is considered very auspicious for performing the Yajna to negate the effects of the Kaal Sarp Dosh.

Legends of Maha Sivaratri
There are several legends associated with this special grand night of Lord Siva

Samudra Manthan Story of Maha Sivaratri
During Samudra Manthan by the gods and demons, a highly toxic poison came out of the ocean. As per the advice of Lord Vishnu, gods approached Lord Siva and prayed him to protect life by consuming this poison. Pleased with their prayers, out of compassion for living beings, Lord Siva drank this poison and held it in his throat by binding it with a snake. The throat became blue due to the poison (Thus Lord Siva is also know as Neelakantha) and Siva remained unharmed. The wise men advised gods to keep Lord Siva awake during the night. To keep him awake, the gods took turn performing various dances and playing music. A vigil was thus kept by the gods in contemplation of Siva. As the day broke out, Siva, pleased with their devotion blessed them all, and also said that whosoever worshiped & contemplated on him on this day shall be blessed with the fulfillment of his or her wishes. Since then, on this day and night - devotees fast, keep vigil, sing glories of Lord and meditate.

Manifested as a Jyotirlinga on Maha Sivaratri
Manifestation of Lord Siva in the form of the first effulgent linga was on this special day of Maha Sivaratri, and thus all devotees pray to the effulgent linga (jyotirlinga) of Lord Siva.

Story of Chitrabhanu
In the Shanti Parva of the Mahabharata, Bhisma, whilst resting on the bed of arrows and discoursing on Dharma, refers to the observance of Maha Sivaratri by King Chitrabhanu. The story goes as follows. Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty, who ruled over the whole of Jambudvipa, was observing a fast with his wife, it being the day of Maha Sivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of the king. The sage asked, "O king! why are you observing a fast today?" King Chitrabhanu explained why. He had the gift of remembering the incidents of his previous birth. The king said to the sage: "In my past birth I was a hunter in Varanasi. My name was Suswara. My livelihood was to kill and sell birds and animals. One day I was roaming the forests in search of animals. I was overtaken by the darkness of night. Unable to return home, I climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be a bel tree. I had shot a deer that day but I had no time to take it home. I bundled it up and tied it to a branch on the tree. As I was tormented by hunger and thirst, I kept awake throughout the night. I shed profuse tears when I thought of my poor wife and children who were starving and anxiously awaiting my return. To pass away the time that night I engaged myself in plucking the bel leaves and dropping them down onto the ground. "The day dawned. I returned home and sold the deer. I bought some food for myself and for my family. I was about to break my fast when a stranger came to me, begging for food. I served him first and then took my food. "At the time of death, I saw two messengers of Lord Siva. They were sent down to conduct my soul to the abode of Lord Siva. I learnt then for the first time of the great merit I had earned by the unconscious worship of Lord Siva during the night of Sivaratri. They told me that there was a Lingam at the bottom of the tree. The leaves I dropped fell on the Lingam. My tears which I had shed out of pure sorrow for my family fell onto the Lingam and washed it. And I had fasted all day and all night. Thus did I unconsciously worship the Lord. "I lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine bliss for long ages. I am now reborn as Chitrabhanu."

Maha Sivaratri Story of Lubdhak
Another legend. There once lived a tribal named Lubdhak, who was a devotee of Siva. It was his usual practice to go into the forest to collect firewood. One day he wandered deeper than usual and night fell before he could come out. It was the night before the no moon night and the thin crescent moon offered no light. He was not able to find his way in the dark and soon got lost. A hungry tiger smelt him out and with a loud roar made his intentions clear. Lubdhak knew he could not outrun the tiger and so he climbed up a bel tree. In order to keep awake so that he would not fall down in his sleep he began to pluck the leaves from the bel tree and drop them one by one, each time chanting “Om Namah Sivaya”, which means I bow down to Siva. In this manner, he passed the night. Until dawn, he had dropped a thousand bel leaves. When he descended the tree in the orning, he saw a lingam, which he had missed in the dark. Unknowingly he had been dropping leaves on the lingam. This was the 14th night of the waxing moon of the month of Phalgun and came to be celebrated at Maha Sivaratri.

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