In the auspicious month of Phalgun, as the spring is arriving, a joyful festival is about to begin. On the 14th day of every lunar month, the auspicious festival of shivaratri is celebrated. There are 12 Shivaratris in a year and 1 Maha shivaratri. On the night before the new moon in the month of February or March, the Night of the Lord Shiva, Mahashivratri, with utmost spiritual significance is celebrated. Mahashivratri is on 13th February this year.
In Indian yogic tradition and some tradition of Tantra, Shiva is not treated as a demigod like other demigods in his worldly form known as Shambhu, Shankar, Mahesha or Mahadev. He is rather known as the teacher of all the teachers as the first guru, the one from which all the knowledge has descended onto the humanity and the yogic tradition began from him. The yogic tradition is not only the one with all the yoga and asana, but also the path of the self-realization.
Thus, Mahashivratri is celebrated in various forms by various categories of people. Worldly person celebrate Mahashivratri as the anniversary of Shiva and Goddess Parvati. A person with some spiritual sense celebrates this day as the day when Shiva attained victory over all of his enemies.
History behind Mahashivratri
Generally Mahashivratri is celebrated as the anniversary of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati as the night of their wedding but, there are many stories in various text and scriptures describing why Mahashivratri is celebrated.
One of the story from Shiv Puran (Vidhyeshwar Samhita Chapter 6) states that when Lord Brahma woke up from his deep meditative slumber, he wished to find out who was greatest and the supreme. Later on, Lord Brahma saw Lord Vishnu, and they both begin to argue with each other about who is supreme and creator of each other. This argument took a furious from and seeing that, Lord Sada Shiva emerged in the form of a giant fiery Jyoti linga and a voice came from it saying that whoever will find the top or bottom of this Jyoti linga will be considered as the supreme in all. Hearing this, Lord Vishnu and Brahma agreed. Lord Vishnu took the form of a varaha and Brahma took the form of swan and decided that
one will go upwards while the other will go downwards to search the bottom and top of this Jyoti linga.
Lord Vishnu decided to go downloads to find the base of the Jyoti linga and Lord Brahma decided to ascend upwards to find the top of the Shiv linga. Millions of years had passed but no one was able to find the top or the bottom of Shiv linga. Lord Vishnu had understood that whoever is this Jyoti linga is the supreme in us and decided to rest his journey to find the bottom of the lingam returning back to the place where he started where as Brahma saw the flower named as Ketaki and thought that he would use this flower as a witness to prove that he had found the top of the Jyoti linga and so he said to Ketaki that you have to be my witness and clarify that I have found the top of this Jyoti linga. Ketaki agreed and Lord Brahma begin to go down backwards from the point where the both started.
Lord Vishnu accepted his defeat and said that I couldn’t find the base of this Jyoti linga while Brahma laughed at him and said that he has found the top of this Jyoti linga and here is my witness this Ketaki flowers which I found at the top of this Jyoti linga. As soon as Brahma said this, a raging voice came from the Jyoti linga and Shiva emerged in his glorious form of Shambhsadashiva.
Brahma saw Shiva and said that he is the one who found the top of this Jyoti linga and here is my witness. Shiva became furious and told him that he is telling lies. Being angry on Brahma, Shiva cursed Brahma that he will never be worshipped by any human in temples and Lord Shiva also cursed the flower Ketaki that you will never be used in my worship.
Lord Shiva blessed Lord Vishnu and gave him a boon that he shall always be the highest to be worshiped by all. As the day on which Shiva manifested in this form was the 14th day of this lunar month thus after that, this day was known as Mahashivratri.
Another story states that on this day, Shiva drank the poison from the Samudra Manthan and saved the word from devastation. That is why this day is celebrated as Mahashivratri.
In Shivaism tradition, this is the night when Shiva performed the glorious dance of creation and that is why this day is celebrated as Mahashivratri.
Whatever might have happened in the history behind the celebration of this day and stories may differ but, the procedure of celebration is almost the same everywhere. Everyone observes the fast, worship and chant the sacred hymns and mantras of Lord Shiva on this day. Shiv linga is worshipped by pouring water on this day and a proper fasting is observed whole night long. In Shiva yogic traditions, meditation and chanting is done to please Shiva in hopes to attain boons from him for the whole period. This is the night to purify oneself from all the unwanted things or sins that have been done in ignorance unknowingly or out of understanding.
Science behind Mahashivratri
As per the scientific reasons, on this day, the northern hemisphere of the Earth is in such a position that the energy or the centrifugal force of the Earth begins to move upward and that’s why in yogic tradition, it is stated that no one should sit, lie or sleep with their spine bent and not straight upwards on the night of Mahashivratri so that everyone can have the benefits of this upsurge of energy.
How Mahashivratri is celebrated
According to Garuda Purana, one should worship Shiva before the Shivratri on the 13th (Trayodashi) of the month and on the 14th (Chaturdashi) one should observe fast on Mahashivratri.
According to Shiva Purana and Garuda Purana, one should offer bael leaves, flower of Aak, leaves of marijuana or bhang on Shiva Lingam on this day.
There are many ways in which Mahashivratri can be celebrated in various traditions with different styles. The most general tradition of celebrating Mahashivratri is to observe fast on the day and night and break the fast on the next day after sunrise at the time of its paran (time when Chaturdashi/period of fasting ends).
People should get up early and get pure by having a bath. After that, they must visit Shivalaya, the Shiva temple and perform sacred rites of simple Rudrabhisheka (watering the Shiva Lingam) with different things, various kind of fruits and especially with bael leaves which are offered on Shiv linga. People chant the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” as much as possible the whole day and night. There are many other people who chant sacred hymns of Lord Shiva, Puranas and
Upanishad related to Lord Shiva and meditate upon his names through Shiva Sahasranama Stotram. Those who cannot observe the whole day and night fast can observe the night fast while meals of fruit or juices, falahar can be taken.
Traditional way: In Hindu cosmology, a day is divided into 8 segments known as prahar, each having 3 hours. Thus 4 units/segments are of the day and 4 are of the night.
Mahashivratri is celebrated in the 4 units of the night. Each prahar contains 3 hours in which we have to perform worship of Lord Shiva’s various forms. The worship is done 4 times in the whole night in each prahar with the help of simple Rudrabhisheka and prayers.
Simple and Household Pooja Samagri Items needed: 1. Pure cow’s ghee 2. Cotton wick and earthen/metal lamp 3. Fruits 4. Flowers (excluding Ketaki) preferably white 5. Panchamrita (Ghee, Sugar, Honey, Milk and Curd) 6. Gangaajal 7. Bael leaves 8. Unbroken rice 9. Bell and incenses 10. Prasad (cooked items in purity without garlic and onions) 11. Any of these items: Supari, Mishri, Honey, Rudraksha, White chandan etc.
Puja Vidhi: One should get up early in the morning and have a bath, then should go to a Shiva temple or in case performing Puja at home, keep the items in front of a Shiv linga placed facing the east direction. Shiva Lingam placed in home should not be more than the size of the first part of the thumb of house owner.
One should do normal worshipping of Lord Shiva in the morning with his prayers or mantras such as the panchakshri mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra etc.
One can recite various hymns and texts related to Shiva, the Shiva chalisa, Shivashtakam, Shiva Stavan, Shivaarti etc.
Timings of the each Prahar may differ from place to place and timings for Pooja can also differ from place to place the city is advised to check online the timings of your place for each Prahar.
In the first prahar at the evening:
*Either you go to the Shiva temple or if you are performing the Pooja at home gather all the items in front of Shiva Lingam placed in a bronze or copper plate.
*Light the incense and pure ghee lamp, ring the bell and keep the prasad beside the Shiv linga.
*Read the prayers, Stotram, Chalisa or whatever you wish to chant/read except the Aarti if you wish to perform the worship in all 4 Prahars otherwise if you are going to offer just one time worship at the evening, it is better to end it with the Aarti.
After that the simple mantra of the first prahar can be:
श्री शिवाय नमः Shree Shivaya namah
Offer a little water on Shiv linga while chanting the mantra with happy and calm mind.
Offer one by one all the items: *Chandan *Unbroken rice *Flowers *Incense *Ghee lamp light *Naivedya (little Prasad and fruits and all other edible items)
Remember that this Naivedya is strictly forbidden to be taken to eat for the self, except for the prasad kept beside the Shiv linga out of which a little part should be offered of each item to the Shiv linga.
Then offer the small bath of Gangajal and Panchamrita on Shiv linga.
Dispose everything in a bucket and keep it outside of your home and clean the Shiv linga and then perform simple Rudrabhisheka by watering the Shiv linga. And put that water in the bucket.
Now keep chanting this mantra as long as possible for 3 hours while doing your normal day work.
2nd Prahar: With same procedure, carry on the worship of Shiv linga with this mantra:
श्री शंकराय नमः श्री साम्भसदाशिवाय नमः Shree Shankarai Namah Shree SambhSada Shivaya Namah
3rd Prahar: With same procedure, carry on the worship of Shiv linga with this mantra:
श्री महेश्वराय नमः Shree Maheshwaraay Namah
Last Prahar: With same procedure, carry on the worship of Shiv linga with this mantra:
श्री रुद्राय नमः Shree Rudraya Namah
Now when it is the time to break the fast perform the final worship and prayer to Lord Shiva offer him the fresh food which you are going to break your fast with and then break your fast after performing the Shiv Puja and Aarti. First distributing the Prasad to everyone and then breaking your fast with the prasad and food.
Dispose all the items offered to Shiv linga whole night some place where people may not get in contact with it for some time under a tree or plant.
Shastric Puja Vidhi
The shastric puja Vidhi for Lord Shiva’s Mahashivratri includes Shri Kalash Sthapan, Sri Shiv linga Sthapana, Avahan, Swastivachan, Shodashopchar Puja, Maha Rudrabhisheka, Sri Shiva Sahasranama Paath, Sri Rudri Paath, Sri Rudra Puja, Sri Shiv Parvati Puja, Purnahuti, Homa and Visarjan.
Mantras for Maha Shivratri
A few of the short prayers for Lord Shiva are:
1) नागेंद्रहाराय त्रिलोचनाय भस्मांग रागाय महेश्वराय नित्याय शुद्धाय दिगंबराय तस्मे न काराय नम: शिवाय:॥
मंदाकिनी सलिल चंदन चर्चिताय नंदीश्वर प्रमथनाथ महेश्वराय मंदारपुष्प बहुपुष्प सुपूजिताय तस्मे म काराय नम: शिवाय:॥
शिवाय गौरी वदनाब्जवृंद सूर्याय दक्षाध्वरनाशकाय श्री नीलकंठाय वृषभद्धजाय तस्मै शि काराय नम: शिवाय:॥
अवन्तिकायां विहितावतारं मुक्तिप्रदानाय च सज्जनानाम्। अकालमृत्यो: परिरक्षणार्थं वन्दे महाकालमहासुरेशम्।।
2) ॐ वन्दे देव उमापतिं सुरगुरुं, वन्दे जगत्कारणम् l वन्दे पन्नगभूषणं मृगधरं, वन्दे पशूनां पतिम् ll वन्दे सूर्य शशांक वह्नि नयनं, वन्दे मुकुन्दप्रियम् l वन्दे भक्त जनाश्रयं च वरदं, वन्दे शिवंशंकरम् ll
3) ॐ मृत्युंजयाय रुद्राय नीलकण्ठाय शम्भवे l अमृतेशाय शर्वाय महादेवाय ते नम: ll
Puja Timings for Mahashivratri
The puja for Mahashivratri can be done throughout the day as Lord Shiva doesn’t take any offenses done in his puja. The best time would be in Brahma Muhurtam i.e. 5:40 AM to 07:10 AM on 13th February 2018 and from the sunset i.e. 07:10 PM onwards till 07:10 AM of 14th February 2018.