Thursday, February 27, 2014

Mahashivratri Vrat, Pooja & Katha: Hindu Mythology about ‘The Night of Shiva’

Mahashivratri Vrat, Pooja & Katha: The Night of Shiva
Mahashivratri Vrat, Pooja & Katha: The Night of Shiva


Om Namah Shivaya! Har Har Mahadeva! Shambhu Mahadeva!

This Panchakshara mantra or holy chant can easily be heard to hail Shiva in every Hindu house from early morning on this day. It is believed that on Maha Shivratri or ‘the great night of Shiva’, Maha Dev had performed the cosmic dance- Tandava Nritya and converged into Shakti (Parvati). So, this wedding day is celebrated with great delight.

The devotees of Shiva:
  • Offer water, milk, Bael or Bilval Vilvam leaves or golden apple to Shiva
  • Keep all-day fast, chanting Om Namah Shivaya
  • Perform penance (regret for wrong deeds) and to get the supreme of life, meditate remembering Mahadev.

Maha Shivratri: The Great Night of Lord Shiva

Mahashivratri word is made of three words: Maha (great), Shiva (Lord Shiva), and ratri (night). In order to celebrate the festival, people rejoice in night, hymn the praise of Shiva and chant verses. Do jagaran (vigil) all-night-long and stay awake in reverence of Lord Shiva.

Importance of Mahashivratri or Lord Shiva’s Favorite Day

  • As Maha Shivaratri it is Shiva’s favorite day, the devotees consider it the most suitable day to please the Lord of destruction. They worship to gratify him to reach his abode and get rid of past sins, in order to get rid of the cycle of birth and death. The devotees try to find the way to be blessed with Moksha or salvation through this auspicious day.
  • According to Shiv-Purana, it has significance in spiritual growth. 
  • The devotees consider this worship so auspicious that rate it equal to organizing an Ashwamedha Yagna.



Maha Shivratri Vrat (Fast)

The mythology behind the Mahashivratri fast says that after keeping a-day-long fast and not eating food, a devotee learns to control the natural forces and manages to keep a hold on:

Rajas Guna: Force of qualities regarding motion, passion, energy, action and preservation
Tamas Guna: Force of qualities regarding resistance to action, inertia, indifference and destruction  

It is also believed that after spending a day with sole focus of complete devotion in feet of the almighty, a devotee the birth factors of Rajas: anger, lust and jealousy are subdued and disregarded.

The evils of Tamas are conquered and dominated through observing vigils throughout the night (by jagaran).

Rite Related to Maha Shivratri Fast

One day before Mahashivratri, both married and unmarried females are supposed to apply Mehandi as a pre-day ritual. 

Date & Time of Maha Shivratri Pooja (Muhurat)

Mahashivratri is celebrated on every Phalgun-Krishn-Trayodashi (Hindi month-dark-13th date) or Phalgun-Krishn-Chaturdashi (Hindi month-dark-14th date). In regional language, the 13th and 14th days of Hindi calendar are also known as Falgun Vadi Teras and Falgun Vadi Chaudas respectively.
According to Hindi calendar, Krishn Paksh is the time span of waning moon, which is considered as the dark fortnight. The day falls in Gregorian calendar’s February or March as Phalgun corresponds to these months. The day is also spelled as Shivaratri, Shivarathri, Sivaratri or Sivarathri and celebrated on the moonless night.

On the day, the ideal time to offer Shiva Pooja (worship) is considered Nishita Kala when the earth got blessed with presence of Lord Shiva in form of Linga and that is why the pooja is called Lingodbhava pooja.

Maha Shivratri Pooja Vidhi (Worship in Customary Manner) According to Shiva-Purana

Mahashivratri Morning & Rituals

The devotee is supposed to take the sunrise bath this day, preferably using the water of holy river- Ganga. This bath includes prayers to Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Sun God. This is a general purification rite that Hindus perform on all the Holy festivals and celebrations. After wearing the fresh clothes, the temple is visited for further customary worship process. 

To make a body pure, the fast-holding devotees first boil the water in black sesame seeds, and then take the bath with it, chanting the mantras. After donning the fresh cloths, the pooja is performed in nearby temple.

One more custom is followed on the day, in which a platform of three tires is made around the fire. The top, middle and bottom planks represent Swarga-lok (heaven), Antariksha-lok (space) and Bhu-lok (earth) respectively. On the topmost plank, 11 kalashes (urns) are organized to represent the 11 manifestations of destructive Mahadeva- Rudra. To symbolize the head of Lord Shiva, an uncut coconut is put; the shank represents the tangles hair-locks of Maha Deva. The entire set-up is decorated with Bilwas.

Shiva-Abhishek (Bathing of Shiva)

For Abhishek (sacred bath) of Shiv-Linga, six types of dravyas (liquids) are used with chanting “Shri Rudram, Chamakam & Dasha Shantihi!” to please Shiva.

The Liquids & Mythology

  • Pure milk symbolizes goodness and purity.
  • Pure yogurt symbolizes progeny and riches.
  • Honey symbolizes sugary speech.
  • Ghee symbolizes victory.
  • Sugar symbolizes happiness.
  • Water symbolizes purity.

The Ritual Pooja of Maha Shivratri

Not only Shankarji (lord Shiva), but Ganeshji and Nandi are also worshiped this day. They are also known as Nandi-Gann combinely. It is believed that Naandiye are the greatest devotees of Bhole Nath Shankar and as Shivji adores their greatest bhakta (devotee), people worship them too to please Shivaji. Being Shiva ji's son and worshiped firstly before any god, Ganeshji is also offered prayers. 

The pooja is offered to Shiv-Linga all day and night in every three hours. This is performed in reverberating sound of bells, chanting Om Namah Shivaya mantra.  The mantra, bath with five liquids and application of vermillion as representation of virtue are the indispensable parts of Mahashivratri Pooja.  

There comes other things to please Lord Shiva:

Beel-patra or Bilwa leaves: These are placed in stalk of three leaves on the top of Shivalinga. Bilwas are the leaves of a forest tree called Aegle marmelos and also known as wood apple or maredu.

The devotees believe that Goddess Lakshmi resides in these leaves. Some people associate it with cooling effects as Lord Shiva are considered as a hot-tempered deity.

Ber or jujube fruit: It represents longevity and fulfillment of desires.
Betel Leaves: In order to mark the gratification of worldly pleasures.
Garland: The garland of flowers and leaves is put around the Shivalinga.
Light Lamps & Incense Sticks: Lamps represent the attainment of awareness and knowledge. The incense sticks are used to create a smell that makes the surrounding pleasant and sacred.

The fast is broken the next morning by eating prasad (eatables offered to God).  

At some places the worship begins by giving the ritual bath to the Lingam or Shivaling with the panchagavya: sour milk, milk, butter, urine and dung. 

Maha Shivratri Pooja at Home

In Mahashivratri puja, people take the mixture of water and milk in a brass vessel (peetal ka lota or water container). Then a plate is prepared with following worship items:

Kheel-Pataashe: Traditional Indian sweets
Jaggery: Gud
Roli: Red Powder, used to apply holy red mark called teeka on forehead
Rice
Moli: Colorful (usually made of many thin threads of red, yellow, orange and green colors) thread called raksha-sutra (protecting cover)
Incense Sticks: Agarbatti
Lamp: Deepak or Diya
Coins
Supari: Areca Nut or Betel Nut
Clove: Laung 
Cardamom: Ilaaichi
Fruits and Flowers: Phal-Phool
Bilwa Leaves: Bel-patta (plucked in group of three leaves in one set)
Datura fruit: Dhatura
Aankdeakdaakde kPhool: Calotropis flower or milkweeds
Doobdub: Creeping grass or Panicum
Chandan: Sandalwood 

In case of absence of chandan, haldi (turmeric) can be used. 

Setting five stones indicating lord Ganesh, Shivji, goddess Parvati, lord Bhramha and cow, Pathwari is worshiped. After completing these rituals, people take whole rice in odd number (3, 5, 7) in akshat hand (right hand) and listen the katha (religious story). 

Maha Shivratri Pooja & Mythology

The bath, sound, smell, light and other offerings are presented to aware all the senses and create an aura of focus towards sacredness. It makes one sense universe that everyone of us belongs to.
When the followers bathe Shivalinga with water and milk, they believe that Lord Shiva will bestow the milk of wisdom and wash their sins.

When the Bel or Bilwas are offered in worship, which are cool in nature, it is believed that Mahadev will put out the scorching fire of worldliness and rescue them to another world. The devotees long for Nirvana that is a state of supreme peace and out of the circle of rebirth.

Do Gghad Chaddhana: Maha Shivratri Ritual & Mythology

If a mother has a son or her son has got married, she is supposed to perform this ritual called "Do Ghad Chadana" which means "to offer two pitchers". 

One chuklya (chukaliya/chukliya/chukalya, that is pitcher) made of soil is filled with water. On this, one clean and pure lota (vessel) is put. This vessel is filled with milk that is not boiled. 

These two containers are taken on head by the mother's sister in law or neighbor or any Brahmin lady. 

The mother takes the worship items in a plate and walks along the lady. They all visit the temple of lord Shiva together. 

Some people perform this as a grand ceremony. They invite the near by ladies too and drums are played throughout the way to temple. The ladies sing religious songs (folk songs) to please their deity. 

After reaching to temple, the two containers are put along Shivaji and the vessel having the mixture of milk and water is used for worship.

After completing the puja, the ladies get back to their homes singing those religious songs and the patashe are distributed among all of them. The person playing drum is given money and sent from the temple after reaching to it. Sometimes, he is bidden farewell after getting back to home too.

Do's and Don'ts Rule for Maha Shivrati

What to Do


  • One can take Sahgaar/ Sahgar /sahgari dishes (food items that do not break fast). This food includes halva/ halwa made of potato, carrot and calabash or bottle gourd. Sweet recipes also include pudding (kheer) made of sabudane or taal-makhane. Other eatables that can be taken in this fast are: Potato Sabji, faafar, puri, pakodi, dahi-bade, fried chips, nuts and fruits. 
  • Here, one thing to be taken care of for people keeping fast is, whatever dish they eat as sahgar, it must be made using black salt (saindha/ sendha/ kala namak), black pepper (kaali mirchi) and sighada or rajgira flour (aata). 
  • Where ladies take this sahgar only once, children and old people can eat two times too. In the modern era, people take sahgar for once, and so the proper food. Some keep fast, and some only perform worship. 

What Not to Do


  • This day, bayana or dakshina (donation) is not given.  
  • Turmeric (haldi), cumin (jeera), Asafoetida (hing/ heeng), and cereal (ann/ anaaj/ corn) are believed to be prohibited this day. 
  • Sahgar should not be made using cereals or their flour and white salt. 

Maha Shivratri Story

Several mythologies are associated with this auspicious day, but the most believed one belongs to the union of Shiva and Shakti. It is said that Lord Shiva was in their most destructive form- Rudra and performing the cosmic dance- Tandava. This dance symbolizes destruction, primordial creation and preservation. They took a posture and converged into Shakti. The day is cheered as a festival and celebrated as the wedding day of Shiva and Shakti.

Great Festival for Females- Mahashivratri

Maha-Shivratri holds special meanings to the wedded ladies. They offer worship to the Goddess Parvati (Shakti or Gaura) as she is believed to be the giver of suhag (husband), marital bliss, and prosperous and long married life. The ladies pray for the well-being of their husband and children.

It is evenly special to unmarried girls as this way they pray for an ideal husband like Shiva.

Mahashivratri Mantra & Popular Names of Lord Shiva

Mahamritunjay Mantra is said to create such vibrations that can ward off any evil power and even can get a person back from the mouth of death.

Mantra:

Om Trayambkam Yajamahe, Sugundhim Pushtivardhanam
Urvarukmiv-bandhnaan, Mriturmokshya Maamrataat

Meaning:

Om! Hey three-eyed Lord who is aromatic and flourishes the beings we offer worship!
May you get us free from the bondage of worldly life, such as cucumber…and release us from death, giving an immortal state.

Names Chanted while Remembering the Lord Shiva

One of the Trinity ‘Bramha-Vishnu-Mahesh’, Shiva is worshiped with more than 1008 names, popularly as Bholenath, Mahadev, Shiva, Shankar, Shambhu, Mahesh, Rudra, Maheshvara, Soma, Bhairav, Bhuteshvar, Prajapati, Girijapati, Chandrapal, Chandraprakash, Gangadhara & Kailashnath. 

Maha Shivratri 2015

This auspicious night Mahashivratri is falling on 17 February 2015, which is Phalgun month's trayodashi (13th) as per Hindi calendar's tithi (date). 


2 comments:

  1. Very Nice Post. Mahashivratri, "the Great Night of Shiva" is the most significant event in India's spiritual calendar. It is one of the most traditional festival in India who celebrated all corners in India. Many peoples are worshiped God Shankar on the day of Shivratri. Many People shares Mahashivratri Status on this occasion.

    ReplyDelete

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