The greatest celebration for Lord Shiva is at the end of the Lunar month of Magh on the 13th night/14th day of the dark fortnight (usually in February or March). It is Maha Shivaratri, and it is a very sacred night for all lovers of Lord Shiva. In 2015, the special festival for Lord Shiva will be held on February 16th.
In Sanskrit, ratri means “night”, so Shivaratri literally means the great night of Lord Shiva. In essence, Maha Shivaratri signifies a transition from the darkness of ignorance to the shining light of divine joy and wisdom.
About Lord Shiva
Lord Shiva is the great Transformer who transitions us from the darkness of ignorance to the light of divinity. He helps us to move beyond our attachments so that we may discover the eternal Consciousness that shines behind our perceptions.
Shiva means “auspiciousness” and He represents the Consciousness of Infinite Goodness. Lord Shiva is known by several other names, including “Shankar,” “Mahesh,” “Bholenath,” “Neelakanth,” “Mahadev,” “Mahadeva,” “Nataraj,” and others.
Lord Shiva, through his great compassion for his worshipers, dispenses both spiritual and material blessings on the night of Shivaratri. As the Lord of Yoga – the teacher, the path, and the goal – He is considered the highest Guru by the “Sannyasins” who have renounced the world to attain the Absolute.
Importance of Celebrating Maha Shivaratri
Maha Shivaratri is the night for spiritual advancement for devotees. It is a great opportunity to connect with the divine energy of Lord Shiva and to invite Him into your life. It is believed that whoever utters the names of Shiva during Shivaratri with pure devotion will be freed from sins and will reach divine communion with the Lord.
In accordance with various traditions, penances are performed on Maha Shivaratri in order to gain advancement in the practice of yoga and meditation and to reach our ultimate purpose in life, which is union with the Divine.
Devotees celebrate all night by singing, dancing, fasting, and chanting to please Lord Shiva and to obtain His grace and blessings to:
• Protect us from lust, greed and anger
• Grant spiritual advancement in yoga and meditation
• Awaken wisdom
• Free us from commotion, obstacles, and depression
• Help us to obtain success, happiness, and wealth in life
Rituals of Maha Shivaratri
In India, from the very early morning, devotees congregate at the Shiva temples to perform the traditional Shivalinga worship (puja). Devotees bathe at sunrise, preferably in the Ganga, or any other holy water source, and wear clean clothes. Worshipers may carry pots of water to the temple to bathe the Shivalinga while they offer prayers.
The Shiva Lingam is worshiped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, yogurt, honey, and sugar, while the chanting of mantras, such as “Om Namah Shivaya,” continues. Bhajans (songs) and stotras in praise of Lord Shiva, such as the “Shivapanchaksara Stotram,” the “Lingastakam,” and the “Rudrastakam,” are sung. To please Lord Shiva, some devotees chant the “Shiva Sahashranama” (1000 names of Lord Shiva) or the “108 Names of Lord Shiva,” which can be found in the Advanced Shiva Puja Book or Shiva Advanced Puja App.
Shivaratri Celebrations at the Devi Mandir
At the Mandir, we perform each of the four pujas at Satyeshwar (Shree Maa’s Shiva lingam), at Yagyeshwar (the Shiva lingam by the havan kunda in the Temple), and at Napeshwar outside in the forest. There is kirtan and chanting throughout the entire celebration and continuous malas of “Om Namah Shivaya Svaha!” offered at the sacred homa fire. Between the pujas, Shree Maa and Swamiji lead us in chanting the Shiva Sahasranam and the Rudrasthadhyayi.
When all of the devotees have performed all four pujas, Shree Maa lovingly feeds everyone paran prasad to break the fast.
For the night’s festivities we sing and chant from the Advanced Shiva Puja Book, the Beginner Shiva Puja Book and the Rudrashtadhyayi Book. These are also available as iPad Apps: Shiva Advanced Puja App, Shiva Beginner Puja App and the Rudrashtadhyayi App.
To learn more about how to worship Lord Shiva, browse through our Ways to Worship Lord Shiva section, learn the puja offerings that are made to the Shiva Lingams on Shivaratri, and check out Shree Maa’s special Shiva Rice recipe, which She cooks and offers to the Lord on Shivaratri.
Take advantage of Swamiji’s wealth of knowledge by reviewing His answers to devotee’s questions on how to worship Lord Shiva and specific questions on Shivaratri worship. Also, to learn more about this worship, watch the complete series of video classes on the Advanced Shiva Puja Video Class and the Rudrashtadhyayi Video Class.
Enjoy Shree Maa’s music as She pours out Her heart to the Lord in the song, Satyam Shivam Sundaram. Get your copy of Shree Maa’s CD, Shiva is in My Heart, which is sure to inspire intense feelings of devotion as well as light-hearted peace.
Hara Hara Mahadeva!