Maha Shivaratri: Hindus fast, hold vigils and worship for the ‘Great Night of Shiva’

Icebreaker!

If you know someone from the Hindu tradition, perhaps at work or in your neighborhood, use this icebreaker: Do you celebrate Maha Shivaratri? How does your family mark the occasion?

 

Statue of blue Lord Shiva with one leg up under umbrella in middle of buildings

A figure of Lord Shiva. Photo by Rashi, courtesy of Skitterphoto

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 13: Fasting and worship, temple visitations and ritual baths for Lord Shiva are followed by a nighttime vigil on Maha Shivaratri, a holiday observed across India and by Hindus around the world. On Maha Shivaratri, many Hindus believe that Lord Shiva performed the Tandava—the cosmic dance of creation, preservation and destruction. Lord Shiva, a member of the Hindu Trinity, is associated with several legends and renowned as the model of an ideal husband.

LEGENDS, RITUALS—AND LORD SHIVA’S FAVORITE DAY

Hindus in India, Nepal, Trinidad and Tobago and other parts of the world share stories as well as traditions on this renowned holiday. According to one legend, Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati, were married on this day. As the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvatai is regarded as ideal, married women pray for the well-being of their husbands and single women pray that they will find a husband like Shiva. In another traditional story, Lord Shiva manifested in the form of a Linga on Maha Shivaratri, and thus the day is regarded as extremely auspicious. It’s believed that sincere worship of Lord Shiva on Maha Shivaratri—Lord Shiva’s favorite day—will bring absolution of sins, neutrality of the mind and assistance in liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Did you know? Maha Shivaratri means “the Great Night of Shiva.”

As a time for “overcoming darkness and ignorance” devotees begin Maha Shivaratri early in the day. After a a ritual bath, many Hindus visit a temple, where they pray, make offerings, chant prayers and bathe figures of Shiva in milk, honey or water. Many devotees either fast or partake in only milk and fruit throughout the day, as they contemplate virtues such as forgiveness, honesty and self-discipline. As evening falls, worship to Lord Shiva continues, and hymns and devotional songs are sung to Shiva throughout the night.

A NEWSWORTHY TEMPLE: A Shiva destination that comprises 15 temples is being hailed as a “photographer’s delight” by one visitor, in a recent article in Telangana Today. On Maha Shivaratri, the typically quiet temple complex becomes a destination of much celebration, as Hindus from around the district arrive to worship Lord Shiva.

 

Comments: (0)
Categories: Faiths of IndiaHindu

Maha Shivaratri: Hindus honor marriage, linga of Lord Shiva

Young man and older man walking and holding hands while holding colorful Hindu decorations

Hindu devotees carry decorations on an annual pilgrimage to a Maha Shivaratri festival. Photo by ILRI, courtesy of Flickr

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 24: A day of fasting and worship is followed by a nighttime vigil for Lord Shiva, on the Hindu holiday of Maha Shivaratri. Lord Shiva is associated with several legends and renowned as the model of an ideal husband. On Maha Shivaratri, many Hindus believe that Lord Shiva performed the Tandava—the cosmic dance of creation, preservation and destruction.

After a full day of visiting temples, performing ritual baths for figures of Lord Shiva and fasting, Hindus begin a vigil that lasts the entire night.

LORD SHIVA: MARRIAGE AND LINGA

Many stories are shared as this holiday is celebrated by Hindus in India, Nepal, Trinidad, Tobago and other parts of the world. According to one legend, Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati, were married on this day. As the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvatai is regarded as ideal, married women pray for the well being of their husbands and single women pray that they will find a husband like Shiva.

In another traditional story, Lord Shiva manifested in the form of a Linga on Maha Shivaratri, and thus the day is regarded as extremely auspicious.

In the news: Rhode Island’s first Hindu temple—acquired in building last October—will be home to Maha Shivaratri celebrations this year. Read the story here.

RITUALS AND CUSTOMS

After waking early for a ritual bath, Hindus begin the day by visiting the temple. At the temple, Hindus pray, make offerings and bathe figures of Shiva in milk, honey or water. Many devotees either fast or partake in only milk and fruit throughout the day. As evening falls, the worship continues, and hymns and devotional songs are sung to Shiva throughout the night. It’s believed that sincere worship of Lord Shiva on Maha Shivaratri—Lord Shiva’s favorite day—will bring absolution of sins, neutrality of the mind and assistance in liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth.

Comments: (0)
Categories: Hindu

Maha Shivaratri: Hindus chant, pray for Lord Shiva

Hindu temple lit up, lots of lights

Vadakkunnathan Temple, an ancient Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva, lit up for Maha Shivaratri. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

MONDAY, MARCH 7: Millions of Hindus worldwide chant, worship and fast for Lord Shiva before heading into a nighttime vigil of devotion, for the auspicious Hindu holiday of Maha Shivaratri. (Dates vary by region.) A member of the divine Hindu Trinity, Lord Shiva is associated with a multitude of legends and is held in regard as the ideal husband. Hindu tradition tells that Lord Shiva generates, sustains and dispels the universe in infinite cycles, and that on this holy day, the deity performed the Tandava—the cosmic dance of creation, preservation and destruction. Maha Shivaratri is the principal festival for Lord Shiva.

THE LEGENDS OF LORD SHIVA

As Maha Shivaratri is celebrated across India, Nepal, Trinidad, Tobago and other parts of the world, legend tells that Lord Shiva and his consort, Parvati, were married on this day. Many married women pray for their own husbands today, and single women pray that they will find a husband like Lord Shiva. Another legend tells that Lord Shiva manifested in the form of a Linga on Maha Shivaratri, and thus the day is considered especially auspicious.

RITUALS: MEDITATION AND MILK BATHS

On most holy days, Hindus practice yoga and meditation, and on the night of Maha Shivaratri, many devotees meditate or sing devotional songs throughout the night. During much of the day, temples are visited and holy ash from sacred fires is worn on the foreheads of Shiva devotees. Statues of Lord Shiva are bathed in milk, honey and water, and bilva, or bael, leaves are offered to the supreme deity.

Comments: (0)
Categories: Hindu

Maha Shivaratri: Hindus meditate and fast for Lord Shiva

Man with painted face and body, closing his eyes, while sitting outside on a sunny day in front of a stone structure

A devotee at the Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal, on Maha Shivaratri. Photo courtesy of Fotopedia

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28: Millions of Hindus in India, Nepal and around the world fast and chant for Lord Shiva today, on the auspicious occasion of Maha Shivaratri. (Dates vary by region, worldwide.)

This is the principal festival for Lord Shiva, who—in Hindu tradition—is believed to generate, sustain and dispel the universe in infinite cycles. On such holy days, Hindus practice yoga and meditation in hopes of connecting with the divine essence within each person. (Learn more at Hinduism Today.)

On Maha Shivaratri, many of the faithful remain awake through the night, visiting temples and performing rituals. This year, the renowned Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal expects approximately 700,000 devotees for Maha Shivaratri. Read more here. Bilva, or bael, leaves are offered to the supreme deity, and holy ash from sacred fires is worn on the foreheads of Shiva devotees.

Did you know? A Shiva linga—a token or sign of the Divine, commonly made of stone, metal or wood—is a common sight in homes and temples adoring Lord Shiva, and on this special night, the Sivalingas are bathed in water, honey, ghee and other special substances.

Comments: (0)
Categories: Faiths of India