For innumerable followers and devotees all over the country, the festival of Maha Shivratri is of special significance. Not only that, this unique festival of great magnitude acquires a special significance in Hindu mythology. If sacred scriptures and mythological legends are to be believed, then this it is this particular day when Lord Shiva, also referred to as Lord Mahadev and Sankara showers glorious blessings on his devotees. Moreover, Lord Mahadev’s devotees, all over the world possess deep trust on the glories of the Lord. They believe that unadulterated and concentrated dedication and devotion can fetch them the power of salvation. Moreover, deep rooted beliefs of the Shiva devotees across the country suggest, towards a profound celebration of Maha Shivratri, which ultimately leads to purification from past sins and attainment of salvation or moksha.
Mythological legends of the God
According to the popular and reliable mythological sources, the Hindu mythological arena mentions the presence of the powerful trio, Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheswara. Maheswara or Lord Shiva is considered as the beholder of the entire universe. Moreover, he is the major instrumental force in sustaining life and activities of the people of the universe. Now, there are many legends associated with the celebration of Maha Shivratri. Among the most popular ones, the night of Maha Shivratri marks the holy union of the two major auspicious forces, Shakti, and Shiva. Therefore, the detailed and elaborate celebrations of Maha Shivratri epitomize the union of these two forces though the marriage of Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati. Popular legendary sources indicate towards the presence of other stories too. They are:
- As one of the most deadly aftermaths of Samudra Manthan, a hideous poison rose, perfectly capable of destroying the whole universe. Lord Shiva making complete use of his Yogic strengths arrested it in the interiors of his throat but prevented the poison from entering into his body. As a consequence, his throat turned blue, and a new nomenclature was found for the deity. Henceforth, Lord Shiva acquired the name of Neel Kantha or the one with a blue throat.
- Another popular legend associated with the celebrations of this festivity centers around Lord Shiva’s performance of Tandava. Better known as Anandatandava, this specific dance epitomizes the cosmic cycles of life and death. This particular blissful performance by the lord signifies the basic manifestations of eternal force and energy. Namely, there are five; creation, devastation, conservation or preservation, salvation or moksha, illusion or moha.
- A celebration of Maha Shivratri is also believed to be the auspicious occasion marking the Lord’s supremacy over the entire fraternity of Hindu deities. Popular Legends state that Lord Shiva intervened in between a fierce battle for supremacy between Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. Dividing his entity into massive pillars of fire, known as Jyotirlingas, he challenged both the gods to search for its origin. Both the deities set out to explore the origin and left no stone unturned to reach to their desired outcome. But all their efforts were in vain, and Lord Shiva’s supremacy was established.
- Another distinguished mythological source suggests the presence of a mythological saga revolving around the Maha Shivratri celebrations. According to the story, once a hunter found shelter in a wood apple tree, after being chased by a tiger. The tiger awaited its prey beneath the tree, and quite tense about the entire outcome of the situation, the Hunter tore leaves from the tree and dropped them in the downward direction. Now, there was a Shiva linga beneath the tree, and the leaves fell on top of it. Satisfied on witnessing the hunter’s patience Lord Shiva granted him wisdom.
- Among the most popular mythological sagas concerned with the sources of Maha Shivratri celebrations, there exists a unique one. It is said, that the universe encountered immense destruction, at one point in time. It was at this point of time that Lord Parvati requested the Lord to take charge and protect the world from the severities of the deadly devastation. Lord Shiva vouchsafed to do so, but on the pretext of the people of the world dedicatedly and passionately worshipping him. Since then, the night of the great save is celebrated as Maha Shivratri.
Occurrence of the festival
The elaborate festivities of Maha Shivratri occur in congruence with the dates of the Hindu calendar. Now, the month calculation methodology of a Hindu calendar possesses two significant segments. Firstly, in case of an amavasya compliant month calculation, the auspicious celebration of Maha Shivratri falls on the Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi of month Maagha. For the Hindu calendar complying with the Purnima phase of month calculation, this unique festivity is celebrated in the month of Phalguna. According to the Gregorian calendar, Falguna parallels the month of March or February. The sacred celebrations of Maha Shivratri possess profound cross cultural influences. Due to this factor, the celebrations centered on the worship of Lord Shiva do not limit itself to any geographical boundaries. Almost the entire Central, South and Eastern India observe this auspicious day with great dedication and utmost grandeur. The southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka celebrate this glorious festival with utmost dedication. On the other end, central states of Ujjain and Jabalpur also celebrate the occasion with great religious fervor.