About Maha Shivratri(Great Night of Shiva)
Maha Shivratri or the Great Night of Shiva is one of the Hindu festivals that is largely celebrated in India and other parts of Asia as a way of honoring Lord Shiva, who is considered as one of the Hindu deities (Auspicious One). Unlike other festivals, the Maha Shivratri does not have an exact date, but the devotees strictly follow the Hindu calendar to calculate the yearly auspicious dates for this annual event. The day is filled with prayers, offerings and processions. Devotees usually observe a solemn type of feast, but the temples are decorated with quite colorful and vibrant decorations. During the festival, a large group of crowd would gather at the Kashi Vishwanath Temple to say their prayers to Lord Shiva. Varanasi is a place popularly known as the spiritual capital of India, and the success of the annual celebration has brought millions of devotees and tourists from all over the world. All throughout history, Maha Shivratri has become an integral part of embodying India’s fascinating culture and tradition.
These are the activities that happen every year during the Maha Shivratri in Varanasi:
Fasting and Vigil
Devotees should abstain from eating or drinking during the whole duration of the festival. The long list of activities would be followed by a vigil even after a tiring day packed with processions and other religious activities. To fulfill their spiritual wishes, devotees prepare an array of offerings with each corresponding symbolisms in the Hindu culture and religion such as fruits, coconuts and flowers.
People who celebrate Maha Shivratri have different ways of doing this festive event depending on the country or place that they represent. In Varanasi, the festival is expected to start early in the morning. Traditionally, the reason why they conduct the wedding procession every year is because it’s believed that it is during this fateful day that Lord Shiva and the Hindu goddess Parvati became united in marriage. Children are also clad in colorful costumes just as some of them would be dressed in impressive clothes to play the role of Lord Shiva or one of the holy gods. Chants and drum beats are audible which echoes around the city streets to the holy temple. The procession has become the most-photographed part of the celebration since it generates and merges an energetic vibe both from the locals and tourists.
Bathing at the Ganges
Devotees gather at the riverfront or the ghats in Varanasi to keep the tradition of bathing in the holy river of Ganges. According to the Hindus, this act of devotion is a way of spiritual cleansing and absolving them from sins, which is why a lot of devotees are observed to take a dip in the water. Since the festival is considered auspicious or lucky for women, a lot of them would be seen bathing in the holy water even before the sun rises. As devout followers of Lord Shiva, Hindu women usually pray for the health and well-being of their husbands while younger women would pray to have a good and loving husband in the future.
Entering Kashi Vishwanath Temple
Temples are expected to be hot and crowded during this time that it would be merely hard to gain access if one isn’t patient enough to get in line. Entering the holy temple is composed of long lines which the pilgrims are prepared to endure as they offer their prayers to Lord Shiva and worship their deity through songs of devotion and chants.
To highlight the festival, the devotees perform Puja or a Hindu form of prayer to worship the deity. They come to glorify and give thanks to the Shiva Linga which is the sacred icon of Lord Shiva. The ritual os officiated by a priest as devotees chant Om Namah Shivay and present water, milk, honey, yoghurt and bael leaves as offerings. The ritual is divided into four, and each portion of the ceremony would last up to three hours filled with prayers and meditation. Vermillion paste is applied afterwards as it symbolizes virtue. Devotees would also adorn the Shiva Linga with flowers, incense, and beautiful garlands. Throughout the years, millions of devotees vow to seek the help and guidance of Lord Shiva as they pray for their wishes to be granted, more blessings and finally for ultimate happiness in their lives.
Maha Shivratri(Great Night of Shiva) Youtube/Video
Maha Shivratri(Great Night of Shiva) Dates
- Maha Shivratri(Great Night of Shiva) 2016: Mar.07
- Maha Shivratri(Great Night of Shiva) 2015: Feb.17