Recognised as 'The Great Night of Shiva', Mahashivratri is considered one of the most auspicious Hindu festival in India's spiritual calendar. Different parts of the country have diverse rituals honouring the Hindu God Lord Shiva on this day. A day before the new moon (or the fourteenth day of every lunar month) is acknowledged as Shivratri. However, among all the twelve Shivratris that occur during a calendar year, Mahashivratri usually falls between February and March, and it holds a more spiritual significance for Hindus.
Meaning & Significance
Mahashivratri acts as a remembrance of subduing darkness and ignorance in the cosmos. According to scriptures, it is believed that Mahashivaratri signifies the anniversary of the cosmic dance (Tandava) presented by Lord Shiva. Traditions also state that fasting on this day helps an individual find success in work and get rid of his/her past life sins. Additionally, anyone chanting the name of Lord Shiva on this day is freed from all sins. He or she reaches the dwelling of Lord Shiva and is also released from the circle of birth and death.
Several tales and folklore trace the origin of Mahashivratri's existence. A popular belief asserts that it was this day when Lord Shiva drank the poison that came out during the 'Samudra Manthan' (churning of the ocean) between Gods and demons. The result of him retaining the poison in his throat (instead of swallowing it) caused his throat to turn blue — giving him the title of 'Neelkantha'.
Astrologically, this is also the day where Saturn and Rahu (Air element) and Tattva (truth or reality) planets, have a direct impact on our mind and emotions. Known to cause disorder, chaos and restlessness when afflicted, several people practice pranayama or meditation to combat this.
Praying to Lord Shiva on this day helps harmonise the malefic effects of Saturn and Rahu.
Health benefits of Mahashivratri
Mahashivratri helps in raising the spiritual energies in an individual's life, which one can attain by keeping the body in a vertical position. According to several biologists, one of the biggest steps in the evolutionary process of an animal was the movement from a horizontal to a vertical spine. Individuals who practice yogic sadhana could benefit from Mahashivratri by chanting mantras and meditations.
Apart from the spiritual benefits, fasting on Mahashivratri also aids several health benefits. Ingredients used in the Mahashivratri fast helps reduce bloating by monitoring your calorie intake. The juice and water intake also detoxifies your body and helps keep diseases at bay. Mahashivratri fast usually contains no sodium, which is considered healthy for those affected by salt-sensitive hypertension.
Mahashivratri is usually commemorated as an exuberant nightlong festival in several places, with explosive meditations and musical performances drawing a crowd of lakhs people. However, due to Covid-19 restrictions in place this year, there are multiple guidelines to visiting temples on Mahashivratri.
On Mahashivratri, devotees observing the festival can refer to the puja timings provided by drikpanchang.com:
Shivaratri Parana Time – 06:54 AM to 03:25 PM
Ratri First Prahar Puja Time – 06:27 PM to 09:29 PM
Ratri Second Prahar Puja Time – 09:29 PM to 12:31 AM, Mar 12
Ratri Third Prahar Puja Time – 12:31 AM to 03:32 AM, Mar 12
Ratri Fourth Prahar Puja Time – 03:32 AM to 06:34 AM, Mar 12
Devotees use six significant ceremonies while performing Mahashivratri puja:
Bathing of the Shivalingam with water, milk & bel leaves (soul purification).
Applying vermilion after the bath (symbolising virtue).
Fruits offered while worshipping (representing attainment of aspirations and longevity).
Incense stick burning (symbolising wealth).
Betel leaves (representing satisfaction from worldly desires).
Lightning of lamps (epitomising attainment of wisdom and knowledge).
Here are some online platforms which will allow you to participate in the auspicious pujas taking place during the day: