Significance and Rituals
Maha Shivratri, the great night of Shiva, is a traditional Hindu festival mainly observed in India as well as in Nepal. As per Hindu calendar, the festival is observed on the new moon day in the month of Maagha. The day is celebrated to worship Lord Shiva, a major deity in Hindu culture.
Different mythological legends associated with this day. A popular legendary note that when a hunter could not find anything to kill for his food in a forest, he waited on the branch of a Wood apple tree; Aiming to attract deer, he started throwing the leaves of the tree on the ground, he did not see that there was a Shiva Lingam beneath the tree. Delighted with the Wood apple leaves and the patience of the hunter, it is believed that Lord Shiva appeared before the hunter and blessed him with wisdom. From that day onwards, the hunter desisted from eating meat.
Another legend has it that after the Earth was faced with an looming destruction, Goddess Parvati pledged with Lord Shiva to save the world. Hearing her prayers, Lord Shiva agreed to save the world on pretext that the people of the Earth would have to adore him with dedication and passion. From that day onwards, the night came to be known as Maha Shivratri and people began worshipping Shiva fervently.
Maha Shivratri is an important Hindu festival which being celebrated by people in India. People take fast on the night of Shivratri and sing hymns and praises Lord Shiva. Temples across the country are decorated with lights and people can be seen offering night long prayers to Shiva Lingam. Wood apple leaves, cold water and milk are offered to the Shiva Lingam on Shivratri day as they are believed to be Lord Shiva’s favorite.
The most popular Maha Shivratri celebrations take place in Ujjain, believed to be the place of residence of Lord Shiva. Large processions are performed all through the city, with people thronging the streets to catch a glimpse of the revered idol of Lord Shiva.