Maha Shivarathri: Primary focuses and ultimate goals | Sunday Observer

Maha Shivarathri: Primary focuses and ultimate goals

One of the most important festivals commemorating Shiva: People celebrate and show gratitude towards the god for being a compassionate care taker and protector of all on Maha Shivratri. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
One of the most important festivals commemorating Shiva: People celebrate and show gratitude towards the god for being a compassionate care taker and protector of all on Maha Shivratri. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Hindus in Sri Lanka and all over the world are observing Maha Shivarathri, one of the holiest of all Hindu religious observances, dedicated to the supreme God of the religion Maha Shiva, tomorrow, March 4.

It is an annual one day Hindu observance on which Hindu devotees observe devoutly by changing prayers, fasting, engaging in yoga, meditating and observing other religious rituals specific for the day.

Ardent devotees fast the whole day and night and attend the temple in the morning. They come to the temple to perform the puja of traditional Shivalingam hoping to have their prayers answered.

They take a bath in the holy water of the Ganga before sunrise, a symbol of purity, and thereafter wear clean clothes.

Ethics and virtues of self-restraint, honesty, kindness to others, forgiveness, and the discovery of Shiva are the primary focuses and ultimate goals.

In Sri Lanka, Maha Shivarathri is observed in all Hindu temples, but it is held on a grander scale, with a gathering of devotees from all parts of the country, in the main three historical shrines of Lord Shiva – Munneswaram in Chilaw, Thirukkoneswaram in Trincomalee and Thirukketheeswaram in Mannar.

Maha Shivaratri is a National Holiday in Nepal and celebrated widely in temples all over the country, especially, in the Pashupatinath temple.

Thousands of devotees visit the famous Shiva Shakti Peetham as well. Holy rituals are performed all over the nation. Artists from various classical music and dance forms perform through the night.

Shivaratri is the day in the Hindu calendar when the absolute formless God Sadashiv appeared in the form of “Lingodbhav Moorti” at midnight. God in his manifestation as Vishnu made his appearance as Krishna at Gokul at midnight, 180 days after Shivratri, commonly known as Janmashtami.

Shivratri is also the ritual wedding anniversary when Lord Shiva was married to Devi Parvati. Remember Shiva minus Parvati is pure ‘Nirgun Brahman’.

Shivratri is also a day of thanksgiving to the Lord for protecting us from annihilation. On this day, it is believed that Lord Shiva became ‘Neelkantham’ or the blue-throated one, by swallowing the deadly poison that arose during the churning of “Kshir Sagar” or the milky ocean.

The poison was so deadly that even a drop in his stomach, which represents the universe, would have annihilated the entire world. He held it in his neck, which turned blue because of poison.

According to the Shiva Purana, the Mahashivaratri puja involves six steps which are:

Taking a bath in the Gange purifies the soul, mind and body. Bathing of the Shiv Linga with the holy water of Gange, then bathing with milk and honey.

After the bathing of the Shiv Linga, vermilion paste is applied to it which represents the virtue.

Hindus then offer fruits and flowers which are given in hopes of obtaining long life and satisfaction of desires.

Worshipers also apply three horizontal lines of holy ash on their forehead - just like Lord Shiva which represents spiritual knowledge, cleanliness and penance. Hindus wear a garland made of the Rudraksha while worshipping Lord Shiva. It is believed that the Rudraksha tree originated from the tears of Lord Shiva.

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