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Maha Shivaratri

When is Maha Shivaratri?

The Hindu festival of Maha Shivaratri takes place on the thirteenth night and fourteenth day of the lunar months of Phalguna or Magha, according to the Hindu calendar. The date changes each year, but it tends to fall within the months of February or March in the Gregorian calendar. In 2024, it will occur on Friday 8th March.

Maha Shivaratri

What is Maha Shivaratri?

The name Maha Shivaratri translates as "The Great Night of Shiva”. It is held in honour of Lord Shiva, one of the main deities in the Hindu religion. Shiva is viewed as the god of destruction, transformation and regeneration.

According to legend, Maha Shivaratri celebrates the union between Lord Shiva and his consort, the Goddess Paravati. It also marks the occasion when Shiva performs his divine dance of creation, preservation and destruction, known as the Tandava. Another tale associated with Maha Shivaratri is Samudra Manthan, also known as the churning of the ocean. Legend has it that a deadly poison emerged from the churning ocean, and Lord Shiva drank it to protect the world from evil and darkness.

Maha Shivaratri is one of the most important events in the Hindu calendar. It is observed in India, Nepal and in Indo-Caribbean communities. The nature of the celebrations differs according to the region, but the central theme is the worship of Lord Shiva. Rather than a period of revelry, it is a time of introspection, spiritual awakening and the triumph of light over darkness.

Maha Shivaratri 2

Many people begin Maha Shivaratri with a ritual bath at sunrise. They then dress in fresh clothes and pay a visit to the nearest Shiva temple where ceremonies known as pujas are performed throughout the festival. Incense is burned and a ritual known as Abhishekam is carried out. This involves bathing the Shiva Lingam, which is a stone or pillar symbolising Lord Shiva, with a mixture of ingredients such as milk, honey, sugar, ghee and yoghurt. Then, sandalwood paste is applied to the Shiva Lingam and offerings of flowers, sweets and fruit are made to Lord Shiva. The leaves of the Bilva tree are often given as offerings as they are seen as particularly auspicious. This ritual is thought to bring happiness and prosperity.

Fasting tends to take place throughout the day and a vigil is held throughout the night. The fast is broken the following morning. Fasting is seen as a way to purify the mind and body and to show devotion to Lord Shiva. During the night vigil, devotees say prayers, practise meditation and sing devotional songs known as bhajans. The mantra "Om Namah Shivaya” is chanted, which translates as "my salutations to Shiva, the auspicious one.” Meditation and yoga are an important part of the festival for many people, in keeping with the mood of introspection and reflection.

Why is Maha Shivaratri celebrated in February or March?

According to the Hindu calendar, the fourteenth day of every lunar month, the day before the new moon, is known as a Shivaratri. Maha Shivaratri, however, only occurs once a year in late winter, just before the arrival of summer, and is viewed as one of the holiest days of the year.

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When was Maha Shivaratri first celebrated/marked?

It is believed that the festival was first celebrated some time in the 5th century BCE.

Interesting facts about Maha Shivaratri

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