India is often known as the “Land of Festivals” for the numerous festivals celebrated here throughout the year. There are festivals for every season and every religion and during the days of celebrations everyone across the country take part in the rejoicings irrespective of caste, creed, status and age. The variety of festivals celebrated in India also depicts its rich cultural heritage and history.
Mahab Sivaratri or Maha Shivratri is one of the biggest festivals of the Indian culture. It is a national Hindu festival and in many places the day is observed as a national holiday. Maha Shivratri or “the Great night of Lord Shiva” is celebrated on the 13th or 14th of the month of Magha in the Hindu Lunar calendar. Several rituals and ceremonies form an integral part of the festival. The Maha Shiva Ratri festival is carried out in various parts of the cpuntries and different rituals may be followed but however the central idea of the ceremony remains the same.
The ceremony of Shivratri is celebrated by all day fasting of the devotees. Bael leaves and fruit and Canabi are the major offerings of the rituals. The ofestival owes its origin to various stories and legends of the past. Like the other legends, they depict the power of the Great Lord Shiva, and also symbolize the respect of the common people for the great Lord. One of the legends says that once Parvati, the wife of Lord Shiva asked him that which was his most favorite day. The Lord replied that the 13th night of the month of Magha was his favorite and since then the festival of Maha Shivratri is held on that day. Other legends like that of the Pralaya or the “deluge ”, the churning of the ocean or the “Samudra Manthan” and the story of King Chitrabhanu are also related to the festival.
During the worshipping ceremony, the idol of Lord Shiva popularly known as the “Lingam” is bathed in Milk and Panchamutra (which includes milk, curd, ghee, sugar and honey). Cold water and Bael leaves are offered to him in the rituals. The Idol is marked with vermilion powder and white concentrated rice which is also known as Akshata. The festival of Maha Shiva Ratri is also widely celebrated in the states os southern India through various rituals and ceremonies according to the local legends and culture.
Lord Shiva is considered to be the God of all creations and no one is barred from his worships. During the festival, all are welcomes at the temples and everybody takes part in the celebrations and rejoicings of the ceremony irrespective of caste, creed and status.