Maha Shivratri, meaning the grand night dedicated to Lord Shiva, is a famous festival of Hindus which is looked upon with great reverence by the followers of Lord Shiva. Every year, according to the Hindu calendar, the festival falls on 13th or 14th day of the Krishna Paksh in the Phalgun month. Maha Shivratri in 2013 will be celebrated on 10th March.
There are many legends associated with Maha Shivratri which explain the reason behind its celebration. One of the most popular legends is the story of Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean) by the gods and the demons. Mount Mandranchal was used as the churning rod and the king of serpents, Vasuki was the churning rope. It is believed that at the time of the Samudra Manthan, a highly toxic poison originated from the ocean, which terrified both gods and demons. As advised by Lord Vishnu, the gods approached Lord Shiva to seek his help, as only Lord Shiva could swallow the poison without being affected. So, on the gods’ request, Lord Shiva consumed the poison. However, Goddess Parvati held his neck, so that the poison does not go down his throat. Hence, it stayed in his throat and Lord Shiva remained unharmed. Due to this poison, his neck became blue and hence, Lord Shiva was also named as Neelakantha (the blue-necked). The gods were advised by some wise men, to keep Lord Shiva awake during the night. So, to keep him awake, the gods performed dances and amused him by playing music. As the night ended, Lord Shiva was pleased by their devotion and blessed them all. Since then, on this day, people worship Lord Shiva with great devotion.
Another popular story linked with the festival is that Maha Shivratri is the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati.
The Shivratri celebrations begin early in the morning. People take early bath, observe fast and worship Lord Shiva all through the day. Huge crowd of worshippers gather outside the temples, which are beautifully decorated with flowers. People offer prayers along with other traditional puja items like milk, holy water, bel leaves, fruits etc. they light oil lamps in the temples and seek Lord Shiva’s blessings by chanting the mantra ‘Om Namah Shivaya’. Some temples also organise nightlong Jaagrans, where devotees sing hymns in praise of Lord Shiva. In the following morning, people break their fast by eating the Prasad offered to Lord Shiva.
How to celebrate Maha Shivratri at home?
The auspicious festival is celebrated with great zeal & enthusiasm by the worshippers of Lord Shiva all across India. You too can celebrate the festival along with your children at home in the following ways:
- Narrate the popular legends associated with the festival, to your children and tell them about the significance behind the celebration of the Shivratri.
- Encourage your children to express their thankfulness in front of Lord Shiva by chanting the mantra ‘Om Namah Shivaya’.
- Take your children to a nearby temple to offer prayers to Lord Shiva and seek his blessings.
- Get a DVD about the story of the life of Lord Shiva and have your children watch it along with you.
- Invite your children’s friends and organise a fancy dress wherein, children can dress up as Lord Shiva, Goddess Parvati etc.
So, along with your children, celebrate the auspicious festival at home, with full zeal and dedication.