March 6, 2008
The festival of Mahashivratri (literally means the 'Grand Night dedicated for the worship of Lord Shiva')is looked upon with greatest reverence & respect by the devotees of Lord Shiva. This festival is celebrated every year on the 13/14th day in the Krishna Paksha (waning moon fortnight, just before the new moon) of the month of Phalgun. As per the English calendar this is somewhere around Feb or March.
This day and more so the night is dedicated by the devotees of Lord Shiva
for his worship, practice of various austerities & meditation. All the Shiva
Temples are fully decorated and there are hordes of devotees queuing up to
get darshan of Lord & offer their obeisance's at the feet of Lord Shiva on
this special day.
The Significance of Mahashivratri :
Manthan by the gods and demons, a highly toxic poison came out of the ocean.
As per the advice of Lord Vishnu, gods approached Lord Shiva and prayed him
to protect life by consuming this poison. Pleased with their prayers, out of
compassion for living beings, Lord Shiva drank this poison and held it in
his throat by binding it with a snake. The throat became blue due to the
poison (Thus Lord Shiva is also know as Neelakantha) and Shiva remained
unharmed. The wise men advised gods to keep Lord Shiva awake during the
night. To keep him awake, the gods took turn performing various dances and
playing music. A vigil was thus kept by the gods in contemplation of Shiva.
As the day broke out, Shiva, pleased with their devotion blessed them all,
and also said that whosoever worshipped & contemplated on him on this day
shall be blessed with the fulfillment of his or her wishes. Since then, on
this day and night - devotees fast, keep vigil, sing glories of Lord and
King Daksha, opposed Sati's marriage with
Shiva. At a yagna (holy sacrifice) the king ignored Shiva’s presence and
thereby insulted the latter publicly. Sati was so angered by this that she
jumped into the sacrificial fire and ended her life. Lord Shiva unleashed
his fury at the death of his wife by performing the violent dance, Tandava.
He wiped out Daksha’s kingdom, undertook rigorous penance and retired to the
Himalayas. The Gods, who feared that the severity of Shiva’s penance might
bring an end to the world, revived Sati in the new avatar of Parvati. Shiva-Parvati
married and this reunion is celebrated on Maha Shivaratri.
For few people, Shiva is "Paramatman", "Brahman", the Absolute, but many more prefer to see Shiva as a personal God given to compassion for his worshippers, and the dispenser of both spiritual and material blessings. Related to the Absolute concept is Shiva as "Yoganath" meaning the Lord of Yoga, wherein he becomes teacher, path and goal. As such he is the "Adi Guru" or the Highest Guru of 'Sannyasins' who have renounced the world to attain the Absolute.
He is the most sought-after deity amongst the Hindus and they pray to him as the god of immense large-heartedness who they believe grants all their wishes. Around him are weaved many interesting stories that reveal His magnanimous heart. Not only this, but these stories and legends also enrich the Indian culture and art.
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