Maha Shivaratri:Feb 18th 2023

Maha Shivaratri is an important Hindu festival celebrated annually in honour of the god Shiva. This year, Maha Shivaratri will be celebrated on February 18th, 2023. The festival is known as the “Great Night of Shiva” and symbolizes the wedding day of Lord Shiva. During this time, devotees of Lord Shiva engage in all-night vigils and prayer services to honor him. People also observe fasts and perform special poojas to seek blessings from Lord Shiva. On this day, temples are decorated with flowers and lights and devotees offer milk, honey, fruits, flowers and incense to the deity. Maha Shivaratri is a time for spiritual reflection and devotion that brings Hindus together from around the world in celebration of their faith.

Every month holds its own sacred celebration for Shiva known as Maha Shivaratri, but there is one night before the new moon in late winter that surpasses all – it’s called “Maha Shivaratri” or “The Great Night of Shiva.” This holy festival honors Lord Shiva and marks his heavenly dance of Tandava. It’s an extraordinary time to bow down and pay homage to him with devotion and reverence.

Every year, the festival of Mahashivratri is celebrated to commemorate Lord Shiva and his victory over darkness. This auspicious day falls on either Phalguna (North Indian Hindu calendar) or Magha (South Indian Hindu Calendar). Hindus observe this holy occasion by chanting prayers in devotion for Shiva, fasting throughout the day, meditating about virtues such as honesty and compassion towards others, offering charity and forgiving those who have hurt them.

Staunch adherents stay up throughout the night, spending this time in spiritual contemplation, which provides an unparalleled sense of serenity. Others often go on a pilgrimage to the Jyotirlingams or visit one of the many Shiva temples during this period. This holy festival is deeply embedded within Hinduism – pre-dating written records – although some western indologists maintain that it originated as far back as 5th century BC.Every year, the auspicious celebration of Maha Shivaratri is marked on the Chaturdashi Tithi of Krishna Paksha in Magha according to South India’s calendar, or on the 13th/14th night of Krishna Paksha Phalguna based off Hindu astrology. Interestingly enough, this event has remained rooted at a constant Gregorian date that never changes!

During Mahashivaratri, the Vigil Night of Shiva, we are presented with a festival that symbolizes contemplation. It is an interval between destruction and renewal – an opportunity to examine what births our growth out of decay. During this time, one must be alone with their innermost self; using the Sword of Shiva within them to look back on their past and ahead into future possibilities.

To determine what darkness we must uproot from within us and which virtues to embrace, it is essential that we recognize Shiva exists both inside of us and beyond it. To come together with the Oneness requires acknowledging our innermost Shiva.

On the night of Maha Shivaratri, many Shaiva Hindus keep a “jaagaran”, an all-night vigil and prayers honoring Shiva. They offer fruits, leaves, sweets and milk to him as part of the celebration, some practice fasting with Vedic or tantric worship rituals in his honor while others perform meditative yoga postures. Furthermore chants such as “Om Namah Shivaya” (the Panchakshari mantra) are recited throughout the day inside Shiva temples alongside other praises like Reciting Shival Chalisa. All these traditions symbolize overcoming darkness and ignorance through worshipping Lord Shiva on this auspicious occasion.

Mahashivaratri is steeped in history and legend, with many tales attempting to explain its great significance. One such popular tale suggests that the night of Maha Shivaratri marks Shiva’s divine dance!

The Maha Shivaratri has been widely documented in various Puranas, like the Skanda Purana, Linga Purnana and Padma Purana. These medieval Shaiva texts provide multiple versions related to this festival which include fasting alongside honoring Shiva with his sacred icon – The Lingam.

Stories from the Shaivism tradition describe Maha Shivaratri as a night when Shiva performs his divine dance of creation, preservation and destruction. This unique celebration is said to be one-of-its kind where devotees observe fasts for an entire day while offering salutations to Lord Shiva. 

As devotees sing hymns and chant Shiva scriptures, they remember his presence in the world. Legends say that this is also the night when Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati tied the knot. Offering to Shiva’s icons – like linga – on Mahashivaratri is believed to be a way of wiping away past sins and beginning life anew with virtuous paths that could lead one closer to Mount Kailasha for liberation.

For centuries, the Maha Shivaratri celebration has been a platform for traditional dancers to meet and perform their art at major Hindu temples like Konark, Khajuraho, Pattadakal, Modhera and Chidambaram. At these events called Natyanjali (meaning “worship through dance”), participants honor the ancient scripture of performance arts known as Natya Shastra with impressive sculptures depicting all sorts of visual gestures associated to this form of expression. 

On the sacred day of Maha Shivaratri, Alexander Cunningham recorded a major fair and dance festival at Khajuraho’s Shiva temples, with Shaiva pilgrims coming from miles around to join in.

Similarly, at the Somnath temple in Gujarat, a major fair was celebrated for five days during this time of year. 

Today, Maha Shivaratri is one of the most important Hindu festivals that showcases Shiva’s divinity and power with great reverence and devotion from devotees around the world. Even though it’s not rooted to any particular region or culture, there is no denying the great influence this celebration of light has had in India’s spiritual history.

Shiva devotees have long recognized and celebrated Maha Shivaratri as a day of cleansing and conquering inner darkness through prayer, fasting and contemplation. By focusing on Shiva within us, we can use this auspicious occasion to come together with the universal Oneness. Thus, it is believed that those who offer their prayers to Lord Shiva are blessed with eternal joy and knowledge!

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