Maha Shivratri, also known as the ‘Great night of Lord Shiva,’ is a Hindu festival observed by devotees from Kashmir to Kanyakumari with much fervour.
While Shivratri falls on the 14th day of each month of the lunar calendar, Maha Shivratri is celebrated only once a year before the arrival of summer. On this holy day, devotees worship Lord Shiva and seek his divine guidance. In Kashmir Shaivism, the festival is called Har-ratri or Herath.
While the festival is popularly celebrated as the wedding anniversary of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati, there is much more significance to this festival. For instance, according to Puranas, Shivrati marks the night Lord Shiva saved the human kind by consuming a pot of poison during Samudra Manthan- mythical churning of the ocean.
According to Shaivism, the festival marks the night when Lord Shiva performed the divine dance of creation, preservation and, destruction.
On this day, to please their Lord, devotees observe the special Maha Shivratri fast and throng Shiva temples across the country to offer fruits and milk to the Shivaling, an iconic representation of Shiva.
While some perform Puja to pray for moksha or salvation, many women pray to be blessed with a good husband.
Many temples across the country organise fairs and cultural programmes to mark the occasion.
This year’s Maha Shivratri will also mark the closing day of the mega holy event Ardh Kumbh Mela. On this auspicious day, devotees will take the last holy dip in the sacred waters considered a confluence of the Ganga, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati rivers.
Devotees conclude the festival by chanting some powerful Shiva mantras including Om Namah Shivaay, chanted for eradicating fear, Om Namo Bhagwate Rudraay, to seek Lord Shiva’s blessings, and Mahamrityunjay mantra, to increase increasing longevity.
While fasting is a significant part of custom, the rituals also call for preparation of satvik delicacies that are consumed during the fast and after breaking the fast post offering the final prayers.
Fruits are an irreplaceable part of every religious festival in India. From offering to the deities to consuming during fast, no celebration is complete without fruits. On Shivratri, many devotees, after performing their morning prayers, indulge in some lips smacking fruit chaat.
For people who like to constantly munch on something to feel full, dry fruits are the best option. A bowl of dry fruits is perfect to keep the stomach busy so that is doesn’t constantly crave for food.
In beverages, people consume fresh fruit juice, milk, tea, fruit milk shakes, thandai and lemonade.
Potato chips, sabudana khichdi and tikki, kuttu atta pakaodas and millet pulao are considered satvik food items and are consumed during and post fast.
Dry fruit kheer, badam barfi, coconut barfi, potato halwa, rabdi and sabudana kheer are some of the traditional desserts that are considered the heart of this festival.
(With ANI inputs)