Lord Shiva is the supreme source of meditation and balance. He embodies the sound and energy of the cosmos and the infinite consciousness.
It is said that there is one Ratri (night) for Shiva – the Mahashivaratri - and 9 Ratris for Devi (Parvati). Although there is a Shivaratri occurring every month as per the Hindu calendar, the one that falls in the month of Masi is considered the most auspicious night for the three-eyed Lord.
There are many legends associated with Mahashivaratri. It is popularly believed to be the day the three-eyed Lord married Parvati. It is also said to be the night Shiva performed his ‘Tandav’ – cosmic dance of creation, preservation and destruction. Another legend has it that on this day, he drank Halahala, the poison that was produced during Samudra Manthan or the churning of the cosmic ocean. Parvathi gripped his throat to prevent the poison from reaching his stomach. As a result, his throat turned blue, earning him the name ‘Neelkanth’.
Mahashivaratri is celebrated by Shiva devotees living across India, Nepal, Mauritius, and Trinidad and Tobago. In many cultures, devotees undertake a fast and observe ‘Jagaran’ by staying awake on that night, meditating upon His name. Some other cultures perform elaborate Abhisheka, Archana and prayer rituals.
Shiva is known as ‘Abhisheka Priya’ which means one who is fond of Abhisheka. Abhisheka refers to the sacred bathing ceremony of deities. In temples and in their homes, devotees worship Him by performing Abhisheka on a Shivaling with milk, curd, Vibhuti, tender coconut, ghee, Panchamrita, honey, sandal paste, sugarcane juice, water and Vilva (Belpatra) leaves. This is known as Rudra Abhisheka. Specific mantras are recited while performing this Abhisheka.
He is said to be benevolent and pleased with just a humble offering of milk or sweet potatoes.
This year, Mahashivaratri falls on 18 February, 2023.