Lets know the Reality about Mahashivratri celebrated in India. Mahashivratri not only celebrated in India and Nepal but also in parts of West Indies which apparently has over 400 temples across the country.
Lets Know the History of Mahashivratri
The Maha Shivaratri is mentioned in several Puranas, particularly the Skanda Purana, Linga Purana and Padma Purana. These medieval era Shaiva texts present different mythologies associated with this festival, but all mention fasting and reverence for icons of Shiva such as the Lingam.
Different legends describe the significance of Maha Shivaratri. According to one legend in the Shaivism tradition, this is night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation and destruction.The chanting of hymns, the reading of Shiva scriptures and the chorus of devotees joins this cosmic dance and remembers Shiva’s presence everywhere. According to another legend, this is the night when Shiva and Parvati got married. Yet another legend states that the offering to Shiva icons such as the linga is an annual occasion to get over past sins if any, to restart on a virtuous path and thereby reach Mount Kailasha and liberation.
The significance of dance tradition to this festival has historical roots. The Maha Shivaratri has served as a historic confluence of artists for annual dance festivals at major Hindu temples such as at Konark, Khajuraho, Pattadakal, Modhera and Chidambaram. This event is called Natyanjali, literally “worship through dance”, at the Chidambaram temple which is famous for its sculpture depicting all dance mudras in the ancient Hindu text of performance arts called Natya Shastra. Similarly, at Khajuraho Shiva temples, a major fair and dance festival on Maha Shivaratri, involving Shaiva pilgrims camped over miles around the temple complex, was documented by Alexander Cunningham in 1864.
Shiva Panchakshari Manrta : Namah Shivaya called the Panchakshari Mantra
Panchakshara Stotra (Sanskrit : श्रीशिवपञ्चाक्षरस्तोत्रम् Śrī śivapañcākṣarastōtram) Is a Stotra. Stotras are a type of popular devotional literature and are not bound by the strict rules as some other ancient Indian scriptures, such as the Vedas. In Sanskrit literature, poetry written for praise of god is called stotras. The Panchakshara (Sanskrit : पञ्चाक्षर) literally means “five letters” in Sanskrit and refers to the five holy letters ‘Na’, ‘Ma ‘,’Si’,’Va’, ‘Ya’. This is prayer to Lord Shiva, and is associated with Shiva’s Mantra Om Namah Shivaya , of which Namah Shivaya is also called the Panchakshari Mantra
Mahashivratri in India
The name of the festival that roughly translates to the ‘Great Night of Shiva’ is celebrated with fanfare and enthusiasm by the Hindu community across India and some parts of Nepal.
As per the Hindu calendar, Shivratri is celebrated on the new moon day in the month of Maagha. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, the festival owes its origins to several versions, one of them being a celebration of Shiva and Parvati’s marriage to each other.
Some other facts about the festival of Mahashivratri are as follows:
According to some, Shivratri is celebrated as the day when Shiva saved the world from the pot of poison that emerged from the ocean during Samudra Manthan. If legends are to be believed, Lord Shiva drank the poison and stored it in his throat–which made his throat turn blue (which is why he also came to be known as Neelkanth).
Yet another legend goes on to say that Shivratri is celebrated as the day when Brahma and Vishnu got into a major tiff about their supremacy over each other and an angry Lord Shiva punished them by taking the form of a massive fire that spread across the length of the universe. Vishnu and Brahma then got into the race to find the end of the fire and prove their prowess–only to be dismayed. Brahma resorted to a lie, and angered Shiva greatly who cursed that no one would ever pray to him.
Though for some the festival of Mahashivratri is celebrated during the day, others celebrate it during the night by organising a series of ‘jaagrans'(a night-long celebration replete with prayer ceremonies and religious hymns).
Shivratri festivities differ in various parts of India. Where in Southern Karnataka children have the leverage to indulge in mischief and then ask for punishment (symbolic of Shiva punishing Brahma for lying), Kashmiri Brahmins celebrate Lord Shiva’s marriage to Parvati by starting the festivities 3-4 days prior to the main festival.
Out of the 12 Shivratris in the year, the Mahashivratri is considered to be the most auspicious one.
The festival is not only celebrated in India and Nepal but also in parts of West Indies which apparently over 400 temples across the country.