Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu Festival celebrated annually in honour of Lord Shiva, one of the Trinity of Hindu Gods.
Shivaratri occurs in every Luni-Solar Month of the Hindu Calendar on the month’s 13th night or 14th day. But Hindu observe once a year in late Winter (February/March or Phalguna) in the Northern Hemisphere and before the arrival of Spring.
The following article was contributed by the Brahmakumaris of New Zealand and published in our February 15, 2005 issue.
Mahashivaratri, being a significant Hindu festival, is celebrated every year to commemorate the event of the descent of Almighty God – the most Beloved Father of all souls.
The prefix ‘Maha’ means great, ‘Shiv’ denotes benefactor and ‘Ratri’ signifies ignorance and darkness. Shivaratri is a unique festival.
It is common to celebrate the day of a person’s birthday.
Even if a person is born at night, the celebration is called a ‘birthday.’ The singular instance of Shivaratri is peculiar.
Is there any particular significance to Shiva’s birth being mentioned as Shivaratri, when Shiva, the Supreme, is known as the one beyond death and birth?
What does the night signify in this instance?
The Night of Shiva signifies not the usual darkness resulting from the revolution of the earth around the Sun, but this alludes spiritually to the darkness of ignorance, where the world is full of vices at the time of the end of the Iron Age or Kaliyug.
It is at this time, a little in advance of the end of the Iron Age that God Shiva incarnates in the world.
Which is why Shivaratri is celebrated on the 14th night of the dark cycle of the Moon in the month of ‘Phalgun’ (usually during the last week of February).
Phalgun is the last month of the Hindu calendar and complete darkness prevails during the 14th night of the last dark half of this month, in the last but one night of the Hindu calendar year.
Festival at Midnight
And it is particularly at midnight of that day that the worshippers celebrate the festival of the descent of God Shiva. This indicates the truth that He comes prior to the end of the world cycle, when total darkness of ignorance prevails in the universe.
Immediately afterwards starts the day of knowledge and the light of knowledge spread throughout the world.
This is the beginning of the New Era called Satyuga, the Righteous Age and hence the period when God Shiva descends on earth is called ‘Confluence Age’. This denotes the end of Iron Age (Kaliyug) and the beginning of the Golden Age (Satyuga).
Some of the rituals connected with the Shivaratri festival are 1. Staying awake at night – Jagran – symbolises the beginning of spiritual awakening 2. Keeping the third eye of wisdom open so that one is able to protect one’s values and innate pure qualities of the Soul 3. Chant the name of Shiva continuously in order to receive boons and blessings. This custom evolved to make devotees have Lord Shiva constantly in their thoughts.
Indian mythology states that God descends in the form of a spark and dot of light at the beginning of the Kalpa (once in 5000 years).
It is in commemoration of this religious event that the most auspicious festival called Mahashivaratri is celebrated every year.
- Lord Shiva (Courtesy: TheHinduGodWallpaper.com)
- Shiva and Parvati with Ganesha and Muruga (Courtesy: Pinterest)
- The Shiva Lingam (At Thiru Annamalaiyar Temple)