over India, Maha Shivratri occurs on the 14th night of the new moon
during the dark half of the month of Phalguna. On a moonless night
in February every year, occurs the night of Shiva, the destroyer.
This is the night when He is said to have performed the Tandava
or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction.
Devotees of Shiva fast during the day and maintain a long vigil
during the night. In temples all across the country, bells ring,
sacred texts are chanted and traditional offerings of leaves and
milk are made to the Shiv lingam, the phallic symbol of the god.
There is a legend behind Shiva's phallic form. It is believed that
once Brahma and Vishnu, the two pillars of the holy Trinity were
having an argument as to who was supreme. Brahma declared himself
to be the Creator of all and thus more revered. Vishnu claimed that
since he was the Creator and the Destroyer, he commanded more respect.
The word Shivratri
literally translates into "the night of Shiva." This
is because the ceremonies take place chiefly at night. A daylong
fast, a nightlong vigil and the reverberating rhythm of sacred
chants mark the day. This is a festival observed in honor of Lord
Shiva. It is said that Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati on this
auspicious day. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the
night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey,
rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra "Om Namah
Shivaya" continues. Offerings of bael leaves are made to
the Lingam. Bael leaves are very sacred, for it is believed that
Goddess Lakshmi resides in them.
SHIVRATRI: TIME OF THE YEAR
The festival of Maha Shivratri falls on the 13th (or 14th) day
of the month of Phalguna (February-March) of the Indian calendar.
The weather remains pleasant throughout India during this time
of the year.