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Paragraph on Maha Shivaratri (1079 Words)

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Shivaratri is observed by Hindus everywhere in honour of the great Lord, Shiva (Mahadeva). Shivaratri falls in the month of Magha. It is preceded by a night of vigil and fasting in honour of the great Shiva (hence called the Mahashivaratri). This festivals originated from a legend of an accidental fast and vigil of a hunter who eventually becomes a saint of Shiva.

An uncouth hunter named Lubdhaka was arrested by his creditors and confined in a temple of Shiva. There he heard the devotees chanting the name of Shiva and wondered what it meant. In the evening he was released by a devotee who paid off the debt on his behalf.

On his regaining freedom the hunter went straight to the forest to seek game and hid himself in the foliage of a Bel tree (Aegle marmelos : the leaves of this tree are sacred to Shiva) under which was a hidden Lingam.

The hunter while clearing the foliage happened to drop some leaves on the Lingam. an act of great merit. He also repeated, by way of diversion, “Shiva Shiva!” in the manner the devotees did in the temple of Shiva where he had been detained by his creditors. The fellow did not understand what it meant; all the same it added to his merit.

By nightfall there came to the tank near the tree on which he remained hidden, a doe big with young. He drew his bow and took aim, when the doe saw him and prayed him to spare her life. She told him that another doe was following her and he could kill her; if he would not agree to that she would go home deliver her young and give it to her friends and return to be killed.

She also told him that she was an Apsara who, on account of her neglect to dance before the idol of Shiva, had been cursed to become a doe and live with an Asura who had been turned into a black buck. The hunter, by virtue of his repeating the name of Shiva, had by now become half a lover of animals and he made the doe swear that she would return and let her go.

Lubdhaka sat on the Bel tree repeating the name of Shiva. He had been starving throughout the day and evening. By midnight when he felt the fiercest pangs of hunger there came another doe she was restless and apparently seeking her mate. He drew his bow when the doe saw him and begged him to leave her to find her mate after which she promised to return to be killed. In spite of his hunger and a wasted day, Lubdhaka let her go.

Presently came a black buck seeking his mate. The hunter aiming his arrow at him, the buck requested him to be left to find his mate. The hunter let him also go. The first doe went home and delivered her young. The second doe and the black buck had conjugal happiness; after this, the black buck asked the doe to remain at home and offered to go himself to the hunter to be killed. The doe would not permit him to be killed alone. So all the three went to the hunter and quarrelled among themselves for precedence in death.

The sins of the hunter, in the meantime, had been expiated by the vigil and the repetition of the name of Shiva and a realization of the evil of killing game for meat dawned upon him. He preached a sermon to the deer and let them go. At this moment messengers of Shiva came with a celestial car and the hunter was bodily translated to Shivaloka.

Shiva temple at Chidambaram, Kalashti, Khajuraho and Varanasi, this solemn festival is celebrated with full religious fervour. Celebrated all over India, each village in India keeps fast and holds mela on Mahashivratri day.

Shivaratri is one of the most significant festival of the Hindus. Fairs are held on river beds or seashore and thousands of people flocks from distant places to witness the fairs. The some parts of India, even singing of obscene songs is sanctioned at the fairs. In Varanasi, Shivaratri is one of the year’s most important festivals, for it is the major yearly celebration of Lord Shiva. People gather in the Jnana Vapi pavilion for the night’s vigil, singing bhajans or devotional songs, to keep themselves awake as the night passes.

The Puranas contain many stories of the benefits showered upon those who have kept the Shivaratri vigil, even those who have done so inadvertently, such as thieves or hunters. The devotees spend the better part of the day making a grand circuit of the city’s temples. Most significant temples are Vishvanatha, Mrtyunjaya, Trilochana and Kedareshvara, which will be thronged with worshippers. Every visible linga in the city is heaped with flowers and drenched with Ganges water on Shivaratri.

In Kerala, Mahashivaratri is observed on the bank of Periyar river as a grand festival which is compared to Kumbha Mela of Prayag. The 41 day festival which coincides with Makaravilakku in Sabarimala Ayyappan temple attracts lakhs of people from India and abroad.

In Tamil Nadu, the temples in Tiruvaikkavur and Omampuliyur of the Tanjavur district and Sri Sailam and Kalahasti of Andhra Pradesh are the important centres for the celebration of Mahasivaratri. In Tamil Nadu, Siva is worshipped throughout the night of the 14th day of the dark fortnight in Masi (February—March), consisting of four yamas (parts).

People observe fast throughout the day, worship in a Siva temple, in the day and do Sivapuja during the four quarters (yamas) in the night. In the first Yama, Siva is worshipped with lotus flowers and reciting from Rig Veda; the second with Tulasi and Yajur Veda; the third with basil (vilvam) leaves and Sama Veda and the fourth with blue flowers (nilot palam) and Atharva Veda.

In the Kanya-Kumari district, visitng 9 Siva temples spread over the dis­tricts at Nattalam, Panniyodu, Suchindrum etc., covered by running from one to the other temple throughout the night is called ‘Sivalaya Ottam’.

We may sum up by saying that on the great night of Shiva, i.e. Sheo-Ratri, properly Mahasivaratri, Hindus commemorate the birth of Lord Siva. A fast is observed during the day and a vigil is kept at night when the linga or phallus (the emblem of Siva) is worshipped.