Mahashivaratri: Legends And Significance

Mahashivaratri - Sakshi Post

By Ravi Valluri

It is believed that on the day of Shivaratri, Lord Shiva became ‘Neelkantham’ or the ‘blue-throated one’ by consuming the deadly poison that emerged following the churning of ‘Kshir Sagar’ or the milky ocean. Gods and Demons alike were petrified upon seeing the pot emerge which was brimful of poison. They ran to Lord Shiva seeking refuge. The poison was extremely lethal that even a drop in his stomach, which represented the Universe, would have obliterated the entire creation. Acknowledging the pitiable sight of the Devatas and Asuras, Lord Shiva drank the venomous substance but held it back in his throat, which consequently turned blue due to the negative effect of the poison. Shivaratri is therefore also referred to as the day of thanksgiving to the Lord for protecting us from annihilation and destruction.

According to the Shiva Purana, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma, the two other gods of the Holy Trinity were once engaged in a ferocious fight to prove their superiority over the other. The battle of attrition assumed alarming proportions and the Devatas were horrified of the baleful consequences. They approached Lord Shiva to intervene and resolve the matter.

Lord Shiva assumed the form of a column of fire between Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma. The magnitude and enormity of the fire was dazzling. To identify its source, Lord Brahma took the form of a swan and travelled upwards, while Lord Vishnu incarnated as Varaha and moved in the downward direction, but the fire did not seem to have any end. Lord Brahma on his flight upwards came across the Ketaki flower which was wafting slowly in the descending direction. Using this as a ruse, Lord Brahma abandoned his search for Shiva and claimed to have spotted the origin of the column of fire. An enraged Lord Shiva revealed his true self and remonstrated Lord Brahma. Lord Brahma was cursed that no one would pray to him or worship him or pay obeisance and the Ketaki flower which had falsely testified would never be utilized in any manner during religious practice or ritual.

As it was on the fourteenth day in the dark half of the month of Phalguna that Shiva manifested himself in the form of Linga, the day is auspicious and celebrated as Mahashivaratri.

There is another parable of celebrating Shivaratri the entire night. Once an old tribal (an ardent devotee of Lord Shiva) went deep into a dense forest to collect firewood. As night fell, the forest was covered with darkness and resounded with the rustle of leaves as the wild animals moved about as well as their frightening growls. The panic stricken tribal climbed a tree. In order to ensure that he did not fall asleep and fall off, the tribal kept plucking one leaf at a time and dropping it. In the process, he dropped a thousand leaves and they fell on a Shiva Linga below. Lord Shiva was extremely pleased with the devotee and revealed his magnificent self to the tribal.

Shivaratri is also a moonless night and people worship the God who adorns the crescent moon as an adornment in his hair. This is to dispel darkness and to pray that moon arises the next day.

A festival significant for women:

Shivaratri is considered especially auspicious for women. Married women pray for the well being of their husbands and sons while the unmarried women pray for an ideal husband like Lord Shiva, who is the spouse of Kali, Parvati and Durga. It is believed that anyone who utters the name of Lord Shiva during Shivaratri with sincerity and devotion is cleansed of all sins. He or she reaches the abode of Shiva and is liberated from the karmic cycle of birth and death.

These parables and tales essentially focus on the supreme power, the sign of fertility, ushering in of spring, dispelling of ignorance and emulation of superior knowledge and intelligence. It also indicates as to how fecund the Indian mind was to burnish our pantheon with amazing parables which provide a direction to the seeker and also that there is remarkable premium on truth.

‘Shivaratri is taking refuge in Shiva. You take refuge in Shiva for your true nature is Shiva. Shiva is that blissful and innocent consciousness which exists in every atom of the Universe and also in us. Celebrating the Shiva Tattva in oneself is called Shivaratri. “Ratri” means night, the time for rest, when everything becomes quiet and peaceful. Shivaratri is not only rest for body, but for mind and “Ego”.’

Also Read: Benefits Of Fasting On Shivaratri


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