Maha Shivarathri or Padmarajarathri means the great night of Shiva or the night of Shiva. As the name implies, it is a night devoted to paying homage to lord Shiva, also known as Mahadeva, who is considered the supreme god by Hindu devotees. Celebrated on the 13th night / 14th day of the Maagha month in the Hindu calendar, it commemorates several legends related to Shiva, demonstrating both his strength and merciful manner.

Devotees flock to Shiva Temples after bathing and purifying themselves at dawn. Clad in clean garments they then carry pots of water to bathe the Shiva Linga in the Temple, after which prayers are offered to Vishnu and Shiva. The sound of bells can be heard from the Temples along with shouts of “Shankerji Ki Jai” (hail Shiva). The Shiva Linga is bathed in water, milk and honey to which woodapple or bhel leave have been added to represent purification of the soul. Thereafter vermillion paste is applied to it, symbolising virtue. Each segment of the pooja is laden with meaning, such as the offering of fruits for longevity and the gratification of desires, burning of incense to yield wealth, lighting of the lamp signifying the attainment of knowledge and the use of betel leaves to represent satisfaction with worldly pleasures.

 

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