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India celebrates Maha Shivratri: Read about the significance and origin of this Hindu festival

Maha Shivratri is considered the most important of the 12 Shivratris celebrated every year in February or March, depending on the planetary movements.

India is celebrating Maha Shivratri on March 11, 2021. It is a major festival in Hinduism, observed annually in honour of Lord Shiva. Among the 12 Shivratris, Maha Shivratri is the most important one, celebrated in February or March, depending upon planetary positions.

Maha Shivaratri is also considered the day when Adiyogi or the first guru awakened from his consciousness at the material level of existence.

Maha Shivratri celebrations at Somnath Temple.

Significance and origin of Maha Shivratri

While there are several theories on the origin of Maha Shivratri, the most popular one is that Lord Shiva tied nuptial knots with goddess Parvati on this day. It highlights the sacred union of the two, bringing an end to the dark fortnight in the month of Phalguna.

Another tradition believes Maha Shivratri to be the night when Lord Shiva performed the heavenly dance of creation, preservation, and destruction.

The festival also serves as a historic confluence of artists for annual dance festivals at major Hindu temples, including Khajuraho, Modhera, Pattadakal, and Chidambaram.

Devotees observe Maha Shivratri by worshipping Lord Shiva, fasting, and meditating. The most ardent of the devotees stay up all night, chanting and meditating.

The celebrations also include jagaraans and all-night vigils in Lord Shiva’s honour, wishing for blessings to overcome darkness and ignorance. Devotees also undertake a pilgrimage to the 12 Jyotirlingams.

Difference between Shivratri and Maha Shivratri

Shivratri is celebrated on the 14th day of every month, one day before the new moon, as per the Hindu calendar (panchaang). Maha Shivratri — or the Great Night of Shiva — is the most important of them all.

Maha Shivratri falls on the Krishna Chaturdashi of Phalguna month, generally celebrated in February or March of the Georgian calendar.

Maha Shivratri is a major festival in Nepal, and the day is celebrated as a national holiday in the country. Besides, the festival is also celebrated in other neighbouring countries, as well as far off places like the Caribbean.