The festival of Mahashivratri symbolises the celebration of the spirit of Lord Shiva,which resides within the people
While some believe that Shivaratri or Shiva’s Great Night symbolises the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati,others,however,believe that Shivaratri is the night when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Nritya-the dance of primordial creation,preservation and destruction. There are many other legends and old folklores that have been handed down from generations as to how people have come to celebrating the festival of Mahashivratri. Right from the lore of the Samudra Manthan (churning of the ocean) to obtain the divine nectar of immortality,to the story of King Chitrabhanu,who was on fast and unknowingly worshipped the lord for an entire night and showered him with Bael leaves,legend has it all. However one of the few things common to all these legends is the fact that the festival is symbolic of the infallible faith that people display in Lord Shiva,and the fact that he is the lord of the three worlds.
Speaking about the festival Pradeep Gade,head priest at the Someshwar Temple in Pashan says,”The festival of Mahashivratri is celebrated by devotees thronging the temple precincts to pay their respects to Lord Shiva. The prayers begin early morning and devotees start arriving as early as 12 am in the night. The first Puja is held early in the morning at around 4 am,when the lord is worshipped with milk and flowers. The second puja is held in the afternoon,which is the biggest one also called as the Maha Aarti. The last puja is held in the evening but devotees continue to flock the temple well after midnight onto the next day as well.”
Elaborating more about the rituals held there he says,”Devotees apply three stripes of sacred ash also called Tripundra that symbolise spiritual knowledge,purity and penance or the three eyes of Lord Shiva. Others wear the seeds of the Rudraksh tree while worshipping the lord. On Mahashivaratri,cold water and bael leaves are offered to the Lingam.”
Celebrations of Shivaratri Festival mainly take place at night. Devotees of Lord Shiva throng Shiva temples across the country and spend ‘the Night of Lord Shiva’ by chanting verses and hymns in praise of the Lord. The festival holds special meaning for the ladies. They pray to Goddess Parvati also called Gaura,the giver of marital bliss and a long and prosperous married life.
One of the oldest temples in the city the Someshwar temple has been a centre of worship right from the times of Shivaji,more over it is one of the few Swayambhu’s or natural lingams that have come out from the ground on its own,adds Pradeep Gade.
Situated at the other end of the city the Omkareshwar temple another one of the city’s oldest temple is also host to close to 30,000 devotees every year. Speaking about the temple and the rituals followed there,temple priest Ulhas Gade says,”The temple was built under the rule of the Peshwas and has ever since the last three centuries been an important temple built in honour of Lord Shiva. The day begins with the traditional havna for the lord and then the traditional abhishek which is done with water right uptil afternoon. Later,the mahaarti witnesses devotees thronging the temple to worship the Lord after a hard day of fating and penance to please him.”
“Traditionally the prasad given here were preparations made from milk,however this year we will be giving the milk which is offered to the lord during the abhishek itself as prasad to the devotees. We also do not have the traditional kirtans and pravachans during the festival unlike other temples. This is done because a huge number of devotees come here and it is not possible to hold discourses for all, he adds.
The city might celebrate the festival in different ways at different temples all over,however what remains constant and distilled is the faith that the devotees have in the Lord. It cannot be tampered with nor can it be shaken, says Gade with a smile.