Maha Shivratri is an important festival for devotees of Lord Shiva. Shivratri (or the night of Lord Shiva) occurs on every 14th night of the new moon. However, it’s only once a year – in February–March – that Mahashivratri is celebrated, and this year it falls on February 13-14.
In Indian yogic tradition and some tradition of Tantra, Shiva is not treated like other gods. Known as Shambhu, Shankar, Mahesha or Mahadev, he is rather known as the teacher of all the teachers; as the first guru, the one from whom all the knowledge has descended onto the humanity. It is said that the yogic tradition – not only the one with asanas, but also the path of the self-realisation – began from him. Thus, Maha Shivratri is celebrated in various forms depending on the perspective.
HOW IS MAHA SHIVRATRI CELEBRATED
According to Garuda Purana, one should worship Shiva before the Shivratri on the 13th (Trayodashi) of the month and on the 14th (Chaturdashi) one should observe fast on Maha Shivratri. According to Shiva Purana and Garuda Purana, one should offer bel leaves, flower of aak, marijuana leaves or bhaang (hemp) on Shiva Lingam on this day as well.
There are many ways in which Maha Shivratri can be celebrated across various traditions. The most popular tradition is to observe fast on the day and night, and break the fast on the next day after sunrise at the time of its paran (time when Chaturdashi/period of fasting ends).
Devotees should get up early in the morning, take a bath and then they must visit the Shivalaya, the Shiva temple and perform rites such as simple Rudrabhisheka (watering the Shiva Lingam) with auspicious ingredients, including various kinds of fruits and especially with bel leaves.
People chant the mantra “Om Namah Shivaya” as much as possible the whole day and night, or at least 108 times. There are many others who chant sacred hymns of Lord Shiva, read the Puranas and Upanishads related to Lord Shiva, and meditate upon his names through Shiva Sahasranama Stotram. Those who cannot observe the whole day and night fast can observe the night fast while meals of fruit or juices (falahar) can be taken.
Traditional way of observing Maha Shivratri
In Hindu cosmology, a day is divided into eight segments known as prahars, of three hours each. Thus, there are four units/segments of the day and four of the night. Mahashivratri is celebrated in the four units of the night. Shiva is worshipped in different forms in different prahars, so that’s four styles of worship all through the night, with the help of simple Rudrabhisheka and prayers.
MAHA SHIVRATRI PUJA SAMAGRI
1. Ghee made from cow milk
2. Cotton wick and earthen/metal lamp
4. Flowers (excluding Ketaki), preferably white
5. Panchamrita (ghee, sugar, honey, milk and curd)
7. Bel leaves
8. Unbroken rice
9. Brass bell and incenses
10. Prasad (sattvik cooked items without garlic and onion)
11. Any of these items: Supari, Mishri, Honey, Rudraksha, White chandan, etc.
MAHA SHIVRATRI PUJA AND VIDHI
One should get up early in the morning and have a bath, then should go to a Shiva temple or in case performing Puja at home, keep the puja items in front of a Shiv Linga placed facing east. The Shiva Lingam placed at home should not be more than the size of the first part of the thumb of house owner. In the morning, one should worship Shiva with the usual rites and rituals as they regularly do, with his prayers or mantras such as the panchakshri mantra “Om Namah Shivaya”, Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra, etc.
One can recite various hymns and texts related to Shiva, the Shiva chalisa, Shivashtakam, Shiva Stavan, Shivaarti, etc. Timings of the each prahar may differ from place to place and so can the timing for the puja, so the correct timing should be checked cit-wise accordingly.
In the first prahar at the evening:
* Either you go to the Shiva temple or if you are performing the puja at home, then gather all the items in front of Shiva Lingam placed in a bronze or copper plate.
* Light the incense and ghee lamp, ring the bell and keep the prasad beside the Shiv Linga.
* Read the prayers, stotram, chalisa or whatever you wish to chant/read, except the aarti, if you want to perform the worship in all four prahars. If you intend to worship during just one prahar, then it is better to end it with the aarti.
After that the simple mantra of the first prahar can be: Shree Shivaya namah. Offer a little water on the Shiv Linga, while chanting the mantra with happy and calm mind. Offer all the items one by one — chandan, unbroken rice, flowers, incense, ghee lamp light and naivedya. Remember that this naivedya is strictly forbidden to be taken to eat for the self. Then offer the Shiva Linga a small bath of Gangajal and Panchamrita.
Clean the Shiva Linga, dispose of all the offerings, and then perform simple Rudrabhisheka by watering the Shiv linga. Now, keep chanting the mantra as long as possible for three hours while doing your normal day work.
Second Prahar: With same procedure, carry on the worship of Shiv linga with this mantra — Shree Shankarai Namah, Shree SambhSada Shivaya Namah.
Third Prahar: With same procedure, carry on the worship of Shiv linga with this mantra — Shree Maheshwaraay Namah.
Last Prahar: With same procedure, carry on the worship of Shiv linga with this mantra — Shree Rudraya Namah.
Then comes the time to break the fast and perform the final worship and prayer to Shiva, offering him the fresh food you are going to break your fast with and then break your fast after performing the Shiv Puja and aarti. First, distribute the prasad to everyone and then break your fast with prasad and food. Dispose all the items offered to the Shiv Linga whole night, under a tree or plant.
MAHA SHIVRATRI SHASTRIC PUJA VIDHI
The Shastric Puja Vidhi for Shiva’s Maha Shivratri Puja includes Shri Kalash Sthapan, Sri Shiv linga Sthapana, Avahan, Swastivachan, Shodashopchar Puja, Maha Rudrabhisheka, Sri Shiva Sahasranama Paath, Sri Rudri Paath, Sri Rudra Puja, Sri Shiv Parvati Puja, Purnahuti, Homa and Visarjan.
Mantras for Maha Shivratri
A few of the short prayers for Lord Shiva are:
1) नागेंद्रहाराय त्रिलोचनाय भस्मांग रागाय महेश्वराय
नित्याय शुद्धाय दिगंबराय तस्मे न काराय नम: शिवाय:॥
मंदाकिनी सलिल चंदन चर्चिताय नंदीश्वर प्रमथनाथ महेश्वराय
मंदारपुष्प बहुपुष्प सुपूजिताय तस्मे म काराय नम: शिवाय:॥
शिवाय गौरी वदनाब्जवृंद सूर्याय दक्षाध्वरनाशकाय
श्री नीलकंठाय वृषभद्धजाय तस्मै शि काराय नम: शिवाय:॥
अवन्तिकायां विहितावतारं मुक्तिप्रदानाय च सज्जनानाम्।
अकालमृत्यो: परिरक्षणार्थं वन्दे महाकालमहासुरेशम्।।
2) ॐ वन्दे देव उमापतिं सुरगुरुं, वन्दे जगत्कारणम् l
वन्दे पन्नगभूषणं मृगधरं, वन्दे पशूनां पतिम् ll
वन्दे सूर्य शशांक वह्नि नयनं, वन्दे मुकुन्दप्रियम् l
वन्दे भक्त जनाश्रयं च वरदं, वन्दे शिवंशंकरम् ll
3) ॐ मृत्युंजयाय रुद्राय नीलकण्ठाय शम्भवे l
अमृतेशाय शर्वाय महादेवाय ते नम: ll
MAHA SHIVRATRI PUJA TIMINGS
The puja for Mahashivratri can be done throughout the day as Lord Shiva doesn’t take any offense done in his puja. The best time would be in Brahma Muhurtam, that is, 5.40 am – 7.10 am February 13, 2018, and from sunset, that is, 7.10 pm – 7.10 am on February 14, 2018.