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Celebration Months : February/March
Religion : Hindu
Importance : Marriage of Lord Shiva to Parvati
Celebrated in the month of Phalgun, Shivratri is a sacred festival of Hindus. This auspicious occasion carries extreme religious significance to the devotees who take part in the festivities with ardent faith. Marking the culmination of love of Lord Shiva with his consort Parvati, this festival celebrates the marriage of these deities. The festivities take place during waning moon or Krishna Paksha of the Hindu month Maagha or Phalgun.
Attractions of the Festivities :
During Shivratri, the devotees observe fast and spend the entire day without food or water. The celebrations take place at night when Shiva lingam, the sacred phallus of Lord Shiva is worshipped with ardent faith. The lingam is washed after every 3hours; it is bathed with rose water and is offered items like honey, milk, curd, ghee, and sugar (collectively they are called Panchamrita). The devotees adorn their foreheads with three stripes of "bhabhuti" or holy ash; these stripes symbolize three eyes of the Lord and stand for penance, wisdom and purity.
The devotees carry a rosary during the worshipping. This rosary is made up of beads of rudraksha seed and is generally adorned with turmeric, sandalwood, and kumkum. The lingam is also offered leaves of bael, an Indian tree and is anointed with vermillion. As the worship goes on, the devotees make recital of Panchaakshara" Om Namah Shivay". This is accompanied with chanting of hymns in the praise of deity. It is believed the recital of these hymns absolves all the sins of a person.
A special drink called Bhang or thandai is prepared during Shivratri. The drink is made by mixing milk and cannabis. This intoxicating drink is supposed to be a favorite of Shiva.
Legend Associated with the Festival :
Bhishma, a character from Mahabharata, while lying on a bed made of arrows told the story of Chitrabhanu. According to this story, Chitrabhanu who was a ruler of Ishvaku dynasty had observed a fat on the auspicious occasion of Shivratri. A saint visited his court and asked about the reason behind the fast. As the king was blessed to remember his last birth, he told the sage the happenings of his previous life. According to his description, he was a hunter that used to earn his livelihood by killing and selling animals. One day, as he was roaming in search of a hunt, he lost his way due to the darkness and took shelter at the top of a bael tree. He was already carrying a deer that was killed by him during the day time. As he was unable to carry it, he tethered with the branch of the tree. As he was relaxing, the thoughts of his family bought tears to his eyes; in order to pass time, he started plucking leaves of the tree and started throwing it on ground. As the night passed, and he reached home, a saint stepped in and asked for some food. Chitrabhanu, who had kept fast the earlier day, fed the sage with food that he had bought for his family.
Chitrabhanu further told that at the time of his death, he was visited by the messengers of Shiva. They told him that he had earned a lot of blessing by performing unconscious worship of the Lord. He was told that a lingam was situated at the bottom of that tree at the top of which he was resting. The water shed in the form of tears washed the lingam and absolved his sins. The leaves of bael tree served as an offering to the lingam. Besides this, as he had fasted all day, he had, in fact, worshipped the Lord unconsciously.
The zest and devotion of people at the time of Shivratri is worth watching. The festival reflects the inherent faith installed in their hearts in reverence to their deities.