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Maha Shivaratri

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Maha Shivaratri
Meditating Shiva statue on Maha-Shivaratri
Observed byHindus
SignificanceCommemoration of the wedding of Shiva and Parvati
Veneration of the Tandava dance of Shiva
Manifestation of the lingam[1]
DateMagha Krishna Chaturdashi
2024 date8 March [3]
2025 date26 February
Explanatory note
Hindu festival dates

The Hindu calendar is lunisolar but most festival dates are specified using the lunar portion of the calendar. A lunar day is uniquely identified by three calendar elements: māsa (lunar month), pakṣa (lunar fortnight) and tithi (lunar day).

Furthermore, when specifying the masa, one of two traditions are applicable, viz. amānta / pūrṇimānta. If a festival falls in the waning phase of the moon, these two traditions identify the same lunar day as falling in two different (but successive) masa.

A lunar year is shorter than a solar year by about eleven days. As a result, most Hindu festivals occur on different days in successive years on the Gregorian calendar.

Maha Shivaratri (Sanskrit: महाशिवरात्रि, romanizedMahāśivarātri, lit.'The Great Night of Shiva') is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honour of the deity Shiva, between February and March.[7] According to the Hindu calendar, the festival is observed on the fourteenth day of the first half (night start with darkness - waning) of the lunar month of Phalguna.[7][8] The festival commemorates the wedding of Shiva and Parvati,[9] and the occasion that Shiva performs his divine dance, called the Tandava.[10][11]

It is a notable festival in Hinduism, marking a remembrance of "overcoming darkness and ignorance" in life and the world. It is observed by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting, and meditating on ethics and virtues such as honesty, non-injury to others, charity, forgiveness, and the discovery of Shiva.[8] Ardent devotees stay awake throughout this night. Others visit one of the Shiva temples or go on a pilgrimage to the Jyotirlingams. The festival is believed to have originated in 5th century BCE.[8]

In Kashmir Shaivism, the festival is called Har-ratri or phonetically simpler Haerath or Herath by Shiva devotees of the Kashmir region.[12][13]


A festival of contemplation

During the Vigil Night of Shiva, Mahashivaratri,
we are brought to the moment of interval
between destruction and regeneration;
it symbolizes the night
when we must contemplate on that which
watches the growth out of the decay.
During Mahashivaratri we have to be alone
with our sword, the Shiva out of us.
We have to look behind and before,
to see what evil needs eradicating from our heart,
what growth of virtue we need to encourage.
Shiva is not only outside of us but within us.
To unite ourselves with the One Self
is to recognize the Shiva in us.

The Theosophical Movement, Volume 72[14]

Maha Shivaratri is particularly important in the Shaivism tradition of Hinduism. Unlike most Hindu festivals that are celebrated during the day, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated at night. Furthermore, unlike most Hindu festivals that include expression of cultural revelry, Maha Shivaratri is a solemn event notable for its introspective focus, fasting, meditation on Shiva, self study, social harmony and an all-night vigil at Shiva temples.[8]

The celebration includes maintaining a jagarana, an all-night vigil and prayers, because Shaiva Hindus mark this night as "overcoming darkness and ignorance" in one's life and the world through Shiva. Offerings of fruits, leaves, sweets and milk are made to Shiva, some perform all-day fasting with Vedic or Tantric worship of Shiva, and some perform meditative yoga.[15] In Shiva temples, the sacred Panchakshara mantra of Shiva, "Om Namah Shivaya" is chanted throughout the day.[16] Devotees praise Shiva through the recitation of the hymn called the Shiva Chalisa.[17]

Legend and significance[edit]

Many legends explain the significance of Maha Shivaratri, one being it is the night of Shiva's dance.
Maha Shivaratri in Maharashtra

The Maha Shivaratri is mentioned in several Puranas, particularly the Skanda Purana, Linga Purana, and Padma Purana. These medieval era Shaiva texts present different versions associated with this festival, such as fasting, and offering reverence to a lingam - an emblematic figure of Shiva.[8]

Different legends describe the significance of Maha Shivaratri. According to one legend in the Shaivism tradition, this is the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation and destruction.[10][11] The chanting of hymns, the reading of Shiva scriptures and the chorus of devotees joins this cosmic dance and remembers Shiva's presence everywhere. According to another legend, this is the night when Shiva and Parvati got married.[10][18] A different legend states the offering to Shiva icons, such as the linga, is an annual occasion to overcome any past sins, to restart on a virtuous path, and thereby reach Mount Kailasha for liberation.[10] It is also believed that on this particular day, Shiva gulped the Halahala produced during the Samudra Manthana and held it in his neck, which bruised and turned blue. As a result, he acquired the epithet Nilakantha. It is also believed that the famous Neelkanth Mahadev Temple is the place where this incident took place.[citation needed]

The significance of dance tradition to this festival has historical roots. The Maha Shivaratri has served as a historic confluence of artists for annual dance festivals at major Hindu temples such as at Konark, Khajuraho, Pattadakal, Modhera and Chidambaram.[19] This event is called Natyanjali, literally "worship through dance", at the Chidambaram temple which is famous for its sculpture depicting all dance mudras in the ancient Hindu text of performance arts called Natya Shastra.[20][21] Similarly, at Khajuraho Shiva temples, a major fair and dance festival on Maha Shivaratri, involving Shaiva pilgrims camped over miles around the temple complex, was documented by Alexander Cunningham in 1864.[22]



Mahashivaratri is observed at night, usually in lighted temples or specially prepared prabha (above).

Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in Tamil Nadu with great pomp and fanfare in the Annamalaiyar temple located in Tiruvannamalai district. The special process of worship on this day is Girivalam or Giri Pradakshina, a 14-kilometer bare foot walk around Shiva's temple on top of the hill. A huge lamp of oil and camphor is lit on the hilltop at sunset - not to be confused with Karthigai Deepam.[citation needed] A ritual marathon is undertaken by the devotees to the 12 Shiva shrines in the district of Kanyakumari on the day of Shivaratri called Sivalaya Ottam.[citation needed] In recent years, the Isha Foundation has been a major patron of such festivities in India, with even Prime Minister Narendra Modi having attended the celebration hosted at the site of the Giant Adiyogi in Coimbatore.[23]

The major Jyotirlinga Shiva temples of India, such as in Varanasi and Somanatha, are particularly frequented on Maha Shivaratri. They serve also as sites for fairs and special events.[24][25]

In Karnataka, Mahashivaratri is one of the most important festivals that is celebrated with much grandeur. The ardent worshippers stay awake all night and visit temples to take part in the rituals. Popular temple destinations such as Dharmasthala, Murudeshwara, Gokarna, Nanjangud, Male Madeshwara Hills, Kadu Malleshwara, Kotilingeshwara, Mylaralingeshwara among others are thronged with devotees across the state and other neighbouring states.[26][27] The Isha Foundation's festivities are replicated at the Adiyogi Shiva temple at Chikkaballapur which was inaugurated on 15 January 2023.[28]

In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, special pujas are held at Pancharamas - Amararamam of Amaravati, Somaramam of Bhimavaram, Draksharamam, Kumararama of Samarlakota and Ksheerarama of Palakollu. The days immediately after Shivaratri are celebrated as Brahmotsavaalu at Srisailam, one of 12 Jyotirlinga sites. Mahashivaratri utsavalu are held at the Rudreshwara Swamy's 1000 pillar temple in Warangal. Devotees throng for the special poojas at Srikalahasti, Mahanandi, Yaganti, Antarvedi, Kattamanchi, Pattiseema, Bhairavakona, Hanamkonda, Keesaragutta, Vemulawada, Panagal, Kolanupaka amongst others. Shivaratri yatras are held at Mallayya gutta near Kambhalapalle, Gundlakamma Kona near Railway Koduru, Penchalakona, Bhairavakona, Uma Maheswaram amongst others.

The Mandi fair is in the town of Mandi is particularly famous as a venue for Maha Shivaratri celebrations. It is believed that all gods and goddesses of the area, said to number more than 200, assemble here on the day of Maha Shivaratri. Mandi, located on the banks of Beas, is popularly known as the "Cathedral of Temples" and one of the oldest towns of Himachal Pradesh, with about 81 temples of different deities on its periphery.[29][30][31]

In Kashmir Shaivism, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated by the Hindus of Kashmir and is called, "Herath" in Kashmiri, a word derived from the Sanskrit word "Hararatri" the "Night of Hara" (another name of Shiva). Shivaratri, regarded as the most important festival of the community, for instance, is celebrated by them on trayodashi or the thirteenth of the dark half of the month of Phalguna (February–March) and not on the chaturdashi or the fourteenth as in the rest of the country. The reason for it is that this long drawn festival that is celebrated for one full fortnight as an elaborate ritual is associated with the appearance of Bhairava (Shiva) as a jvala-linga or a linga of flame. It has been described as Bhairavotsava in Tantric texts as on this occasion Bhairava and Bhairavi, his Shakti or cosmic energy, are propitiated through Tantric worship.[citation needed]

According to the legend associated with the origin of the worship, the linga appeared at pradoshakala or the dusk of early night as a blazing column of fire and dazzled Vatuka Bhairava and Rama (or Ramana) Bhairava, Mahadevi's mind-born sons, who approached it to discover its beginning or end but miserably failed. Exasperated and terrified they began to sing its praises and went to Mahadevi, who herself merged with the awe-inspiring jvala-linga. The Goddess blessed both Vatuka and Ramana that they would be worshipped by human beings and would receive their share of sacrificial offerings on that day and those who would worship them would have all their wishes fulfilled. As Vatuka Bhairava emerged from a pitcher full of water after Mahadevi cast a glance into it, fully armed with all his weapons (and so did Rama), he is represented by a pitcher full of water in which walnuts are kept for soaking and worshipped along with Shiva, Parvati, Kumara, Ganesha, their ganas or attendant deities, yoginis and kshetrapalas (guardians of the quarters) – all represented by clay images. The soaked walnuts are later distributed as naivedya. The ceremony is called 'vatuk barun' in Kashmiri, which means filling the pitcher of water representing the Vatuka Bhairava with walnuts and worshipping it.[citation needed]

Central India has a large number of Shaiva followers. The Mahakaleshwar Temple, Ujjain is one of the most venerated shrines consecrated to Shiva, where a large congregation of devotees gathers to offer prayers on the day of Maha Shivaratri. Tilwara Ghat in the city of Jabalpur and the Math Temple in the village of Jeonara, Seoni are two other places where the festival is celebrated with much religious fervour.

In Punjab, Shobha Yatras would be organised by various Hindu organisations in different cities. It is a grand festival for Punjabi Hindus.

In Gujarat, Maha Shivaratri mela is held at Bhavnath near Junagadh where bathing in the Mrugi (Mrigi) kund is considered holy. According to myth, Shiva himself comes to bath in the Mrugi kund.[citation needed]

In West Bengal, Maha Shivaratri is observed devoutly by unmarried girls and boys seeking a suitable husband or wife, often visiting Tarakeswar.[citation needed]

In Odisha, Maha Shivaratri is also known as Jagara. People fast for their wishes whole day and take food after 'Mahadipa' (The great diya) rises at the top of Shiva temple. It usually is held during midnight. Unmarried girls also worship for seeking a suitable husband.[citation needed]

Special anointing rituals and worships were performed at the Karuvadikkuppam Kurusithananda Temple in Pondicherry on the eve of Maha Shivaratri with various items including milk and sandalwood for the Shivalingam. Also, a Natyanjali was held at the temple premises.[32][better source needed]


Pashupatinath Temple

Maha Shivaratri is a national holiday in Nepal and celebrated widely in temples all over the country, especially in the Pashupatinath temple. Thousands of devotees visit the famous Shiva Shakti Peetham nearby as well. Holy rituals are performed all over the nation. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated as Nepali Army Day amid a spectacular ceremony held at the Army Pavilion, Tundikhel.[33] In the capital city of Kathmandu, there is a provision of road blockage where children use ropes and strings to stop the people or vehicle passing through in exchange of money.[34] Worshippers of Shiva stay up all night and smoke marijuana as Shiva is believed to be an avid smoker and marijuana smoking on this day is called taking ‘Shivako Prasad’ or ‘Shiva Buti’ literally the "Blessing of Shiva".[35] Crowds of sadhus and saints travel to Pashupatinath Temple located in Kathmandu from all of Nepal and neighbouring India to celebrate the day and perform puja on this day.[citation needed]


Another major temple where Shivaratri is celebrated is the Shree Ratneshwar Mahadev Temple in Karachi whose Shivaratri festival is attended by 25,000 people.[36] On the Shivaratri night, Hindus in Karachi fast and visit the temple. Later, devotees from the Chanesar Goth come to the temple carrying water from the holy river Ganges, in order to bathe the idol of Shiva. Puja is performed until 5 am, when an aarti is then done. Devotees then walk barefoot with women carrying a pooja thali containing flowers, incense sticks, rice, coconut and a diya to the sea after which they are free to break their fast. They eat breakfast later on, which was made in the temple kitchen.[37]

Outside South Asia[edit]

Maha Shivaratri is the main Hindu festival among the Shaiva Hindu diaspora from Nepal and India. In Indo-Caribbean communities, thousands of Hindus spend the beautiful night in over four hundred temples across multiple countries, offering special jhalls (an offering of milk and curd, flowers, sugarcane and sweets) to Shiva.[38] In Mauritius, Hindus go on pilgrimage to Ganga Talao, a crater-lake.[39]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stephen Knapp (2012), Hindu Gods & Goddesses, Jaico Publishing House, India, ISBN 9788184953664, page 110
  2. ^ Melton, J. Gordon (2011). Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. ABC-CLIO. pp. 541–542. ISBN 978-1-59884-206-7.
  3. ^ "2024 Hindu Festivals".
  4. ^ "Mahashivratri". 27 December 2020. Retrieved 17 February 2022.
  5. ^ "2022 Hindu Festivals Calendar, Hindu Tyohar Calendar for Mumbai, Maharashtra, India".
  6. ^ LLP, Adarsh Mobile Applications. "2021 Maha Shivaratri | Shivratri Date and Time for New Delhi, NCT, India". Drikpanchang.
  7. ^ a b Lochtefeld, James G. (2002). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Hinduism: N-Z. Rosen. p. 637. ISBN 978-0-8239-3180-4.
  8. ^ a b c d e Jones, Constance; D. Ryan, James (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. p. 269. ISBN 978-0-8160-7564-5.
  9. ^ Coulter, Charles Russell; Turner, Patricia (6 December 2021). Encyclopedia of Ancient Deities. McFarland. p. 428. ISBN 978-0-7864-9179-7.
  10. ^ a b c d Dhoraisingam, Samuel S. (2006). Peranakan Indians of Singapore and Melaka. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 35. ISBN 978-981-230-346-2.
  11. ^ a b Om Prakash Juneja; Chandra Mohan (1990). Ambivalence: Studies in Canadian Literature. Allied. pp. 156–157. ISBN 978-81-7023-109-7.
  12. ^ Brunn, Stanley D. (2015). The Changing World Religion Map: Sacred Places, Identities, Practices and Politics. Springer. pp. 402–403. ISBN 978-94-017-9376-6.
  13. ^ Maitra, Asim (1986). Religious Life of the Brahman: A Case Study of Maithil Brahmans. Munshilal. p. 125. ISBN 978-81-210-0171-7.
  14. ^ "Shiva". The Theosophical Movement (reprint). 72 (4). TEOS, Theosophy Company, Mumbai: 137. 2002 [February 1962]. Archived from the original on 15 February 2023. Retrieved 21 February 2020.
  15. ^ Mahashivaratri Archived 27 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine, Government of Orissa; Maha Shivaratri, Public Holidays
  16. ^ "This Mahashivratri, here are five Shiva mantras that will change your life for the better". Times Now. 12 February 2018. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  17. ^ "Mahashivratri 2020: Recite Shiva Chalisa on this auspicious day to impress Shiva and gain wealth and success". Jagran English. 21 February 2020. Retrieved 10 March 2021.
  18. ^ Leuthold, Steven (2010). Cross-Cultural Issues in Art: Frames for Understanding. Routledge. pp. 142–143. ISBN 978-1-136-85455-2.
  19. ^ Pintchman, Tracy (2007). Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition. Oxford University Press. pp. 194–195. ISBN 978-0-19-803934-1.
  20. ^ Pintchman, Tracy (2007). Women's Lives, Women's Rituals in the Hindu Tradition. Oxford University Press. pp. 194–196. ISBN 978-0-19-803934-1.
  21. ^ Pugh McCutchen, Brenda (2006). Teaching Dance as Art in Education. Human Kinetics. p. 450. ISBN 978-0-7360-5188-0.
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  24. ^ Eck, Diana L. (1982). Banras, City of Light. Knopf. pp. 113, 256, 276. ISBN 9780394519715.
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  32. ^ "You are being redirected..." giri.in. Retrieved 11 February 2022.
  33. ^ "Nepali Army | नेपाली सेना".
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External links[edit]