Festivals Related to Lord Shiva


Maha Shivratri

Mahashivratri Festival or the 'The Night of Shiva' is celebrated with devotion and religious fervor in honor of Lord Shiva, one of the deities of Hindu Trinity. Shivratri falls on the moonless 14th night of the new moon in the Hindu month of Phalgun, which corresponds to the month of February - March in English Calendar. Celebrating the festival of Shivratri devotees observe day and night fast and perform ritual worship of Shiva Lingam to appease Lord Shiva.

Legends of Maha Shivratri
There are various interesting legends related to the festival of Maha Shivaratri. According to one of the most popular legends, Shivaratri marks the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Some believe that it was on the auspicious night of Shivaratri that Lord Shiva performed the 'Tandava', the dance of the primal creation, preservation and destruction. Another popular Shivratri legend stated in Linga Purana states that it was on Shivratri that Lord Shiva manifested himself in the form of a Linga. Hence the day is considered to be extremely auspicious by Shiva devotees and they celebrate it as Mahashivratri - the grand night of Shiva.

Traditions and Customs of Shivratri
Various traditions and customs related to Shivratri Festival are dutifully followed by the worshippers of Lord Shiva. Devotees observe strict fast in honor of Shiva, though many go on a diet of fruits and milk some do not consume even a drop of water. Devotees strongly believe that sincere worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of Shivratri, absolves a person of sins and liberates him from the cycle of birth and death. Shivratri is considered especially auspicious for women. While married women pray for the well being of their husbands unmarried women pray for a husband like Lord Shiva, who is regarded as the ideal husband.

To mark the Shivratri festival, devotees wake up early and take a ritual bath, preferably in river Ganga. After wearing fresh new clothes devotees visit the nearest Shiva temple to give ritual bath to the Shiva Lingum with milk, honey, water etc.

On Shivratri, worship of Lord Shiva continues all through the day and night. Every three hours priests perform ritual pooja of Shivalingam by bathing it with milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water amidst the chanting of “Om Namah Shivaya’ and ringing of temple bells. Nightlong vigil or jaagran is also observed in Shiva temples where large number of devotees spend the night singing hymns and devotional songs in praise of Lord Shiva. It is only on the following morning that devotee break their fast by partaking prasad offered to the deity.

When do we celebrate Mahashivratri
Auspicious festival of Mahashivratri falls on the 13th or the 14th night of the new moon during Krishna Paksha in the Hindu month of Phalgun. The Sanskrit term, Krishna Paksha means the period of waning moon or the dark fortnight and Phalguna corresponds to the month of February - March in English Calendar. Shivratri Festival is celebrated on a moonless night.

According to Hindu mythology, Shivratri or 'Shiva's Great Night' symbolizes the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Many however, believe, Shivratri is the night when Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Nritya - the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction. Celebrating the festival in a customary manner, devotees give a ritual bath to the Lingam with the panchagavya - milk, sour milk, urine, butter and dung. Celebrations of Shivratri 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 'suhag' for good husbands, marital bliss and a long and prosperous married life.

Shivratri Rituals
Devotees of Lord Shiva observe the Shivratri Festival by following the prescribed rituals with sincerity and devotion. All through the day, devotees abstain from eating food and break their fast only the next morning, after the nightlong worship. Ritual baths of Shivalinga in the numerous Shiva temples by Shiva worshiper, mainly women, is another significant feature of Shivratri customs and traditions. Devotees strongly believe that ritual worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious day of Shivratri absolves them of past sins and they are blessed with Moksha.

Rituals Observed on a Shivratri Morning
As a tradition devotees wake up early in the morning of the Mahashivratri day and take a ritual sunrise bath, preferably in the holy waters of river Ganga. They also offer prayers to the Sun God, Vishnu and Shiva as a part of a purification rite observed on all-important Hindu festivals. After wearing fresh new clothes devotees visit the nearest Shiva Temple to give the customary bath to the Shivalinga.

On a Shivratri day, Shiva temples are thronged by devotees, mainly women, who come to perform the traditional Shivalinga pooja and seek blessings from the god. At times there is so much rush in the temples that devotees have to wait for their turn to observe pooja. At their turn for worship, devotees circumambulate the Shivalinga, three or seven times, and then pour water over it. Some also pour milk. Sounds of bell and shouts of ‘Shankarji ki Jai’ or (Hail Shiva) reverberate in the temple premises.

Ritual Bath of Shivalinga
Following the rituals prescribed in the Shiva Purana, every three hours, Shivalingam is given a special bath with milk, yoghurt, honey, sandalwood paste and rose water. Puja, meditation and chanting of ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ accompany the ritual bath. Following the bath, vermilion paste is applied on the linga. Traditionally, leaves of a forest tree Aegle marmelos (bilwa, maredu, wood apple) are used for Shiva puja. Thereafter, Bilwa leaves, which have to be a stalk with three leaves, is kept on top of the Shivalinga. Ber or jujube fruit is a special offering to the god on this day. Beetle leaves are also offered by some. Some also offer bilwa leaves in the belief that the Goddess Lakshmi resides in them. Others believe it is offered for its cooling effects on the hot-tempered deity. Many devotees also decorate the linga with flowers and garlands and offer incense sticks and fruit.


Significance of Puja Items
  • According to the Shiva Purana, there is a special significance of the six essential puja items used in the Shiva worship.
  • Bathing of Shivalinga with water, milk and honey and wood apple or bel leaves added to it, represents purification of the soul.
  • The vermilion paste applied on the linga after the ritual bath represents virtue.
  • Offering of fruits symbolizes longevity and gratification of desires.
  • Burning of incense sticks yields wealth.
  • The lighting of the lamp symbolizes attainment of knowledge.
  • Offering of betel leaves marks satisfaction with worldly pleasures.
  • All-Night Shiva Worship

Worship of Lord Shiva continues all through the night on Shivratri Festival. Devotees stay awake all night and spend the night in Shiva temples in worship of Lord Shiva. Singing of hymns and verses in praise and devotion of Lord Shiva besides the intense chanting of Om Namah Shivay, the mantra that is said free people from all their sins, continue through the night on Shivratri. 

Special worship of Shiva by priests continues through the nightlong prayer vigil. During this ritual worship, Lord Shiva is offered special food made from the fruits of the season, root vegetables and coconuts. Those observing the Shivratri Fast break their fast the next morning by consuming the prasad offered to Shiva.


Teej

A unique festival for women, Teej is primarily celebrated in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, parts of Uttar pradesh and Bihar. Teej festival is dedicated to the re-union of Goddess Parvati with Lord Shiva. Mostly celebrated among women, Teej festival is celebrated for longevity and well-being of husband and children.

Long swings decorated with flowers, colorfully dressed young girls and women, glittering jewellery, delicious feasts, tough fasting, religious processions and songs & dance mark the gaiety of Teej festival.

Teej festival is celebrated with much enthusiasm. Falling on the onset of monsoon after a long season of oppresive heat, Teej festival in India is also known as 'Sawan Festival'.

When is Teej Festival
Teej festival comes on the Hindu month of Shravan (July-August) and also in early September. The dates of celebrating the festival change every year according to the arrival of the monsoon. There are three kinds of Teej festival:
  • Haryali Teej
    Haryali Teej is celebrated on the beginning of Monsoon season. Haryali means greenery, so Haryali Teej is associated with good harvest and prosperity. On this day women dress up in green coloured clothes. They worship the Moon, Lord Krishna and Goddess Radha.
  • Kajari Teej
    Kajari Teej is celebrated on third day of the dark half (Krishna Paksha) of Shravan month in Hindu Calendar. On this day women gather to sing devotional songs and worship neem tree. Special procession is also organised to worship the beautifully decorated idol of Goddess Parvati.
  • Hartalika Teej
    This form of Teej is the most important Occasions during entire Teej festival celebrations. Hartalika Teej lasts for three days and women observe a fast on the second day that is called Nirjara Fast meaning 'fast without water'. Hartalika Teej fast is observed with great devotion for the long life and prosperity of Husbands.

Celebration of Teej
During Teej, swing ropes on the courtyards decorated with flowers are a common sight. Newly married girls return to their parents home, receiving clothes from their parents and other male kins. Rural women buy bangles, bindis, bead-necklaces and consume mouth-watering dishes. Celebration includes games such as turban-tying and bangle wearing competition.

Teej festival holds a significant place in the religious, cultural, social and climatic life of Indians. It commemorates the holy reunion of Goddes Parvati with her husband Lord Shiva. Teej is celebrated to welcome the Monsoon season and is celebrated with lots of enthusiasm and deep devotion. Teej festival also provides strength to the bond of marital life.


Shravan Maas

The month of Shravan is the fifth month of the Hindu calendar beginning from Chaitra, and is the most auspicious month of the Chaturmas. On Poornima or full moon day, or during the course of the month the star ‘Shravan’ rules the sky, hence the month is called Shravan. This month is spread out with innumerably religious festivals and ceremonies and almost all the days of this month are auspicious.

Shravan is considered the holiest month of the year. Each Monday of this month, known as Shravana Somvar, is a special day in Shiva temples where the Dharanatra hangs over the linga or the idol to bathe it with holy water, day and night. Devotees pile the Shivlinga high with Bel leaves and flowers and fast till sunset. The nandadeep (24 hour lamp) burns steadily in the temples.

Lord Shiva and Shravan Maas
The legend says that when the churning of oceans – Samudra Manthan – took place in the month of Shravan, fourteen different types of rubies came out. Thirteen of these were distributed amongst the demons, except Halahal (poison). Lord Shiva drank the Halahal and stored it in his throat. Hence the name Neelkanth (meaning blue throat) is attributed to Shiva. To reduce the strong effect of poison, Lord Shiva wore the crescent moon on his head. All the Gods thereafter started offering the Ganges water to Lord Shiva to make lessen the effect of poison. Since, this happened in the month of Shravana, since then the Shiva devotees offer the Ganges water in this month. It is considered highly auspicious to wear a Rudraksha in Shravan month. As, Mondays or Somvar of Shravan month are specially observed with austerity. All Mondays are devoted to the worship of Shiva as this day is sacred to Lord Shiva. No other Mondays of other months are so greatly honoured. The belief is that in Shravan month, offering milk to Lord Shiva earns a lot of Punya.

Things to do during Shravan month
• Wear Rudraksha, and also use a Rudraksha mala for Japa.
• Offer Lord Shiva Bibhuti and place some on your forehead.
• Make offerings of Bel leaves, Panchamrita (milk, yoghurt, clarified butter, honey and jaggery) on Shiva Ling.
• Recite Shiv Chalisa and Aarti.
• Chant Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra.
• Fasting on Mondays. Girls who fast on all Mondays of Shravan get a good husband. Shravan Somvar Vrat
  (Monday fasting on Shravan month)

One of the names of Lord Shiva is soma – saha uma. For the Lord Someshvara Who wears the soma, the moon crescent on the matted hair, on the Somvar day (Monday), this festival is observed.Though all Mondays can be observed as Vrat there are special Mondays when it is much more emphasised to observe like the Shravan Somvar and karthikai Somvar. According to Skanda Purana, on the Mondays of the month karthikai (mid Nov to mid Dec) this Vrata is observed.

Way of observing
After taking bath pray to the Auspicious and Graceful Lord Shiva. Anointing the Lord with panchamrita and other pleasant substances, hail the Lord offering Bilva leaves. During the day don’t take any solid food. U can take Milk/ buttermilk/ fruit juice/ fruits. After 6′o clock in the evening pray to Lord Shiva and break your fast and eat normal solid food (avoid onions and garlic). Your fasting should start from 12 in the midnight and ends at in the evening on Monday. It is believed that one who fasts on all Monday of Shravan has all prayers from the heart answered. It is not necessary to undergo rigid practices. Even for this fast, different people may have different practises….e.g. some people may not have buttermilk or some may have specific mantras to be chanted. You can follow whatever gives you a peace of mind.

Significance of Shravan Weekdays
Each day in the month of Shravan has a special significance and has its own ritual. Monday: is the day of Lord Shiva worship. Tuesday: Gauri is worshipped in every home, by women for the good health of their family. Wednesday: are dedicated to Vithala, a form of Vishnu or Krishna. Thursday: are also days for worshipping Budha and Guru. Friday: every home worships Lakshmi and Tulsi. Saturday: are for Saturn (Shani). It is also known as Shravan Saturdays, with the object of object of obtaining wealth. These days are known as Sampat Sanivar (wealth Saturdays). Sundays: are meant worshipping the Sun god. Sun worship was general in the Vedic period and even now it is so. Especially in Shravan, every Sunday the Sun is worshipped without fail.

Festivals in Shravan Month
During this month people practice many rules and regulations while praying and also fast. Shravan has a special importance as it ushers in a host of auspicious days and festivals like:

Naga-Panchami, Kalkyavatara, Putradaikadashi, Hindola or Swinging, Narali Poornima, Shravani Poornima, Pavitraropana, Raksha Bandhan, Vara Lakshmi Vrata, Rishi Panchami, Govatsa and Bahula, Shitala Saptmi, Janmashtami, Ajaikadasi, Pithori Pola.


Kanwad Yatra

Kanwad Yatra is named after the kānvad (काँवर), a single pole (usually made of bamboo) with two roughly equal loads fastened or dangling from opposite ends. The kānvadis carried by balancing the middle of the pole on one or both shoulders. The Hindi word kānvar is derived from the Sanskrit kānvādrathi (काँवाँरथी).  Kānvad-carrying pilgrims, called Kānvadiās, carry covered water-pots in kānvads slung across their shoulders. The month of Shravan is dedicated to Lord Shiva and most devotees observe a fast on Mondays during the month, as it also falls during the chaturmas period, traditionally set aside for religious pilgrimages, bathing in holy rivers and penance.

During the annual Monsoon season thousands of saffron-clad pilgrims carrying water from the Ganges in Haridwar, Gangotri or Gaumukh, the glacier from where the Ganges originates and other holy places on the Ganges, like Sultanganj, the only place where the river turn north during its course, and return to their hometowns, where they later they perform abhisheka (anointing) the Shivalingas at the local Shiva temples, as a gesture of thanksgiving. Most travel the distance on foot, a few also travel on bicycles, motor cycles, scooters, mini trucks or jeeps.

Numerous Hindu organizations and other voluntary organizations like local KanwadSanghs, the Rashtryia Swayam Sewak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, setup camps along the National Highways during the Yatra, where food, shelter, medical-aid and stand to hang the Kanvads, holding the Ganges water is provided. Once the pilgrims reach their hometown, the Ganges water is used to bathe the Shivalingam on the Amavasya (New Moon) day in Shravan month or on the Maha Shivratri day.

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