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MAHA SHIVARATRI is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honour of the god Shiva . There is a Shivaratri
Shivaratri
in every luni-solar month of the Hindu
Hindu
calendar, on the month's 13th night/14th day, but once a year in late winter (February/March, or Phalguna ) and before the arrival of spring, marks Maha Shivaratri
Shivaratri
which means "the Great Night of Shiva".

It is a major festival in Hinduism
Hinduism
, but one that is solemn and marks a remembrance of "overcoming darkness and ignorance" in life and the world. It is observed by remembering Shiva and chanting prayers, fasting , doing Yoga
Yoga
, and meditating on ethics and virtues such as self-restraint, honesty, noninjury to others, forgiveness, and the discovery of Shiva . The ardent devotees keep awake all night. Others visit one of the Shiva temples or go on pilgrimage to Jyotirlingams . This is an ancient Hindu festival whose origin date is unknown.

In Kashmir Shaivism
Shaivism
, the festival is called HAR-RATRI or phonetically simpler HAERATH or HERATH by Shiva faithfuls of the Kashmir region.

CONTENTS

* 1 Description * 2 History and significance * 3 In India
India
* 4 In Nepal
Nepal
* 5 Outside South Asia * 6 See also * 7 References * 8 External links

DESCRIPTION

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 in 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

Maha Shivaratri
Shivaratri
is an annual festival dedicated to the Hindu
Hindu
god Shiva, and is particularly important in the Shaivism
Shaivism
tradition of Hinduism
Hinduism
. Unlike most Hindu festivals which are celebrated during the day, the Maha Shivaratri
Shivaratri
is celebrated at night. Furthermore, unlike most Hindu festivals which include expression of cultural revelry, the Maha Shivaratri
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.

The celebration includes maintaining a "jaagaran ", an all-night vigil and prayers, because Shaiva
Shaiva
Hindus
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 to Shiva are made, some perform all-day fasting with vedic or tantrik worship of Shiva, and some perform meditative Yoga
Yoga
. In Shiva temples, "Om Namah Shivaya ", the sacred mantra of Shiva, is chanted through the day.

Maha Shivaratri
Shivaratri
is celebrated over three or ten days based on the Hindu
Hindu
luni-solar calendar. Every lunar month, there is a Shivaratri (12 per year). The main festival is called Maha Shivaratri, or great Shivaratri, and this is on 13th night (waning moon) and 14th day of the month Phalguna (Magha). According to the Gregorian calendar
Gregorian calendar
, the day falls in either February or March.

HISTORY AND SIGNIFICANCE

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

According to Jones and Ryan, the festival may have originated around the 5th century CE.

The Maha Shivaratri
Shivaratri
is mentioned in several Puranas
Puranas
, particularly the Skanda Purana , Linga Purana
Linga Purana
and Padma Purana . These medieval era Shaiva
Shaiva
texts present different mythologies associated with this festival, but all mention fasting and reverence for icons of Shiva such as the Lingam
Lingam
.

Different legends describe the significance of Maha Shivaratri. According to one legend in the Shaivism
Shaivism
tradition, this is the night when Shiva performs the heavenly dance of creation, preservation and destruction. 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
Parvati
got married. A different legend states that the offering to Shiva icons such as the linga is an annual occasion to get over past sins if any, to restart on a virtuous path and thereby reach Mount Kailasha and liberation.

The significance of dance tradition to this festival has historical roots. The Maha Shivaratri
Shivaratri
has served as a historic confluence of artists for annual dance festivals at major Hindu
Hindu
temples such as at Konark , Khajuraho , Pattadakal, Modhera and Chidambaram . 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
Hindu
text of performance arts called Natya Shastra . Similarly, at Khajuraho Shiva temples, a major fair and dance festival on Maha Shivaratri, involving Shaiva
Shaiva
pilgrims camped over miles around the temple complex, was documented by Alexander Cunningham in 1864.

IN INDIA

Main article: Mandi Shivaratri Fair Mahasivaratri is observed at night, usually in lighted temples or specially prepared prabha (above).

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

The Isha Yoga
Yoga
Center near Coimbatore
Coimbatore
in Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
is frequented during the festival. Around 600,000 to 800,000 devotees participate in the all-night festival conducted by Sadhguru , and visit the 112-foot Adiyogi Shiva statue at the center.

The Mandi fair is in the town of Mandi is particularly famous as a venue for Maha Shivaratri
Shivaratri
celebrations. It transforms the town as devotees pour in. 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 Gods and Goddesses on its periphery.

Maha Shivaratri
Shivaratri
is the most important festival in Kashmir Shaivism
Shaivism
, found in north Himalayan region of the Indian subcontinent. It is celebrated as the anniversary of the marriage of Shiva and Parvati
Parvati
.

Central India
India
has a large number of Shiva followers. The Mahakaleshwar Temple , Ujjain
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.

Maha Shivaratri
Shivaratri
is celebrated widely in the temples all over Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu
and Telangana.

IN NEPAL

Maha Shivaratri
Shivaratri
is National Holiday in country and celebrated widely in the temples all over Nepal
Nepal
but especially in the Pashupatinath temple . Thousands of devotees visit the famous Shiva Shakti
Shakti
Peetham nearby as well. The Nepalese army parades around the city of Kathmandu to pay tribute to Lord Shiva, and holy rituals are performed all over the nation. Artists from various classical music and dance forms perform through the night. On Maha Shivaratri, married women pray for the well being of their husbands, unmarried women pray for a husband like Shiva, considered as the ideal husband. Shiva is also worshipped as the Adi Guru
Guru
(first teacher) from whom the yogic tradition originates.

OUTSIDE SOUTH ASIA

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

SEE ALSO

* Pradosha * Rudraksha * Vibhuti
Vibhuti
* Rudra
Rudra
* Linga
Linga

REFERENCES

* ^ A B J. Gordon Melton (2011). Religious Celebrations: An Encyclopedia of Holidays, Festivals, Solemn Observances, and Spiritual Commemorations. ABC-CLIO. pp. 541–542. ISBN 978-1-59884-206-7 . * ^ Govt of Odisha India, 2017 Holidays, "Maha Shivarathri 2017". * ^ A B C Roshen Dalal (2010). Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide. Penguin Books. pp. 137, 186. ISBN 978-0-14-341421-6 . * ^ A B C D E F Constance Jones; James D. Ryan (2006). Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Infobase Publishing. p. 269. ISBN 978-0-8160-7564-5 . * ^ A B Stanley D. Brunn (2015). The Changing World Religion Map: Sacred Places, Identities, Practices and Politics. Springer. pp. 402–403. ISBN 978-94-017-9376-6 . * ^ A B Asim Maitra (1986). Religious Life of the Brahman: A Case Study of Maithil Brahmans. Munshilal. p. 125. ISBN 978-81-210-0171-7 .

* ^ "Shiva". The Theosophical Movement (reprint). TEOS, Theosophy Company, Mumbai. 72 (4): 137. 2002 . * ^ Mahashivaratri Archived 27 March 2014 at the Wayback Machine
Wayback Machine
., Government of Orissa; Maha Shivaratri, Public Holidays * ^ A B C Samuel S. Dhoraisingam (2006). Peranakan Indians of Singapore and Melaka. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. p. 35. ISBN 978-981-230-346-2 . * ^ Om Prakash Juneja; Chandra Mohan (1990). Ambivalence: Studies in Canadian Literature. Allied. pp. 156–157. ISBN 978-81-7023-109-7 . * ^ Steven Leuthold (2010). Cross-Cultural Issues in Art: Frames for Understanding. Routledge. pp. 142–143. ISBN 978-1-136-85455-2 . * ^ Tracy Pintchman (2007). Women\'s Lives, Women\'s Rituals in the Hindu
Hindu
Tradition. Oxford University Press. pp. 194–195. ISBN 978-0-19-803934-1 . * ^ Tracy Pintchman (2007). Women\'s Lives, Women\'s Rituals in the Hindu
Hindu
Tradition. Oxford University Press. pp. 194–196. ISBN 978-0-19-803934-1 . * ^ Brenda Pugh McCutchen (2006). Teaching Dance as Art in Education. Human Kinetics. p. 450. ISBN 978-0-7360-5188-0 . * ^ Shobita Punja (1999). Khajuraho: the first thousand years. Penguin Books. pp. 71–74. * ^ Diana L. Eck (1982). Banras, City of Light. Knopf. pp. 113, 256, 276. * ^ Zakaria, Namrata (June 2013). "The Lure of Isha" (PDF). Harpers Bazaar . p. 106108. Retrieved 26 September 2013. * ^ Zakaria, Namrata (14 March 2013). "Fashion label to \'yogi\': Donna Karan on an Indian holiday". The Indian Express
The Indian Express
. Retrieved 26 September 2013. * ^ Vyas, Sheetal (1 April 2013). "Holy Days". Outlook . Retrieved 26 September 2013. * ^ "International Shivaratri
Shivaratri
fair in Mandi". Himachal tourism. Retrieved 8 February 2012. * ^ "The International Festival". Retrieved 2010-02-07. * ^ "Mandi -The Seventh Heaven". Retrieved 2010-02-07. * ^ "Mahashivaratri – The Night of Lord Shiva". Explore Himalaya. Retrieved 23 February 2009. * ^ "Trinidad