Maha Shivaratri 2014: The Great Night Of Lord Shiva

Maha Shivaratri (also Shivratri) is celebrated on February 27, 2014, by Hindus all over the world. This festival glorifies the Hindu god Shiva, believed to be the lord of cosmic destruction and dance. The festival is celebrated on the 14th night of the new moon during the Hindu lunar month of Phalguna.

The celebration of Maha Shivaratri begins with a night vigil leading up to the day of the festival during which many Shiva devotees fast and offer special prayers. Shiva is worshiped in the form of a lingam, a vertical, rounded column, representing the male creative force and the infinite, indescribable nature of God, and the yoni which represents female creative energy. Together they represents the totality of creation. Together it represents the union of organs, and the totality of creation.

Flowers, incense and other offerings are made, while prayers and bhajans are chanted. Bhang, an intoxicant made from the cannabis plant is consumed by many on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri.

The celebration of Maha Shivaratri is attributed to several tales in Hindu mythology. One of the most popular tales traces its origins to samudra manthan, or churning of the ocean of milk. According to this belief, when the gods and demons were churning the ocean of milk to obtain amrita (drink of immortality), they came across many unusual substances including a deadly poison. Terrified, the gods approached Shiva for help, and out of compassion for all living beings, Shiva swallowed the poison. The poison was so potent that it turned his neck to blue.

One of the most famous prayers recited to lord Shiva on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri is the Mahamrityunjaya Mantra, also known as the death-conquering mantra. Below are the words of the mantra in Sanskrit and a translation:

Om Tryambakam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam
Urvarukamiva Bandhanan Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritat

Translation: We meditate on the Three-eyed reality which permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance. May we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality, even as a cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper.

A sand sculpture of Hindu god Lord Shiva, made by Allahabad University students, is pictured on the eve of Maha Shivaratri festival at Sangam in Allahabad on February 26, 2014. (Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images)

A sand sculpture of Hindu god Lord Shiva, made by Allahabad University students, is pictured on the eve of Maha Shivaratri festival at Sangam in Allahabad on February 26, 2014.
(Sanjay Kanojia/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Hindu devotees dressed as Hindu god Lord Shiva (R), seen holding a snake to his mouth, and Mata Parvati (L) participate in a procession on the eve of the Shivaratri festival in Jammu on February 26, 2014. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Hindu devotees dressed as Hindu god Lord Shiva (R), seen holding a snake to his mouth, and Mata Parvati (L) participate in a procession on the eve of the Shivaratri festival in Jammu on February 26, 2014. (STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

A Hindu Sadhu (holy man) paints coloured paste onto his face during the Maha Shivaratri festival at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu on February 27, 2014. (PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)

A Hindu Sadhu (holy man) paints coloured paste onto his face during the Maha Shivaratri festival at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu on February 27, 2014. (PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Hindu devotees pour milk over a Lingam representing Lord Shiva at a temple on the eve of the Maha Shivratri festival in Amritsar on February 26, 2014. (NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Hindu devotees pour milk over a Lingam representing Lord Shiva at a temple on the eve of the Maha Shivratri festival in Amritsar on February 26, 2014. (NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)

A Hindu Sadhu (holy man) poses for a photograph during the Maha Shivaratri festival at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu on February 27, 2014. (PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)

A Hindu Sadhu (holy man) poses for a photograph during the Maha Shivaratri festival at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu on February 27, 2014. (PRAKASH MATHEMA/AFP/Getty Images)

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Indian Hindu devotees offer prayers to a statue of the Hindu god Lord Hanuman before offering prayers to a Shiva Lingam, a stone sculpture representing the phallus of Hindu god Lord Shiva, on Maha Shivaratri at the Keesaragutta Temple on the outskirts of Hyderabad on February 27, 2014. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

Indian Hindu devotees offer prayers to a statue of the Hindu god Lord Hanuman before offering prayers to a Shiva Lingam, a stone sculpture representing the phallus of Hindu god Lord Shiva, on Maha Shivaratri at the Keesaragutta Temple on the outskirts of Hyderabad on February 27, 2014. (NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images)

A view of the illuminated Shivala temple on the eve of the Maha Shivratri festival in Amritsar on February 26, 2014. (NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)

A view of the illuminated Shivala temple on the eve of the Maha Shivratri festival in Amritsar on February 26, 2014. (NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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