Mahashivaratri festival is celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva, the third God of the Hindu Trinity. It is celebrated every year on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half of the month of Phalguna. Celebrations are held in Shiva temples all over the country. People fast throughout the day and ritual prayers are conducted in temples at night.

It is believed that when Parvati asked Lord Shiva as to which vrata was the best in terms of securing maximum punya and his bhakti, Lord Shiva himself revealed about this auspicious day. On Mahashivaratri day the shivling is bathed with the five sacred offerings of a cow, called the panchagavya - milk, sour milk, urine, butter and dung. Thereafter the five food items symbolising immortality - milk, clarified butter, curd, honey and sugar - are placed before the linga.

The Vishwanath Temple at Kashi in Varanasi celebrates the linga (symbolic of the pillar of light) and the manifestation of Shiva as the light of supreme wisdom. In West Bengal, Mahashivaratri is observed almost as a folk festival. The Sri Kalahastiswara Temple at Kalahasti and the Bhramaramba Malikarjunaswamy Temple at Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh are visited by hundreds of pilgrims during the festival. In Assam, the Umananda Temple at Peacock Island and the Sukresvara Temple on the banks of the river Brahmaputra become centers of activity on this auspicious day. In Jammu and Kashmir, the festival is held for 15 days, the thirteenth day being observed as Herath, a day of fast followed by a family feast.

Updated on 7th June, 2005


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