On the auspicious occasion of Shivaratri, or Mahashivratri, Hindu devotees around the world observe Shivratri Vrat or Upvaas or fast. The fasting involves refraining from eating any food and not sleeping through out the night. Sivaratri literally means ‘the night of Lord Shiva’ and unlike other festivals associated with Hinduism there is no fun and merrymaking on the day. But the night provides an opportunity to cleanse the ignorance and realize that you are Brahman and open the door to bliss.
The day after Shivratri is Amavasi – the dark night or the no moon night. It symbolizes the evil forces – desire, greed, illusion, arrogance, jealousy, and anger – which dominate the Kaliyuga. Shiva is believed to have appeared in the form of ‘Lingodabhavamurti’ or Jyotir Linga on the Shivratri night. The Linga is an attempt to give form to the formless Brahmn. Praying to Shiva is to escape from miseries of Kaliyuga.
The Mahashivratri fasting begins on the morning of Shivratri and ends next day morning or the Amavasya morning. Since it is a long Upvaas or Vrat, many people consume a special meal known as ‘phalar.’
- Devotees wake up before sunrise and take bath and wear clean clothes.
- Applying of sacred ash, or vibhuthi, is an important aspect on the day. People also wear a Rudraksha Mala.
- The idols of Ganesh, Shiva and Parvati are cleaned and a lamp is lit.
- Most people then visit a nearby Shiva temple. In most places, Shivratri is largely observed in temples.
- Some people observing fast consume a mid-day meal consisting of non-cereal food such as boiled potatoes which is made into a curry without onion, garlic, adarak or haldi. Another food eaten on the day is pakori or Kutt Singahri ki puri.
- Most devotees go for a fruit diet and drink lots of water.
- No meal is eaten after sunset.
- Next meal is taken on the morning of Amavasi after doing puja and giving alms.
- The entire night is spend in a nearby Shiva temple or by chanting Mantras or listening to stories related to Shiva.
- Some of the important mantras that are chanted on the day include: Shiva Panchakshari Mantra – Om Namah Shivaya or chanting the sacred names of Lord Shiva.
- People who have a Shivling at home can bathe the Shivling with water intermittently throughout the night.
All the rituals on the night of Shivratri are meant to cleanse the ignorance and realize the Brahmn manifest in you. The fasting, rituals and chanting are meant to kill desire, greed, illusion, arrogance, jealousy, and anger. This will make you a better person and prepare you to face the challenges.