Maha Shivratri, one of the largely celebrated festival in India is a wonderful opportunity for the followers of Lord Shiva, to praise the God and seek his blessings. In fact, for the devotees of Lord Shiva, nothing is more important that fasting on Mahashivratri, when it comes to showing their honor and love to the deity.
On the festival, people observe a stringent fast, when they would not consume anything other than the diet formulated especially for the occasion. It is said that if a devotee observes fast on Mahashivratri, with sincerity, pure devotion and love, he/she would be blessed with the divine grace of Lord Shiva.
Maha Shivratri fasting rules, procedure
According to Hindu mythology, observance of mahashivratri vrat with discipline helps a devotee to control the two great natural forces that afflict man, rajas guna (the quality of passionate activity) and tamas guna (the quality of ignorance).
It is said when a devotee observes a waking vigil throughout the night (jaagran) he conquers the evils of tamas guna as well. It has also been mentioned in the scriptures that when a devotee observes a round of worship every three hours, the Shivaratri Vrata becomes perfect.
- As a tradition, devotees who are on a strict fast on Shivaratri take bath with water that is boiled with black sesame seeds to wash away bodily impurities.
- After putting on fresh new clothes, a devotee visits the nearest Lord Shiva temple to perform the ritual bathing of the Shiva Linga with milk, honey , etc.
- Following the sacred bath, the devotee applies haldi-kumkum (turmeric powder) on the lingum and places a garland of white and pink lotus flowers around it.
- Bel (Bilva) leaves are also placed at top of the Lingum. Aarthi and bhajans in praise of Lord Shiva are sung to invoke his blessings.
- Devotees also light incense sticks and ring temple bells to invoke the blessing of the soft-hearted Lord Shiva.
- It may be noted that unlike most other festivals, where after performing the puja of the deity a feast follows, a Shivratri fast continues all through the day and night.
- Devotees observe an all night vigil while chanting the mantra, "Om Namah Shivaya" and singing devotional hymns and songs.
- Even during the night, the Shiva Lings is given a holy bath every three hours.
- An offering of fruits is also made to the deity. There is also the tradition to listen to the recital of various legends and stories related to Shivaratri and Lord Shiva and to understand their deeper meanings.
- It is only at the following morning that a devotee breaks the fast by consuming the prasad offered to Lord Shiva.