Text and pix by Dushiyanthini
Mahasivarathri or 'the great night
of Lord Siva' is a celebration of Siva's spirit, celebrated by Hindus the world
over. It falls on the fourteenth day of
the lunar fortnight and is considered the most important day for Siva
worshippers and marked with special celebrations.
|Lord Sivalingam in Sanctum|
Enchanting decorations after a shower
|Idol is showered and decorated throughout the day|
|Festival look in the Sanctum|
Sivarathri means 'the spiritual
night of Lord Siva,' who has 1,008 names, being the God of Destruction tasked
to destroy evil and ignorance. Sivarathri symbolizes the regeneration of the
human soul by being one with the divine. The festival is celebrated during the
Tamil month of Maasi which lasts from mid February to mid March.
It is said that Siva, whose vehicle
is a bull, resides on Mount Kailash with his wife, Goddess Parvati. Mount
Kailash is a peak in the Ganges Mountains which is part of the Himalayas in
Xizang (Tibet), China, and the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia.
Kailash is a sacred place for four religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and
On Mahasivarathri, devotees observe
a day-long strict fast, throng temples, and keep a night-long vigil. Four main
poojas are held from dusk to dawn. The Lingam, the phallic symbol of Siva is
worshipped throughout the day and his image washed with milk, honey, curd, rose
water, saffron and sandalwood every three hours.
Traditional musicians during the religious rituals
While its origins are debated, the
use of the Lingam is an ancient tradition in India extends back to the early
Indus Valley civilization. It is the most prevalent icon of Siva, found
virtually in all Siva temples.
Nanthi sits right in front of the Sanctum
Legend has it that Brahma, the
Creator, and Vishnu, the Protector, fought over each other's prowess. Lord Siva
appeared before them as a pillar of fire, challenging them to find his 'head'
and 'feet.' Brahma took the form of a swan while Vishnu became a boar in trying
to discover the head and feet of Siva, and failed.
|Statue carved on wall|
The Ketaki flower gave false
evidence that Brahma found Siva's head and the angry Destroyer God cursed the
flower to be the abode of a cobra. After receiving an apology, Siva made amends
and allowed it to be used for worship only on Mahasivarathri Day and declared
himself as the most powerful.
Midnight Pooja to mark Mahasivarathri
It is also believed, devotees who
fast and worship Siva on this day will attain heavenly bliss. Besides, it is
considered auspicious for unmarried women who may pray for an ideal husband
like Lord Siva while the married pray for the well-being of their husbands and
Devotees travel to Thiruketheeswaram
in Mannar, one of the five Sivan temples to observe Mahasivarathri while the
other four places, Thirukoneswaram (Trincomalee), Naguleswaram (Jaffna),
Munneswaram (Chilaw) and Thaanthondreeswaram (Batticaloa) remain equally
Devotional singing at midnight
Dance adds colour to the festival
COURTESY: CEYLON TODAY