Maha Shivratri 2021: History, significance, and celebration
Maha Shivratri is predominantly a Hindu festival, celebrated annually in honour of Lord Shiva, the God of destruction. Shivratri is celebrated in every month of the luni-solar calendar, in accordance with the Hindu calendar but once a year, in late winter Maha Shivratri is celebrated to commemorate the oncoming summer. Maha Shivratri, literally translates as ‘the great night of Shiva’ and according to legend, it is on this night that Lord Shiva performs his heavenly dance or ‘tandav’. This year, the festival will commence on March 11 at 2:39 pm and end at 3:02 pm next day.
History And Significance
Of the 12 Shivratris observed in any given year, Maha Shivratri is considered especially auspicious. Shivratri is supposed to be the night of convergence of Shiva and Shakti, which in essence mean the masculine and feminine energies that balance the world. In Hindu culture, this is a solemn festival that marks the remembrance of ‘overcoming darkness and ignorance in life’. Different legends, throughout history, describe the significance of Maha Shivratri and according to one of them, it is on this night that Lord Shiva performs his cosmic dance of ‘creation, preservation and destruction’. Another legend dictates that on this night, offerings of Lord Shiva’s icons can help one overcome and let go of their sins and start on the path of righteousness, allowing the individual to reach Mount Kailash and achieve ‘moksha’.
Unlike a lot of Hindu festivals, Maha Shivratri is not an overtly joyous festival. This is a night reserved for self-reflection and introspection for the purpose of growing and leaving behind all things that hinder our success. People all over the country celebrate Maha Shivratri according to the customs dictated in the region. Some celebrate in the morning, while other organise pujas and jagrans at night. Devotees also observe a full day fast on Maha Shivratri, eating only on the next day after bathing. The fast is observed not only to attain Lord Shiva’s blessings but also as a test of one’s own determination.