Maha Shivratri and Shivling Puja
Know more On Great Night Of Lord Shiva
Significance of Mahashivaratri
The Mahashivaratri (or Mahashivratri / Maha Shivratri or Shivaratri, Sivaratri, Shivaratri, Sivarathri or Shivarathri) in the year 2016 falls on 7th March (Monday). This Hindu festival celebrated with much fanfare throughout India. It is also known as the Night of Shiva (Mahashivratri means the great night of Lord Shiva) and is celebrated annually in veneration of Lord Shiva. This festival is marked with sanctifying rituals venerating Shiva and His devotees spend the whole night glorifying, honoring and worshiping Him. For the zealous devotee of Lord Shiva (and Shaivites in particular) this is the most propitious day of the year. They believe that worshiping the Supreme Being on this holy night will free them of their sins. Anyone who offers their true devotion to the Lord will attain Moksha or nirvana, which is liberation from the cycle of life and death.
As per ancient Vedic scriptures the Cosmic Spiritual Energy generated on this day due to positive planetary alignments is the highest and hence any prayer offered to the Supreme Lord Shiva on the night of Maha Shivratri has a deep effect on the followers.
When does Maha Shivratri occur? This festival falls on the 14th Ratri of the new moon and in the dark fortnight in the Hindu month of Phalgun. It usually falls on a moonless night in February or March. In 2016 Mahashivaratri will be celebrated with fervor and enthusiasm on the 7th of March.
It is on this night that the Great Lord preformed the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction known as the Tandava Nirtya. The celebration of this festival lasts for one day and one night only.
On the eve of Mahashivaratri many devotees visit a Shiv temple while others offer their prayers in front of a Shivling or Lingam. Shivaling connects a devotee to Lord Shiva, the Supreme power. A Shivling is a holy symbol of Lord Shiva and performing a Shivling puja is equivalent to aligning one with Shiva consciousness. The lord is without any form, without any beginning and without any end. He cannot be described in words and understand due to His formless nature. It is said that Lord Shiva appeard before Brahma and Vishnu is the form of a Jyothirlinga (Jyoti means “radiance” and lingam the “Image or Sign” of Shiva). It is believed that Lingam puja takes the devotee on the path of eternal truth and helps them realize that they are a part of the Supreme Lingam.
A Small Version of Lingam Worship
Perform an Abhishekam of the lingam with clean water. Do so while chanting the following mantras: "Om Namah Shivaya" or the "Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra". After cleaning with water follow it with milk and then rose water and then water again. Then do a Panchamrit Abhishek and later offer Gangajal to the Shivling. To keep the lingam cool apply water and a paste of sandalwood paste. The cooling of the lingam means to appease the highly inflammable state that Shiva is always in. (In many Shiva temples a pot containing cooling water from the Ganges is suspended over the Shivling).
Now wipe the Shivling with a clean cloth and install it at the place of worship with full love and devotion. Apply white ash called the Vibuthi, saffron and a paste of sandalwood on the lingam. Adorn it with flowers and light an incense/Dhoop of Gugal. You can always substitute flowers and unbroken rice for items that are not available. Bel leaves, sweets, coconut and root vegetables and fruits are offered and Aarti is performed. Blowing the conch and ringing of bells indicate the end of puja. The Vibuthi is applied on the forehead of devotees and they are offered the fruits, sweets and coconut as Prasad.