Maha Shivaratri is one of the major festivals of Nepal. As the name suggests, the festival is a great night honored to Lord Shiva. There is a slight difference between the Shivaratri and Maha Shivaratri. There is Shivaratri in every lunar-solar month but Maha Shivaratri is celebrated once a year in late winter usually in February or March. Maha Shivaratri is the great night dedicated to Shiva. There are different legends and myths about why Maha Shivaratri is celebrated. Here are some legends that explain why this auspicious night is dedicated to Shiva on this particular day.
THE LEGEND OF SHIVA AND SHAKTI
The popular legend tells on this day of Maha Shivaratri, there is the convergence of Shiva and Shakti i.e masculine and feminine energies that provides a sense of balance to the world. In the Tantric cosmology, the whole universe is perceived as being created, penetrated, and sustained by two fundamental forces, which are permanently in a perfect, indestructible union. These forces or universal aspects are called Shiva and Shakti.
THE LEGEND OF SHIV AND PARVATI MARRIAGE
Other beliefs suggest that Maha Shivaratri is celebrated on the day Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati married to each other. It is said that Shiva went into deep mourning and isolation after his first wife, Goddess Sati, left her body. Shiva missed her sorely and was unaware of the fact that she had returned as Parvati. He was so deep in meditation and mourning that he was not ready to even look at Parvati. This led to the intervention of the services of Kamadeva, the god of love. Kamadeva succeeded in piercing Shiva’s heart with the arrow of love but lost his life to Shiva’s anger while playing cupid.
After being convinced by other Gods to marry Parvati, Shiva decided to test her devotion. The Saptarishi (the seven sages) approached Parvati and mocked Shiva to dissuade her; However, Parvati remained resolute. Then Shiva himself, disguised as an old ascetic, visited Parvati and vilified himself in her presence. As an angry Parvati was about to leave, Shiva revealed his true form to her and promised to marry her, pleased with her love and devotion.
Shiva and Parvati agreed to marry each other while they were on their way back to meet Parvati’s parents. Their marriage was solemnized in the month of Phalgun, a day before Amavasya. This day is celebrated as Maha Shivratri every year.
THE LEGEND OF SHIVA’S BIRTHDAY
Other popular beliefs also suggest Lord Shiva appeared in the form of the Linga on the midnight of Maha Shivratri. Thus, Maha Shivratri is also celebrated as the birthday of Lord Shiva. However, people argue that Lord Shiva has no birthday as he was not born but self-created and is above the cycle of birth and death. People believe that Shiva Ratri is the day when Shiva is happiest and the shiva’s shakti are at high vibration in the universe.
THE LEGEND OF SHIVA, BRAHMA, AND BISHNU
According to a legend in Shiva Purana, Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu were fighting to establish superiority amongst them. The intensity of the battle horrified the other gods. They went to plead a request to Lord Shiva to intervene and stop this intense battle. Lord Shiva then assumed the form of a huge column of fire between Brahma and Vishnu. Both parties were shocked and curious about the fire and decided to find the end of the fire. They bet that the one who finds the end of the fire would be regarded superior. But, none could find the end. Lord Bishnu return back disappointed but Lord Brahma, on his way, found the Ketki flower wafting down slowly. The Brahma asked the flower from where it fell, the flower replied that she had been offered at the top of the fire column. Lord Brahma lied that he had found the end and took the flower as a witness.
This infuriated Shiva who came back to his original form and then punished Brahma for lying and cursed him that no one would ever pray to him. As the Ketaki flower had testified falsely, she too was banned from being used as an offering for any worship and it was removed from his neck. Since Lord Shiva helped pacify the Gods, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated in his honour.
THE LEGEND OF EARTH AND LORD SHIVA
The other belief suggests that Goddess Parvati once pleaded with Lord Shiva to save the earth from destruction. Lord Shiva agreed to save the world on the condition that its inhabitants worship him with dedication and passion. That’s how the day came to be known as Maha Shivratri. It is also believed that flowers bloom exactly the day after Maha Shivratri, hinting at the fertility of the earth.
THE LEGEND OF TANDAV
Legend speaks of Maha Shivaratri as the night when Shiva performs the cosmic dance of Tandav. Tandav is the dance of creation, preservation, and destruction. Mahashivaratri is marked by annual dance festivals.
THE LEGEND OF NEELKANTHA
Another popular belief associates Mahashivaratri with the legend of Lord Shiva drinking poison to save the universe. During the churning of the ocean (the legendary Sagar Manthan), gods and demons discovered several objects and one of them was a pot of poison. Lord Shiva drank the poison to save the universe from its effects. Gods danced in order to protect Shiva from the harmful effect of the poison and keep him awake for a night. The poison eventually didn’t harm Shiva but turned his neck blue. This was when he got the name Neelkantha. Since then, the night is celebrated as Mahashivratri.
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