King Chitrabhanu was ruling from the capital city of Ayodhya, and that was before the reign of Dasaratha, the father of Lord Rama. Once, sage Ashtavakra came to see Chitrabhanu on a Shivaratri day. The king received him with all respect when the sage shared with him the incredible story about the king and his previous birth.
“Oh great king, listen to this story as this is about you. In your previous birth, you remained as Susvara, the hunter. One day you went hunting but didn’t get any prey during the day. At last, you managed to kill a deer but as it was too late, and you had to stay back in the forest itself during the night. To protect yourself from wild animals, you stayed in the night on a, and as you were hungry and unable to get sleep, you spent the night plucking leaves from the tree branches and simply dropping them down.
That was no ordinary night. That was Shivaratri, the most auspicious occasion for worshipping Lord Shiva, but you were just not aware of that. Also, the tree that you stayed in the night happened to be the Bilva tree, and a Shiva Linga was also present there, right under the tree. Thus, you stayed awake during Shivaratri night, fasted entirely on that day, and performed the Archana to the Shiva idol with Bilva leaves, which are considered very holy for Shiva worship. Without realizing, you thus performed the very sacred worship of the Lord on that efficacious Shivaratri night, and this bestowed you with immense merit.
Your soul, after death, reached a good position, and further in this subsequent birth of yours, you were born in the royal family, and in due course, ascended the throne as the ruler of Ayodhya. All these are the results of your Shivaratri Vrat though done unknowingly, for, the austerity and worship done on that day can bless one with wealth, prosperity, status and happiness, without fail.”
The king was astonished beyond words hearing the sage’s words and bowed to Shiva for all the compassion shown to him.
Shivaratri Vrat Benefits
It is also believed that observing Shivaratri Vrat with faith can get the heavenly world for the devotees; observing 24 such Vrats continuously can help them reach the abode of Shiva himself, and even their descendants will be relieved of the painful cycle of birth and death, and attain salvation.
How to Observe?
Shivaratri Vrat involves simple procedure and when observed with faith can bestow remarkable benefits. It should ideally be begun the previous day itself when only one meal should be taken. On the day of Shivaratri, it will be good if people observe complete fasting; if this is not possible due to health or other reasons, they can take fruits and milk, or simple food. The day should be devoted entirely to taking the sacred name of the Lord and chanting hymns in his praise. They should also stay awake the whole night, visit Shiva temples and participate with devotion in the abhishekams done during all 4 phases of the night. They may seek the Lord’s blessings for ridding them of all sins and bestowing them with peace and joy.
Scriptures also lay down that Lord Nataraja, the dancing form of Shiva can be worshipped on Shivaratri evenings; Somaskanda, in the first phase of the night; Dakshinamurthy in the second phase; Lingothbhava in the third; and Lord Chandrasekara in the last part of the night. Reading or reciting from holy texts and chanting mantras dedicated to the Lord will help to earn the Lord’s blessings.
As per some legends, Shiva took on the Linga form only in the Shivaratri night, and that duration is called the Lingothbhava time. This period lasts around midnight, starting about half-an-hour before the stroke of midnight and continuing till about half-an-hour after that. This time is believed to be especially auspicious and those who cannot stay awake throughout the Shivaratri night can at least be awake during this time, offer worship to Shiva and receive his grace.