Maha Shivaratri is a very important festival in India that is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. There are seven reasons behind the celebration of Maha Shivaratri.
Fight Between Lord Brahma and Lord Shiva
Once there was a big fight between Lord Shiva and Brahma over supremacy. Finally, Lord Shiva had to intervene. He turned into a tall pillar of fire. Vishnu and Brahma wanted to find the end of the pillar. Brahma became a swan and flew up while Vishnu transformed into a boar (Varaha) and went under the earth. Neither was able to find the end of the fire pillar. On his way up, Brahma saw a Ketaki flower. He made the flower bear false witness and claimed that he had seen the end of the pillar. His lie enraged Shiva who cursed him saying that no one in the three worlds would worship him. This is also why the Ketaki flower is not used in Shiva worship. Vishnu and Brahma stopped fighting and worshipped Shiva. Pleased, Shiva declared that that day would be celebrated as Maha Shivaratri.
Shiva Drinks Poison
When the milky ocean was churned for nectar, a deadly poison emerged from it. To save the world, Shiva drank the poison but did not swallow it. As a result, his throat turned blue, and he came to be called Neelkanth. This event is commemorated by celebrating Maha Shivaratri.
Maha Shivaratri in Kashmir
In Kashmir, Maha Shivaratri is celebrated as Hararatri or Herath. Other names are Bhairavotsava or Bhairava festival. However, the festival is celebrated one day earlier. Hara is another name for the lord. It is believed that Shiva took the form of a Jwalalinga or pillar of fire on this day. Once Parvati, who is also called Bhairavi, created Vatuka Bhairava and Ramana Bhairava to protect the Yoginis (her creations), and to ward off the Svachchanda Bhairava, a terrible form of Shiva. Shiva vanished and then reappeared as a Jwalalinga. Ramana and Vatuka tried to find where the end of the lingam was but failed. Frightened, they began singing praises of the lingam. The yoginis then merged with Parvati who merged with the lingam. This event came to be celebrated as Maha Shivaratri.
Wedding Anniversary of Shiva and Parvati
Maha Shivaratri is believed to be the night Shiva and Parvati got married. So it’s a celebration of their wedding anniversary. In Kashmir, it is believed that every Kashmiri girl is Parvati and the bride of Shiva.
Shiva Dances the Tandava
It is believed that Shiva danced the Tandava or the cosmic dance of creation, preservation and destruction on this night. Devotees try to be a part of it by reciting hymns to Shiva or reading stories about him.
Shiva’s Promise to Parvati
Once, Parvati made Shiva promise that he would protect the earth and all creatures on it. Shiva promised on condition that they worship him with great dedication. The day he made his promise has been celebrated as Maha Shivaratri.
Shiva and the Hunter
Bhishma, while lying on his deathbed, spoke of a hunter who unwittingly performed worship for Lord Shiva. As it was night, he had taken shelter in a tree. Fearing that he would doze off and fall from the tree, he began plucking leaves from the bael tree on which he was sitting and threw them down. There was a lingam under the tree though he didn’t know it. The next morning, he went home. A stranger appeared and asked for food. Like a good host, he served the guest first. Because he had offered leaves to the lingam and had not eaten all night, Shiva was pleased with him. This supposedly happened on Shivaratri.