Significance of Maha Shivraatri

via Courtesy: DILIP KUMAR RAVINDRAN published on March 1, 2011

Shivraatri literally means “The night of Shiva”. The celebration is called MAHA SHIV RAATRI, which distinguishes it from MAAS SHIV RAATRI (monthly worship) or DAINIK SHIV RAATRI (daily worship). Maha Shiva Raatri means then, the Great Night of Shiva. Why is this night so special? Are the other nights of Shiva’s worship meaningless or insignificant?

Some thinkers suggest that it is on this auspicious night; Bhagwan Shiva rewards His devotees with ‘certificate of satisfaction’. Throughout the year, we evolve ourselves in prayers, poojas, in meditation, in chanting and more importantly we attempt to obey the instructions of our Lord. How well have we done is the assessment of the Lord Himself. Have we fulfilled His expectations? Have we practiced

Adweshtaa – bearing ill will for no one?
Karuna – compassion to all?
 Nirahamakarah – release from the feeling of ‘selfishness’
 Kshama  forgiveness?

On Shivraatri night we analyze ourselves and we scrutinize our spiritual progress. Indeed we reflect on the fleeting nature of our earthly existence. In our mad onrush we pause and crave for His divine grace.

While the celebration varies in its elaborateness from person to person, Mandir to Mandir and country to country, the commonality exists in its blanket of chanting, fasting, and poojas. To many it is considered a VRAT, a term that embraces fast and self-denial for a short period of time during which the celebration lasts. Vrat purifies the body and mind in preparation for the rituals that follow.

Ideally on Shiva Raatri Night, poojas are done on four separate occasions from 6pm to 6am at intervals of three hours. Special Prasad is offered to the Murti and worship is done to the Shiva Lingam. An all night vigil is kept interspersed with Bhajans, Kirtans and Dhoons.


Bramha Muraari Suraar Chita Lingam Nirmala Bhaasita Shobhita Lingam
Janmaja Dukha Vinaashana Lingam Tat Pranamaami Sadaa Shiva Lingam

Brahma, Vishnu and other Gods adore the Lingam. It is taintless, shining and beautiful. It is the destroyer of the miseries that follow birth. We bow before that eternal symbol of Shiva.

Deva Muni Pravaraar Chita Lingam Kaamadahana Karunaakara Lingam
Raavana Darpa Vinaashana Lingam Tat Pranamaami Sada Shiva Lingam

The Lingam is adored by the sages and denotes the destruction of lust, the ocean of Mercy, which subdued the pride and passion of Raavana. We bow before that eternal symbol of Shiva.

Sarva Sugandhi Sulepita Lingam Buddhi Vivarddha Kaarana Lingam
Siddha Suraasura Vandita Lingam Tat Pranamaami Sada Shiva Lingam

The Lingam is lavishly smeared with perfumes and scents, which elevates the power of the mind and before which the Siddhas, Suras and Asuras prostrate. We bow before that eternal symbol of Shiva.

Kanaka Mahaamani Bhusita Lingam Phanipati-vestita Shobhita Lingam
Daksha suyajna Vinaashana Lingam Tat Pranamaami Sada Shiva Lingam

The Lingam is decorated with various ornaments glowing within the embrace of the Lord of Serpents, and that obstructed the sacrifices performed by Daksha. We bow before that eternal symbol of Shiva.

Kumkuma Candana Lepita Lingam Pankaja Haara Sushobhita Lingam
Sanchita Paapa Vinaashana Lingam Tat Pranamaami Sada Shiva Lingam

The Lingam is adorned with Saffron, Sandal paste and garlands of lotus flowers, with a large fan shining behind it. It destroys all the sins attained in many births. We bow before that eternal symbol of Shiva.

Deva Ganarchita Sevita Lingam Bhavari Bhakti Bheereva Cha Lingam
Dina Kara Koti Prabha Kara Lingam Tat Pranamaami Sada Shiva Lingam

Saints and Sages worship the Lingam with faith and devotion. It is the source of unlimited brilliance. We bow before that eternal symbol of Shiva.

Ashta Dalo Pari Veshtita Lingam Sarva Samud Bhava Karana Lingam
Ashta Darida Vinashana Lingam Tat Pranamaami Sada Shiva Lingam

The Lingam is seated in the eight petal seats, which is the cause of all creations and destroys all kind sad destitution. We bow before that eternal symbol of Shiva.

Sura Guru Suravara Poojita Lingam Sura Vana Pushpaa Sada Chita Lingam
Paraat Param Paramatmaka Lingam Tat Pranamaami Sada Shiva Lingam

The Guru of the Gods worships the Lingam; they offer flowers grown in the heavenly gardens to the symbol of the Supreme Soul. We bow before that eternal symbol of Shiva.

Understanding the Symbols of Shiva Murti

Shiva or Shankar means auspiciousness, favourable, propitious, gracious, kind, benign, benevolent and friendly. In the Shiva Puran the One thousand names of Shiva are mentioned. Some of these well known names are: MAHADEO- The great God. BHAIRAV-The Terrible. MAHAKAAL-Mighty time. TRILOCHAN-The three-eyed. TRIPURAARI – The enemy of Lust, Hatred and Anger. NEELKANTHA-The blue throated. CHANDRASHEKAR-The moon crested. GANDGAADHAARA – The bearer of Ganga. GRIRISH – The Lord of the mountains. HARA – The seizer. PASHUPATI – The Lord of animals. VISHWANATH -The Lord of the Universe.

These names represent the Exploits, States or Attributes.

COLOUR: White represents purity, absence of darkness and triumph of wisdom over ignorance.

THREE-EYES: Knowledge of past, present and future. Third eye is that of knowledge.

MATTED HAIR: The vastness of space.

TIGER SKIN: Destruction of animalistic tendencies. Complete mastery over lower desires.

GANGA: Flow of knowledge.

SERPENT MALA: Fearlessness and longevity.

CRESCENT MOON: Sharpness of Intellect and controller of Time.

DAMARU: Originator of all sounds.

TRISHUL: Three gunas-rajo, saatwa and tamo. Lord Shiva transcends the three gunas.
Vande Deva Uma Patim Sur-Guroom Vande Jagat Kaaranam
Vande Pan-Nag Bhooshanam Mrigdharam Vande Pashunaam Patim
Vande Soorya Shashaanka Vanhi-Nayanam Vande Mukunda Priyam
Vande Bhakti-Janaa-Shrayam Ch Vardam Vande Shivam Shankaram

My obeisance to Lord Shiva, who is the spouse of Uma, who is the supreme among the Gods, who is the primordial cause of the Universe. Obeisance to Lord Shiva whose ornaments are the serpent and the moon, who is the Lord of all animals and whose eyes are the Sun, moon and fire. Obeisance to Shankar who is the beloved of Mukund and who is the benefactor and the refuge of all devotees.

Om Namah Shivaaya

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