Maha Shivaratri - The Night of Shiva
Sri Maha Shivaratri means "The Night of Shiva". The ceremonies take place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honor of Lord Shiva. Shiva was married to Parvati on this day. This is the night when Shiva is said to have performed the Tandava or the dance of primordial creation, preservation and destruction.
People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra
Legends behind Shivaratri
Once Lord Vishnu and Lord Bramha argued over each others prowess. However, Lord Shiva challenged both of them. He appeared as a flaming Linga and challenged the duo to measure the gigantic Linga (phallic symbol of Lord Shiva). Lord Bramha, who took the form of a swan, and Lord Vishnu who became a boar and went to Netherland, were both unable to measure the Shivlinga. Then Lord Shiva came out of the Linga and declared himself the most powerful. Maha Shivratri therefore means the grand night of Shiva. The devotees of Shiva fast during this day and pray to the lord throughout the night. This legend goes to prove the supremacy of Mahadev over other Hindu Gods.
King Daksha opposed Sati's marriage with Shiva. At a yagnya (holy sacrifice) the king ignored Shivas presence and thereby insulted the latter publicly. Sati was so angered by this that she jumped into the sacrificial fire and ended her life. Lord Shiva unleashed his fury at the death of his wife by performing the violent dance, Taandav. He wiped out Dakshas kingdom, undertook rigorous penance and retired to the Himalayas. The Gods, who feared that the severity of Shivas penance might bring an end to the world, revived Sati in the new avatar of Parvati. Shiva-Parvati married and this reunion is celebrated on Maha Shivratri.
Significance of Jyotirlinga: The Puranas vociferously sing the praises of the greatness of the Jyotirlingas. By reciting the name of this, one can eliminate all the sins. The Sadhaka becomes calm, chaste and pure. He becomes illuminated and enlightened with supreme and divine knowledge. The names mentioned for the benefits of all:
SAURASHTRA SOMNATHAM CHA SHRISHAILE MALLIKARJUNAM ||
UJJAINYAM MAHAKALOMKARE MAMMALESHWARAM ||
PARLYAM VAIJNATHAM CHA DAKINYAM BHEEM SHANKARAM ||
SETU BANDHE TU RAMESHAM NAGESHAM DARUKA VANE ||
VARANASYA TU VISHWESHAM TRIBAKAM GAUTAMITATE ||
HIMALAYE TU KEDARAM GHURMESHAM CHA SHIVALAYE ||
AETANI JYOTIRLINGANI SAYAM PRATAHA PATHENNARAHA ||
SAPTA JANMA KRITAM PAPAM SMARANEN VINASHYATI ||
One who recites these 12 names regularly in the morning and evening he washes all the sins committed in the previous 7 births and attains all the powers and Siddhis.