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MAHA SHIVRATI

Maha Shivratri is the commemorative festival of God Father Shiva’s descent on earth at night i.e. the time of absolute ignorance of spiritual knowledge characterized by immense sorrow and sufferings of all kinds afflicting humanity. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated throughout the country with great devotion and faith. Shivratri falls on the I3th (or I4th) day of the dark half of 'Phalgun' (February-March). The name means "the night of Shiva". The ceremonies take place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honor of Lord Shiva and it is believed that on this day Lord Shiva was married to Parvati. On this festival people worship 'Shiva - the Destroyer'.

This night marks the night when Lord Shiva danced the 'Tandav'. It is celebrated in different manner across the country. This festival of Maha Shivratri is held in great esteem in most of the regions in India but especially in Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh it is observed with great reverence. In Ujjain in the famous temple of Mahakaleshwar Shiv's Lingum is worshipped with the performance of all the religious rites and rituals. Even in Matangeshwar at Khajuraho Lord Shiva is worshipped. Grand puja is offered in both the temples and hundreds of devotees throng these places from all over India. The Shivalingam of Matangeshwar in Khajuraho is considered to be the biggest in India and is the only temple in the thousand-year-old Khajuraho temple complex where worship still continues.

In Andhra Pradesh, pilgrims throng the Sri Kalahasteshwara Temple at Kalahasti and the Bharamarambha Malikarjunaswamy Temple at Srisailam. Saivism has been followed since ancient times in Andhra Pradesh. In Kashmir, since the majority of Kashmiri Pandits are followers of Shiv, this Mahashivratri festival is observed for fifteen continuous days. The 13th day of this festival is called Herath, which is celebrated with remarkable zest and joy. The Kashmiris belive that the marriage of Shiv and Parvati was celebrated on the day of Herath. In West Bengal Shivratri has become almost a folk festival. Young unmarried girls observe day-long fast, keep awake the whole night, sing devotional songs and pray to Lord Shiva to give them good and virtuous husbands. In Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh devotees of Shiv take holy bath at Sangam - the confluence of the three sacred rivers - Ganga, Jamuna and Saraswati- with faith that all their sins in the past and present be washed away so that they can go to heaven after death. Magh Mela fair is also held in Allahabad. In Maharashtra on this day of Shivratri every temple of Lord Shiv resounds with Vedic mantras and shlokas.

People observe a fast, keep awake at night and distribute alms, food and sweets amongst the poor. In Karnataka majority of Lingayats, who are followers of the Lingayat cult of Lord Shiva, belong to Karnataka. Shivaratri is a major festival in the state. In assam also it is celebrated with great devotion and faith the great Shiva temple, Umananda Temple, situated on the peacock island in the middle of Brahmaputra near Guwahati, attracts devotees from all over the country during the Shivaratri celebrations. Even in countries like Nepal and Mauritius Shivaratri is an important festival. The famous Shiva temple of Pashupatinath receives thousands of devotees from places around the globe.

Hindus in Mauritius make a pilgrimage to the holy volcanic lake, Grand Bassin (Ganga Talao), in honour of Lord Shiva. In 1972, some holy water from the Ganges River was mixed with the water in Grand Bassin Lake establishing a symbolic link with the sacred Indian River and the lake was renamed Ganga Talao. The Statue of Shiva at Grand Bassin in Mauritius is 108 feet. It was inaugurated in 2007 and the "Sthapan" was done during the Maha Shivratri period of 2008. It is also the highest known statue in Mauritius. (Note: I saw the statue at Ganga Taloa in November 2010 for the first time and was most impressed with the workmanship).

We wish the Mauritian Hindu community a very rewarding Maha Shivrati and Shiva’s blessings for 2010.

Clancy J Philippe

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