It is common knowledge that India is known the world over for its diversity and richness in culture. Many cultures, languages and communities have co-existed in this beautiful country for centuries. Every festival is celebrated in a peculiar manner across different regions. Mahashivratri is no exception. Because of the various legends associated with this special day, the very same day is celebrated in different fashions across the length and breadth of the country.
The first diversity is apparent in the fact that there are two calendars followed. The followers of the Poornima¬-ant month celebrate it on Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi of Phalgun month and the followers of the Amavasya-ant month celebrate it on the Krishna Paksha Chaturdashi of the Maagha month of the Hindu calendar. But, as per the Gregorian calendar these two dates fall on the same day and Mahashivratri is celebrated with much fanfare across India. Talk about “Unity in Diversity”!
In the Yogic tradition he is not a Lord, but a Guru. As per their thinking, on the night of Mahashivratri, the constellations are positioned in such a way that they are the most powerful. Also the northern hemisphere of the Earth is placed in a position that the energy levels of the Universe are at its highest. Hence people perform Yog, introspect and meditate to make full use of this upsurge in energies.
The scenes of regular celebrations, or Havans that carried out at temples and Abhishekam along with Puja offered by people are common sight on Mahashivratri. But there are certain rituals and traditions that are specific to certain cultures.
Shiva is married to Parvati, who is also the daughter of the Himalaya. Hence the mountainous regions of India like Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh have huge Mahashivratri celebrations. Every nook and corner has a Shiva temple that is thronged by the locals and tourists alike. In Kashmir the festivities are a week long or a fortnight long affair that conclude a few days after Mahashivratri. People pray to Lord Shiva and do Jaagrans in his honour. They fast and do mantra Jaap to invoke the blessings of Lord Shiva.
Shiva is a lord beloved even to the people of South India. One of the Chaar Dhaams is the famous Rameswaram temple that has been created in the honour of Lord Shiva. He is also the Aaradhya of Devi Meenakshi and it was with her that Kartikeya had stayed and learnt the tactics of war. Legends believe that Kartikeya or Murugan (as he is known in the south) married Devasena who hailed from the region. Also in some parts of South India, Shiva is referred to as Adiguru and Yogiraj. Artists from the field of dance and music perform to please Lord Shiva. Excerpts are taken from the Tandava and Lasya dances performed by Shiva and Parvati respectively.
One of the twelve Jyotirlings is the Mahakaleshwar Temple, which falls in the holy city of Ujjain. Thousands of Shiva Bhakts line up for doing the Abhishek of the Linga. East India is home to many Jyotirlings and also to the King of all the Jyotirlings – The Lingaraj. Hence this day is of utmost importance to the Shaivites and other Shiv Bhakts in East India. People also visit local temples to offer abhishekam and prayers to their beloved God and local processions are of great importance in some places.
Hindus across Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan also fast on this auspicious day. They visit temples and participate in the festivities there. The Somnath temple in Gujarat is one such Shiva temple that draws an umpteen number of devotees.
No matter which part of the country they are from, Lord Shiva, is loving revered with great devotion and love by one and all.