Most Hindu festivals have a legend or two associated with it. These legends explain the reasons why we celebrate the festival. In a similar fashion, there are multiple legends associated with the celebration of Mahashivratri. That changes the way it is celebrated across various parts of the country. Here are a few of the most prominent legends behind celebrating the holy festival of Mahashivratri.
Shiva-Parvati’s Wedding Anniversary
One of the most common legends associated with Mahashivratri is that this is the day when Shiva and Parvati were bonded in the ties of Holy Matrimony thus marking the union of Shiva and Adi Shakti. Adi Shakti in her Parvati avatar also did tapasya on the fourteenth night of the Krishna Paksh of the Phalgun month and since then married womenfolk pray for their husbands life longetivity and unmarried women pray to get a husband like Shiva. This is the exact reason why the Tilbhandeshwar temple in Varanasi organises a wedding procession every Mahashivratri.
In a war between the Devas and the Asuras, the major bone of contention is the fight over the ownership of Swarg and Amrut. During the fight the pot of Amrut falls into the sea (Samundra) and has to be churned out (Manthan). Mount Mandar takes the role of the churning stone and Shiva’s pet snake Vasuki wraps itself around it as the rope. Because of the unstable sea bed, Lord Vishnu takes the shape of a turtle named Kurma on whose back Mount Mandar settles himself. The Devas and the Asuras hold the two ends of the rope and start churning. With the positive Amrut, the sea also gave out Vish – Halaahal or poison as a by-product. The fumes of the Vish started harming the Devas and Asuras who participated in Samundra Mathan. To save them Lord Shiva consumed the Vish and Parvati keeps her palm on his throat so that the Vish doesn’t go down the throat and spread to the remainder of his body. For this process to complete, Shivji had to stay up the entire night. To appease him and also help him get off the discomfort they danced, sang and prayed all night. This pleased Lord Shiva, who in turn blessed them all. Thus Mahashivratri came to be known as the night when he saved the world and hence Shivji came to be known as Neelkantha for his blue throat that resulted put of poison consumption.
The Story of Lubdhaka
Lubdhaka was a poor ordinary man who earned by selling firewood. He was known to be a devout worshipper of Shiva. Once while hunting for firewood, he went too deep inside the jungle and could not get out of it before nightfall. So he decided to stay put till day break. He then heard the sounds of hungry animals growling and the fear of being eaten alive drove him up a tree. He sat there all night and to stay awake, started plucking bel leaves and dropping them on the ground. All this while, he kept chanting Lord Shiva’s name. It was only on sunrise that he realized that the bel leaves had fallen on a Shiva Linga below and those prayers had saved him from the wrath of the wild animals. In his next life Lubdhaka was reborn as King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty. Since then people pray all night to Lord Shiva, offer Belpatra and other items which appease him.
Each of the legends carry a different history and significance of Lord Shiva’s life, character, teachings and action, which leads a way-of-life for his devotees.