Maha Shivaratri which is translated as ‘The Night of Lord Shiva’, falls on the fourteenth day of the waning moon in the Tamil month of Masi, when the Sun is in the sign of what in the West would be known as Aquarius, as a result this year Maha Shivaratri falls on 20th February.
Maha Shivaratri 2012
Shiva who is also known as Bholenath or Nataraja is a major Hindu God, and performs the role of a destroyer or transformer God among the Hindu Trinity of the primary aspects of the divine. It is important to realise that the destructive aspect of Shiva is not ‘bad’ rather it opens the way for creation.
Shiva is portrayed as a wise yogi who notices everything that happens in the world. In the Shaiva tradition of Hinduism, he is seen as the Supreme God and has five important roles: creating, preserving, destroying, concealing, and revealing, whereas in the Smarta tradition, he is regarded as one of the 5 primary forms of God. In art he is shown as a handsome young man either meditating or dancing on the demon of ignorance. His eternal youth is due to his power over death, rebirth and immortality.
Maha Shivaratri starts with a night vigil leading up to the day of the festival, during which many Shiva devotees fast and offer special prayers. Flowers, incense and other offerings are made, while prayers and bhajans are chanted. One of the most famous prayers recited to lord Shiva on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri is the Mahanrityunjaya Mantra or the death conquering mantra:
Om Tryambakam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam
Urvarukamiva Bandhanan Mrityor Mukshiya Maamritat
We meditate on the Three-eyed reality which permeates and nourishes all like a fragrance. May we be liberated from death for the sake of immortality, even as a cucumber is severed from bondage to the creeper.
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