Mahashivratri celebrations in India have got a very long holy tradition among the Hindus. Lord Shiva is considered to be the embodiment of the supreme Godhead responsible for creation, sustenance and destruction of the universe. Devotees of Shiva observe strict fasting on this day and also perform Mahashivratri puja. Here we discuss the puja rules to be followed to get the full benefits of the Mahashivratri worship.
Mahashivratri puja done with sincerity and steadfast devotion to Lord Shiva with the strict observance of the puja rules is believed to confer a lot of blessings to the devotees and wash away all their sins. It will earn them a permanent place in the abode of Lord Shiva and finally liberate them from the cycle of births and deaths. In this life, the devotees doing Mahashivratri puja governed by puja rules will get all their desires fulfilled and will be removed from all miseries and troubles.
Mahashivratri puja has got a deep spiritual significance. There are several puja rules to be strictly followed by the devotees on the Shivratri day. The main puja activities consist of holy baths, fasting, Shiva puja, temple visits, observing vigil throughout the night, singing, chanting and listening to the glories and names of Lord Shiva. All these activities are said to work together on the body, mind and soul of the devotee and let them experience a sense of tranquility and joy. The mind is empowered to control the senses and pursue the higher goals of life.
In the year 2017, Mahashivratri falls on 24th February.
Nishita Kaal Mahashivratri puja timing: 24: 08+ to 24:59+. This is the peak time for the puja at temples and home. The duration is about 50 minutes during the midnight of 24th February (this means 12:08 am to 12:59 am on 25th February)
Shivratri night puja timings: for the purpose of performing four pujas, Shivratri night is divided into four segments. Here are the night puja timings:
First Prahar Puja: 18:13 to 21:23
Second Prahar Puja: 21:23 to 24:33+
Third Prahar Puja: 24:33+ to 27:44+
Fourth Prahar Puja: 27:44+ to 30:54+
Mahashivaratri Puja Vidhi as described in the Hindu literature
The Mahashivratri puja vidhi is collected from several ancient holy texts of Hinduism. Readings from several books are consolidated here for the benefit of devotees. The discussion here covers puja rules and puja vidhi as per the holy tradition that will give the ultimate benefits.
The thiti (lunar month day) on the day before Shivratri is Trayodashi (thirteenth day of the moon’s waning phase). Those devotees willing to observe fasting on Shivratri must take only one meal on this previous day. The point here is that as the Mahashivratri fasting begins, there should not be any undigested food left in the digestive system of the devotees.
On the Mahashivratri day, the devotees wake up early in the morning and take a holy dip in the Ganges. Those that cannot visit the Ganges can invoke the presence of Mother Ganga in the water they use for taking bath at home. Adding black sesame seeds to the water used for bathing is believed to wash the external as well as internal impurities.
After bath, the devotees must do the Sankalp or determination to observe the full day fasting and engage in Shiva puja all through the day and night. This part is important as it makes a confirmation to the devotee that he is entering into a strict phase and must get really serious about participating in the puja and the fasting wholeheartedly. As part of the Sankalp, the blessings of Lord Shiva are sought in order to remove all the obstacles and difficulties in the path of fasting and puja and move them to successful completion.
Devotees can choose to follow either the strict form or fasting or the mild form of fasting. Those going by the strict route must abstain from all kinds of food, drinks and even water during the whole course of the fasting period. The lighter form of fasting allows consuming water, milk and fruits on the Shivratri day. However, strict fasting is a must for both categories during the night.
The devotee visits Shiva temple on the morning of Shivaratri and observes an austere life all through the day. Those who cannot take a break from official commitments can go to the office and continue to fast and mentally chanting the Lord’s name. They can resume the puja vidhi in the evening after returning from work.
Devotees need to take second bath in the evening before committing to Shiv puja at home or visiting the temple. If the devotee wishes to perform the puja at home, a Shiva Linga is procured or made with mud or clay. Ghee is applied on the image and abhishek (holy bath) and puja are performed.
Mahashivratri puja is done most importantly on the night of Shivratri. Throughout the night, the devotee observes vigil and participates in the puja. Puja can be done either once or four times during the night. For the second type of elaborate puja, the night is divided into four parts (prahar) and holy bath is given to the Shiva Linga four times accompanied by puja and offerings.
The various materials used for performing Abhishek or holy bath to Shiva Linga include milk, curds, rose water, ghee, sandal paste, sugar, honey, water and other fragrant substances allowed for puja that you can collect. However, the highlight of the elaborate four prahar puja is to perform abhishek with water during the first prahar, curd during the second prahar, ghee during the third prahar and honey during the fourth prahar.
Following the Abhishek, the Shiva Linga is decorated with chandan, turmeric, kumkum, vibhuti (holy ash), flowers, bilva leaves and new cotton clothes. Dishes specially prepared for the occasion are offered to the Lord accompanied by the burning of incense sticks, waving of camphor and other respectful acts the devotees can do.
On the next day of Mahashivratri, the fast is concluded after the sunrise but before the end of Chaturdashi thiti (fourteenth day of the waning lunar month). Puja rules say that concluding the fast during this right time will give the full merits of Mahashivratri puja.