Today is a Great Night of Lord Shiva known as Maha Shivaratri. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated on the new moon in the month of Phalguna (February) or Maagh (March) making it is the most auspicious day to appease Lord Shiva. It is widely believed that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati got married on this day.
The majority of devotees on Maha Shivaratri wake up, take a bath, wear new clothes and head straight to the nearest Lord Shiva temple to place their offerings to the Shivalingam in the form of milk, fruits, bael leaves. Some also offer jujube fruit, honey, curd, ghee (purified butter) to signifying purification of the soul, while chanting ‘Om Namaha Shivaya.’ They also light incense sticks and ring the temple bell to invoke the blessing of Lord Shiva. Unlike other Hindu festivals, where after performing the puja of the deity a feast follows, on Shivaratri the fast continues all through the day and night. Devotees observe an all-night vigil while chanting hymns in praise of Lord Shiva and reading Shiva Purana. Even during the night, Shiva Lings are given a holy bath every three hours.
If there is no temple available in the nearby area, the devotees can do the above offerings to the Shivalingam or Shiva Murti (statue) at their own homes.
While the objective of pouring milk on the linga is an act of purification of one’s soul, other legends indicate that it is offered for its soothing effects on the hot-tempered deity. For generations, devotees have been fasting and as scriptures say that if he is able to manage the feat with sincerity, Lord Shiva absolves him of all his sins and blesses him with abundant prosperity.
If you have an interest in learning legends about Lord Shiva (which, in my opinion, everyone who practices yoga in any form or shape should), I highly recommend the series “Dev Ke Dev Mahadev” (“God of Gods Mahadev” Engl.) aired from 2011-2014 (820 episodes). I know for sure that recording of the series is available with English, Russian and French subtitles (and most likely with subtitles in other languages as well).
Also, here are 4 printable pages for your Book of Shadows that I created a couple of years ago about Lord Shiva. You can download them in high resolution from our website: gallery
© Rita Digilova (February 24th, 2017)