Sri Lanka being home for a number of ethnicities, the beauty of its divergence culture can never be ignored. And indeed, the festivals in Sri Lanka, play a vital role in revealing to the world the shades of this wonderful culture. Among them the delight of the Maha Shivaratri festival in Sri Lanka, is just impressive beyond words. Thus, its cultural values, and the brilliance is worth exploring. Hence, we thought of sharing with you its delight through this read. Excited, isn’t it? Continue reading, and you will surely feel how amazing it would be if you get a chance to witness the Maha Shivaratri festival on this splendid island of Sri Lanka!
What is the Speciality of Maha Shivaratri?
As you might already know, Maha Shivaratri, is also popular as the ‘Great Night of Shiva’. Moreover, it is a religious festival celebrated by Hindus, in commemorating the strength and merciful manner of God Shiva. There is also a belief that this festival celebrates the overcoming of darkness, and ignorance.
When is Maha Shivaratri?
Maha Shivaratri falls on the 13th night or the 14th day of the Maagha month in the Hindu calendar. Accordingly, it is in the months of February, or March in the calendars we use. Hindus worldwide make it an opportunity to pay homage to their Supreme God. Besides, Maha Shivaratri is a National Holiday in Sri Lanka.
How is Maha Shivaratri Celebrated in Sri Lanka?
In celebrating Maha Shivaratri, Hindus perform several rituals following their traditions. All of those acts display the devotees’ love and devotion toward Lord Shiva. They believe that their devotion to Lord Shiva would pave them the way to free themselves from the past sins. Moreover, there is a brief that Lord Shiva declared these rituals to be performed on the 14th day of the dark fortnight in the month of Phalgun.
Besides, below are some of the most common things, or rather rituals that the devotees perform with regard to this celebration.
Maha Shivaratri Pooja
Devotees begin the rituals of the day by bathing and purifying themselves at the dawn. Next, they dress in clean dresses, and carry pots of water to bathe the Shiva Linga in the temples. Moreover, the Shiva Linga is bathed in milk and honey as well. Besides, they also add wood apple or Bael leaves to it, signifying the purification of the soul. Thereafter, they apply vermillion paste on it, and it is an act of signifying virtue. Next, they chant their prayers to Lord Shiva, and offer fruits, burn incense sticks, and light oil lamps. Hindus believe that these offerings signify the longevity and the gratification of desires, wealth, and attainment of knowledge.
However, all these offerings and rituals make the Hindu shrines glow brighter. Moreover, the rhythms of the bells, and the shouts of ‘Hail Shiva’ take the bliss of Maha Shivaratri even miles around. So, the poojas at Hindu shrines on Maha Shivaratri day are simply remarkable. And why not? They are valuable, and they make the day more meaningful and pious.
Maha Shivaratri Processions
The delight of the Maha Shivaratri processions simply happens to be one of the most elegant attractions of this wonderful season. Hindus place the decorated images and statues of Lord Shiva on decorated and illuminated chariots, and they take them in a parade through the streets. Various chantings, songs, and other acts that take place praising Lord Shiva, further enhance the grandeur and the charm of these amazing processions. Meanwhile, they never forget to distribute gifts to the needful members of the society as well.
During the festival of Maha Shivaratri, Hindu fast, and they only eat small rations of milk and food. Even though both men and women fast, the devotion of Hindu ladies to take part in this fast, in the best possible way is highly remarkable. They believe that this fast offers blessing for unmarried women for a fortunate marriage, and married women to lead a blissful marriage life.
However, the general belief with regard to this ritual is that it shows humility. Moreover, Hindus sing songs, and offer prayers to God Shiva in the course, while remaining in vigil at night. The great sacrifice of God Shiva, in protecting the creations from the poison, and how the other deities kept God Shiva vigil that night (legend is briefed in the following section) is commemorated during this fasting period. Further, they also make this time an opportunity to meditate, and reflect on topics such as religious impact and self improvement. Also, recitals of the legends of Maha Shivaratri take a great place during the fasting night of this festival.
The Legends of Maha Shivaratri
When considering the importance, and the religious and cultural values of this wonderful festival of Maha Shivaratri, the legends woven around this festival can never be disregarded. Some of them are as follows.
Shiva’s Second Marriage to Parvati
As per the Great chronicles, the divine consort of God Shiva, Sati, also known as Shakti, lost her life, as she immolated herself in Yagna fire. Following this incident, the God Shiva lived a life of an ascetic. Yet, Shakthi reborn as Parvati, succeeded in winning the heart of God Shiva back. Accordingly, Shiva’s second marriage took place with Parvati, on the day before Amavasya in the month of Phagun. And yes, this is one of the most important incidents that the Hindus commemorate on this wonderful day of Maha Shivaratri.
Lord Shiva’s Sacrifice in Drinking the Poison
According to the legends, a pot of high toxic poison came out from the ocean, and it was a threat for the whole creation back then. Besides, there had been a belief that God Shiva, is the only one who could swallow it and prevent the harm. Thus, with a kind heart, God Shiva drank the poison. Yet, he retained it in his throat without letting it reach his stomach. Meanwhile, other deities sang and danced to keep God Shiva awake the whole night that day. However, it is said that this action of Lord Shiva could save the creations of this world. Yet, the throat of Lord Shiva turned blue. Thus he was later popular as ‘Neelakantha’, with the meaning of ‘the blue-necked one’. So, Hindus consider this act of God Shiva as a great sacrifice. Hence, they remember this incident on this Maha Shivaratri day.
Finding the Beginning and the End of God Shiva
The bond that the ‘Lingam’ has with Hinduism is simply significant. This fact is greatly emphasized in the legend Shiva Linga, or the Lingodbhavamurti. However, the legend reveals about an incident where Vishnu and Brahma disguised themselves as a swan and a boar, and went searching for miles in every direction, for the beginning and the end of Lord Shiva. Yet, they were unable to find a limit to the power of Lingam. Thus, they respected Lord Shiva as the supreme Lord. And yes, Hindus commemorate this incident with much devotion on the Maha Shivaratri day.
The Tale of Lord Shiva Protecting the Tribal Man Lubdhaka in a Forest
A tribal man named Lubdhaka lost his way in a deep forest one evening. He chose a Bael tree to spend his night. Yet, he was afraid that he might fall asleep on the tree. Also, he also had a doubt whether the wild animals would harm him. So, he wanted to stay awake. What he did to keep him awake was plucking a leaf from the tree and dropping it down onto the ground. Also, he was a devotee of Lord Shiva. So, while dropping those leaves down, he was chanting the name of Lord Shiva. And the interesting fact is that he had unknowingly dropped those leaves on a ‘Shiva Lingam’, which had been under the tree. So, the pleased God Shiva had protected this man that whole night. This is also one of the legends that the Hindus commemorate on the day of Maha Shivaratri.
The Bottom Line
Maha Shivaratri indeed holds a remarkable place in Hinduism. Besides, it happens to be an opportunity for the Hindus to commemorate the Supreme Lord of Shiva, as well as their religious values. Going beyond, it happens to be a fantastic celebration of festivity, that exhibits the world the fascination of the multi-shaded Sri Lankan culture. So, if you are ever planning to backpack in Sri Lanka, we suggest that the period of Maha Shivaratri festival is one of the best times for you to arrive on this island. And why not? Visiting some of the religious attractions, with mind blowing arts and sculptures, devoted for this greatly revered deity Lord Shiva, would further enhance the delight of your trip on this splendid island. So, what are you waiting for? Arrive in Sri Lanka, and witness the delight of this blissful festival. Happy and Safe Traveling!