In one of the greatest Hindu mythological tales called the ‘Samudra Manthan’, it is believed that a pot of poison came out of the ocean, after the great gods churned the waters with all their might. On seeing the substance that came out of the ocean, gods and demons alike were petrified. They greatly feared the power of the poison, as they were unsure of how much destruction and evil it could cause. In the pursuit to save everyone and protect the world from the possible treacherous effects of the tiny pot of poison, Lord Shiva, the most powerful god of them all, poured the deadly poison into his mouth. To everyone’s surprise though, instead of swallowing the liquid, Lord Shiva held it in his throat, causing his throat to turn blue. Due to this incident he received the title of ‘Neelkantha’ or the blue throated god. One of the beliefs is that, to celebrate this event that saved the world, Maha Shivratri is celebrated.
The Epic Battle of the Gods
Another story which is believed to be the reason to celebrate this festival is that once upon a time, a huge fight broke out between Lord Brahma & Lord Vishnu, both fighting over who is more powerful. To stop the two gods from fighting, Shiva took the form of a massive fire column, passing across the entire universe. Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma then embarked on race to find beginning and end of the column, to prove their superiority. Brahma told a lie so as to win the battle. This angered Shiva greatly and he cursed him saying that nobody would ever pray to him again. The fire column is symbolised in the form of the Shiv Linga and thus on Shivratri, devotees pray to the Linga believing it to be the form of Shiva.
Maha Shivratri witnesses people worshiping for the entire night
There was once a tribal man, who happened to be a devotee of Lord Shiva. Once, on his trip to the forest, to hunt and collect firewood, the man came face to face with an angry lion. The man quickly climbed a nearby tree, but alas the lion did not leave. To make sure he stays awake and doesn’t fall off the tree, the man began plucking the leaves of the Bilal tree he was on, and kept throwing it down. This went on for the entire night, and unknowingly the man had dropped these leaves onto a linga. Lord Shiva, pleased by the Bilal leaf offerings and the all-night worship, decided to help the man, despite the man’s wrongdoings of killing animals. Thus, on Maha Shivratri, devotees fast all night and recite these great tales to everyone.
The festival of Maha Shivratri bears roots from various stories and thus has a lot to teach. The festival promotes sacrifice and bravery, eliminates ignorance and negativity and reminds us that determination can take us to new heights. It gives birth to a power within us, supported by the great Lord Shiva, to do better in our pursuits and let our knowledge shine.