Maha Shivaratri

The “great night of Shiva” was this past weekend: Saturday overnight into Sunday.

Because Shiva is a God of meditation, austerity, and contemplation, this festival is much less about frolicking than many others. This is a night for dedication and discipline. It is traditional to fast during the day and then stay up all night praying to Shiva. Interestingly, even though Shiva is very monk-like, he is also the God that women pray to for good husbands and a happy marriage.

  • Some say that the origin of this holiday is from when Shiva drank the poison that was churned out of the ocean and we give thanks for that pain by celebrating him and pouring water over the lingam form of Shiva to soothe him.
  • Some say that it is the anniversary of the night that Shiva danced the tandava dance dispelling ignorance.
  • Some say it is the anniversary of Shiva’s marriage to Parvati.

How to celebrate, according to The Times of India:

 Devotees on this day remain on fast or perform hour long spiritual meditation by following rituals to commemorate Mahashivratri and be blessed with grace. In the early morning, they visit temples to offer cold water, milk and bael leaves on the Lingam, a symbol for the worship of Lord Shiva, after properly cleaning it. Many sadhus on Maha Shivratri visit shrines and offer marijuana to worshipers to spread the significance of the festival. Wearing a garland made from rudraksha and applying turmeric vermilion or holy ash on forehead symbolizes a holy ritual on this religious festival. Holy mantras are also recited and special puja ceremonies are held throughout the night to celebrate Shivratri.

Here is a Shiva Puja:

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I’m hoping that you’ll be able to follow this link to a new magazine that I just found out about: Hindu Today. It has a lot of information about Mahashivaratri this issue. (If that link doesn’t work, try this one)

Here is one of the hymns (bhajans) that it is appropriate to sing:

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It begins with an intro in Hindi for the first minute and a half. During the bhajan, there are transliterations for following along. Really nice images of people praying too. It is 45 minutes long, so really nice to play and leave going in the background while you meditate on Shiva.

Of course there is always the classic Om Namah Shivaya:

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Images of people celebrating Mahashivaratri: Link

My celebration:


This little glass Shiva Linga I got at the maat in Shrineri on my trip to India a couple of years ago.


About Ambaa

Ambaa is an American woman of European ancestry who is also a practicing Hindu. She is fascinated with questions of philosophy, culture, and the meaning of life. Join her in the journey to explore how a non-Indian convert to Hinduism experiences her religion.

  • seeker


    Thanks for all the interesting links. Re Shiva, in this month’s Hinduism Today, they have a fascinating article on the pilgrimage to Amarnath Cave. The hardships the pilgrims go through!

    This weekend I started a free course on Sounds True that I highly recommend. It’s called The Compassionate Brain ; the content consists of some really eye-opening new research on how our brains operate and how we can train them to be more positive and compassionate. One fact that struck me is that experimental studies found differences in compassionate behavior after subjects meditated for only eight minutes daily for two weeks. Gives hope to meditation avoidant people like me.

    • Ambaa

      I love Hinduism Today!

      Thanks for the info on your course. That sounds really interesting. And yeah, only eight minutes?! I could attempt that :)


    @ Ambaa

    How did the puja go for Maha Shivratri. Did you go to the temple? or did you do it at home. Did you keep any Vraat and what did you ask Shiva for?


    • Ambaa

      Well, the timing ended up being unfortunate because I had scheduled a move for Saturday before I realized it was Shivaratri. So we had a bunch of friends coming over to help us move, which was pretty stressful. I needed energy, so I didn’t fast. I didn’t go to the temple, but I did play bhajans most of the day, do my own puja with my little Shiva lingam, and I asked Shiva for more peace and serenity. I couldn’t think of any material thing I needed!

  • Drekfletch

    What is maat in a Hindu context? I know Ma’at as the Egyptian personification of the correct workings of the universe.

    • Ambaa

      Hmmm, I wonder if I’m using the wrong word. It’s the word my mom used to mean the ashram and the temple grounds. But I just tried googling it and did not get any such definition!

  • Aman

    Hi Amba :)

    It is not Maat. Its “Mutt” or “Math”

    • Ambaa

      Ah! A transliteration error. Thank you! :)