A land of fairs and Festivals, Gujarat state in western India is steeped in tradition and rich cultural heritage. Despite the various religious influences in the region, numerous fairs and festivals are celebrated in Gujarat with equal enthusiasm. The extent of celebrations is such that the region remains colorful all through the year, with several religious and regional fairs and festivals in Gujarat being held.
Mahashivaratri Festival or the ‘Night of Shiva’ is celebrated with great devotion and religious fervor in honor of Lord Shiva – one of the deities of the Hindu Trinity. An important Hindu festival, Mahashivaratri is celebrated every year on the 13th night/14th day in the Krishna Paksha of the month of Maagh (according to Shalivahana) or Phalgun (according to Vikrama) in the Hindu calendar. This day corresponds to the month of February/March according to English Calendar.
One of the major festivals celebrated in Gujarat, Mahashivaratri Gujarat is marked by devotees observing day and night fast and performing ritual worship of the Shiva Lingam to appease Lord Shiva. Gujarat being dominated by a hefty Hindu population, Mahashivaratri Celebration in Gujarat is accompanied by great fervor and enthusiasm as in the rest of India.
Several interesting legends and stories are associated with the festival of Mahashivaratri. One of the popular legends mentions that Mahashivaratri marks the wedding day of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. According to another legend, it was on the auspicious day of Shivaratri that Lord Shiva performed the ‘Tandava’ Dance – the dance of primal creation, preservation and destruction. Yet another legend stated in Linga Purana states that Mahashivaratri was the day when the Lord manifested himself in the form of a Linga. Hence, the day came to be considered as one of the most auspicious days for Shiva devotees who celebrate it as Mahashivaratri – the Grand Night of Shiva.
A number of traditions and customs related to Mahashivaratri Festival in Gujarat India are dutifully followed by the devotees of Lord Shiva. During Mahashivaratri Gujarat, devotees observe severe fast in honor of Lord Shiva. While some follow a diet of only fruits and milk, many followers observe Shivaratri without consuming even a drop of water for the entire day. There is a strong belief among devotees that sincere worship of Lord Shiva on the auspicious occasion of Mahashivaratri Gujarat absolves a person of all sins and liberates him from the cycle of birth and death.
Mahashivaratri Festival is believed to be especially auspicious for women. While married women pray to the Lord for the overall wellbeing of husbands and families, unmarried women pray for a husband like Lord Shiva, who is regarded as the ideal husband.
During Mahashivaratri Gujarat, devotees wake up early in the morning and take a ritual bath. After getting decked in new clothes, the worshippers visit the nearest Shiva Temple to give ritual bath to the Shiva Lingam with milk, yoghurt, honey, ghee, sugar and water, etc. Priests perform ritual ‘pooja’ amidst chants of “Om Namah Shivaya” and ringing of temple bells.
Nightlong vigil or ‘jaagran’ is also observed at various temples during Mahashivaratri Gujarat. Numerous devotees take part in the jaagran and spend the night singing devotional hymns and songs to honor Lord Shiva. It is only on the next morning that devotees break their fast by having the ‘prasad’ offered to the Lord.