MAHA SIVA RATRI
The Lord Shiva's Favourite Day
After creation was complete, Parvati asked Lord Shiva which devotees
and rituals pleased him the most. The Lord replied that the 13th night
of the new moon, during the month of Maagha, is his most favourite day.
Parvati repeated these words to her friends, from whom the word spread
over all creation.
Story Of King Chitrabhanu:
Once upon a time King Chitrabhanu of the Ikshvaku dynasty, who ruled over the whole of Jambudvipa (India), was observing a fast with his wife, it being the day of Maha Shivaratri. The sage Ashtavakra came on a visit to the court of the king.
The sage asked the king the purpose of his observing the fast. King
Chitrabhanu explained that he had a gift of remembering the incidents of
his past birth, and in his previous life he had been a hunter in Varanasi
and his name was Suswara. His only livelihood was to kill and sell
birds and animals. The day before the new moon, while roaming through
forests in search of animals, he saw a deer, but before his arrow flew
he noticed the deer's family and their sadness at its impending death.
So he let it live. He had still not caught anything when he was
overtaken by nightfall and climbed a tree for shelter. It happened to be
tree. His canteen leaked water, so he was both hungry and thirsty. These
two torments kept him awake throughout the night, thinking of his poor
wife and children who were starving and anxiously waiting for his
return. To pass away the time he engaged himself in plucking the Bael
leaves and dropping them down onto the ground.
The next day he returned home and bought some food for himself and
his family. The moment he was about to break his fast a stranger came to
him, begging for food. He served the food first to stranger and then
had his own.
At the time of his death, he saw two messengers of Lord Shiva, sent
to conduct his soul to the abode of Lord Shiva. He learnt then for the
first time of the great merit he had earned by unconscious worship of
Lord Shiva during the night of Shivaratri. The messengers told him that
there had been a Lingam
(a symbol for the worship of Shiva) at the bottom of the tree. The
leaves he dropped had fallen on the Lingam, in imitation of its ritual
worship. The water from his leaky canteen had washed the Lingam (also a
ritual action), and he had fasted all day and all night. Thus, he
unconsciously had worshipped the Lord. As the conclusion of the tale the
King said that he had lived in the abode of the Lord and enjoyed divine
bliss for a long time before being reborn as Chitrabhanu. This story is
narrated in the Garuda Purana.
‘Sivaratri’ means ‘night of Lord Siva’. The important features of
this religious function are rigid fasting for twentyfour hours and
sleepless vigil during the night. Every true devotee of Lord Siva spends
the night of Sivaratri in deep meditation, keeps vigil and observes
The worship of Lord Siva consists in offering flowers, Bilva leaves
and other gifts on the Linga which is a symbol of Lord Siva, and bathing
it with milk, honey, butter, ghee, rose-water, etc.
When creation had been completed, Siva and Parvati had been living on
the top of Kailas. Parvati asked: "O venerable Lord, which of the many
rituals observed in Thy honour doth please Thee most?” Lord Siva
replied: "The thirteenth night of the new moon, Krishna Paksha, in the
month of Phalguna (February–March) is known as Sivaratri, My most
favourable Tithi. My devotee gives Me greater happiness by mere fasting
than by ceremonial baths, and offerings of flowers, sweets, incense,
"The devotee observes strict spiritual discipline in the day and
worships Me in four different forms in the four successive Praharas,
each made up of three hours of the night. The offering of a few Bilva
leaves is more precious to Me than the precious jewels and flowers. He
should bathe Me in milk at the first Prahara, in curd at the second, in
clarified butter at the third, and in honey at the fourth and last. Next
morning, he should feed the Brahmins first and break the fast after the
performance of the prescribed ceremonies. There is no ritual, O
Parvati, which can compare with this simple routine in sanctity.
Just hear, My Beloved, of an episode which will give you an idea of
the glory and power of this ritual, said Lord Shiva to Parvati.
"Once upon a time, there lived in the town of Varanasi a hunter. He
was returning from the forest one evening with the game birds he had
killed. He felt tired and sat at the foot of a tree to take some rest.
He was overpowered by sleep. When he woke up, it was all thick darkness
of night. It was the night of Sivaratri but he did not know it, He
climbed up the tree, tied his bundle of dead birds to a branch and sat
up waiting for the dawn. The tree happened to be My favourite, the
"There was a Linga under that tree. He plucked a few leaves dropped
them down. The night-dew trickled down from his body. I was highly
pleased with involuntary little gifts of the hunter. The day dawned and
the hunter returned to his house.
"In course of time, the hunter fell ill and gave up his last breath.
The messengers of Yama(Hinduism) arrived at his bedside to carry his
soul to Yama(Hinduism). My messengers also went to the spot to take him
to My abode. There was a severe fight between Yama’s messengers and My
messengers. The former were easily defeated. They reported the matter to
their Lord. He presented himself in person at the portals of My abode.
Nandi gave him an idea of the sanctity of Sivaratri and the love which I
had for the hunter. Yama surrendered the hunter to Me and returned to
his abode. Thereafter, Yama has pledged not to touch my devotees without
"The hunter was able to enter My abode and ward off death by simple
fasting and offering of a few Bilva leaves, however involuntary it might
be because it was the night of Sivaratri. Such is the solemnity and
sacredness associated with the night”.
Parvati was deeply impressed by the speech of Lord Siva on the
sanctity and glory of the ritual. She repeated it to Her friends who in
their turn passed it on to the ruling princes on earth. Thus was the
sanctity of Sivaratri broadcast all over the world....................................