Maha Shivaratri is a Hindu auspicious night dedicated to the creator deity referred to as Lord Shiva in Hinduism. It is celebrated and observed throughout the world annually and in Durban it is an important day for Hindus as they flock to local temples to partake in this holy night also known as the Great Shiva Night. The devotees worship Lord Shiva by strict fasting and prayers. They stay awake all night in praise of the deity they regard as the creator of the universe. It is usually celebrated during the months of February and March or the night before and the day of the new moon as Hindus depend on the forces of astrology. The Shiva in Shivarathri means auspicious and the Rathri is the night of darkness. Night is what gives one peace, comfort and serenity to the mind, body and the soul.
Mythology of Shivarathri
There are many differing mythologies relating to the history of this holy day. The significance of the night for Hindus was determined however by one traditional myth that after the creation was complete, Parvati the consort of Lord Shiva asked Him what rituals would please him the most and he replied that the 13th night of the new moon is his favourite time and hence the word was passed over creation and on this night every year a special vigil night is dedicated to the creator by Hindus world wide.
The practice of Shivarathri in Durban
In Durban on this night Hindus observe a fast and attend temples locally where they bathe Lord Shiva’s shrines known as Lingams or Shivalings with holy Ganges water, milk, honey, ghee, fruit and flowers. This offering to the Lingams are referred to as an Abhisheik which are performed at three hour intervals from 6pm to 6am the next morning from the night of Shivarathri. These three hour intervals are called Jamans and there are four Jamans on this holy night. The devotees also place Bel-patra (three leaves) that is favored by Lord Shiva. There is also singing and chanting in praise of Lord Shiva by various Bhajan groups in the temple during Jamans. After every Jaman devotees are treated with refreshments and offerings from the intervals. Bhajans are holy songs dedicated to God.
The devotees pray and meditate as they drown themselves in their love for the creator. It offers a sense of serenity and calmness and a time for repentance and reflection. The night of vigil is a beautiful calm night and can be experienced as a soul awakening one for devotees. There are also discourses on the significance of Shivarathri rendered by elders or the pundit of the temple. In Hinduism a priest is referred to as a pundit. Some of the devotees travel temple to temple on this night to partake in different Jamans. Devotees stay fully awake during this night where all negative qualities are ruled out by mediation and strong worship. The relationship between the creator and creation are thus strengthened.
By: Yoveshine Pillay