On Maha Shivaratri in India, devotees worship Lord Shiva and his wife Parvati with thousands of years old rituals and customs. Devotees observe day and night fast and perform ritual worship to Shiva Lingam to appease Lord Shiva. Maha Shivaratri is a major holiday in India where millions of Hindus gather to pray for their better future and prosperity.
How Do Locals Celebrate in India
Millions of Hindus celebrate Maha Shivaratri with full devotion every year. These rituals are followed by Hindus for millions of years and devotees still follow the same customs with proper care and belief. All the temples of Lord Shiva and Parvati are beautifully decorated with lights and flowers. People purchase new traditional clothes and Puja essentials from the market days before the Festival. Several people sell Puja items outside the temples as well.
On the day of Maha Shivaratri, Devotees keeps fast for the whole day and takes an early morning ritual bath preferably in the Holy water of the Ganga river. After taking the bath, Devotees go to the nearest Lord Shiva temples carrying traditional Puja items such as Milk, water, bel leaves, fruits, lamps, incense sticks, etc.
Long lines of people especially women wait in line to wait for their turn to do Puja inside the temple. Lord Shiva Linga is bathed with milk as the tradition as long rivers of milk are easily visible outside the temples. Ritual worship by the priest of the temples is done every three hours all day long as well as in the night. People chant ‘Shivji ki Jai’ and ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ with ringing temple bells. These rituals take place the whole night long by singing devotional songs and hymns. It is on the next morning that people break their fast by consuming Prasad offered to the Lord.
Shivaratri Festival is particularly awaited by Hindu women. On Shivaratri, married and unmarried women perform puja with great faith, as Goddess Parvati who is also called ′Gaura′, is regarded as the giver of ′suhag′ - good husbands, marital bliss and a long and prosperous married life. One can, therefore, see find women enthusiastically observing the fast and performing the rituals Shiva Pujas on the day.
Some people also drink named ‘Bhang’ which is made with Bhang (cannabis), almonds, and milk as it has been said that cannabis was very dear to Lord Shiva.
Advise from Locals in India for Visiting the Country on Maha Shivaratri
There are many places all around India where you can visit and experience the devotion and rituals on the day of Maha shivaratri. On this day, people usually prefer going to nearby temples, but there are some very old and famous temples where thousands of people arrive to perform rituals.
Some of the best places to visit on the day of Maha Shivaratri as well as to explore years old temples
Varanasi: Varanasi is known as the oldest city in the world, it is the holiest and religious cities in the world. Varanasi has some of the oldest and most famous Lord Shiva temples such as Kashi Vishwanatha temple, Tilbhandeshawara temple where almost one million people reach from all around the country on the day of Maha Shivratri. People dance in gay abandon after drinking Bhang.
Haridwar Uttarakhand: Haridwar, also known as the Land of Yogis, is frequented by lakhs of devotees during Mahashivratri. The streets and riverbanks of this city swarm with people and men in saffron robes. Famous for its temples and ghats, the devout take a dip in the holy Ganga at Har Ki Pauri which is known to wash away their sins. This is followed by prayers and the famous aarti. People also find spots to practice yoga.
MANDI: There are around 300 temples dedicated to Lord Shiva with 81 temples are the oldest ones made of stones with intricate carvings. It is also considered to be a great place to explore nature.
Guwahati: The Umananda temple in Guwahati, plays host to thousands of Shiva devotees during Mahashivratri. This temple is located on Peacock Island in the middle of the Brahmaputra river in Guwahati and is visited by people in the North East and other tourists from different parts of the country during this period. The tradition of fasting, worshipping the linga and a ritual bath is practiced here too.
Other places to visit India on the day of Maha shivaratri are Junagadh (Gujrat), Puri (Orissa), Srisailam (Andhra Pradesh), Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh), etc.
Tips from the Locals in India for Visiting on this Holiday
It is a great time to visit India, as you can witness thousands of people chanting in the name of Lord Shiva and performing rituals that are very unique to the world. Places mentioned above are some of the most visited places in India, people from all over the world come here and see people dance and sing in devotion. These Temples could be very crowded therefore try to find a way to get in through VIP lines. People drink Bhang which contains cannabis so be careful about their behavior and maintain distance from them.
You can purchase Puja items outside from any temple you want to visit, it is easily available. It might get difficult to ask the priest for personal Puja, but you can do that before or after the festival. Prayers are offered every three hours, but it is advised to experience it late in the night.
Overall Feeling of the Shivaratri Festival in India
Shivaratri is celebrated in many parts of India with full of energy and enthusiasm. People especially women wait in lines for hours to offer prayers to Lord Shiva to have a happy life in the future and wash all the past sins.
People clean their houses, wear new traditional Indian clothes, carry a lot of fruits with them, temples are beautifully decorated with lights and lamps. People gather and pray together with full devotion and spirit on this day.