New Delhi, Feb 27 :
Millions of devotees across the country Thursday celebrated the Mahashivratri festival with enthusiasm and religious fervour by observing fasts and prayers.
The festival is believed to celebrate the wedding of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. Devotees atay awake all night, singing hymns and prayers, to seek Lord Shiva’s blessings.
Temples witnessed long lines of devotees since early morning to offer prayers, flowers and fruits.
Aditi Arora, who observed the Mahashivratri fast for the first time, told IANS: “This is the first time I have kept a fast for (Lord) Shiva. I went to the temple and prayed at 6.30 a.m. Today I will only eat fruits.”
Sheila Mehrotra, a devotee, said that every year on Mahashivratri her day starts earlier than usual as she observes a fast on the occasion.
“I do not even remember for how long I have been keeping a fast on Shivratri. I read the ‘Shiv Chalisa’ and offered milk, Bel leaves and flowers to the Shivling,” said 57-year-old Mehrotra.
“It marks the day Shiv and Parvati got married. Women fast to ensure a good life for their husbands, and young girls observe a fast in hope of a good life partner, much like Shiva himself,” Mehrotra added.
The festival falls on the 13th or 14th day of the Hindu month of ‘Phalgun’ (February-March).
Subhamoy Das, a communications professional, in an article titled ‘Maha Shivratri: The Night of Shiva’ wrote that all through the day devotees keep a fast and chant the sacred mantra.
“All through the day the devotees keep severe fast, chant the sacred Panchakshara mantra ‘Om Namah Shivaya’, make offerings of flowers and incense to the Lord amidst ringing of temple bells. They maintain long vigils during the night, keeping awake to listen to stories, hymns and songs,” Das wrote.
Mumbai-based Ridhi Sharma, who works with an online portal, said: “I visited the temple in the morning and was dressed up traditionally. I also give a litre of milk to someone who needs it every year,” Sharma, 26, said.
Ruchika Kher, 27-year-old journalist, told IANS that Kashmiris celebrate Mahashivratri a day earlier.
“The day everyone celebrates Shivratri, we have a custom called ‘salaam’, where the youngest in the family gets money from the elders,” she said.
Interestingly, following the launch of author Amish Tripathi’s Shiva Trilogy, “The Immortals of Meluha”, “The Secret of the Nagas” and “The Oath of the Vayuputras”, many youngsters are attracted to Lord Shiva.
“Yes, it’s true. After reading the books I have been attracted to Him. This is the prime reason for me to keep the fast,” Aditi Arora said.
Agrees Naresh Chhetri, 25, who though will not be observing a fast, visited a temple to offer prayers.
“After reading ‘Immortals of Meluha’, Shiva’s virtue of leading life as normal human being is what inspired me. He comes across as a normal human being who gets hurt and has his share of sufferings,” Chhetri said.