How to perform Mahashivaratri Puja?

How to perform Mahashivaratri Puja?

Mar 05, 2024priyamvadha b

There are many legends connected with Mahashivaratri. One popular belief is that it marks the divine union of Lord Shiva and Parvati. Hence, it is customary for many Shiva temples to perform the Girija Kalyanamotsavam on this day. Another legend has it that it is connected with the cosmic dance of Lord Shiva, known as Tandava. This dance symbolizes the creation, preservation and dissolution of the universe. Another legend tells of Shiva drinking the poison Halahala to save the world. Parvati clasped his throat to prevent the poison from spreading further, causing it to turn blue. Thus, he came to be known as Neelkanth or the one with the blue throat.

Devotees usually observe fasts (Upavasa) and stay awake throughout the night (Jagaran) and engage in deep meditation, perform Rudra Abhishekam or recite Mantras and Shlokas dedicated to Shiva. They also prepare offerings for the deity. Typically, Shiva temples are open round the clock to welcome devotees to witness the lord on this auspicious occasion. As such, fasting and staying are the quintessential aspects of this divine night.

Upavasa (Fasting) – Shiva devotees do not partake of any food or liquid throughout the day or for a certain part of the day. This practice is believed to cleanse the body and sharpen the mind, leading to a deeper meditation and prayer experience. Certain devotees may choose to consume only fruits or water on that day.

Benefits of fasting on Mahashivaratri

While devotees typically eat after performing puja in other cases, Maha Shivaratri emphasizes an extended fast. This practice offers several key benefits:

  • Improved focus during prayer and meditation: Fasting helps cleanse the mind and body allowing the devotee to feel calmer, lighter and mentally sharper. It regulates bodily functions, rests and repairs the organs, encourages concentration and helps devotees tap the limitless consciousness of the cosmos. This, in turn, makes it conducive for a deeper meditation and amplified prayers.
  • Manifold blessings: Doing Japa or Dhyana on this day is said to yield several times Punya (good fortune) and benefits. When one observes this fast and Jagaran with utmost devotion and sincerity, the benevolent Shiva is said to bless the devotee and grant one’s wishes and prayers.
  • Spiritual Cleansing: It helps one experience renewed faith in the divine power, alleviating them from feelings of anxiety, fear and disbelief. When the mind is at rest, filled only with the thought of the Lord, it helps one break the shackles of past sins (Karma) and cleanses the soul.

Jagaran: Jagaran or Jaagaran means staying awake throughout the night and meditating on Lord Shiva. This divine night is regarded as highly charged with the positive and powerful energy of the cosmos. Engaging in focused meditation or prayer at this time helps one harness the energy of the universe along with divine strength, peace and clarity. Devotees must sit either in their puja room or choose a neat, quiet corner at home and sit upright to meditate at night.

This may be followed by Rudra Abhishekam.

What is Rudra Abhishekam?

Shiva is often referred to as ‘Abhisheka Priya’ or one who is fond of Abhisheka. Abhisheka refers to the sacred ablutions of the deity performed using water, Ganga Jal, milk, Panchamrita, turmeric, Chandan, Vibhuti, Kumkuma, honey, sugarcane juice, fragrant oils, tender coconut water, curd, etc. Some of these items vary for different deities. There are dos and don'ts to be observed for Abhisheka according to each deity. For instance, Tulsi leaves are not meant to be offered to Lord Shiva. However, Tulsi leaves are immensely auspicious for Lord Vishnu, Lord Hanuman and Goddess Lakshmi. 

Abhisheka items that are said to please Lord Shiva include Bilva leaves (Bael Patra or Vilvam), cow milk that is not boiled, curd from cow milk, honey, Panchamrita, Vibhuti or Bhasma, Chandanam (paste of sandalwood with water or rose water), Gangajal and water. 

Panchamrita is made by mixing five sacred puja ingredients - cow milk (unboiled), curd, honey, ghee, sugar. This is considered highly special for Lord Shiva. It is later distributed as Prasada to the devotees.

One must chant Mantras and Shlokas of Lord Shiva as the Abhisheka items are gently and devoutly poured over the Shiva Lingam, one after another, interspersed with the pouring of water. At the end of the Abhishekam, the Lord is cleansed with water, anointed with Vibhuti, Chandan and draped with a Veshti (dhoti) and adorned with flowers. 

Chants for Lord Shiva

Aum or Om is the cosmic sound, the sound of the universe, the sound of Lord Shiva. Om Namah Shivaya is the prayer of Lord Shiva. Om Namah Shivaya helps the devotee gain control over the Pancha Bhoota (five elements) in one’s own self. When one sits upright and recites it with concentration and devotion, this divine chant helps silence the innumerable thoughts of the mind and fills the mind and body with positive vibrations.

Other prayers for Lord Shiva include Rudram and Chamakam. Reciting them energizes the ambience with immense positivity, inner strength, peace and divine vibrations. Rudra Abhishekam is said to be one of the most sacred forms of his worship as per the Vedas.

How to perform Shiva Puja on Mahashivaratri?

Early Morning Bath: One must begin the day by taking an early morning bath, preferably by adding a few Til (black sesame) seeds or a few drops of Ganga Jal. 

Sankalp (Oath): Take a Sankalpa to observe the full-day fast and break it the next day. This signifies self-determination and a prayer seeking Lord Shiva's blessings for a successful fast.

Avoiding Food and Water:

  • Based on individual capacity and determination, devotees adhere to strict fasting wherein they don't eat or drink anything throughout the day. Some others may choose to consume fruits and milk during the day depending on their capacity, followed by fasting during the night.

Evening Rituals:

  • Second Bath: In the evening, one must bathe again before visiting a Shiva temple. In case one is not able to visit the temple, he or she can do the Shiva Pooja at home. 
  • Shiva Puja at Home: The Cycle Pure Sampoorna Shiva Puja Kit contains all the puja essentials needed to worship the Lord as per tradition. It contains a Shiva Lingam, a Peeta, puja samagri and a step-by-step guide to perform it at home.

Timing and Procedure of Shiva Puja

Typically, the Puja is performed once or four times throughout the night. The night is divided into four "Prahars" for the same. Midnight is ideal for anyone choosing to perform one single Puja.

After drawing Kolam (Rangoli) and lighting the lamp, the next step is to clean the prayer space and arrange the items needed for Shiv Puja.

Arrangement of the Puja Samagri as suggested below –

Abhisheka Items - Bilva leaves (Bael Patra/Vilvam) in a flower bowl or a plate; Vibhuti, Chandan paste, cow milk (not boiled); curd; Panchamrita (mixture of cow milk, curd, ghee, honey

Other Puja Samagri - Then, it is important to ensure all the required Puja items such as seasonal or local fruits, coconuts, bananas, Haridra (turmeric), rose water, Akshata, incense sticks, Sambrani, Karpoora (camphor tablets), Aarti holder, matchbox, oil, a clean cloth, bell, Panchapatra Uddharane, plate, flower garlands, flowers and petals that are arranged neatly at the place of the puja.

  • The puja begins by lighting the lamp and reciting Shlokas of Lord Ganesha before proceeding with the rituals.
  • Place the Shiva Linga on a Peeta.
  • Abhishek (Offering): Offer various materials like milk, rose water, sandalwood paste, yogurt, honey, ghee, sugar, and water to the Shiva Lingam.

If one is performing all the four Pujas, one can perform water Abhisheka during the first Prahar, curd for the second Prahar, ghee for the third and honey for the fourth, along with Naivedyam for the Lord.

Bilva Leaves Archana – Recite the various names of Lord Shiva with Bilva leaves or adorn the Linga with a Bilva leaf garland, symbolizing its cooling effect on Lord Shiva.

Apply Chandan or Kumkum (sacred powders), light oil lamps and agarbathi. Offer Dhoopa, Deepa and Naivedya.

Mantra Chanting: Chant "Om Namah Shivaya" throughout the Puja duration.
Offerings for Lord Shiva – Naivedyam or Prasad for Lord Shiva usually comprises milk or milk-based items like Kheer, milk sweets, Thandai. Some people offer sweet potatoes, sweet potato halwa, Panchamrita or Bael fruit and sherbet.

Breaking the fast on the following day:

Break the fast the next day after taking a bath, ideally between sunrise and the end of ‘Chaturdashi Tithi’ (lunar day) for maximum benefit.


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