Maha Shivaratri Festival in South India
Maha Shivaratri festival is the night of Lord Shiva which is celebrated in honor of Lord Shiva throughout India by Hindu religion people. Maha Shivaratri is an important Hindu festival celebrated that falls in the month of Maagh or Phalguna as per the Hindu calendar. It is a most important occasion for the devotees of Lord Shiva.
The Symbol of Lord Shiva is the Shiva Lingam that represents the shapeless and it is worshiped with great devotion on Maha Shivaratri festival by washing the Shiva ling with holy water, milk, honey, ghee, curds, coconut water, sugar, flowers and bael leaves. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by chanting mantras and hymns to please Lord Shiva.
There are many legends related to the Maha Shivratri festival are as follows:
During the Samudra Manthan of gods and demons there evolved as a poison which would horrified the entire world would be destroyed, so they seek the help of Lord Shiva for a solution. Lord Shiva saved the world by drinking the poison, and kept it in his throat, thus how his throat turned blue. Hence Lord Shiva named as Neelakantha and Maha Shivratri is celebrated as a mark of this incident.
Another legend is that Lord Shiva married Goddess Parvati during Maha Shivratri. It is believed that Goddess Parvati performed tapas and prayers on the auspicious moonless night of Shivaratri to ward off any evil that may befall her husband. Hence, on the day of Maha Shivrathri, the married women pray for the health and happiness of their husbands and the unmarried girls pray for ideal husband like Lord Shiva.
The Maha Shivarathri is also believed that Lord Shiva performed Thandava Nrithya on the Maha Shivaratri night.
During the festival of Maha Shiva Ratri, devotees observe a strict fast, and broke their fast only the next morning, after the nightlong worship of Lord Shiva. It is believed that who utters the names of Shiva during Shivratri with utmost devotion is freed from all sins and liberated from the wheel of births and deaths.
Maha Shivratri in Andhra Pradesh:
Many of the Lord Shiva devotees visits the famous temples of Lord Shiva in Kalahasteshwara temple in Kalahasti and Bharamarambha Malikarjunaswamy in Srisailam on this auspicious day of Maha Shivratri in Andhra Pradesh. People perform abhishekam to shiva linga and offer shiva puja lord shiva at shiva temples.
According to legend the five pieces of shiva linga were made into temples at different locations in Andhra Pradesh and these shiva temples are called Pancharamams as Amararama in Amaravathi in Guntur district, Kumararama in Samalkota in east godavari district , Somarama in Bhimavaram, Draksharama in Draksharamam, and Ksheerarama located in Palakol in west godavari district are the Pancharams of shiva temples in Andhra Pradesh where Maha Shivratri festival is celebrated to great devotion by Lord Shiva devotees.
Maha Shivratri in Kerala:
In Kerala, Shivaratri is celebrated with great display and Aluva Shiva Temple, the bank of the river Periyar. Maha Shivratri festival in kerala falls on the Krishna Chathurdasi day, on the 14th night of the new moon during the dark half in the month of Megha or sometimes in Phalguna also.
On the day of Shivratri in Kerala, a three-tiered platform is built around a fire. The topmost plank represents heaven, the middle one space and the bottom one earth. Eleven urns or kalash, are kept on the heaven plank symbolizing the eleven manifestations of the Rudra Shiva. These are decorated with bilva (woodapple leaves) and mango leaves atop a coconut representing the head of Shiva. The uncut shank of the coconut symbolizes his tangled hair and the three spots on the fruit Shiva’s three eyes.
Maha Sivarathri festival in Kerala is celebrated at Alluva Shiva temple with the gaiety of the festivals like Ashtami at Vaikom, Pooram at Thrissur. This festival is celebrated on the bank of River Periyar. The lingam of Shiva here arises out of the sand of the River. Thousand of devotees come to this Shiva temple at the time of Shivaratri festival where many shows and dances are performed.
Maha Shivratri in Karnataka:
During the festival of Maha Shivratri in Karnataka state, temples of Nanjangud and Srikanteshwara Someshwara Temple of Bangalore are the most celebrated temples of Maha Shivratri which attracts many devotees. Maha Shivaratri festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and devotion in Karnataka where a grand fair of Sri Shidlingappa is observed to mark the auspicious occasion. Deity is taken to the river in a palanquin accompanied by drummers (Dollu and Majalu) from several neighboring and is then worshipped.
People of the Shiva cult, worship Linga on Shivaratri. As a tradition, married women wear a silver or gold linga on their body. In southern Karnataka, children make believe that they are kings and dole out punishments to all and sundry. This particular tradition is based on the mythological legend related with Shivaratri that narrates the story of Shiva punishing Brahma for lying about measuring the length of Linga.
Maha Shivratri in Tamilnadu:
And in Tamil Nadu state, Maha Shivaratri festival is celebrated in the famous temple of Chidambaram and Rameshwaram Temples. People of Tamilnadu also observe the fast like all other regions and worship Lord Shiva whole day and night.