Maha Shivaratri is celebrated on the 14th night of the new moon as it is believed that this is the day when Lord Shiva transformed and appeared as “Lingodbhav Moorti”. The ritual is traced back to ancient times when a hunter sat atop a bili tree waiting to hunt a deer. He kept a constant watch and kept dropping the leaves on the ground. They fell on the Shivalinga that was below the tree. When he finally captured a deer, it requested the hunter to let him go to see its family. The deer promised that it would return. The hunter agreed and he kept himself awake by plucking the bili leaves and dropping them on the Shivalinga. Thus, he unknowingly performed the Puja. When in the morning the deer returned, the hunter could not kill it. As he was purified of all the evils and sins due to the puja he did at night. The hunter and the deer were blessed by Lord Shiva. From that day onwards Maha Shivaratri has been celebrated by fasting and being awake all night. Hindus perform puja of Shiva all through the night.
Here are Top 3 reasons why we celebrate Maha Shivaratri:
1. The absolute formless God, Sadashiv appeared in the form of “Lingodbhav Moorti” exactly at midnight on Maha Shivratri. That is why all Shiva devotees keep vigil during the night of Shivratri and do “Shivlingam abhishekham” at midnight.
2. Lord Shiva was married to Devi Parvati on Shivratri. Remember Shiva without Parvati is pure ‘Nirgun Brahman’. With his illusive power (Maya, Parvati) Lord Shiva becomes the “Sagun Brahman” for the purpose of the pious devotion of his devotees.
3. It is also believed that on Shivratri, Lord Shiva became “Neelkantham” or the blue-throat’d by swallowing the deadly poison that came up during the churning of “Kshir Sagar”. The poison was so deadly that even a drop in his stomach, which represents the universe, would have annihilated the entire world. Hence, He held it in his neck, which turned blue due to the effect of poison. Shivratri is therefore also a day of thanksgiving to the Lord for protecting us from annihilation.
As the 14th shloka of Shivmahimna Stotra says:
“O three eyed Lord, when the poison came up through the churning of the ocean by the gods and demons, they were all aghast with fear as if the untimely end of all creation was imminent In your kindness, you drank all the poison that still makes your throat blue. O Lord, even this blue mark does but increase your glory. What is apparently a blemish becomes an ornament in one intent on ridding the world of fear.”