Maha Shivratri, which translates to ‘the Great Night of Shiva’, is an annual festival celebrated by Hindus in the glory of Lord Shiva—one of the most revered Gods of the religion. The annual event is marked by the gathering of sadhus, chanting and revelry. Devotees keep fasts, participate in song-and-dance rituals, celebrate throughout the night, and partake of bhaang thandai, believed to be a favourite of the blue-throated, serpent-wearing God. Although a major festival in India, Maha Shivratri is also celebrated around the world as Lord Shiva’s devotees reside all over. Here’s a look at how this event is celebrated in various countries.
The home of Shiva, India also hosts some of the biggest Maha Shivratri celebrations in the world. The festivities across different states draw in hordes of travellers from other countries, who come to witness the magnificence of the occasion. There are 12 Jyotirlingas (holy shrines) in India, all of which celebrate the festival in a grand fashion. Visit these five places in India to experience Maha Shivratri at its best.
1) Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh: Although celebrated by various temples, the high point of the celebrations in Varanasi is the spectacular wedding procession, where people dress up as various Gods and Goddesses.
2) Jammu and Kashmir: Kashmiri Hindus celebrate the wedding of Lord Shiva and Parvati with festivities that last for days.
3) Orissa: According to legend, Puri used to be a major centre of Shiva worship. Even today, Maha Shivratri is celebrated with pomp and show at the Lokanath Temple among other places.
4) Mandi, Himachal Pradesh: This is the biggest Maha Shivratri celebration in India, with a week full of festivities organised by the Bhootnath Temple.
5) Karnataka: This South Indian state also celebrates the festival with a vibrant Sri Shidlingappa’s fair. Devotees also visit Hampi, where they bathe in the Tungabhadra River before going to see the deity.
Location: South Asia
How to Reach: Airports in major cities as well as smaller towns, with international flights available from metros like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, etc.; India has the world’s largest railway network that connects all the places within the country; buses and cars are available to travel between the states, and also connects to Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
Official Language: Hindi and English
Time Zone: UTC+05:30
Climate: Different zones, ranging from tropical to alpine
Food & Drink: Regional cuisines, in a variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian options. Kashmiri Wazwan, Mughlai, Kolhapuri, etc.
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Another country with a majority of Hindus in its population, Nepal is home to several temples and places of religious importance. The Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu has the country’s biggest Maha Shivratri celebrations, with believers from all across the world travelling to Nepal just to be part of the festivities.
Located by the Bagmati River in Nepal’s capital city, Pashupatinath is a sprawling temple complex and one of the most significant Shiva temples. According to legend, the 12 Jyotirlinga in India form a body, with the Pashupatinath linga as the head. It’s also counted among Shiva’s 275 holy abodes, making it a sacred place for devotees.
The Shiva lingam at Pashupatinath is about one metre high, and features faces in the four directions, each representing a different aspect of the God. During Maha Shivratri, there is a colourful fair with henna artists, snake dances, music, circus and several stalls. On this auspicious day every year, around 700,000 devotees flock here and wait in long queues just to glimpse the deity and give their offerings.
Location: Himalayan region, bordering India and China
How to Reach: Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu; there is a railway route between Nepal and India that goes to Janakpur Dham; buses and cars can enter Nepal from India at different points.
Official Language: Nepali
Currency: Nepalese Rupee
Time Zone: UTC+ 5:45
Climate: Various zones ranging from tropical to arctic, depending on the altitude
Food & Drink: There are a number of ethnic cuisines, ranging from Khas and Pahadi, Thakali, Newari, Terai, Lohurung, and other variations.
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During Maha Shivratri, thousands of devotees gather at the Ganga Talao (Grand Bassin), a lake that is considered sacred. The preparations begin weeks in advance as people of all ages follow a strict vegetarian diet, after which they start their journey to the lake. Many devotees also prefer to dress in white as a symbol of purity.
Once the prayers are done, devotees collect holy water from this lake and carry it back home to be poured on Shiva lingams. On their pilgrimage, most devotees carry a beautiful structure known as a kanwar on their shoulders as a means of expressing their love and respect to Lord Shiva. The festivities come to an end with Char Pahar ki Puja, an overnight ritual during which devotees pray, chant and make special offerings to their beloved deity.
Location: Part of the African continent, it is an island in the Indian Ocean
How to Reach: Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport, Port Louis; being an island nation, there is no railway line; there is also no road connectivity to Mauritius, but one can reach by sea on cruise ships.
Official Language: No official language, but English and French are used in the Parliament
Currency: Mauritian Rupee
Time Zone: UTC+04
Food & Drink: The cuisine has a blend of Chinese, European and Indian flavours, with a growing popularity of some French dishes
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Maha Shivratri is also celebrated in Bangladesh, one of India’s neighbours. Here, Bangladeshi Hindus get together to pay their respects to Lord Shiva at Chandranath Dham in Chittagong.
Chandranath Dham is a famous Shakti Peeth and according to Hindu scriptures is the place where the right arm of Godess Sati (an incarnation of Parvati) fell to Earth. The temple also houses an idol of Lord Shiva, locally known as Chandrashekhar. The Hindus here believe that fasting and performing pujas on the auspicious day of Maha Shivratri will help them get a good spouse, which is one of the reasons behind the immense popularity of this festival.
Location: South Asian country, which shares borders with India and Myanmar
How to Reach: Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport at Dhaka; There is a railway service from Kolkata (India) and Dhaka; there are two points of entry by road on the India-Bangladesh border, and there are buses to Dhaka from Kolkata and Agartala.
Official Language: Bangla
Time Zone: UTC+6
Climate: Tropical monsoon
Food & Drink: Mainly Bengali cuisine, with local variations in the fish, meat, rice and vegetable preparations
Interested? Book your tour now! Experience Bangladesh!
Maha Shivratri is believed to mark the occasion of Lord Shiva’s marriage with Parvati. This divine union is celebrated with utmost zeal by devotees not only in India but several other places, including Singapore, Malaysia, Pakistan, Bali, Sri Lanka, and even the USA and UK.