Varanasi - Fairs & Festivals- Mahashivratri in Varanasi

Mahashivratri in Varanasi
Mahashivaratri is one of the most popular festivals of Varanasi as the city is considered the abode of Lord Shiva.
Since Varanasi is considered the city of Lord Shiva, Mahashivaratri festival holds immense importance here. Mahashivaratri (the great night of Shiva) falls on the fourteenth day of the dark fortnight of Phalguna (February/March) and is dedicated to the worship of Lord Shiva. Mahashivaratri festival is purely religious in nature and observed by all Hindus. On the occasion of Mahashivaratri, all Shiva temples of Varanasi are tastefully decorated. On the day Of Mahashivaratri, a marriage procession of Lord Shiva is taken out starting from Mahamrityunjaya Temple, Daranagar to Kashi Vishwanath Temple.
On Maha Shivaratri night, naked Naga sadhus from different parts of the country move towards the Banaras holding flags and tridents and blowing conch shells. After creation was complete, Parvati asked Lord Shiva which rituals pleased him the most. The Lord replied that the 13th night of the new moon, during the month of Maagha, is his most favourite day. Parvati repeated these words to her friends, from whom the word spread over all creation. On this day every Shiv Mandir is decorated. In Varanasi a marriage procession of Lord Shiva is takenshivling.jpg (9416 bytes) out starting from Mahamrityunjaya Temple, Daranagar to Kashi Vishwanath Temple via Chowk.
According to legend, Lord Shiva is the savior of our world. A pot of poison emerged from the depths of the ocean. This frightened the gods because this venom would harm the whole world. Shiva drank the poison to protect the whole world but he adroitly held it in his throat instead of swallowing it. This gave him the name of Nilkantha or blue throated. The festival is celebrated to mark this occasion.
In Hindu mythology, there are many popular stories regarding the origin of Mahashivaratri. One legend traces the origin of Mahashivaratri festival to the churning of the Ocean of Milk by Devas (Gods) and Asuras (demons). According to it, when both Gods and demons were churning the Ocean of Milk to obtain amrita (water of immortal life), they came across many unusual substances, including the deadly poison. The moment they touched the poison, it exploded into poisonous fumes that threatened to envelope the entire universe by darkness. Seeing the destruction of the universe inevitable, the Gods went to Brahma and Vishnu, but none was able to help and as a last resort they went to Lord Shiva, who condensed the fumes by his trident. To save the Universe from destruction, Lord Shiva swallowed the poison, which left a dark blue mark on Shiva's throat.
In Varanasi, people visit nearby temples of Shiva and offer prayers in large numbers. The prayers and worship continue late into the night. On Mahashivaratri, devotees offer milk, Bhang, Dhatura, flowers, coconut, fruits etc to Shiva statues and Shiva Lingams and sing bhajans in honor of Shiva. They also recite shlokas (verses) from scriptures, offer prayers in the morning and evening and many devotees observe fasting throughout the day. On the day of Mahashivaratri, the main center of religious activity and worship at Varanasi is the Kashi Vishvanath temple, where devotees throng in large numbers to offer prayers to the residing deity of Varanasi, Lord Shiva.

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