Maha Shivaratri Vrat
Significance of Maha Shivaratri Fast:
Hindu mythology suggests that the observance of vrat on Mahashivratri helps one to attain control over the two great forces that afflict man – rajas guna (the quality of passionate activity) and tamas guna (the quality of ignorance). When the devotee observes a fast with discipline and spends the entire day at the feet of Lord Shiva, his/her mind is controlled. Moreover, evils like lust, anger and greed are subdued, thereby acquiring control over rajas guna. When he / she wakes vigil throughout the night of Maha Shivaratri, he / she develops the ability to conquer the evils of tamas guna too. Therefore, Mahashivratri vrat is significant.
Maha Shivaratri Fasting Rules:
Traditionally, people who observe fast on Mahashivaratri would take bath early in the morning, with warm water and black sesame seeds. However, nowadays, people prefer to take a hot water shower, in the morning. By bathing, it is believed that the bodily impurities are washed away. After wearing new laundered clothes, the devotees would visit the nearest Lord Shiva temple to worship the deity. The ritual of bathing Shiva Linga with milk and honey takes place in temples of the deity, on the festival. While in the temple, the devotees would sing devotional songs and bhajans, to invoke Lord Shiva. All through the day and night during the festival, they would indulge in chanting of three words ‘Om Namah Shivaya’.
A diet is followed by the devotees of Lord Shiva, on Maha Shivaratri. On the day, they would abstain from food made with rice, pulses or wheat. However, the devotees may eat fruits and drink tea, milk or coffee during the fast, if they have not observed nirahar vrat (fast without the consumption of any form of foodstuff). In the evening, after performing puja, they would break the fast by eating rotis made of singhare ka atta (kuttu ka atta) and sabut dana kheer (dessert made of sago). Sendha namak (rock salt) is used to cook food for the fast. To offer the deity, people would prepare dishes such as potato pumpkin pancakes, lauki ka halwa (sweet dish made of bottle guard), thandai etc.