Top 10 places to visit on Maha Shivratri
Maha Shivratri is one of the most important festivals for Hindus. Shivratri is known as ‘Great Night of Lord Shiva‘ observed on the 13th(or 14th) night of the Krishna paksha (dark half or the waning phase) of the moon (the night before Amavasya) in the month of Phalgun (Feb-March) by almost all sects within Hinduism.
As per one story, it was the night when Lord Shiva drank the poison produced during Samudra Manthan or churning of the ocean. Another legend states that on this night, Lord Shiva performed the Tandava, the cosmic dance which leads to total destruction and creation. Another story says that Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati were married on this night.
This year in 2023 Maha Shivratri will be celebrated on 18th February 2023. Here are some top places you can visit to celebrate the festival of Maha Shivratri and get high with spiritual vibes.
1. Haridwar, Uttrakhand
Haridwar is the gateway to the Char Dham Yatra of Uttrakhand. River Ganga, after flowing 253 kilometers from its origin at Gaumukh enters the Indo-Gangetic Plains of North India at Haridwar. Haridwar is regarded as one of the seven holiest places for Hindus.
According to the legend of Samudra Manthan, Haridwar along with Ujjain, Nasik, and Allahabad is one of four sites where drops of Amrit, the elixir of immortality, accidentally spilled over from the pitcher while being carried by the celestial bird Garuda.
This is manifested in the Kumbha Mela being celebrated every 3 years in one of the 4 places, and thus every 12 years in Haridwar. Amidst the Kumbha Mela, millions of pilgrims, devotees, and tourists congregate in Haridwar to perform ritualistic bathing on the banks of the river Ganges to wash away their sins to attain Moksha.
During Mahashivratri lakhs of devotees visit Haridwar, to pray at Har Ki Pauri and bathe in Ganga to relieve themselves of their sins. Nilkanth Mahadev Temple at Rishikesh is also most visited during the festival of Mahashivratri.
2. Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh
The major Jyotirlinga Kashi Vishwanath in Varanasi is visited by lakhs of devotees on Maha Shivratri. There are special fairs and special events hosted in Varanasi during the time of Maha Shivratri. The entire city gets decorated and its temples are packed by devotees who indulge in performing prayers, rituals, and ceremonies to impress Lord Shiva and seek his blessings.
A remarkable procession, depicting the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati is taken out from the Mrityunjay Mahadev Mandir in Daranagar to Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Witness the mysticism and magnificence of the event at Varanasi.
3. Mandi, Himachal Pradesh
In Mandi, Himachal Pradesh there is a Mandi Shivaratri Fair held for 7 days starting with the Hindu festival of Shivaratri. Nearly 200 idols of deities from hundreds of temples were brought here — popularly known as ‘Chhoti Kashi‘ on Shivratri.
The celebrations date back to 1526 when Mandi was founded during the rule of Ajbar Sen (1499-1534). He had ‘invited’ all the local deities to mark the founding of the new town. The festival is centered on the protector deity of Mandi “Mado Rai” (Lord Vishnu) and Lord Shiva of the Bhootnath temple in Mandi.
The Mandi Shivaratri fair is held as per the Hindu calendar every year on the Krishna paksha 13th day/13th night (breaking fast/’vrata’ on 14th after sunrise) of the waning moon in the month of Phalguna that corresponds to February/March as per the Gregorian calendar. The festival’s popularity is widespread and hence is known as an international festival. In view of a large number of gods and goddesses that are invited to the festival from its 81 temples, Mandi town has the title of ‘Varanasi of the Hills‘.
4. Srikalahasti and Srisailam, Andhra Pradesh
Maha Shivratri is celebrated in a grand way in Sri Kalahasteshwara Temple at Kalahasti and the Bharamarambha Malikarjunaswamy Temple at Srisailam in Andhra Pradesh. Someshwara temple at Bangalore and Srikanteshwara temple in Nanjangud are famous for Shivratri celebrations in Karnataka. Nataraja Temple at Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu is also very famous for this festival. On Shivratri day, the married women pray especially for the health and safety of their husbands and the unmarried girls pray to get a good husband like Shiva.
5. Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh
Shivratri is the most important festival of Khajuraho with an elaborate function held at Kandariya Mahadeo Temple. Kandariya Mahadeo Temple 2.5 meter high Lingam is dressed like a bridegroom and the puja ceremony is carried on throughout the night. The Puja is followed by a grand festival. The 7 days Khajuraho Dance Festival is held during the occasion of Maha Shivaratri on an open-air auditorium in the temples of Chitragupta and Vishwanatha to showcase the best Indian Classical Dances.
6. Mahakaleshwar temple, Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh
Mahakaleshwar Jyotirlinga is a Hindu temple located in Jaisinghpura town, Ujjain district, in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, and one of the most religious and sacred temple devoted to God Shiva. Mahashivratri festival is celebrated on a grand scale with a fair held during the festival on the banks of River Kshipra.
7. Umananda temple, Guwahati, Assam
One of the leading Maha Shivaratri celebrations takes place in Umananda Temple, Assam. The temple is situated on the peacock island in the Brahmaputra River. Thousands of devotees across the country throng to Guwahati to celebrate the festival of Shivratri. Sibsagar, the capital of the erstwhile Ahom kings, is another major center of Mahashivratri celebration.
8. Loknatha temple, Puri, Odisha
It is said that at Loknatha temple, Puri Lord Rama himself mounted the lingam. The festival of Shivaratri is observed in the temple of Lokanatha with great devotion. A meeting of Hari and Hara (Siva and Vishnu) takes place on the day. This lingam is kept submerged, in a vat of water. It can only be seen on Pankodhar Ekadasi, before Shivaratri, when the water is removed from the vat. On the Mahashivaratri lot of devotees arrive near the temple to offer their prayer to Lord Lokanatha with great devotion.
9. Shree Somanath Jyotirlinga Temple, Veraval, Gujarat
Somanath temple is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas shrines of Lord shiva. It is located in the Saurashtra region of Gujarat. Hindu mythology states that the Somnath temple was created by the Moon God himself. This one of the most revered amongst the 12 Jyotirlinga in India. Lakhs of devotees throng the Shivalaya on the auspicious occasion of Mahashivratri.
10. Herath, Kashmir valley
The festival of Shivratri is known as Herath among Kashmiri Pandits, it’s a phonetic derivation of Har-ratri or the night of Hara (Shiva). The Hindu Kashmiri Pandits celebrate Mahashivratri as the wedding day of Shiva and Parvati. For a Kashmiri Pandit, this is the king of festivals. It spans over a period of 23 days starting from the 1stday of the Krishan Paksha of Phalgun (Lunar Month) to Ashtami (8th Day) of Shukla Paksha. It encompasses all social, religious, and even cultural activities.