Maha Shivaratri (the great night of Shiva) is one of the most popular Hindu festivals. It is celebrated with great pomp by the followers of Lord Shiva throughout India, but especially in Varanasi, his sacred city. The celebration marks the day of the wedding of Shiva with Parvati and takes place, in accordance with the Indian lunar calendar, on the 13/14th day of the month Phalguna (between February and March in the Gregorian calendar).
The preparation for the celebration usually lasts three days, with fasting, meditation and music vigils. In Varanasi, the last night, thousands of believers make barefoot procession around the city to form early in the morning a huge queue outside the golden temple of Kashi Vishvanath where the main celebration takes place.
By sunrise, the temples of Shiva are overfilled with thousands of people who, having taken a dip in the holy waters of the river and wearing clean clothes, are carrying small pots of water from the Ganges to be shed on the sacred shivalingam, symbolizing a source of fertility and the impersonal form of the Lord. The temples’ bells ring joyfully while people chant the “om namah shivaya” and the “mahamrityunjaya mantra” expecting to be granted spiritual liberation and good health.
During the day, people dance frantically under the influence of Lassi Bagh that is consumed and distributed free in the main squares. By nightfall, wedding ceremonies, representing the marriage of Shiva and Parvati, begin to march from all neighborhoods to the city center in a deafening music and the cheers of the world.
In Greece the celebration of Maha Sivaratri takes place in the Hindu temple in Oinofyta, but the number of participants is quite limited since the vast majority of the indian community belongs to the Sikh religion. In recent years interest in this celebration has begun to develop and amongst the Greeks who are having a friendly disposition towards the God of yoga (yogeshvara).
For a more comprehensive study of the philosophy of Shiva, read the book Shiva Sutra by Dimitrios Vasiliadis, from EL.IN.E.P.A. publications.
See the documentary: «Maha Shivaratri – the Wedding of Shiva» by Yannis Tritsibidas