Holidays and Regular Observances

How do Shaivites honor Shiva?

Shivaratri, “Shiva’s Night” is a monthly festivity occurring on the fourteenth night of the dark half of every lunar month, just before the appearance of the new moon. Once a year devotees observe Mahashivaratri, “Shiva’s Great Night” either during the midwinter lunar month called Magha or during the following month, Phalguna, depending on regional custom. The feast celebrates Shiva’s manifestation of his power and glory to Vishnu and Brahma in the icon called the jyotirlinga or “fiery linga.” Girls who hope to marry soon often fast during the day and keep vigil all night. Festivities in parts of India generally last all night and often include massive street parties and processions featuring elaborate floats, ecstatic dancing, and sometimes extreme demonstrations of devotion in the form of self-mutilation. A full moon feast during Karttika, in the fall, is called Tripuri-purnima. It recalls how Shiva incinerated the demon Tripura’s three cities, Tripuri, made of gold, silver, and iron. Meanwhile his consort Kali dispatched the demon himself, ending his partial dominion over Heaven, Earth, and Hell (the “three cities”).


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