Śivarātri General Procedure
You are required to observe a fast on the day of Mahā Śivarātri. The very detailed procedure is quite difficult to follow, for ordinary people and what is being advised is a simplified version or the bare-bones of what must be done. The moot point is that the entire day of Śivarātri is a day of penance for all that sins that cause rebirth cycles and one must atone for them else suffer rebirth and various hells in this life and after.
This year Mahā Śivarātri is on Monday, 4th March, 2019 and fasting is to be done for the entire day. There are three methods of fasting and you are required to choose one of them. What is common to all the three methods is –
- keeping a fast of one of the three kinds. For example, Nirjala Upavāsa is the hard fast which is without eating or drinking. These people do not even touch water. But this is not to be done by those who are ailing and must take medication, children and very old people.
- abstinence from all sensual gratification including perfumes, powder, wearing flowers, unguents, ornaments, chewing betel, music, dancing etc.
- chanting mantra i.e. japa sadhana
In current form of Puja Vidhi, devotees visit Śiva temples early in the morning. We will be visiting the Jageshwar dham where we will worship Nāgeśvara and Mṛtyuṅjaya liñga.
Most people finish Śiva Liñga Puja before noon as most temples are closed after that in preparation of evening Darshan. Most Śiva temples open in the evening only for the Darshan and not for the Puja activities. In the morning devotees perform Abhishek with milk and water and offer different items to the Śiva Liṅga including Bilva leaves, Bilva fruit and sometimes Dhatura or other tāntrika items.
Many people distribute sweet beverage and sweets as Prasad. Bhang, which is made of cannabis plant, is easily accepted in the society as the offering from Lord Śiva as it is a painkiller and has various medicinal properties. Ideally this is the day to offer the medicine to Lord Śiva and then take it as ayurveda prasad.
Most devotees observe full day fast on the diet of fruits and juices. Usually people don’t mind to have single fasting meal in the evening. On the next day of Maha Śivarātri, the food which specially includes plain rice and yellow curry made of gram flour is offered to the deity of Lord Śiva and after that it is given to some Baba known as Bham Bham Bole who symbolically represents Lord Śiva. Only after this offering family members can have the food. We will be offering the prasad to the priests and that is sufficient as they are the best devotees of Śiva.
The above explains how Maha Śivarātri is celebrated and known by most Indians.
Upadeśa for MSP
Only one meal is allowed during the day, and that too after the puja is completed in the temple by noon. This meal will be served at Jageswar. If you must have medication in the morning, then prefer to take it with a fruit. Cleanse well and bathe thoroughly before wearing fresh clothes for the puja. Men must wear white and women, can do so only if they are not married. Married women have to wear colour clothes. The body should be well covered and legs and chest should not be exposed at all.