One of our goals at Bombay Wire will be to decode and explain the origin of some auspicious holidays in India – and kicking off this series is Mahashivratri.

What does Mahashivratri mean? 

Literally translated in Hindi, it means “great night of Shiva”, Shiva referring to the Hindu God of destruction or transformation.

Why do we celebrate it? 

It’s not clear – there are a few versions of the story (pulled from various sources):

  • One, is that Shiva’s wife, Parvati, prayed for his well-being on this day, and so other wives and women do the same for their husbands and sons.
  • Second, there was a huge battle between good and evil, and when a large pot of blue poison came out of the ocean, Shiva protected the good guys by drinking the blue stuff (see also “neelkanth”).
  • Third, a very powerful devotee of Shiva went out overnight and to save himself from wild animals, got on top of a tree and kept dropping one leaf at a time to the ground, chanting Shiva’s name
  • Finally, the third version is that the 13th night of the new moon in this particular month was simply Shiva’s favorite day, as told to his wife, Parvati.

How do we celebrate it?

Celebrated at night, by fasting (girls only), reading scriptures, and pundits do puja four times at night.  If you do so, legend has it that you will be blessed with an amazing husband.

Where is it celebrated?
Almost everywhere in India, but it is also the biggest festival in Nepal (yup). Here’s a fun fact from Wikipedia about celebrations there: “In Nepal, Sadhus are seen with marijuana which are allowed on this day because it is believed that Lord Shiva himself used marijuana on this day.”  


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