Maha Shiva Ratri: Night of Lingodbhava

Maha Shiva Ratri: The Night Shiva was Lingodbhava

Tonight (20 Feb) is Maha Shiva Ratri.
This is observed every Krishna Chaturdashi Tithi
(14th phase of the waning moon) of the lunar
month of Maagha.

Maha Shiva Ratri is traditionally observed by :
. Keeping awake the night of Maha Shiva Ratri [+]
. Fasting (upavasam) during that day and night [+]
. and breaking the fast the next morning. [+]
. Performing Puja to Shiva through the night

Krishna Chaturdashi every month is a Shiva Ratri.
The one in Maagha is special. Hence it is
Maha Shiva Ratri.

Why is Maha Shiva Ratri special ?

Maha Shiva Ratri is the night when Shiva appeared
as Lingodbhava - the shining infinite Linga.

The story goes like this:

Brahma and Vishnu got into a dispute over who was
the most important. Suddenly they saw a huge
column of light.

This is what we call Lingodbhava.

Brahma decided to check out the top of Lingodbhava.
He took the form of Hamsa (Swan) and flew up.

Vishnu took the form of a boar and dug the earth
to go below. His objective was to check the bottom
of Lingodbhava.

Lingodbhava turned out to be a column of light
with infinite length. Neither of them could reach its end.

It was Shiva who had manifested as Lingodbhava.
The appearance of Lingodbhava happened on
Krishna Chaturdashi in the month of Maagha. [*]

Brahma lied later that he saw the top of Lingodbhava.
So, he was cursed never to be worshipped on earth.


In many Shiva temples, one would find an image of
Lingodbhava carved on the back outside wall of
the garbha griham (central enclosure).
The depiction would be similar to the image above.

[+] Also, according to Vrata Chudamani
[*] Said to be in Shiva Purana. Yet to trace the original passage.

Today also marks the end of six months since
we moved to Chennai (from Kumbakonam).

Thanks to Shri Ramkumar and family
for giving their house for the use of the Veda
Gurukulam and making our stay comfortable.

for Indian Heritage

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