Maha Shivaratri or Shivratri is always celebrated on the chaturdashi, the 14th day of Krishna paksha (the full moon to new moon portion of the lunar cycle). In the Purnamanta calendar, which is followed in the northern part of India, this day is in the month of Phalguni, the 12th month of the Purnamanta calendar. In the Amanta calendar, which is followed in the southern part of India, this same day is in the month of Magha, the 11th month in the Amanta calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, it varies from year to year and this year, it falls on the 21 of February.
On this day, many eons ago, Brahma and Vishnu pondered on how this universe and all its inhabitants came to be. Who was the Purusha - He who is capable of creation and of standing outside of it? As they looked for the answer, there appeared before them, a dazzling pillar of light (a jyotirlinga). This light extended beyond their vision. Now, looking at this light and realizing that it was the Parabrahman, the Supreme Being, Vishnu and Brahma were curious to know the beginning and the end of this light. Brahma took the form of a swan and flew upwards, trying to find the top, while Vishnu took the form of a boar and dug to find the feet. Unfortunately, they were unable to find either end of the light pillar and returned defeated. Vishnu accepted that He could not find the feet of the light pillar. However, Brahma presented a Ketaki flower (tazhampu*) and claimed that He had picked the flower from the top, even though he caught the flower floating down from the sky. For this lie, Brahma was punished and till today, Brahma is not the main deity in temples, and the Ketaki flower is never used in Shiva puja.
This day, when Shiva showed Himself as this grandiose orb of light, is celebrated as Shivaratri. In showing His majestic splendor, He demonstrated that He was omnipresent, with no beginning or end.
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In our day to day lives, we express our bhakti (devotion) by reciting slokas in praise of Bhagavan. Slokas explain to us the philosophy of dharma. We believe that the power of reciting any sloka is enhanced when one understands the meaning of the verse in the correct context. In this series, we bring you well researched meaning of the verses to start your journey towards the goal of understanding the slokas.